Day 3 TUC 2013: Congress backs CWU motion against privatisation

Dave Ward gave a fiery speech at TUC Congress this morning seeking support for a motion against privatisation of Royal Mail.

“The government has announced its intention to privatise Royal Mail. But we had our own announcement last week: we will be balloting our members for strike action” said Dave, to loud applause in the conference hall.

“What’s frustrating about the debate on the future of postal services is that we’re against change. But we’re not through all the pain of change just to hand it over to private investors – not when the fortunes of the company have been improved, literally delivered on the backs of our members.”

Dave questioned the lack of vision held by politicians for Royal Mail and called for more action from the Labour Party. “Our members want to see Labour defending this public service” he said.

Dave’s closing message was to the City. “We have a warning for investors – CWU will fight to protect UK postal services. Hands off our Royal Mail.”

Seconding the motion was Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke, who represents 8,000 Royal Mail managers. He told TUC delegates: “It is clear; the government is motivated by the chance to make a quick buck – a chance to sell off one of our prized assets at a massive cost to the taxpayer.

“It is an attempt to raise cash to spare the blushes of the chancellor and prime minister and their failing economic plan. Even Thatcher saw it as a step too far; Tories see votes going down the pan in their constituencies as people say “No to the sell off”.

The motion was passed unanimously by delegates.

Read motion 44 in full.

Supporting motion 24 on fair pay for young workers, CWU’s Tony Kearns called it “the most important debate at Congress.”

Tony outlined the challenges faced by young people, with high youth unemployment, low wages and the fact that on average you now have to be 35 before you can save up enough for a deposit on a house. “The most damning fact” said Tony, “is that this generation of young people is going to be the first since the war to be poorer than the generation before.”

He appealed to Congress not to stand shoulder to shoulder with young workers, but to “put young workers at the front and stand behind them.”

This motion drew a dynamic range of speakers – mostly young people speaking from direct experience of low wages, exploitation and limited opportunities – and was voted through by delegates.

Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed Congress in the session before lunch. Read his speech in full.

Following his speech Ed Miliband took a number of questions. The first of these came from a group of young workers. CWU Youth chair Chris Hand was third to ask the Leader of the Opposition a question, and his directly related to union members: “what will the next Labour government do to encourage young people to understand and join trade unions?”

In response, Mr Miliband affirmed the importance of trade unions and the need to recruit young people into membership. “We need to show what trade unions do for people” he said. He also criticised the attempts of David Cameron to paint unions as ‘the enemy within’, saying: “I’m not going to let him get away with putting stigma on trade unions.”

Afternoon session

CWU delegate Bob McGuire, a rep from the North East, supported a motion about having an inquiry into the police action at Orgreave during the miners’ strike. He spoke of the fear felt by families living in villages around Durham who had their lives turned upside down; about the streets being lined with riot police from the Metropolitan Police Force. The motion was passed by Congress.

Amarajite Singh, CWU delegate from Cardiff, spoke on a motion about trades union councils, arguing the point that a trades union council delegate should be allowed to attend TUC Congress and move their motion. AJ argued that this would be consistent with what happens with representatives of other union bodies, such as TUC Women’s Committee. The motion was carried by Congress.

Tony Sneddon, CWU delegate from Scotland and member of the CWU Disability Advisory Committee, spoke on a motion about defending the Welfare State and the rights of disabled people. He outlined the disproportionate effects that cuts to welfare will have on the disabled and the need to avoid this. He received a warm round of applause from Congress when he revealed he is one of thousands of Post Office workers who have taken 11 rounds of strike action in the current dispute over pay, jobs and closures. The motion was carried.

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