Retired members: Your union needs your experience and wisdom

Union Matters

Nearly 100 branch delegates, regional officers and other activists took part in the CWU Retired Members Conference yesterday, discussing agenda motions covering the whole range of issues facing older people in the UK…

Defending state pensions, help for older people with technological change, social care and better resourcing for preventative health programmes were among the many subjects touched upon during a busy day of policy making and strategising.


Powerful speech from our general secretary

“Take all the experience you’ve got into helping bring about the biggest shake up for many years,” our general secretary Dave Ward had urged in his opening speech, as he explained the linked strands of the union’s strategy and the vitally important contribution that our retired members make.

Dave began by looking back over the past couple of years, reflecting that, “the over-arching thing we’ve learned is the imbalance in power and wealth in society. The pandemic has highlighted this imbalance – and people know that things have to change.

He criticised both the Government – “our Prime Minister at present has lost all moral authority to lead this nation” – and the Opposition – “unfortunately, we’ve not got any serious political leadership to lead the fight for change” – and made the point that, therefore: “It’s up to the trade union movement to get together and bring about plans to change the situation.”

Dave told delegates that he has been invited to give a presentation to a specially convened, two-day TUC summit next month, at which he will be asked to set out the Building Collectivism agenda, with the intention of winning support for a nationwide public initiative that will “go out to towns and cities across the UK and campaign for a new social settlement” that will complement the New Deal for Workers demands that the CWU has been pushing forward for the past few years.

Retired members will have a particularly crucial part to play in this, he continued, saying that issues of prime concern to older people and the vulnerable will be “weaved into” the elements being demanded and adding: “We’ll be asking you to attend and support these meetings and events when they come to a town or city near you.”


Delegates get down to business

Chairing the day’s proceedings was CWU vice-president Karen Rose, who welcomed everyone and introduced the first motion of the day, successfully moved by South East Wales Amal delegate Ruth Rees and concerning the affect on older people of the impending national telephone network changes.

This debate developed into a wider discussion around digital access and technology, with some interesting points made of the need for advice and assistance – one delegate remarking: “Don’t forget us old ‘uns who don’t have all the facilities!”

WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaigners came up in the next agenda item, with conference giving its full backing to this struggle on behalf of women who suffered financially as a consequence of sudden changes to state pension eligibility.

Next up was Jake Kharadi, moving a successful proposition on the Health and Social Care Bill on behalf of North West Regional Committee, which was followed by similarly health-themed motions on Alzheimer’s care and prostate cancer screening – each of which were also approved.

Norman Candy, national executive council representative, won conference’s backing for a strongly worded motion aiming to step up campaigning to defend the state pensions triple lock, while delegates also backed a motion from the national retired members’ committee encouraging every branch of the union to participate fully in the work of the retired members’ section.

Two of the resolutions adopted – on the triple lock and the Health and Care Bill respectively – were chosen to be taken forward to April’s General Conference, to which Joan Moxon will be the elected CWU Retired Members delegate.

Reacting to her selection, Joan told CWU News that she was “made up” to be chosen, adding: “I’ve spoken at General Conference before and I enjoy it.

“We’ve got to stand up and be counted and we’re fighting not just for our generation, but for future generations as well,” the North Wales & The Marches Branch member said.


Thanks to all – now let’s unite for change

Senior deputy general secretary Tony Kearns gave the closing address, thanking people for their attendance and participation and also thanking Norman for his work in launching the new retired members’ publication The Veteran.

“We do face a difficult time, as Dave outlined in his speech and that’s reflected in the motions that have been discussed today,” said Tony.

“And we face a worrying time in the not too distant future in this country as well, with inflation going up, fuel companies making huge profits but passing on massive increases in household bills and a Government that can only be described as corrupt.

“We have to come together and find a way through this,” he insisted. “The only way the working class can overcome is by uniting. And uniting around an agenda that puts people first.”

Speaking to CWU News after conference closed, Norman Candy said: “Today went really well. Some excellent contributions and also a great speech from Dave as well as from Tony.

“Retired members have got a big part to play in the union’s overall agenda and it was great to hear our leadership encouraging this.

“We retired members have all got time on our hands and many years of experience – decades even – so we’re all ready and we want to play our full part,” said Norman.

And, in a message to all members, he added: “Remember everyone, retain your membership when you retire and also to all reps across the country, remind any of your retiring or soon-to-retire colleagues to retain their membership.

“Your union needs you!”