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22 May 2019

Building a fighting union at Unite young members' conference

'Jeremy Davidson', Hull Socialist Party and Unite the Union member

On 18-19 May myself and 60 other delegates made the journey to Eastbourne, for the national young members conference of Unite the Union. This event shone a light on the attitude of many young workers towards capitalism and building fighting trade unions.

At the conference Unite's assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, opened a discussion on combatting the threat of the far-right. During the questions and contributions part of the discussion I put forward how a socialist case for Brexit would cut across the far-right and unite workers to fight austerity.

This speech was well received with praise and applause from young people there. To me this demonstrated a brilliant rejection of the capitalist, Remainer narrative which the likes of Blairites in the Labour Party put forward.

The conference also voted on motions, with one, 'Fair Wages for Young Workers', calling for the exploitation of workers under 25 to end, and supported Labour's recent announcement that the party's pledge for a 10 an hour minimum wage be extended to all workers.

Another motion on apprenticeship pay rightly condemned the scandalous, despicable wages of apprentices, some as low as 3.90 an hour!

It was demanded that all apprentices be paid at least the minimum wage and to fight the exploitation which bosses and corporations impose upon young apprentices. These passed with unanimous support.

Marketing?

To our surprise, this was followed by a presentation from a marketing company called King Campbell and Friends about how we can build the union for young people.

As the presentation progressed, it became clear that someone in the union had made a decision, without consulting us or our young members committee, to hire a private, capitalist agency, to design a campaign to attract young people to join our union.

Ludicrous ideas were proposed such as a 10% discount for Unite members at online retailer ASOS or Pizza Express - two non-union friendly businesses!

With a quick Google search we found that the company's clientele included EasyProperty, a sister company of EasyJet, which our members had a dispute with last year! These shocking revelations combined with a complete lack of understanding of trade union work, made for a grim response to the presentation.

However, the presenter's idea of putting the "politics to the side" was the straw which broke the camel's back, and a barrage of flack and discontent from across the room followed.

Hand upon hand went flying up in the air, with young members making comments like: "Who thought this was a good idea?" and "We will not reach young people by offering them free pizza! We will reach them by offering them decent terms and conditions and good jobs to fight for!"

I found the conference to be an uplifting experience, with young workers rejecting capitalism and being prepared to fight and organise for a socialist society!




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/29136




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