Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Unite LGBT By-election

Below is a message from Jenny Douglas United Left candidate for the vacant LGBT seat on Unite Executive Council.
You can download the letter here http://www.unitedleft.org.uk

Membership number 13326312
Branch SC/79/16 Dundee City Council
Workplace Central Library Dundee
Sector Local Authorities

Dear Colleagues 

I am writing to seek your support and nomination to stand for the vacant LGBT seat on our Executive Council. 

I believe that equality should be at the heart of everything we do in our union and I would be very proud to be your representative on the EC.

I have worked in the public sector for 33 years and have been a union representative since the 1980s.  During this time I have gained experience of every aspect of representation in the most senior roles of our branch. 

I am a committed activist and a regular attendee at demonstrations, political rallies, Unite conferences and in every aspect of the lay structures and events of our union. 

My commitment to lay democracy is very strong and I have progressed the equality agenda by campaigning for improvements to the law for LGBT members and by participation in every level of the democratic structures of our movement. 

I was very proud to be elected as the Chair of our LGBT National committee this term and have further extensive experience in our movement including:

  My role as a Unite Lay Tutor

  My election to sit on the STUC General Council

  My role on the Scottish Labour Party Executive Committee

  My role in the Trades Council network 

My activism, however, is not limited to the equality agenda and I have, and will continue to, campaign for improvements for all our members in relation to progressive industrial and political policy and to resist unfair treatment of our members wherever it is found.

Please support my candidacy by nominating me through your Branch, Workplace or Chapel and allow me to take your views and voice to the Executive Council. 

Yours in Solidarity


JENNY DOUGLAS - for lay democracy, a strong voice, workplace and community experience and a commitment to equality and the political and industrial agenda of our members and our union.

Friday, 17 May 2013

LGBT executive council by-election - UNITED LEFT candidate

United Left's candidate in the by-election for the LGBT seat is Jenny Douglas
Jenny Douglas's details are as follows
Membership number  13326312

Branch                 SC/79/16  Dundee City Council

Workplace             Central Library Dundee

Sector Local Authorities.

Jenny is Chair of the National LGB&T Committee in Unite and also on the STUC LGB&T Committee.
Please nominate and support

Friday, 3 May 2013

Unite & TSSA to Form Cross Transport Union

Unite the union and TSSA have today (1 May) announced that they are starting discussions to form Britain and Ireland’s first-ever cross-transport union, organising and representing workers across all forms of the transport industry.

United Left Activists in North East, Yorkshire & Humberside welcome this news and look forward to working with TSSA activists and members to secure a strong union representing members across all areas of Transport Sector.
The combination will bring together Unite’s members in buses, air transport, road haulage, docks and waterways with TSSA’s 23,000 members in rail and travel.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “I welcome the opportunity to bring TSSA into the Unite family, making our union stronger.

“For the first time, workers across all forms of transport will be united in a single union – that can only help hard-pressed employees, and put big transport companies on notice to shape up.

“TSSA’s proud traditions in the rail sector, its present commitment to organising workers and the strong industrial logic make this a natural step to take.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This will secure a very powerful voice for TSSA members well into the future.

“As a result of privatisation and deregulation, the vast majority of TSSA members now work for the same multinational companies as transport workers within Unite.

“In addition, the negotiating hand of our travel trade members will be greatly strengthened by being part of a union that organises the airline industry.
“Teaming up with Unite will deliver a stronger campaigning union – a force to be reckoned with!”

Subject to the successful conclusion of talks and the approval required by both union’s constitutional structures and by relevant legislation, it is hoped to secure the transfer of TSSA’s engagements into Unite in early 2014.

Of Unite’s 1.5 million members, around 250,000 are in the various transport sectors. TSSA’s membership is mainly in the rail industry, with some employed in the travel trade and across other forms of transport.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Polestar Chapel Endorsement for McCluskey

As a printworker and member for over 30 years GPM activist and elected representative for over 25 years.

I Will be campaigning for Len McCluskey  to continue his positive and progressive leadership of our union.

