Fringes and solidarity

I enjoyed the fringes that I attended; all the ones I chose were activist led. Learning from such activism was reinforced by giving activists time at the rostrum, most importantly probably speakers from Amazon; the video stream starts here.

The fringe meeting I attended were the Apple solidarity fringe where I met the leadership of the recognition campaign; they’re impressive people. I hope we can bring similar success to London and also the fringe meeting hosted by the Migrant Democracy Project and the session was chaired by Lara Parizotto, who used to be in our branch. The speakers were from the voice of domestic workers, and the Bureau of investigative journalism. It also heard from Marcela Benedetti from migrants for labour, who spoke about the difficulties that Latinas had in making a home in the UK. The highlight for me was Emiliano Mellino from the Bureau of investigative journalism who presented, on his investigative project on the state of the living conditions of migrant workers working British farms, and finally I went to the Justice for Columbia campaign fringe. It was good to be reminded of the fact that in Columbia they have elected a left wing president, and established a peace agreement to bring the guerrilla movement into politics. They also announced their campaign of solidarity with ex-fighters; they are collecting money for a farm truck.

I say more overleaf ...

GMB23; the war in Ukraine

Congress then moved onto debate international issues, which this year, means the War in Ukraine. This was captured on the video stream, and I post the text of the main composite motion which was on the Ukraine war and a second motion on the arms industry and defence. I have clipped the video stream to include the whole debate. Both motions were opposed by a speaker from the floor, who unlike at Labour Party conference was heard and replied to with respect.

I didn’t speak in this debate, there follows below/overleaf the motions and the qualification. The clip above has the whole debate, including the CEC qualification speech together with the one speaker who opposed the two motions. … …

Immigration and Solidarity at GMB23

Immigration and Solidarity at GMB23

I was privileged to move M178 Immigration and Solidarity, which it would seem the video engineers did not record; they only turned it on in time to capture the second half of Lara Johnson’s excellent speech on M182 so they missed my & Joe’s speeches moving M178. I have posted the words of the two motions below/overleaf.

Our branch motion was designed to ensure that the Union and the Labour Party stood for an immigration policy based on decency and compassion, which are Starmer’s words from his ten leadership pledges an applied to all those seeking to come here, whether for work, to make a home or because they were fleeing war or political persecution.

I had been inspired by one of the fringe meetings, about Migrant’s Rights; a central piece of my speech in which I address part of the qualification, was,

If I had attended yesterday’s London Region Fringe, “Rights for all, organising and supporting migrant workers” before writing this motion, I would have focused less on the economics and more on the people but one of the purposes of the motion was to challenge the canard that migrants are an economic burden. It wasn’t true in 2016, and it isn’t true today. …

It is the view of the movers of this motion that the current immigration system which ties workers to jobs inhibits their ability to join unions and fight for their rights. Again the stories of the corruption and cruelty shared yesterday in the Organising Migrants session are an illustration of the truth of this.  Low wages aren’t caused by migrants they are the result of weak unions and poor enforcement of minimum wage and health and safety laws.

The video link above, has Dean Gilligan of the CEC presenting the CEC Qualification.

Both motions were carried with qualification.

See below for the words of our motion and full notes of the speech I made. I have also posted the words of M182, Support and solidarity with Migrant Workers. … …

The GMB and the single market

The GMB and the single market

The GMB voted to rejoin the EU’s customs union and align with the single market yesterday. The text of the motion is below/overleaf as are the notes I used to make the speech. The debate is posted on youtube, I was supported by Joe Dharampal-Hornby. In the GMB, the Central Executive Council has the right to make amendments to all motions, these are called qualifications. The regional delegation, the moving entity,  have the option to accept the qualification or have the motion opposed by the CEC. I have reproduced the qualification below. We took the view that the qualifying comments on migrants and wages are an observation not a negation of the need to re-establish the reciprocal right to find and perform work throughout the EU. The debate followed the General Secretary, Gary Smith’s interview in the Observer. …

GMB23: defending a new deal for workers

GMB23: defending a new deal for workers

Congress Composite C11 concerned Labour’s “A new deal for working people”. Hours before, Starmer had promised that this would be legislated for in the first 100 days. The motion, or the part of it that comes from London Region was designed to make it clear that there must be no backtracking and that the weaknesses in the proposals must be remedied. You can find Labour’s Policy statement here., the new deal for workers starts on P18 and cross references the green paper.

In my speech, see below or watch the video, I said,

The best defence against poor working conditions and low wages is a strong union movement, it has been since the Labour Party’s foundation that political and legislative programmes are also needed. There are many wrongs in UK employment protection law, and those members whose cases I help manage are often deeply upset that Britain the home of “fair play” has so few remedies for the poor treatment that they are suffering.

These are good documents but we need to ensure that the promises make it into a manifesto and into Government.

Apart from the failure to promise the repeal of pre-2016 trade union laws, the major disappointment is that the New Deal document promise on the minimum wage is unlikely to increase it. GMB policy is that this must be £15 per hour, we must reiterate this. The document is also sadly silent on statutory sick pay and redundancy compensation. It is necessary to rectify these injustices. The motion was carried, with qualification.

As in my other reports on GMB Congress, I have reproduced the motion, the qualification and the notes for my speech, which are below/overleaf. … …

GMB23, Energy and climate change

GMB23, Energy and climate change

Both for the GMB, on the country at large, one of the most important debates that takes place at GMB conference is on energy and climate change. Today’s debate on Congress floor was fore  shadowed in an article in the Guardian quoting the general secretary Gary Smith calling on labour to think again about his proposals to limit expansion of North Sea oil and gas extraction. This was reinforced by the Scottish region question to Kier Starmer in the Q&A session.

The debate occurred in two sessions. The first session passed M227, on the role of energy prices in the cost of living crisis and to prioritise work with the equality strands, also Composite 16 on prepayment meters, M234 on North Sea Oil & Gas, and M237 on water shortages.

The second part of the debate, held after lunch, dealt with M238 on costs and tax of decarbonisation, M239 on the Hydrogen Economy, and the need for a just transition on jobs and wages,   M240 on electricity and 2030, 242 called environment which called for the GMB to run education programmes on personal energy efficiency and finished with a debate on M229 which calls for the re-nationalisation of the Electricity and Gas industries .

The video stream for the 1st session starts here, the 2nd stream starts here, and the debate on M229 starts here.

I have reproduced the words of the motions on North Sea oil and gas and electricity and 2030 below/overleaf, the other motions texts are published in the Final Agenda document on the GMB web site. Also, of interest and relevance is the CEC 2017 special report, which would still seem to be the baseline for policy. …

GMB ’23, Workers and the World Trade

I seconded a motion on world trade governance, the motion welcomed Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which legislates for a Keynesian reflation and implements a state aid scheme which may be in contradiction to the World Trade organisation rules. The motion calls for reforms that will make the WTO treaties ‘worker centred’, oddly quoting the US Trade Representative, a role not well known as being in favour of workers or consumer rights. In my speech, I called this out, by saying, “We should be careful of the initiatives of the US in the areas of international trade, its commitments to workers’ rights abroad are to say the least variable. “

Heather and I worked on a proposing speech, but Heather was asked to use a speech written by the person that proposed the motion at the branch. I think ours was better, and some of what was said I disagree with. It’s a bit too autarkic.

Below/Overleaf is are a link to the video, the words of the motion and my notes for the speech.  …

LOTO speaks to GMB23

The Congress Political Speaker this year, was Sir Kier Starmer. The text of his speech is available from the Labour Press Office; like Corbyn he is not a great orator but that skill is exceptionally rare in today’s parliament. I feel the speech was tuned for a GMB audience, but no harm in that, provided the commitments offered are genuine, and not part of “I’ll say what it takes to win” strategy, although you’d have look very hard to find any new promises.

The video of his speech starts here, on YouTube. After the speech, GMB Congress asked each region to pose a question to Sir Kier. This year questions were posed on, the new deal for workers, the minimum wage specifically in social care industry, plans for energy industry infrastructure manufacture, plans for in-sourcing, public procurement and anti union firms, the blocking of new offshore mining licences, and finally, the regulation off hire & fire especially by firms in dispute with their union, but interestingly, despite a CEC special report on pubic sector pay, nothing on public sector pay nor on the public sector disputes,

The issue of the politics of energy supply and the GMB was fore-shadowed in an article in the Guardian, where Gary Smith, the GS, strongly criticised Labour’s plans to ban new North Sea drilling licences, in what might be called a “shot across the bows”.

Smith is quoted in the article as saying,

“We are critical friends of the Labour party and I think this is just a lack of intellectual rigour and thinking about where they have got to on oil and gas,” he said on Sophie Ridge On Sunday on Sky News. “They are focusing on what they think is popular rather than doing the proper thinking to understand what is right for the country.”

Below/overleaf I have posted the video of the Q&A session, and written a précis of the session. … …

Moving the deckchairs, new rules for the CEC election

Moving the deckchairs, new rules for the CEC election

The CEC also proposed to change the way in which its elected. This was done in a paper, “OUR RULEBOOK – A PROCESS OF CHANGE”. The current CEC is elected within the Regions, of which there are now seven rather than nine. The rule book review has been going on for a couple of months but in order to change the CEC composition, they needed to postpone the planned elections. Not changing the rules would have led to a reduction in size of the CEC which is probably a bad thing. Small committees are too easily dominated by leaderships.

They also took the opportunity to change the aims and objectives. They strengthened the Unions’, emphasis on workplace organisation, regulation of terms and conditions, international working class solidarity, the need for a political intervention and the accountability of GMB supported public officials to GMB policy. These are both welcome and overdue and represent an important restatement of the Union’s goals and focus.

So what changes are proposed to the composition of the CEC.

The paper proposed that the Union reduces the number of sections from three to two, and lets each Region define two additional industrial foci. One will have to work in these industries to represent them. I am concerned that allowing each Region to define their additional seats will cause a lack of certainty, illustrated by the creation of an additional seat in the Midlands Region for which only ~2,500 people can stand and a seat for the Irish members, and here I am unclear how many members would be eligible, but the number of members in Eire is very small.  I am also concerned that the definition of these new constituencies will be used to reinforce power within the union, not focus on growth.

All Unions have a problem in how to organize industrially and geographically. The CWU is probably the most industrially focused, the GMB are probably the most geographically focused. The proposals to have two additional industrial seats should help the union grow and organise, but again there needs to be more clarity as to how these seats are defined.

They are of course silent on the voting systems to be used in the few divisions that have more than one seat/winner. Using a form of proportional system would be of advantage to candidates from under represented groups; it’s easier to come second than first.

There are changes to the way that Conference delegates are chosen which should help women’s representation in big branches, but does not change the ultimate selection authority which is not the branch. Not all branches are represented at Conference, and disappointingly this has not changed.

It is also my view that moving the deck chairs on the top floor is not enough. The whole organisation needs to support these new representatives and industrial representation needs to be funded and democratically accountable to the members it seeks to represent. …