Young Workers preparing for ‘hell of a fight’ ahead

Young Workers

Harmonisation of BT/Openreach contracts and action to convert Royal Mail vehicles away from fossil fuels were among the 15 motions (six industrial and nine general) adopted at yesterday’s CWU Young Workers Conference 2020 in Bristol.

Meeting against the backdrop of renewed tensions in our members’ companies and a newly elected Conservative Government with its own agenda, the theme of much of the day was the need to strengthen the union and lead resistance.

After CWU South West Region secretary Kevin Beazer welcomed delegates to conference and thanked them for choosing his region for their event, conference co-chairs Fiona Curtis and Billy Hunt opened proceedings.

Will Murray, speaking for the national young workers committee (NYCC), moved the first motion of the day, which highlighted the unequal employment contracts existing within BT/Openreach – specifically, the newer WF20:20 terms and conditions, which compare unfavourably with NewGrid – and called on the union’s telecoms and financial services executive (T&FSE) to seek agreement with the company on ‘a clear pathway to NewGrid terms and conditions for all’.

Linking the environmental and industrial agendas, Southdowns, Weald and Rother delegate Dan Hermitage won conference’s backing for his proposition urging the postal executive (PE) to ‘hold discussions with Royal Mail to ‘ensure all its vehicles – which Dan estimated at 49,000 across the UK – are carbon neutral by 2030’.

Hanna Williams of Scotland No1 Branch moved a motion arguing that some of the newly recruited and recently converted BT Consumer staff are unfairly graded below colleagues performing the same work and called for this group of workers to be ‘lifted from TM1 to TM2 grades’, while South Central Postal’s Reece Scane spoke movingly about his own experiences during a debate on a motion calling for Royal Mail to ‘recognise and codify the differing nature of mental and physical ill-health absences’.

And it was not all about our own postal and telecommunications industries, with unanimous support for an Emergency Motion condemning Government talk of new legislation restricting transport strikes and expressing our union’s full solidarity with rail unions RMT and ASLEF, along with several other motions on issues including artificial intelligence (AI), housing and political education.

The moment of the day came when Northern Ireland Telecoms Branch delegate Connor Devlin read out his own poem Why are Schools Built Like Prisons? about his experiences of being bullied as a child.

Connor’s poem came during his speech moving a proposition on mental health wellbeing, which called on the union to ‘get all regions to set up regular wellbeing sessions’ and, as well as being carried by conference, it was also selected to go forward for submission to Annual Conference (General)) in April.

As well as the conference business, delegates heard a detailed and thought-provoking address from guest speaker Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, and from our own Luke Elgar who represents CWU young workers on the national executive council.

At the close of business, Fiona thanked everyone for attending and Billy spoke of the importance of the forthcoming re-ballot of Royal Mail members in defence of the Four Pillars agreement, saying: “It’s going to be a hell of a fight.”