In the current industrial and social climate its crucial that we
maintain continuity as UKs leading trade union fighting against
injustice in the workplace and our communities.

Working people are facing insecurity, job losses and a relentless assault against their terms & conditions by employers together with the Govt attacks to weaken employment rights.

Our members and their families are witnessing the decimation of our
cherished NHS, welfare system, local & public services.

We must continue the struggle to make the Labour Party more representative. Where our
activists from the shopfloor and the real world are MPs rather than
from the chattering classes, business and career politicians.

Private equity firms are snapping up firms and squeezing all the time
to make ever bigger profits at expense of workers.

We must be a fighting back union. I welcome the introduction of the
dispute fund and the leverage campaign.

Finally, its work in progress.......
There is much work to be done to ensure working people are treated with fairness and social justice.
Our members and the vulnerable are being clobbered by the Con Dem Government for a crisis that the bankers and fat cat corporations created. The latest injustice being the bedroom tax. Tories victimise their victims. Like they did with the disabled and unemployed after they had shut remploy factories.

We must win an organised workplace. We are stronger together. Where
every member counts and is valued.

I urge you to support Len;so that together and colectively we can work for our members our communities and Unite.

In solidarity

Bro Ged Dempsey
FoC (convenor) & Secretary
Polestar Sheffield - Unite GPM

Member of GPM Nisc and

Polestar Sheffield is the largest workplace & GPM Chapel in the UK
commercial print sector.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Unite General Secretary Election Hots Up

From Martin Mayer United Left National Chair

According to internal SWP documents, Socialist Workers Party members are being put on a “war footing” for UNITE's General Secretary election. The entire energy of this political party is being directed at our Union's democratic procedure, so watch out for groups of SWP newspaper sellers outside every UNITE workplace they can think of giving out Jerry Hicks leaflets. Obvious targets for SWP are bus garages, which have a very strong UNITE membership and hospitals, local authorities, haulage depots, banks and factories could all be targets.


They will also be pedalling the lies and misinformation that has been a feature of Jerry Hick's campaign, so here are a few facts to counter them:


“Len McCluskey sold out on the public sector pensions dispute”

NOT TRUE! Len and the UNITE Executive Council gave full backing to our members to pursue coordinated strike action. However as other unions like GMB and UNISON pulled out, our lay members in health, local authorities and Ministry of Defence took democratic decisions themselves not to continue. Unlike Jerry, Len backs industrial action when our members decide – he doesn't force them to!


“Branch reorganisation has been a mess – I will back those members who refuse”

Under Len, UNITE's Executive Council has radically restructured our membership structure at the base – by creating sustainable workplace branches. This has upset some people, particularly in large geographical branches, but in most cases it has been logical to break them up and create real union power in the workplace. There have been problems in some regions but there is full lay membership involvement in the process plus an open appeal process right through to the Executive Council


“Don't be fooled by Len McCluskey - he is an overpaid union bureaucrat”

A cheap shot! Len McCluskey is one of the best-left union leaders in the country – and he's putting his money where his mouth is. Since coming to office he has introduced a £25M dispute fund, initiated a groundbreaking “leverage strategy” to help us win disputes and has made a point of never repudiating a strike. Setting up UNITE’s Community Membership for unemployed students and retired activists was his personal initiative – a first in the union movement. He is the most influential union leader in the country arguing inside and outside the Labour Party against austerity and all the spending cuts, and is pressing the case in the TUC General Council to prepare for a general strike. Len a union bureaucrat? Don’t be fooled!!


“Jerry is the leader of the rank and file – UNITE gives no voice to members”

NOT TRUE! Jerry is self-appointed leader of the “rank-and-file” in construction although he never was a construction worker! He got short shrift recently from the members in that industry at a national rank and file meeting of construction workers! The truth is Jerry has no knowledge of the workings of UNITE's new democratic lay member structures – our Area Activist Committees; our Regional and National Industrial Sector conferences and committees for each industry UNITE organises in; our Regional Committees and Equalities committees and conferences. All these were set up after post Jerry Hicks and he plays no part in them.


