CWU: Strike action looms as Blairite official is kicked out

The Blairites’ influence in the union movement was dealt another body blow last month after John Keggie failed in his bid to be re-elected to the post of CWU Deputy General Secretary. Keggie was defeated by Dave Ward who has described the result as "A mandate for change in the union and a mandate for the way we deal with the Labour Party. It is a mandate for us to represent the views of our members when we deal with the Labour Party - rather than represent the Labour Party when we deal with our members".

This is another clear indication of the tension that is building up between the Labour government and the unions. The result continues the trend that has been taking place across the movement. The Blairites are fast becoming an endangered species in the trade union movement.

There will be immediate consequences both within the CWU and for the members, and across the movement as a whole as a result of this ongoing process.

A leadership more willing to lead a fight in the members' interests is beginning to come to the fore. For example Keggie was the leading voice against calls for industrial action to achieve an increase in the London weighting allowance. A recent unofficial opinion poll of London members found a vast majority in flavor of action to secure an allowance of £4000 a year for all employees in London; the current level is £3331 for inner London, and £2088 for the suburbs. Dave Ward has attacked John Keggie for failing to lead a fight for these workers, and has said he will take up this struggle.

Pressure is also building on the new left-leaning leadership to take decisive action against the Labour government's ''reforms'' (read attacks and cuts) of the postal service which will mean a deterioration in working conditions, longer shifts, a greater intensity of work, and not much more money to show for it in return.

The attacks of the government above all on public-sector workers over the last period have paved the way for the defeat of the right wing in one union after another. This most recent result is a very significant indicator of the way things will go for Labour in this year's trade union conference season. The Blairites are already becoming more and more isolated in the movement, and now they are going to take an almighty hammering.

The defeat of Keggie, who was seen by many as a key ally of Blair, and a member of the Labour Party NEC, is a step forward in reclaiming the unions, and restoring their effectiveness as fighting organisations. This comes after a decade and more of the right wing ideology social partnership that has tied workers hands.

Now the essential task both inside the CWU and throughout the whole trade union movement is to arm our organizations with a fighting programme committed to raising living standards, defending jobs and conditions at work and getting rid of the anti union laws which hinder real and effective union representation. Linked to this must be the struggle to force the Labour government to change course and act in the interests of the working class who elected them rather than continuing with their pro-big business line.

The unions have always been the key to the Labour Party. The unfolding of a crisis in the Labour Party will undoubtedly parallel the collapse of the Blairites in the unions. It is not our task to stand by idle on the sidelines - the trade unions must begin a campaign to transform the Labour Party. We must step up the fight against the Blairites in the unions and the Labour Party and fight for a Labour government with socialist policies.

(May, 2003)

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