Date: Sun, 25 May 97 10:15:46 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: UK Union Left Revolt As Blair Appoints Union Buster
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** Topic: UK Union Left Revolt As Blair Appoints Union Buster **
** Written 11:12 PM May 24, 1997 by labornews in **
From: Institute for Global Communications <>
Subject: UK Union Left Revolt As Blair Appoints Union Buster

UK Union Left Revolt As Blair Appoints Union Buster

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor, the Times, 25 May 1997

EMBITTERED trade union leaders are threatening to spoil Tony Blair's honeymoon by joining a left-wing revolt against his plans to water down the policy-making powers of Labour's annual conference.

A grassroots rebellion, involving trade union activists and left-wing party members, may force Blair to reconsider his plans to reform the conference to prevent the public disputes which bedevilled previous Labour governments.

Blair wants to limit policy debates to two days of the five-day conference and end the system by which all the main policy areas are debated each year. Critics claim the changes would turn the event into an American-style rally.

The prime minister needs to win approval for the changes at this October's conference, where the unions and party members each have 50% of the votes.

In the constituencies, left-wingers have urged activists to flood the conference agenda with a motion opposing Blair's shake-up. It warns: The success of the Labour government requires the full participation of affiliated trade unions and constituencies in the party's decision-making process.

The motion says the power of conference must be preserved, time given to policy debates must not be reduced and unions and local parties must have the right to send in resolutions on any issue each year.

Leftwingers are delighted by a growing revolt among the unions. Last week, the Communication Workers Union, which is seen as a weather vane, overwhelmingly rejected Blair's proposals. It is expected to be joined by the RMT transport union; the Fire Brigades Union and Aslef, which represents train drivers.

Blair's opponents also hope to win support at three critical conferences over the next two months, held by the Transport and General Workers Union, the GMB general union and the MSF white-collar union.

One union leader said: Our target is to get 50% of the votes wielded by local parties. If we do, Blair is in real trouble.

Blair's allies dismissed the rebellion, saying they expected the October conference to be a coronation after his election victory. However, one party source conceded there was a groundswell of opposition and that Blair might be forced into a tactical retreat.

Some union officials view the rebellion as revenge against Blair's decision to appoint top businessmen to government posts.

Sir David Simon, minister for trade and competitiveness in Europe, and Martin Taylor, who is to review the tax and benefits system, are accused of being anti-union. The unions are also angry that legislation to force companies to recognise unions was not included in the Queen's speech.