Union stalwart derides "destroyers of democracy": contrary to expectation this year's FBU annual conference proved to be a low-key affair--that is until retiring Assistant General Secretary Mike Fordham tore up the script and raged against destructive forces, cutting to the heart of a union facing huge upheaval.(FBU Conference)

GIVEN THE TUMULT OF RECENT months, culminating with Andy Gilchrist being ousted from the leadership, it was somewhat surprising to find the FBU's annual conference such a low-key affair.

It may have been something of a relief to the regional reps and officials present given the roller coaster ride of the last three to four years and it was only fair that new General Secretary Matt Wrack was not handed a rough ride, given he had only been elected clays prior to conference opening. In fact it was only on the last day that conference really warmed up, when first John McGhee rallied against fragmentation of political support and retiring Assistant General Secretary Mike Fordham gave the speech of the conference--the speech of many a conference.

The epilogue was just as pertinent as President Ruth Winters paid tribute to a "brilliant" trade unionist with "unsurpassable" negotiating skills, a great intellect and memory for detail and astounding work ethic, even in the face of personal tragedy. "I know you have worried about the legacy you would leave: I can assure you of this, no one has left a better legacy in the history of this trade union ..."

Presidential Address

But long before Mike Fordham ripped into 'Iron Man Mike', the President herself provided a stirring open to conference in her Presidential address, congratulating and welcoming Matt Wrack to the position of Genera( Secretary. "I wish you success in your efforts as that means success by and for our members. I don't however, wish you and your family the harassment and victimisation that our previous General Secretary suffered by the government, the media and some within the union.

"I don't wish upon you the blame as an individual that was placed upon our previous General Secretary when everything he did was based on collective decisions and responsibilities. …

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