The Communication Workers Union (CWU) met for its conference on 29 April-3 May. It took place as the union finalised reorganisation plans ("Redesign"), to tackle declining membership, in the context of industrial change in both the telecoms/financial services and post/courier sectors.
An emergency motion from the National Executive on Brexit passed at the union′s general conference (attended by delegates from both sides of the union) was widely reported in the press. The conference voted decisively for ″Labour′s Manifesto commitment″ to deliver ″a Brexit deal that prioritises jobs and living standards″. It endorsed the NEC′s line not to campaign for a second referendum. In the event of any referendum a line would be determined by a national policy forum.
Such a forum has no constitutional status and it unclear what the real views of CWU members on this issue are. The motion also said, ″any deal should be consistent with a democratic socialist transformation of the UK economy in relation to competition, the undercutting of workers and public ownership and investment.″ Unfortunately no democratic socialist transformation is consistent with any version of Brexit. A motion on supporting CWU members from the EU, and campaigning against discrimination, post-Brexit was also passed.
The issue of industrial change is important. Whilst employment in both post, courier and financial services has remained steady, membership of the union has declined as markets, businesses and technology has changed. Membership was 217,807 at the end of 2009. It is now 178,975. The CWU has had some success in recruiting outside BT in the telecoms/financial services sector, and importantly, the union has now won recognition in EE (formerly owned by Orange and O2, taken over by BT in 2016).
One casualty of the reorganisation has been the CWU′s equality structures. Annual separate Equality conferences (Women, BAME, LGBT, Disability) have been replaced by a single one day biennial Equalities conference alongside representatives on new regional committees.