Union leaders prepare motion to condemn war in Iraq

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair was heading for humiliation at the hands of the Labour Party last night as union leaders agreed a motion condemning the Iraq war.

Unions are expected overwhelmingly to endorse the resolution at the TUC conference next week, which is likely to be a dress rehearsal for Labour's conference a fortnight later.

The union statement also expresses opposition to any future attempt by America to "target independent states such as Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba for regime change".

The motion will be proposed by Tony Woodley, general secretary-elect of the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G). It calls for the immediate withdrawal of Allied troops from Iraq, ceding control to the Iraqi people. The proposition will be seconded by Bob Crow, leader of the RMT rail union and like Mr Woodley a member of the "Awkward Squad'' of left-wing union leaders. The declaration "condemns the British and US governments' unilateral decision to wage war on Iraq".

The Iraq war and the Government's attempt to justify it have prompted deep disquiet among unions, which still command half the votes at Labour conferences, and party activists. Last year a similar motion against war in Iraq was overwhelmingly endorsed by the TUC conference. However, its impact was dissipated at the party conference.

Labour delegates passed a resolution arguing that any attack should be "within the context of international law and with the authority of the UN" - wording that gave the Labour leadership few problems in pursuing its policy. More worrying for Mr Blair was a rebel motion opposing any military intervention in Iraq, which attracted more than 40 per cent of conference votes. But this year, party activists are expected to agree a composite anti-war statement that is likely to attract a massive majority of Labour delegates.

The TUC's general council opened up another front against the Prime Minister yesterday, reaffirming its opposition to increasing private-sector involvement in the delivery of public services.

A statement passed by the general council attacked the Government's commitment to private finance initiatives, public-private partnerships and foundation hospitals. Union leaderssought acommitment from Mr Blair that co-operation with the unions would be an essential element in planning the future of the public sector. The statement said: "Continued denigration of public services and the suggestion that mediocrity is widespread is no basis for progress."

Meanwhile Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, came under fire for accusing unions of blocking reforms of public services and "fighting yesterday's battles". Sir Bill Morris, the current leader of the TGWU, said it was the employers' organisation that was the single biggest blockage to reform at the workplace.