Possible privatisation of Royal Mail, and the union’s link to the Labour Party, were the big issues at the General Conference of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) in Blackpool from Sunday 12 June.
On Sunday the Executive’s emergency proposition, calling for a strategy to defeat privatisation and a review of the Labour link at conference 2006 if privatisation happens was narrowly passed. The alternative was a demand to withdraw from the Labour Party in November 2005 if the Government will not give a restatement of its commitment in the general election manifesto to keep the Post Office public.
The debate was a power struggle between different regional sections of the postal section of the union. The London Division held a fringe meeting that evening where divisional representative Martin Walsh called for London to launch its own campaign and run a ballot to see if the members wished to withdraw from Labour.
On Monday, the conference passed a more combative motion, moved by Pete Keenlyside from Greater Manchester, by a five-to-one majority. It called for a retention of the Labour link but for all money except affiliation fees to be spent on campaigning for CWU political ends, including joint campaigning with other unions and developing the Labour Representation Committee.
It also called for the CWU to campaign for a fundamental change in Government policy on the anti-union laws and privatisation and to give support only to MPs committed to the aims of the labour movement.
Issues discussed at the sectoral industrial conferences included strike action on the pay offer to O2 staff, and an improvement in the rights of postal branches to call industrial action.