Tuesday 1 June 2010

UNITE Policy Conference

There's lots of information about the conference appearing on the UNITE web site, and I won't attempt to rival or duplicate that, but rather provide a few updates from a sectoral slant.

The delegations from both the Electrical Engineering and Electronics (EEE) and IT & Communications (ITC) sectors were small, making me worry that some of our Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs) are not working effectively.

Conference agreed motion 11 from the Coventry Area Activists Committee dealt with the need for investment and R&D, highlighting the decision of Ericsson to close its Ansty site with the loss of 700 jobs.

Motion 35 from the EEE National Industrial Sector Committee (NISC) promoted the idea of a European Minimum Wage policy, building on the national minimum wages in many countries, and helping prevent the "race to the bottom" where countries try to undercut each other. The motion was agreed (despite nobody standing up to propose it).

The text of all the motions is on the web site, but there is a sentence missing from the end of motion 35.

Composite 8 comprised motion 42 from the ITC NISC and motions 43 from the East Midlands ITC RISC, both of which proposed affiliation to the Right To Work campaign. Since the motions were submitted, the Executive Council had decided that it didn't want Policy Conference to decide on any affiliations at all (which seems wrong to me personally) and would oppose any motion that included affiliation. The movers decided that rather than removing the bits about affiliation, which was really the point of the motions, they would remit it for the EC to consider.

Conference agreed motion 59 from London & Eastern ITC RISC, which called for a positive right to strike, noting the difference between European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgements supporting the right to strike and contrasting them with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings which put free trade ahead of human rights.

Many members in EEE may be affected by the decision to try to find a way to revive the "drive for 35" campaign for a shorter working week through the Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions. The campaign in the 1980s had successfully reduced the working week for large numbers of workers in engineering and beyond. The levy which formed a vital part of the campaign had left a fund of many millions of pounds, which is now almost impossible to access. Conference agreed an Executive Council (EC) statement that (subject to legalities) should allow the fund to be used and the campaign revived. Conference was given a commitment that the EC will be kept regularly updated on progress.

Another highlight was a packed fringe meeting with BA Cabin Crew, standing up against their bullying boss Willie Walsh in a campaign that is vital for working people in every industry.

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