What I did in Harrogate at GMB22

What I did in Harrogate at GMB22

I have now uploaded most of my notes and comments from #GMB22. They can be found on this blog using the tag #GMB22. There are notes on the Ukraine special report which was not presented and on the finance report and debates which I have not yet decided how to publish. The finance debate I will definitely publish, but probably after the GMB submits its AR21.

My branch took nine motions to conference, on training, sick pay, housing crisis, where we enhanced GMB policy on no fault terminations, non-compete clauses, fair votes (i.e. PR), the Future Trade and Co-operation agreement, campaigning against the Tory hard Brexit, restoring legal aid, supporting the Human Rights Act and Sick Pay. Of these motions, only the motion on fair votes failed to carry.I also drafted London Region’s emergency motion on the Rwanda refugee deportations, which was also carried albeit with a qualification.

My report also includes comments on the Energy industry debate, Rachel Reeves’ speech, a motion, carried on GMB supported councillors and I also wrote a piece on my general impressions calling out my highlight speeches.

It was a busy and successful week. …

GMB22, impressions and a sting in the tail?

GMB22, impressions and a sting in the tail?

What is my general opinion of the Congress? I believe it was even more managed than at my last Congress in 2019.

The most important tool of management is the CEC recommendation. The CEC positions vary in degrees of support, from Support, via Support with Qualification to Refer and Withdraw. If the qualifications, request to refer or withdraw are refused, then the CEC opposes.  It is my view that the CEC were very cautious in making recommendations, especially between refer and support with qualification. They don’t seem to operate on the principle that ‘other people have good ideas’.

A second important tool of management is using, I should say persuading, regional delegations to refuse to support a branch position leaving an often inexperienced and/or uncommitted delegate to take their motions to the rostrum with an unknown level of support and a known level of hostility. We must note that not all branches are represented at Congress. Also, all delegates except your own region are prohibited from taking an agreed position and have to listen to the debate before deciding which way to vote. Maybe a rule honoured in the breach.

In the so-called interests of speed, there are no speeches from the floor in favour of motions, (although CEC special reports get nine regional contributions which invariably support the CEC position), and also in the interests of speed, they are no longer taking votes on referrals to the CEC, which I consider to be a problem as the ideas in the motion no longer have a Congress mandate.

There were 291 motions published in the original agenda, of which many will have been marked as existing policy and therefore not allocated time for a debate, and five days were planned. In the final agenda, there were 17 composite motions, which reduce the number of total motions to be debated and many more were withdrawn during the conference. The CEC proposed eight reports thus generating 72 speeches in favour of their position.

One aspect of platform management was the withdrawal of most motions on the Labour Party affiliation and its disciplinary process and those motions critical of the CEC on branch finance. The CEC will have notified the delegates that they were opposing, and its possible that the authoring branch weren’t represented in the regional delegation or that the branch delegate didn’t agree with the motions. I have seen this happen at Labour Conference where delegates oppose words proposed by their branches/CLPs.

On the positive side, there were three great speeches which were notable for their militancy and for their reception. Katy Maxwell, from GMB Scotland, moving Composite 8 on Anti-Trade Union laws, the delegate who asked about seemingly missing Shadow Front-bench’s support for the rail-workers and Una Byrne in seconding EM2 on the Rwanda Transportations.

These were all well received; there may be appetite for more militancy from the GMB rank & file than would seem to be welcome from the platform. …

GMB agrees to “Oppose Refugee deportation to Rwanda”

My branch proposed an Emergency Motion on the Rwanda deportations, here is the debate, sorry about the sound,

and here are the words,

EM2. Oppose Refugee deportation to Rwanda

Congress notes that on the 14th April, Priti Patel announced that the UK and Rwanda would sign a deal allowing the UK government to send unprocessed immigrants to Rwanda. On the 10th April,  the High Court refused an application to stop the Govt’s planned removal of people seeking asylum by offshoring them to Rwanda despite the UN warning the Home Office off the likely illegality. This decision was unsuccessfully appealed on Monday 13th June 2022.

The move to offshore those seeking asylum is racist , breaches human rights and our international duties to welcome refugees which are embedded in  treaty commitments.

