Day two of Revenue & Customs Group Conference opened with the debate on the Jobs & Staffing Campaign. This saw motions moved by the Group Executive Committee and by those pesky kids in Bootle Taxes Branch.
The GEC motion was straightforward enough, in essence affirming the aims and strategy that they had already agreed for the Jobs & Staffing Campaign. More vital was the Bootle motion, penned by a member of Your Voice, which was about keeping control of the dispute in members’ hands and safeguarding against a sell out. Naturally, the GEC tried to oppose it.
However, when the debate opened up, delegates rallied in favour of the motion. The Bootle delegate made reference in a hard hitting speech to the Enabling Agreement, which the GEC signed in 2012 to bring the Tax Justice For All Campaign. Then, the union was fighting job cuts, office closures, privatisation and sickness absence procedures. The agreement offered no gains on any of these issues and was since broken by management almost right away anyway. Yet it was enough to shut down Tax Justice For All for good.
As a result, the union is once again talking about a campaign around job cuts, office closures and privatisation. Performance Management is in there too, and the sickness absence procedures opposed back then remain in force. Recognising this, delegates voted to hold the GEC to account – committing them not only to a membership ballot on any deal, but consultation through reps so that they cannot just put an equally worthless agreement to ballot but flood members with propaganda to accept it.
The rest off the morning’s business passed smoothly, discussing issues from flexibility (management’s term for giving staff more work to cope with job cuts) through to the closure of the Enquiry Centres. Crucially, although they walk-in Enquiry Centres are set to close within a month, the GEC is now committed not only to fight to keep them open but to fight for them to be re-opened once closed. This is hardly enough for members who are leaving or who have already left on voluntary terms, feeling that not enough was done last year, but it at least shows that reps and members on the ground still believe in the fight.
The task for the coming year is a straightforward one: organise. Conference has set the union’s policy and a new GEC is mandated to follow it. But that new GEC is dominated by the same grouping that dominated it in the last year whe Conference policy was largely ignored. There are those within and without Left Unity who we would look to as most likely to argue in favour of following the mandate from the members and delivering a fight, and we would urge them to continue to do so and to support each other in this – especially if doing so comes with recriminations and hostility from others. But most importantly, there needs to be a voice in the rank-and-file that is pushing from the same perspective.
This coming year, we need to organise. This means building a culture in workplaces of mass meetings, of mass pickets and of the fullest lay democracy. Decisions need to be made collectively by the membership, not behind closed doors in smoke filled rooms. That’s the ideal, and now we start building towards making it a reality.