Strengthening the union’s democracy was the central focus of this year’s Unite rules conference, which took place in Brighton last week (June 24-26).
About Unite 500 delegates from all sectors and regions attended the conference, as they engaged in a range of debates, many of which highlighted a desire to make the union more inclusive.
“The big debates this year focused on Retired, Community, LGBT and Disabled members and how we can strengthen their representation within the union,” explained Unite assistant chief of staff Adrian Weir.
One major outcome of rules conference was an agreement for the union to set up a taskforce, led by Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland, which will specifically look to strengthen LGBT and Disabled representation.
Another significant decision was that from 2023, Disabled and LGBT members who have representative seats on the union’s executive council will be elected only by disabled and LGBT members themselves.
“We’ve moreover taken major steps to restructure Unite’s subsequent rules and policy conferences – for example, from next year we’ve agreed to significantly increase the number of delegates at policy conference,” Weir explained.
Delegates at rules conference also flocked to a number of fringe events, including Unity over Division, which highlighted the union’s efforts in tackling the rise of the far right, while the Fight for Jobs fringe discussed Unite’s strategies for protecting members’ employment.
The Union History Project fringe drew an enthusiastic crowd of trade union historians, and a fringe by the Institute of Employment Rights highlighted the great opportunities for labour rights under a Labour government.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey drew cheers from a packed audience at the Building a Radical Left Economy fringe, where she highlighted the Labour Party’s ambitious plans under a Jeremy Corbyn-led government to restructure the economy so that it works for everyone.
Closing the three-day conference, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey hailed delegates for showing “again the collective wisdom of working people as you have debated how better to run your union”.
“You have made Unite still stronger,” he told conference. “And once again you have made me proud to be your General Secretary. You have done your duty. Go back proud in our past, confident in our future and ready to face the challenges ahead.”