 “Len is just another General Secretary loyally backing the Labour Party”

NOT TRUE! UNITE’s new Political Strategy has been spearheaded by Len McCluskey. It means no blank cheques for the Labour Party but a real effort to influence and change policy away from the failures of New Labour. It means hundreds and thousands more UNITE members joining Labour and standing as working class candidates in the next election. It means coordinated action at all levels in the party to fight for a repeal of the anti-union laws, no more privatisation of public services, and a bigger share of the national cake for working people. Finally it was Len’s idea to set up the new left think tank CLASS to change the political debate. Jerry would try to pull us out of the Labour Party and give us no political voice at all.


“Jerry will introduce elections for Full-Time Officers”

He’ll have a job! This was heavily voted down at UNITE lay member Rules Conference only 18 months ago. Even a General Secretary can’t overturn that! Do we want elected Full-Time Officers who will not be accountable to the Union but to the biggest branch on their patch? Would elected officers have more power than shop stewards – our elected lay officials? Maybe not such a good idea Jerry!


“Jerry will back strike action and will not be frightened of challenging the law”

Well this one really should frighten the membership! Breaking the anti-union laws could lead to UNITE being bankrupted within months of Jerry taking office! On the other hand Len McCluskey has taken carefully planned risks to back our membership e.g. over the London Bus Workers strike last year when he authorised strike action in the face of 3 injunctions. But he has the experience and the knowledge to make decisions to push the law to the limits without endangering the fabric of OUR union.


It’s no contest between Len McCluskey and Jerry Hicks

Len McCluskey in his first 2 years has demonstrated real leadership qualities, and a commitment to lay member democracy and a fighting back culture. He has tackled major challenges within the union’s internal structure, including delivering sound finances in our £160M organisation. What has Jerry got to say about internal reorganisation to make UNITE fit for purpose? What has Jerry said about pursuing our organising drive to build our Union’s membership and give real union power in the workplace? How will Jerry deal with negotiations with UNITE officers and staff? He has no experience and plays no part in any of UNITE’s organisation, and has no representative role. There’s simply no contest! 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Unite GS Election Message from Martin Mayer

UNITED LEFT, which holds a strong majority on UNITE's Executive Council, is backing a General Secretary election to give Len McCluskey a new fiveyear mandate. This will give us time to complete the merger and make UNITE "fit for purpose". It also delays the next GS election some two years after the General Election 2015, avoiding a clash which would invite outside interference. This is an astute political decsion by United Left to maximise Len's term of office and embed the left in our new Union.
Len's record over his first two years in office been an extraordinary success. Together with a left Executive we are building the best and biggest fighting back union in Britain and Ireland.
Here are just some of Len's achievements as a Left General Secretary:
  • Real leadership in the fight against austerity - UNITE's message is clear: "no to all cuts-don't make workers pay for the crisis"
  • Real progress in branch reorganisation to create workplace branches
  • £25M dispute fund set up
  • Major resources devoted to our highly successful Leverage strategy in disputes
  • A genuine fighting back strategy that is seeing real wins for UNITE workers when they take strike action
  • Community membership introduced - a first in the union movement
  • 50,000 new members from a relaunched 100% campaign
  • Plans for a new conference/training centre in Birmingham city centre
  • New fightback in the Labour Party - no more blank cheques!
  • New ecomms strategy giving UNITE the best website and member contact in the union movement
  • Membership data systems overhauled and simplified
  • No repudiations of any dispute since Len took office
  • Root and branch review started of every UNITE department to make it "fit for purpose"
  • A tolerant open and democratic union
Len McCluskey's popularity within UNITE is riding high. A refreshed mandate for Len will strengthen UNITE's position as the leading Union in the fight against austerity. That's important not just for UNITE members but for the movement as a whole.
Martin Mayer Chair United Left

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

NEYH Local Authority Activists Endorse McCluskey

Activists from the North East, Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Industrial Sector Committee today endorsed Len McCluskey to continue as Unite the Union General Secretary.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Len McCluskey is on your side – Get The Vote Out!


