Resistance to cuts and attacks on jobs and services ran through the Unite policy conference in Manchester this week.Delegates took part in a passionate debate on the anti-union laws on Tuesday afternoon.
They backed a composite of motions arguing for a repeal of the anti-union laws and replacing them with a framework giving more rights and freedom to trade unions.
Nigel Gawthrope from London and Eastern region moved the composite. He pointed to the behaviour of Willie Walsh at BA and said, “These bastards have to be stopped from giving our members a kicking”.
Delegates also put a motion arguing for unofficial action to beat the laws. It read, “Despite prohibitive and undemocratic anti-union laws, a number of industrial disputes have taken place in 2009 which have resulted in victories or partial victories for working class people”.
It listed strike action at Lindsey Oil Refinery and other construction sites, occupations at Visteon and Vestas and walkouts in prisons as examples.
Colin Calder from Swansea moved it. “Usually unofficial action wins quicker,” he noted. “It’s quite simple – either you show solidarity or you don’t.” Many spoke bitterly of how the anti-union laws had remained after 13 years of a Labour government.
Joint general secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson, spoke against the motion. On the question of illegal action he said, “If people think it’s clever to put the funds of the union at risk, I believe they’re in cloud cuckoo land.” The motion had mentioned several cases where Unite members had indeed taken illegal action and the union’s funds were left untouched.
Simpson asked conference to remit the motion rather than have a vote where the executive would ask delegates to vote it down. Conference agreed. The main composite on fighting the anti-union laws was passed.