Having failed in a previous attempt to move to a biennial conference, the NEC [National Executive] of the post and telecoms union CWU has used the Covid crisis as an excuse to cancel this year’s conference, which would normally take place around the end of April.
This means branches will not have an opportunity to shape union policy again until 2022, three years on from the last conference.
However, the NEC has announced a one day rules revision conference next month to deal with what it describes as proportionality issues. This is likely to be yet another attempt to dilute democracy in a union that once prided itself on its democratic traditions.
This process started under previous General Secretary Billy Hayes and involved rewriting the rule book to include things like two year elections for national and regional posts, along with other changes including on the role of union President. The collapse of the Broad Left, a group that was only ever influential in the telecoms constituency, has made what now appears to be an ongoing task a lot easier.
When “proportionality” on the NEC was introduced in 2018, it was done in a way that meant rotation of seats, a sure way to limit any long term opposition building up to the leadership. New proposals from the NEC are likely to build on this.
That said since Dave Ward’s defeat of Hayes in 2015, which effectively ended the long running fight between the two factions at HQ, the NEC has largely become a rubber stamp committee.
This year’s elections to the NEC have been postponed until after the rules revision conference, but they are unlikely to offer members much of a choice. The dominance of the ruling HQ block and a shrinking of the activist base means that incumbents have very little to fear. All this takes place against a backdrop of an employers’ offensive across the industries the union organises in, failure to recruit in new sectors and a membership increasingly demoralised by the lack of an effective fightback. The need for a rank and file grouping has never been greater.