‘Withdraw UK troops from Iraq immediately’ – PCS conference decides

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‘Iraqi people do not want a foreign occupation of their country,’ Paula Kennedy, Equal Opportunities Commission, Manchester Branch, told the conference of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) in Brighton yesterday.

Kennedy was moving motion A128, which was carried by a clear majority, which said the trade union movement should ‘call on the government to withdraw British troops immediately’.

The motion also gave its support to Military Families Against The War.

Kennedy told conference delegates: ‘Spain and Portugal have withdrawn their troops, Italy is considering this and 63 per cent of people in Britain want the withdrawal of troops.

‘How many more must die? How many more must lose their limbs?

‘The answer is none if you withdraw the troops now.’

Seconding this motion, Peter Walker, DfT/ODPM Nottinghamshire Branch, said: ‘The occupying forces should be pulled out now.

‘Let the Iraqi people rule themselves.’

Motion, A129, which was also passed by conference, said: ‘We should encourage union branches to make direct links with trade union organisations inside Iraq.’

Moving the motion, Derek Thompson, Department of Work and Pensions, Glasgow Benefits Centre, said: ‘Many families are still without basic necessities; clean water, food and electricity.

‘The present brutal regime in Iraq has waged a systematic campaign to destroy the trade union movement.’

He spoke about how 30,000 oil workers in Basra had fought against the $35 cap set by the US on pay and how they had won $100 a month.

Talking of Bush and Blair, he said: ‘These people must be held accountable for the destruction they have inflicted.

‘It is time to end the occupation and give them their country back.’

However, the conference also passed Motion A130, which said: ‘This conference condemns those elements of the so-called Iraqi resistance who have targeted civilian government workers and trade unionists.’

It called on the NEC ‘to withhold its support and affiliation from any organisation which fails to condemn the attacks on civilian workers and trade unionists by the so-called Iraq resistance.’

l Earlier in the agenda there was a row over the PCS leadership calling off strike action over pensions before the general election.

In the debate on the National Executive Committee’s (NEC) emergency motion 16 on pensions, Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) East London branch delegates slammed the executive for calling off the pensions strikes as it meant postponing their branch’s action in defence of jobs.

They opposed emergency motion 16 because ‘it endorses the NEC’s decision to suspend industrial action which had been called to secure negotiations on the question of pension age’.

Chris Hickey DWP, East London branch, insisted: ‘The strike was not suspended. It was called off.

‘Yet we had no guarantees on compulsory redundancies and the pay situation is getting worse.

‘DWP London Region has been left to fight alone.’

Winding up the debate, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘I have no doubt that it was a correct decision taken by the NEC.

‘The NEC is supporting a ballot of members in London DWP.

‘The PCS would have had to go it alone.

‘The government was forced to make a back-down in the context of the general election.

‘If negotiations fail, then we will have a bigger strike with other unions.’

The motion was passed by an overwhelming majority with East London DWP delegates and supporters voting against.