“CWU Annual Conference Report 2019”
This year’s CWU annual Conference was held in Bournemouth on 28th of April 2019. The first two days of the conference was General Conference and Rules Revision, the next three days were dedicated to “Postal Conference”. I attended the conference with other union reps from, processing, distribution, delivery functions and branch secretary, branch chair and youth/equality officers.
The Annual Conference was inaugurated by the CWU general secretary Dave Ward and chaired by Beryl Shepherd (CWU vice president); she is also going to retire this year after 40 years of service. Dave Ward highlighted the financial issues facing the CWU union, with membership decline partly due to automation of the industry; hence less people needed and changing postal methods of the customers. He spoke about the exercise carried out of redesigning the CWU union with help and consultation of the branches. Furthermore, he spoke about the wider issues facing the country and the world and how through union activism we can help wider society. He spoke on how we can bring political change by helping the Labour party win the next general election, so we can influence their policies for the betterment of “working class people” like us.
There were over 145 motions to be heard in postal conference as well as 95 motions from the General conference agenda. From a BAME/Equality and General Health and Well-being point of view, some good motions were carried by the delegates at the conference. I have highlighted some briefly below. let’s see what progress is going to be made over the coming year. A new rule is inserted in ‘special rule revision conference’ to have 4 lay Equality members elected biennially, 1 from each of the equality strands, Women, LGBT, BAME, Disability as well as having one day of the General/Rules conference dedicated to Equality from year 2020. Dave Ward General sectary CWU, said while moving this rule change, “it’s time to change to represent equality and bring it in the mainstream”. Under the new rule changes, there shall also be representation in the CWU regional Executive Committees from a Lead BAME officer.
In the General conference motion 19, moved by the Black workers conference, they spoke about the rise of the racist street movement groups and the so called “free speech” demonstrations by these groups. It is time under the banner of “redesign”, not only broaden support and awareness of the rise of organized groups with openly fascist and racist views, but also to address the causes of increasing social acceptance of racism and bigotry in our workplaces and communities. The NEC (National Executive Council) is instructed to work with RAC (Race Advisory Committee) to develop a new anti-racism strategy for the CWU. Motion 79 composite motion was accepted by conference which seeks to push the present UK government into a full and formal apology for the “JALLIANWALA BAGH/ Amritsar massacre on its centenary. Full information can be read, and an online petition can be done on “you.38degrees.org.uk”. I would recommend searching and read about this tragedy which happened in April 1919.
The Postal Conference was inaugurated by Postal sectary Mr Terry Pulinger who spoke about the automation of the postal industry and a decline in the letter section due to the changing attitudes of society towards paperless communications. He spoke about the use of PDA’s (postal digital assistant) which we must adopt to give better services to the customers, but also to monitor it’s not used by managers to control the workers and put them in disadvantage. He spoke on how the four pillar campaign has helped to get better deals for the members even though the industry is going through a difficult and challenging change. Postal Conference motion 16 speaks about “Recognising domestic abuse/violence as an equality and wellbeing issue in all workplaces”. Motion 34 instructs the Postal Executive to work with Royal Mail Group to promote the employment of people with disabilities, in particular Down’s-syndrome. Motion 42 asks for “an agreement that the current unpaid leave arrangements for mental health awareness training is changed to paid leave”. Motion 45 seek formal union recognition for the agency ANGARD, to secure an industrial relations structure as well as, terms and conditions for the employees of the ANGARD to match those of Royal Mail employees. Motion 47 instructs Postal Executives to lobby Royal Mail and introduce a mandatory course to educate their managers on how to sympathetically deal with menopause related issues at work. Motion 48 instructs the postal Executive to negotiate a new postal Cadet scheme which would reach and serve underprivileged communities better than the current modern-day apprenticeship scheme. Motion 79 instructs the postal executive to enter negotiations with the employers for an agreement to release time for Equality officers such as BAME, LGBT, Disability, Women etc. Motion 118/119 asks for better understanding from the business when dealing with mental health issues such as ill health retirement and the manager dealing with this should have adequate training. There were other motions which were carried beside work related issues and a full list would be published by branch or on the CWU website Guest speaker
The CWU Conference was attended by Guest speaker Mr John McDonnell who is the shadow Chancellor of the Labour party. He said he’s honoured to be on this platform, and we (Labour Party) are proud of its link with Trade Unions; CWU were the first to support Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Party Leader) when he was elected to represent the party. He said it’s a shame to have over 4 million children living in poverty, and why there are hundreds of food banks, in this fifth richest country in the world, where nearly 5000 people sleep on the pavements every day. Under the current government, we have seen Education cuts as never before. If Labour comes to power it will scrap the Tuition fees for University students, it will build 1 million council homes, it will scrap anti-union laws, it will renationalize and bring back the water, electricity/gas and railway, as well as moving Royal Mail into public ownership. He finished his speech with the words “we are ready and welcome the Green Industrial revolution”.