Thank you to Unite AGS Tony Burke for permission to post article below:
Len McCluskey has secured almost 1100 nominations in his campaign to be re-elected Unite General Secretary.
The nominations come from every region of Unite and from every one of Unite’s sectors.
I am pleased that many nominations came from Unite’s manufacturing section, in branches, workplaces and chapels – ranging from aerospace, defence, automotive’s, IT, print and paper, steel, metals, chemical, oil, engineering, electrical, electronics, servicing, communications, professional and general manufacturing.
This shows the confidence our membership and our union reps have in Len’s leadership and the progressive policies that he has established and are our now in place.
During the past few weeks Len has attended rallies and meetings across the country explaining the policies that have transformed and unified Unite.
In the past 12 months Unite has increased membership by well over 50,000 members, the majority of them in manufacturing through the 100% campaign.
Unite has become a union that stands up for its members – no matter who you are, whether you work in a small business, a privately owned company, the public sector or a mulit-national – Len McCluskey is on your side helping to fight for better pay, better conditions, secure jobs and better skills and training.
  • In manufacturing Len has supported and led the 100% and organising campaigns.
  • He has supported the a new skills and training structure for the UK.
  • He has led the campaign for decent employment rights; opposed the new round of anti-union laws introduced by the Coalition and supported a campaign for proper information and consultation procedures;
  • Supported the establishment of strong links with other manufacturing unions here and abroad and most importantly our strategic campaigning in sectors such as the automotive sector, in oil refineries, in aerospace, defence and shipbuilding, in the steel industry and the fight for UK manufacturing.
Manufacturing is now it is back on the top of the agenda. Many of Unite’s policies, promoted and supported by Len McCluskey, are now becoming Labour party policy. The need to intervene, invest and grow manufacturing is now part of the alternative economic strategy – an alternative to stagnation and a debilitating and draining recession.
To those who say we should cut our ties with Labour, ask them how else will we secure a manufacturing strategy which will grow the economy and influence the future – for all of our members. How will we campaign get our young people into decent jobs and apprenticeships?
Ask Unite members employed at London Taxi International, who saved their factory through the campaigning influence of not only of Unite – but by working with Labour MPs.
During the past few weeks Len has explained the vision for the future of our union – a union that is fighting for members and growing again, reaching out beyond the workplace to the community.
There have been no undeliverable promises or half-baked ideas masquerading as policy. There has been no harking back to old structures with nor future or place in a modern, fighting and campaigning union.
Over the coming weeks Len McCluskey will be meeting members and union reps across the UK and Ireland, putting the case for his re-election.
Along with all the National Officers working in Manufacturing, I will be supporting Len, and campaigning to win every vote in the election.
We need to ensure we get the vote out. We need to get every member to vote for the future and vote for for Len. @Unite4Len

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Unite initiative to boost Morning Star

A new initiative by Unite in conjunction with the Morning Star was launched recently - and it's already beginning to bear fruit.
In a campaign spearheaded by general secretary Len McCluskey, Unite has written to its branches across Britain explaining why they should take out a regular order for our newspaper and how they can help the paper survive in the current difficult climate - by taking out shares and supporting the fighting fund.
It is one of a number of new initiatives Unite is implementing to help the paper.
In a leaflet sent to all of its union branches Len McCluskey says: "The Morning Star is an invaluable weapon that supports the trade union movement and one that I would like all activists in the union to read. That is why I am asking you to get your Unite branch to place a local order for at least one copy of the Morning Star daily.
"There is no substitute for reading the paper but you could also take out a shareholding in the Morning Star and send a regular monthly sum to the paper's Fighting Fund."
And that is exactly what branches are starting to do, with requests for shares coming in from branches from Scotland, the north west, south east and the south-west.
The leaflet also contains a printed form to hand to retailers to order a daily copy and an application for shares in the PPPS.
We are hoping that over the next few months, as Unite branches get into their cycle of meetings for 2013, we will pick up more daily readers, shareholders and regular fighting fund donations.
If this campaign is a success, the paper's management committee will consider extending the initiative to other unions who are supporters.
As Len McCluskey says: "Get cracking and order the Morning Star - the only daily paper that supports you and your union!"
Tony Burke
 Morning Star Trade Union Co-ordinator

