There's been some really interesting debates taking place so I'm playing catch up here - but I'll try to get round to everything that others don't cover *eventually*.
Just come out of the first session voting on substantive policy (rather than agreeing end of term reports, conference agenda, etc.). Motions are prioritised by members' ballot so the items that most members are interested in discussing comes first in the agenda, it's part of a really interesting set of systems that allow members more control over their conference than any other party.
First motion was proposed by London's MEP Jean Lambert and was on trade union reps in the workplace. This is one of those motions that essentially has complete consensus and there isn't even a speech against.
Talking about the right of trade unionists for proper facility time it also describes the rights of workers to determine the policies and standards in their workplace - which includes the establishment of environmental reps who would have powers equal to those of health and safety reps.
With some unions going greener and greener it's important we find ways to empower those rank and file trade unionists in the workplace to make their place of work safe and environmentally sound.
Which brings us on the second motion in the batch and one that was slightly more controversial. The ominously named CO2 motion (in that it came second in section C) Pete Murray put forward his proposals for a minimum/maximum wage.
In fact the title does not do the motion justice as it also makes important points about the European working time directive and for the increasing of the UK's minimum wage in accordance with Europe's decency threshold - all good stuff and undisputed. But it's when we come to the concept of a maximum wage (or 100% taxation rate as the motion puts it) that there was more dispute.
Darren Johnson, one of our London AM's who won the backing of the FBU with his campaign for a decent living wage for fire station cleaners, put forward an amendment taking out the maximum and replacing it with a more general call for progressive taxation, ie a tough new top rate of tax that would levy perhaps 70 or 80% taxation on the highest earners.
There were good points made on both sides but personally I was in favour of the amendment. As Johnson said a 100% is completely pointless in that previous attempts have found simply massive scale avoidance that rendered the rate fruitless and brought in no revenue.
I had been considering speaking to this but in the end it wasn't necessary. If I had spoken, this is roughly what I would have said. That a maximum wage does nothing that progressive taxation plus judicious use of windfall taxes does not do more effectively. Whilst the Green Party certainly does need a clearer economic policy - and I think the Green New Deal is part of developing that - a maximum wage is a sledgehammer rather than a sophisticated tool.
It's actually simpler to use the formulation that if you earn more you pay a greater proportion of your income as tax. As a propaganda tool that can pressure the powers that be a maximum wage is pointless, a call for a just taxation system does not. When the row about the ten pence tax rate erupted it was because it was patently obvious that doubling the amount of tax the lowest paid in the country pay was completely unfair.
The work Darren and others have done in boosting the wages of the lowest paid is the best and most positive message to send out there - and an example we can follow right now. A maximum wage policy that would require a green party government to enact is simply abstract propaganda that wouldn't win over even one soul to the cause of fighting the corner of the lowest paid.
Having said that once the amendment passed (taking out the maximum wage) we were left with a very good and worthwhile motion which passed without any problem what-so-ever. Just to hammer the point home this was then followed by passing policy on the right to rent for those who've houses have been repossessed and free school meals that would ensure a "minimum requirement that all children are provided free of charge with a balanced, nutritious lunch including local and organic non-GM food, free from additives."