THE policy-making conference of construction union UCATT has voted to stay independent and ignore all offers of merger with other unions.
Delegates voted 40-12 to go it alone after a four-hour debate. Last weeks decision reverses a resolution at the last conference two years ago to merge with the transport union TGWU.
Merger attention now shifts to rank-and-file UCATT members, who are currently voting in a postal ballot for a general secretary.
Current general secretary George Brumwell strongly supports independence, but challenger Peter Lenahan, a former executive council member, says the union must merge or die.
Far more UCATT branches nominated Mr Brumwell for the job, but Mr Lenahan has taken High Court action alleging irregularities in procedures for branch meetings making the nominations and in the election itself.
At a hearing earlier this month a High Court judge allowed the poll to proceed if UCATT investigates the allegations. But Mr Lenahan pledged: Ill go back to court if this is not resolved.
Mr Brumwell told the conference the unions financial position was now dramatically better than two years ago. Debts of
3 million had been more than halved, and the union was operating on surplus for the first time in 10 years.
He said: We're off the danger list, and now we have a golden opportunity to make a mark in the construction industry and sort out the problems of building workers.
But merger supporters warned that the deep cuts in operating costs had weakened the union, leading to dwindling membership which would force it to seek a merger at some stage.
Mr Lenahan said: Its not a question of where youd like to be its where you are. Its irresponsible to carry on when you know its not practical.
Mr Brumwell said UCATT was not anti-TGWU: The bridges we have built with the T&G must be kept in place. Together we can continue to operate on behalf of building workers.
UCATT members have until July 7 to return their votes.