We instruct the CEC to raise awareness of the High Court’s decision on 10.6.22 ensuring our members working in detention centres and work ancillary to the detention centres are informed of the justice and rights of those in their care.

Congress agrees to support the actions of any members in the detention centres and other impacted businesses if they choose to refuse to perform work effecting the deportations

Congress calls on GMB sponsored MPs to campaign to reverse this programme, and for the Labour Party to oppose any parliamentary resolutions enabling this programme. They must recognise that many/most of the transportees are unprocessed asylum seekers fleeing threats of death and war.

London Central General

The CEC issued a qualification which is important to understand the position of the Union.  …

Sick Pay

We sent a motion on Sick Pay to Congress, this was debated and passed this morning. Our key demands were to remove lower earnings limit so everyone has access to sick pay because 2m don’t have access at the moment because they don’t earn enough and also to increase the rate, to at least the level of a 'real' living wage. We also asked for something to happen in Parliament and for the CEC to report back to Congress. There was a similar motion put by another Region and they were combined into Composite 7. Another deleagte from London Region made the speech; the motion was carried. The composite words are overleaf ...

Restore Legal Aid

Restore Legal Aid

I finished the afternoon guiding two motions through the Congress, one on the ECHR and one on campaigning to restore legal aid. The CEC asked to refer them both although requiring to do due diligence on the Law Centre Network strikes me as a bit presumptions; next year I think I'll try and instruct them to work with the Criminal Bar Association, which I should have contacted this year since two weeks later their industrial action to restore legal aid payments started. The speech words are published overleaf.

Fair Voting at GMB22

Fair Voting at GMB22

Our branch proposed a motion on PR & FPTP asking for a member's consultation and a position of abstention while that occurs. The GMB have a position of robustly supporting FPTP. ( I should find out how many members the GMB group of the PLP has.) The video clip includes a speech from the following motion where the delegate used the opportunity of moving a pious motion calling for a Labour Government to argue for FPTP. If the vote had been close, I'd have asked for a count but it wasn't. The GMB continues to support the careerism of its parliamentary allies. The video of the debate, my speech notess and the words of the motion are overleaf. ...

AEIP Affiliaiton

AEIP Affiliaiton

We took a motion calling for affiliation to AEIP to Congress, the debate is on you tube see overleaf/below; one interesting aspect of this debate is that it was opposed due to the view that AEIP took a divisive position in 2019. I was able to reply and took the high road, using the Buffy Somers argument, “That was then, this is now!”. The video and speech are documented overleaf ...

The EU and the FTC at GMB22

The EU and the FTC at GMB22

I moved Motion 194, from my branch, on the Future Trade & Co-operation Agreement. This motion called for five reforms in the FTC, calling for relaxation of the agreement on freedom of movement, rejoining Horizon Europe, the mutual R&D programme, to enhance inward investment, rejoining Erasmus+ to continue youth and educational exchanges, mutual reciprocal voting agreements to allow citizens of the UK and of the EU to vote where they live, and to ease trade friction particularly in the context of the Northern Ireland Protocol. I have clipped my moving speech, and Joanne Rust's seconding speech. The CEC supported with qualification, and the motion was carried. If you use the 'read more' button, you can see the video of the debate, the words of the motion and my notes on the speech ...

On GMB sponsored councillors

On GMB sponsored councillors

Motion 193 caused some excitement in our branch. It calls for all councillors supported by the GMB to support GMB members and sign up to the implementation of GMB policies. The debate as is all the others, on youtube. It was carried, a signal perhaps of a more transactional relationship between GMB and the Labour Party.

The words of the motion moved by Newcastle City LA Branch are as follows.

193. GMB LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILLORS This Congress calls on all GMB sponsored or supported Councillors to unequivocally support GMB members in Councils, Contracted Services, Schools and Academies. Congress notes that obtaining support from the GMB in political circles, is based on those seeking our support, signing up to the implementation of GMB policies and that includes in Public Services. Congress calls for progress on delivering this motion being reported on an on-going basis to the CEC.

Newcastle City LA Branch, Northern Region