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Unite Greencore Members are an Inspiration

Unite members at Greencore Hull struck for one day in protest at the company's continued attempt to reduce their pay.
Unite says the 600-strong Hull workforce has been angered by the company’s breach of promise to restore pay cuts made in October 2011 which mean a reduction in take-home pay of up to £50 a week.
Unite national officer for the food industry Jennie Formby – who accompanied pickets as they began this morning’s strike at 5am said “The strikers are in really good spirits, there’s real determination here.
“After today, the company must realise that the workers here won’t give up.
“Once people get a taste for fighting back and they realise they don’t have to take this treatment from an employer, all of this makes a difference.”
This week’s strike coincides with the firm’s AGM at which the Chief Executive, Patrick Coveney asked shareholders to authorise bonuses for directors, including €1.7m for himself.

Over 200 pickets gathered to protest outside the site entrance and plan to be there until nightfall.
These workers are determined to regain what should be rightfully theirs already and are now planninmg the second phase of their action.
One worker said "The company need to realise that this isn't going away and when we strike next time they should start listening. In fact it might be more than one day next time"

Unite says the workers agreed to a temporary cut in pay and conditions in 2010 to help the company through economic conditions at the time.
The group last year posted profits worth £70m.
If there is no resolution Unite Community members intend to assist in the dispute and possible methods could include targeting supermarkets which stock Greencore products, such as sandwiches and other convenience foods.

Messages of support can be sent to:

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Len McCluskey Interview

Following the recent announcement by Unite the Union to call an early election for its next General Secretary, Suki Sangha and Bryan Simpson caught up with the incumbent, Len McCluskey, at his campaign launch in Glasgow to talk about the Labour party, the possibility of a General Strike and community membership.

