Archive for February, 2014

USDAW Leadership Blocks Swathes of ADM Propositions – We Need a Fighting Democratic Union

February 10, 2014 1 comment

In the run-up to this year’s Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM), the Activist has received several reports of large numbers of propositions being blocked by Central Office and then ratified by the Executive Council (EC). Particularly galling is that this is year is the once every three year opportunity for branches to submit proposed changes to the union’s rulebook and every one of the propositions to amend this have been thrown out, apart from the EC’s proposition on ‘S1’ increasing the union’s membership fees despite the ongoing surplus that has been increasing in recent years.

We urge all branches who have had their propositions blocked to appeal the decision, which can be done by any member writing to the EC and appearing before them at the next EC meeting. In particular, we also note the following in the Standing Orders for Delegate Meetings in part 1 under Propositions and Amendments:

“…Such propositions shall then be submitted to the Executive Council, and if, in their opinion, any of them are obscure in meaning and so liable to misunderstanding or are not in conformity with the Rules of the Union or the law of the land, the Executive Council shall empower the Central Office to communicate with the proposers to that effect, and get the defects remedied…”

The Activist believes that the EC has deliberately not applied this rule to allow branches to rectify faulty propositions as there are a whole series of questions they throw up that Usdaw’s leadership simply do not want to see debated at this year’s ADM. Any claims of a lack of time to carry this out are simply nonsense as it is the EC’s duty to set the timetable for ADM, subject to the union’s rulebook.

Once more we see clampdowns on our union democracy, for the specific purpose of blocking the adoption of a fighting policy. The cowardice of the current union leadership to not discuss such pivotal questions as that of working class political representation as raised below, stands in contrast with previous leaderships. In 2001, when Bill Connor was General Secretary, a proposition on a related issue was debated at ADM. At that time it was defeated, but events since have moved on with the expulsion of the RMT, disaffiliation of the FBU, Labour taking us into the Iraq war and bailing out the banks at our expense amongst other issues. That the current leadership are blocking this from being discussed is an indication of their lack of confidence their line, of loyally supporting Labour whilst it stabs workers in the back.

We warn Usdaw’s leadership that this will not work, it will only make Usdaw’s members more frustrated at lack of a serious fight, both industrially and politically, against the low wages, insecure working conditions and other issues that beset retail workers.

We below publish a contribution from one union member who’s branch resolution to this year’s ADM was blocked.

Usdaw, one of the largest trade unions in Britain, has given the Labour Party £4.8 million since 2010, last year saw a 93% vote in favour of retaining Usdaw’s political fund. The next general election which will see Labour participate with Usdaw’s support is less than 18 months away. Now is a perfect time to debate affiliation then you would think?

Not the Usdaw leadership though it would seem. A proposition my branch put forward to Usdaw’s Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) in 2014 called simply for ‘ a special conference to be organised, debating whether or not, in the aftermath of Labour can be reclaimed by those who formed it or if we should disaffiliate’. This was proposed in the light of Labour’s special conference this march where moves are afoot to end what’s left of the union’s collective voice in the Labour Party.

This was ruled out of order by the Executive Council though due allegedly to the ‘obscure’ wording but there was no offer allowing the submission of a new proposition with the ‘obscure’ language cleared up. This reason for this, and the real reason it was ruled out of order, is revealed later on in the letter my branch received however, where central office claims that its against the rules to even discuss our relationship to the Labour Party. Therefore, they say, the rules have to be changed, which can only be done in a rule change year. The next one after this year being 2017!

Unfortunately, I find this blatant and undemocratic decision unsurprising. Only this month General Secretary John Hannett, is pictured in the bi-monthly Usdaw reps magazine, Network, shaking hands with Ed Miliband and letting us know our focus ‘has to be on returning a Labour government in 2015′. The Usdaw leadership wants us to maintain our link with Labour and campaign for a Labour victory next year whilst making a few passing references about reclaiming the party.

The last Labour government took us to war, oversaw widespread introduction of PFI in the NHS and other public services, introduced academies and tuition fees, and failed to renationalise the railways or repeal the anti-trade union laws, as they had promised, and I see no real change in the party since then.

As the working class faces an onslaught of brutal attacks, the leaders of our workers’ organisation like Usdaw need to be bold and far-sighted and not tail end a party that is Labour now in name only. Usdaw belongs to us, the members, the money paid to Labour comes from hard working low paid workers, and the ADM is our conference for us to discuss issues pressing for us.

So why can’t we debate the most fundamental question facing our union at the moment, what is the point in the Labour party and how do we achieve real political representation for Usdaw members and the working class as a whole?