Friday night saw the conference kick off with a speech by Bertie Ahern* and an spontaneous walkout by seven delegates. [If we had been given advance notice of Ahern's appearence we could probably have arranged for a few more more to join us in walking out.]
Saturday saw the business begin with the vote to accept Standing Orders report no.1, which proposed that Ahern be allowed address the conference ...the previous night. A bit like being told that a government has already been formed but that you can vote for Fianna Fail anyway!
Overall, the conference was the usual boring affair. No surprise given that we can't make real decisions, we can only advise the National Executive.
The guest speakers were better than usual: Bobby Gilmore of the Refugee Council talking about racism, Frank McDonald of the Irish Times reminding us of the planning scandals and Tom Hayes (brother of our Regional Secretary) giving the low down on how the unions are failing to recruit members in the newer industries.
[Personal reports from Workers Solidarity Movement members of events they took part in or attended, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]
All motions on the agenda were passed with a single exception. This was one calling for a rise in the TV licence fee to preserve some element of public service broadcasting. It was defeated on the grounds that the last thing we need is yet another deduction from our pay packets. An emergency motion calling on the government to give RTE more cash from central taxation was then carried.
Of the more interesting motions (in that they give us some idea of where delegates are at) were:
- an emergecy motion jointly proposed by the Energy and Education branches calling on the union not to "feel bound by the terms of PPF" and to "serve pay claims for a minimum of 5%" if the shortfall caused by inflation is not remedied. It further urged "local representatives to convene general meetings in their workplaces to discuss their claims".
- motion no.5 from the Education Branch, which requested the National Executive to explain what it had done to implement a motion passed by last year's national conference. This was for a "national protest against persistent tax evasion by the rich and powerful". In the event of the ICTU doing nothing the conference called on the NEC to co-ordinate a SIPTU protest within one month of this conference.
- motion 24 from the State and Related Agencies Branch condemned the sanctions against the people of Iraq:
"This conference urges SIPTU to campaign for the dropping of UN sanction on Iraq. These sanctions have caused suffering and death to over one million Iraqis and have done nothing to unseat Saddam Hussein. It further calls on SIPTU to launch a campaign across the unions aimed at pressurising the Government to disassociate itself from the UN's action"
SIPTU Education Branch