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Unite conference debates reflect growth of socialist ideas in union
Len McCluskey, in his general secretary's opening address, said that Unite's major focus of the next ten months had to be the election of a Labour government.
But several delegates, including Socialist Party members, explained that a Labour government would not solve the problems of workers.
Labour has pledged to continue austerity and, in 13 years of government, didn't reverse the anti-trade union laws. Labour will not back trade unionists taking action on 10 July, including council workers in Unite.
Socialists argued that workers need a new mass party to represent their interests. As reported in the last issue, conference voted to back the executive council's (EC) statement backing Len's views. Nevertheless a sizeable minority voted against.
Yet on the same morning, prompted by socialists Danny Hoggan and Cathy Smith from Greenwich and Bromley local government branches respectively, conference voted to ensure that councillors who vote against the cuts would be publicly supported by the union!
Conference supported resolutions for the renationalisation of energy and transport. Conference also overturned the EC on fracking, rejecting its compromise statement and backing a composite that opposed fracking.
A major leverage campaign fighting NHS privatisation was also launched, designed to involve the union's entire membership and not just its health sector members.
Socialists elected as youth observers made powerful speeches during the week.
Glasgow underground driver Jamie Cocozza spoke in the political debate and explained how the election of socialist Kshama Sawant to Seattle city council had been the decisive event in winning a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Speakers, including assistant general secretary Steve Turner, mentioned this victory but failed to mention Kshama's effect on the process.
Helen Pattison from London spoke in the debate on zero-hour contracts and outlined the development of the Fast Food Rights campaign. Tanis Belsham-Wray from Leeds outlined the role that Unite Community - comprised of students, the unemployed and retired - could play, building support for workers in struggle.
Conference rejected a right-wing backed motion that would have stalled any mergers, including with the PCS civil servants' union. However, Len McCluskey's remarks opposing the motion - he said that no merger was in prospect - need to be clarified with the PCS executive.
Thirty people heard Liverpool 47 councillor Tony Mulhearn speak at the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition fringe meeting.
The first Socialist Party meeting at a Unite conference was a success, with 40 present. We had delegates and youth observers from the CWI sections in Scotland and Ireland, as well as from England and Wales. This meeting reflected the growth of socialist ideas inside the union.
In The Socialist 9 July 2014:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns