Redesigned and ready to face the future 

Union Matters

“It’s been a good couple of days and we now have an agreed plan to drive this union forward,” remarked our general secretary Dave Ward in his closing speech to the historic CWU Redesign Conference this afternoon.

After some passionate debate, robust discussion and close votes, delegates followed up yesterday’s strengthening of branches and mainstreaming of equality by adopting strong measures to increase industrial decision-making and boost reps’ training.

Policy-making forums look set to become a more regular feature of life in the CWU, with new rights on the way for branches to call them “when a major contemporary issue has arisen.”

And this could also include a non-industrial matter as well – such as a significant political development for example.

Explaining the reason for this, Dave Ward said that “in between annual conferences, we have to deal with lots and lots of issues – and that’s because the world of work has changed, as well as our industries, our economy and the political landscape.

“And we have to find ways of addressing all this,” he pointed out.

The value of policy forums was a point developed further by Ralph Ferrett, from Plymouth & East Cornwall branch, during his characteristically lively contribution, in which he pointed to the huge success of the 2016 Postal Policy Forum and how it had set the agenda for the ground-breaking Four Pillars campaign.

South Wales’s Graham Colk told delegates: “I want more democracy and we’ve got an opportunity for more democracy,” adding that a key reason why more policy forums were necessary was because, under current arrangements, a proposition from a branch can take five months to reach the conference floor.

Luke Smith (Eastern 5) and Dave Banbury (Kent Invicta) both told conference that in their branches, there was a high level of interest among activists in becoming conference delegates, with Luke adding that the experience “galvanises me every year.”

Ali Moosa suggested that we should consider different conference and forum venues to save money – a measure which could also improve accessibility for delegates in different parts of the country.

And he also praised conference for the high quality of debate, remarking: “Look what we’ve just done over the last hour – that’s democracy and it’s important we keep it.”

As head of CWU Education & Training, it fell to Trish Lavelle to introduce the Education & Training Session, with a pledge that the planned improvements here will be “part of our New Deal for Reps under Redesign.”

The union will remain fully committed to delivering high-quality residential, local and online training, she told conference, pointing out that the top priority is to ensure that every rep in the union is able to access the learning that they need.

In the thought-provoking discussion which followed, several delegates related their own training experiences, with several of them pointing out that, when they had been to residential courses, the networking and opportunity to meet and get to know fellow CWU activists from other parts of the country and different businesses had been extremely beneficial.

Both Judy Griffiths (Coventry Branch) and Claire Lord (Bradford Amal Branch) fondly recalled their own residential training courses, with Claire telling conference of the long-lasting friendships she had made and Judy urging: “Let’s protect this for the coming generation of reps.”

Other speakers made the point that residential courses are, unfortunately, not possible for many reps – often because of release issues or family circumstances – and so it was vitally important that the union invests in the development of more local training opportunities going forward.

And this was evident from Scotland 2 Branch delegate Gary Clarke’s observation that “some people like to travel, but some people can’t travel – one size doesn’t fit all.”

With an “asset review” under way as part of the Redesign process – and the possibility that thos could impact on the union’s residential training provision – conference umanimously adopted a motion instructing the NEC to “draw up a full strategic financial plan” which must be “published to branches” before any final decision is taken.

Speaking in support of this motion, our senior deputy general secretary Tony Kearns stressed that the situation “is not all doom and gloom.

“We do have a plan. The plan is to ensure this union is fit for purpose. A 21st-century union meeting the challenges of the 21st-century world of work.

“We need to take education & training out to our reps and we need to recruit and organise among the unorganised workforce,” he said, adding that the asset review is a necessary prerequisite to the development of an investment strategy to realise those aims and ambitions.

“We believe the outcome will be a dynamic union.”

Conference dealt with 11 agenda motions today on Conferences and Education & Training, after which six ‘NEC Enabling Motions’ – one for each of the Redesign Sections – were put to the vote and formally adopted, as amended over the course of the two days’ business.

Thanking everyone for their attendance, CWU president Beryl Shepherd wished everyone a safe journey home and Dave Ward concluded his closing speech by saying: “We’re changing this union and getting ready to face the future.

“Lots of work for you to do – lots of work for us to do.”