The Socialist 14 June 2017 |
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GMB conference: angry mood from delegates not reflected by leadership
GMB members want action, photo Claire Job (Click to enlarge)
Kim Hendry, GMB union PCS branch and GMB conference delegate (personal capacity)
Up to 800 delegates met in Plymouth from 4-6 June for the 100th congress of the general union GMB.
Delegates heard a wide range of motions, although the packed timetable - two days shorter due to the snap general election - meant there was even less debate than usual.
The most controversial motion was the leadership report on energy, which included qualified support for fracking. While the report was carried, a growing number of delegates were confident enough to express opposition.
Two motions which sought very modest improvements to rectify the democratic deficit in congress debate were passed, against the wishes of the leadership.
Two important motions - one setting out a partial, fighting programme to defend the NHS, was carried with qualification. The other calling for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs, was defeated. respectively. The reselection motion was was moved by Socialist Party member Tony Davidson.
Against these disappointing but predictable developments, delegates agreed a range of progressive policies on such issues as defending migrants, fighting racism and Islamophobia, and increasing the diversity of GMB reps.
There was also a report on precarious work and the gig economy including a new GMB survey which found that one-third of all UK workers are now on zero-hour contracts and other forms of insecure employment.
As in recent years, the unifying theme of many motions was the appalling human impact of Tory austerity cuts, both for workers and service users.
NHS porters, ambulance drivers, teaching assistants, council staff and care home workers - angry, demoralised and stressed - lined up to tell their stories.
But as usual, there was a striking disconnect between the problems identified and the lack of a clear programme of action.
Much of this can be attributed to the GMB leadership, which yet again failed to call for coordinated industrial action and campaigning with other unions. The GMB response to austerity is to wait for a Labour government.
But while this prospect is now a real possibility, after the general election upheaval, it's no thanks to GMB which supported Owen Smith in last year's Labour leadership challenge, despite 2016 congress delegates overwhelmingly backing Corbyn.