The Socialist 5 July 2017 |
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RMT conference opens debate on Labour and pledges to fight anti-union laws
The Tories and Southern Rail are playing divide and conquer to weaken the militant RMT transport union, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Socialist Party AGM delegates
This year's RMT annual general meeting (AGM) took place in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn's tremendous general election result. The elation of workers and trade unionists at the result was carried into the hall and reflected by delegates to the conference which ran from 25-29 June in Exeter.
There was a wide and varied range of resolutions debated and voted on including an important debate on the new anti-union laws which make it even more difficult for unions to take legal strike action. The increased ballot turnout requirement has already landed a blow against the union. London Underground members recently failed to achieve the required 50% turnout in their strike ballot in defence of unfairly sacked colleagues. It was agreed that the TUC has failed to lift a finger against the iniquitous new laws and the RMT would seek a united front with other militant unions against the employers and support each other materially if they came under attack.
Jeremy Corbyn addressed the AGM, followed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell at a pro-reaffiliation fringe meeting.
Following a closed session debate, a full discussion in branches and regions will now take place about what formal relationship the RMT will have with Labour.
This discussion will include the problems the union faces if we were to reaffiliate, including the outright opposition from significant sections of the membership in Scotland, following the disgusting spectacle of Labour campaigning alongside the Tories during the Scottish independence referendum.
The different positions that are likely to be debated were outlined in two fringe meetings at the AGM. At one fringe meeting, some speakers called for the RMT to affiliate as quickly as possible.
Supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) also held a fringe meeting at which the arguments were put that we should seek assurances from Labour on key political and organisational questions before affiliating. Several delegates (who, along with RMT's president, are banned from Labour membership after standing against cuts with the TUSC) asked why they remain banned while the likes of warmonger Tony Blair, even after advocating a "strategic" Tory vote and Jess Phillips MP, who boasted that she would stab Corbyn "in the front", can be allowed membership.
The presence of the leader, deputy leader and chair of the RMT parliamentary group at the AGM suggests that RMT has significant influence even without a formal affiliation. RMT was the first to donate to Corbyn's leadership campaign and only Unite gave more.
In contrast, it was raised that at the present time Unite and Unison are giving millions of pounds to Labour while local Labour authorities are sacking their members as they cut jobs and services.
Around 30 delegates attended the TUSC fringe meeting and 22 copies of the Socialist paper were sold.