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Saturday 6 July 2013

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RMT conference re-affirms union support for TUSC

THE ANNUAL conference (annual general meeting) of the RMT transport workers' union met in Brighton at the end of June, with the central themes being the continued attacks on jobs, pay and pensions, and the horrors of privatised and casualised transport industries.

But part of the solution to these problems is the need to build a political movement that will support workers' rights and a clear alternative to the failed policies of the current Con-Dem and previous Labour governments.

The debate this year on continuing support for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) bought out many of these issues and heavily rejected a call for the union to return to supporting the Labour Party.

It followed the decision at last year's conference (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/news030712.php ) to formalise the union's involvement in TUSC, including the appointment of official RMT representatives to the TUSC national steering committee.

A motion had been submitted from London Underground Engineering Branch noting "the hard work" done by TUSC "in promoting trade union and socialist candidates in local and national elections" - while recognising that this is a long-term task "that history tells us we must persevere" with in order to succeed.

It called on the union "to continue to support TUSC" election campaigns to give "working class people the chance to vote for rank and file candidates".

In the conference debate two delegates spoke against the motion, raising criticisms of TUSC's share of the vote so far, and the obstacle of the first-past-the-post electoral system, to justify a return to supporting Labour.

These points were strongly answered by delegates such as Bill Rawcliffe, a sacked Jarvis worker who had suffered from Labour's failure to save 1,500 jobs at the rail engineering company when in government. "The Labour Party is dead as far as socialism is concerned; it is rotten to the core". Bill called on delegates to continue supporting TUSC.

An Area Six delegate Paul Reilly, explained how support for TUSC was growing. Having stood himself previously as a lone candidate in Nuneaton, in this year's local elections there were twelve TUSC candidates in the borough. "The Labour council is making cuts worse than the previous Tory-led council. We didn't win, that will take time. But we need an alternative".

An attempt was made in the debate to undermine the democratic credentials of TUSC and the involvement of RMT members by arguing against "a blank cheque to support TUSC candidates".

But speaking on behalf of the Council of Executives (the union's national executive committee), general secretary Bob Crow reminded delegates that RMT support for TUSC candidates was subject to the backing of RMT branches and regional committees - while in contrast the Labour Party had removed all democratic structures to select candidates or change policy.

The motion was decisively passed with the support of two-thirds of the conference delegates. The debate was followed by a lunchtime TUSC fringe meeting, with close to half the conference delegates attending to hear Southampton rebel councillor Keith Morrell, who also later spoke to the full conference.