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FBU debates how to combat Tory onslaught
At the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) conference and various fringe meetings, delegates were trying to come to terms with the Tory majority government, further austerity and attacks on trade union rights.
The union's president opened conference by admitting he had just joined Labour. Yet the same conference unanimously passed a West Midlands motion instructing the FBU executive council to approach other unions to address the lack of political representation for trade unionists.
On the last night up to 70 delegates - about a third of conference - came to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) fringe meeting 'What is the political direction of the FBU?'
Speakers included FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and TUSC chair Dave Nellist. Many in the audience took away TUSC join cards to sign up workmates.
The meeting discussed the disastrous Labour election campaign and the Blairite attempt to push the party rightwards. Here and in the conference, Matt criticised the Labour leadership while admitting the union had seen a Labour victory as the only way to get rid of the Tories.
It was clear from the meeting that many FBU activists are open about the idea of a political alternative. Even TUC general secretary Francis O'Grady said to conference, unprompted: "After the election some will inevitably raise that we need a new party of the left and that is fair enough" before opposing the idea!
These debates were reopened in the final session of conference when discussing Labour Party re-affiliation. Two resolutions calling for this were both withdrawn. In the TUSC fringe meeting Matt asked those supporting the resolutions what their strategy to change things was, as he had never heard it!
Both resolutions suggested that because Labour had given some support on pensions, the time had come to re-affiliate. But Labour just offered a few compromises that stayed within the Tories' cost ceiling. Labour approved the primary legislation on public sector pensions that created the 2015 pensions scheme. Labour councillors on regional fire authorities have voted through Tory cuts.
A motion calling on the executive to push for coordinated industrial and political action in the TUC against further austerity and to defend trade union rights was carried.
Conference also discussed the fight against fire service cuts and especially the union's industrial action struggle against the attack on their pensions.
In an impassioned speech, Matt Wrack said: "We will not roll over and see our service decimated... We have to pick ourselves up, get thinking and get organising."
A motion from West Yorkshire delegate Dave Williams, seconded by West Midlands delegate and Socialist Party member Dave Pitt, to affiliate to the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) was passed. Nine unions now officially support the network.
National Shop Stewards Network 2015 conference
This year's NSSN conference is open to everyone in the trade union and anti-cuts movements who are determined to organise the fightback against the Tories. Register today!
Saturday 4 July, 11am - 4.30pm
Conway Hall, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL
Confirmed speakers include PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, BFAWU general secretary Ronnie Draper and anti-blacklisting campaigner Dave Smith
In The Socialist 20 May 2015:
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