Democrat September 2007 (Number 104)
TUC Demands referendum
on EU Constitution
Report by Brian Denny
The TUC Congress has demanded the government hold the referendum on the renamed
EU Constitution which it promised two years ago. The overwhelming vote is
humiliating for Gordon Brown who claimed just weeks before the conference
that the TUC would reject such a call. The euro-federalist TUC hierarchy also
got slapped down by the elected TUC general council for trying to force through
a fudge on the issue in the form of a statement. Delegates overwhelmingly
backed a GMB motion calling for a referendum on the treaty which is described
as “a Trojan horse to provide unfettered privatisation throughout the EU”.
Resisting huge pressure to remit the motion, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny told delegates that the government had made an election pledge to hold a referendum and the treaty was fundamentally the same thing. He said that refusing such a vote “by means of ducking and diving may cost the Labour Party at election time”.
Arguing against a referendum, the Community union made incoherent claims that the Tories would win an election if there was such a vote, an argument echoed by Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror.
Paul Kenny responded to this absurd claim by pointing out that big business interests and the CBI supported the treaty and opposed a referendum.
Bizarrely, an RMT motion outlining details of the Constitution and calling for a no vote was narrowly defeated. This was due to a late decision by the Unite union – which is made up of T&GWU and Amicus and constitutes 48 per cent of conference votes – to oppose the RMT motion. RMT general secretary Bob Crow argued that as conference supported a referendum it should decide which way it would vote.
He said that TUC policy was already against the Constitution and it was clearly the same document which the French and Dutch rejected in 2005. He said that the ‘new’ treaty “would mark a further transfer of power to unelected mandarins in Brussels and undermine democratic advances fought for over centuries”.
However, Unite (Amicus) general secretary Derek Simpson claimed that a no vote meant ‘disengaging’ from ‘Europe’. Yet, as the PCS general secretary Mark Sewortka told delegates, the RMT motion only dealt with what was in the treaty and it was not ‘anti-union’ to oppose the constitution.
The RMT motion won the backing of many unions and a number of delegates spoke in support. Bob Oram of the public sector union Unison warned that the treaty was “an attempt at creating a federal Europe with one currency, one government, one foreign policy, one military machine, one industrial policy and the complete freedom of labour, capital, goods and services and a free market which will include health and education. “It is slow a incremental process happening in a way we need to understand and recognise,” he said.
Bakers delegate Tony Richardson stormed that the constitution was “undemocratic, it’s centralising, it’s a privateers’ paradise and it’s certainly not a friend of workers”.
Fire Brigade’s Union delegate Mick Shaw warned that the treaty would privatise public services, drive down wages and hand power to secretive, unaccountable institutions. Aslef delegate Brian Corbett said that his union had not been ‘got at’ and warned that if the constitution was imposed it would signal the end of the welfare state and democracy as we know it.
See verbatum report of TUC debate