I attended a couple of “Fringe meetings” during lunch breaks. In the fringe meeting titled “proportionality in the CWU”, Dave Ward explained how it fits in the union structure and a debate on proportionality representation which started in 2013 and was reviewed in 2014. Dave explained the DATA CWU headquarters hold on the screen shots, and how much the different groups account for in the CWU membership. Although the BAME membership has increased to 8.2% there are still a very low number of activists from the BAME background, there is only one BAME branch sectary and only one BAME representation on the NEC. Dave said it’s the debate we must have as to why there is low representation from the BAME members? Questions were raised on what the CWU branches were doing to get BAME activists to come forward.
There is no simple answer to this, as Dave Ward said above, this is the debate we have to have openly and honestly, as the Diaspora of the workforce at workplaces is changing, and after all, we are all “working class people” and it is in our interest. There are minorities within minorities, and everyone should have a “voice”. Another two Fringe meetings I went to were on Mental Health and “Stand up to Racism”. Guest speaker Jon Ashworth – shadow secretary of state for Health and Social care, spoke about the worsening services of the NHS because of the scale of austerity by current government which is also putting pressure on mental health treatments. Government commissioned independent review, Stevenson report in 2017 on mental health and Employers, says up to 500k people lost their jobs due to mental health issues. He said pressure of zero-hour contacts are partly causing mental health issues among working class people and we need to tackle social health inequalities. He praised the CWU for running the campaign on mental health awareness and he said with organizations such as CWU, you can move mountains. Steve Hadley deputy general sectary of RMT union (Guest Speaker) at the ‘Stand up to Racism’ meeting, spoke about educating our members over racism. He said, we need to educate what has happened in history and how far right forces had divided the communities and manipulated the inequalities in societies to forward their own agenda, which is not in the interests of working-class people. He said its good we come to understand people from different Races, Religions and Cultures, but what we do have in common is that we are all working class people. Dave Ward said, if you want to defeat racism you have to defeat inequalities, we need to find ways at workplaces to speak about these issues without being labelled racists, he said CWU is developing an idea to take this debate to workplaces and it will be called “show racism red card”. we can’t label people we need to educate and speaks about which affects us openly, we need to take anti-racism campaign in the workplaces but we need to make sure our reps are fully equipped to deal with it before we do this.
Dave Ward in his closing speech thanked everyone with the help of redesigning the union. He said we are building the union for the future; we need to be force to bring political change in this Country. Terry Plunger Post Postal General sectary also said, last year we were celebrating the success of the four pillars campaign, this year we are going to be defending that success. He spoke about the challenges we are facing because of ‘automation and advances in technology’ of the industry, but that this union can deal with challenges. Terry said in his closing remarks “we have unique feeling of family in this Union”.
There was also a joint consultation held with Royal mail to explain the “new deal” on pensions being put together to give ‘fair’ prospect to the members in their retirement. It’s a first of its kind in the industry in UK. An in-depth report will be circulated by relevant branch reps/officers.
I believe fine words should come with fine actions. BAME members have contributed to the CWU considerably, morally, physically, financially and they fought on every campaign / issues CWU raised, shoulder to shoulder with other members. Yet, there is very much a lack of understanding and perceptions among BAME members themselves, what is it to be a union activist, hence it shows in their representation. Branches will have to investigate this subject with encouragement, as the workplaces are becoming more and more diverse. Willingness to educate/change and learning from each other is the key to finding a way forward, extra day dedicated to Equality at the conference and having a BAME officer at NEC in the new redesign of the conference is a step in right direction but there is very very long way to go.
Jasbir Singh BAME (Black, Asian, Minorities Ethnic) Officer
CWU Eastern 5 Branch, Contact; firstname.lastname@example.org
“CWU Annual Conference Report 2019”