Bryan Simpson (BS): The International Socialist Group here in Scotland has just supported your nomination for Unite General Secretary at their recent National Conference and has committed its Unite activists to build for your campaign. One of the main bones of contention was the union’s link with the Labour party and what our members see to be the unconditional support given to a party which is effectively working against members interests.
If you are re-elected as General Secretary what will you do to make sure that more pressure is put on the Labour party to oppose the cuts and to remove the anti-trade union laws?
Len McCluskey (LM): Our support for the Labour party is certainly not unconditional. The only money we pay to Labour is our affiliation fee and when you’re a member of any organisation you have to pay a membership fee. So the reality is that we pay our membership fee and nothing else. I’ve made it clear to Ed Miliband that any additional payments made to the Labour party will only be made if they start to demonstrate that they’ve changed their ways and that they are beginning to recognise the concerns of ordinary working people and in particular the concerns of trade unions and organised labour. We must influence them to construct a radical alternative for the next election because if they don’t, they are not going to be elected – it’s as simple as that.
You also heard me say there that we have a political strategy to try and re-claim the party. Lots of people feel that it’s going to be a waste of time; lots of people feel that the Labour party is as dead as Monty Python’s parrot but there is a view supported by the Executive Council of Unite that we can still re-gain the heart and soul of the party and we’re going to try. As you’ve also heard me say, Bryan, I’m not going to try and kid anybody. If we are not making the progress that we need to make then I’ll come back and tell the Executive, and that means all of us will be engaged in a debate and a discussion on what our alternatives are.
BS: That was going to be my second question. What if you fail? Many people on the left believe that the Labour party is so inextricably linked to neo-liberalism that it is incapable of changing, certainly as fundamentally as we would like it to change. Would you consider the establishment of a new anti-cuts party?
LM: I would consider a new worker party if it gives a voice to organised labour, a voice that the Labour party was supposed to give. The Labour party has no God-given right to exist. It can only exist if it is the voice of organised labour. If it ceases to be the voice of organised labour then we will need to do what our forefathers and mothers did at the beginning of the last century; sit down and work out other options. That will have to involve other trade unions because the frustration that is felt within Unite is also felt in Unison, the GMB and in that sense the debate and discussion will have to take place with those unions as well.
Suki Sangha (SS): My question is on the new community initiative. What are your primary aims for Community organising and how do you think that they fit in with Unite’s overall strategy?
LM: The aim is simply to give people the opportunity to organise themselves, to have a voice. There are that many people in our communities now who don’t work or can’t work who are disenfranchised, have problems and issues with nowhere to turn. As more and more community organisations are being closed down as a result of the cuts, that situation is going to become even worse. What we’re saying is that we want to give people a hope, to empower them to organise and link-up with workers. It’s about unity. It’s about class unity.
How do I see them linking in? Well, if you are a member of Unite community you can be elected onto your local area activist committee with working people and you can play a role within your union. That role will grow as community membership grows. We now have seats on our Executive for Women, for disabled workers, for LGBT workers, Bryan sits there as Observer for young workers. They haven’t always been there. They are there because there is a mounting pressure at the rank and file level of the union to say we want that, we want our voice heard. I hope that’s what will develop with the growth of Community membership.
BS: My next question is with regards to Motion 5. As you know it received overwhelming support at the last TUC conference with a vote of 4-1 in favour of mandating the TUC looking at the logistical possibility of a general strike. As we know many of the unions that sit on the General Council, if not most of them, have no intention of balloting their members.
What are you going to do at the next General Council, with other leaders like Mark Serwotka to make sure that the TUC does follow through with what it has been mandated to do? Are you going to push the TUC to name a date?
LM: Naming a date is a great slogan being sung by left parties at the moment but it’s no use naming a date unless you have the confidence and you’re ready for the date. One thing we’re not going to do is allow those unions who have no intention of even balloting their members to drag us down and hold us back. We’re going to continue to take the resolution seriously but it’s not always as straight forward as you might think. For example, Mark Serwotka is a very good friend of mine and we’ve spoken about this at length. He is concerned about the concept of a general strike because he thinks that it will take away energy from what he sees to be a much more realistic possibility, which is another spate of coordinated strike actions in the public sector over pay. He believes that the demand and energy on a general strike will dissipate and not achieve any outcome.
BS: Do you agree with that?
LM: I understand his concerns but my point to him was that they are not mutually exclusive. We should be developing both. I will be meeting with the Unite public sector combine this week in order to get their thoughts and views about coordinated strike action over pay, jobs and conditions. PCS are already balloting, or have committed themselves to a ballot, and I hope that is precisely what our members vote to do on Monday. Separate to that, I still think you can keep the pot boiling over the concept of a general strike. We have started to utilise the terminology ‘mass strike action’ rather than general strike because, as I indicated in my meeting, certain groups of our members are more advanced in terms of militancy than other groups. We want to continue to build and fight the campaign right up to the election. There is no point waiting until the election. We haven’t got two years. People are suffering now and from April that suffering is only going to get worse and worse and worse. We want to be involved in everything; direct action, civil disobedience, industrial action where we can raise the members consciousness sufficiently and if we can do that with other unions then all the better.
Can I Just make this final point, you sat at our last Executive when we had a really intense and detailed debate about the general strike. I thought it was a fabulous discussion. You heard some Executive members saying that they didn’t think they could get their members out. I just wonder how many unions, including those which voted for Motion 5, are even having that debate.
BS: That’s exactly what I’ve said in my article. We have got the most progressive, left-wing Executive in the country. I’ve not sat on any other execs and I know that because of what’s actually being pushed through in terms of radical reforms and policies. That Executive is an Executive which would pull any General Secretary to the left. It is already 75% united left, which is a great thing but it can be 80%, 90%. That’s why we need the continuity of progressive leadership.
SS: Many members of the public may feel that resistance to Con-Dem austerity has fallen flat. Do you feel that Unite or the labour movement more generally has more to offer in a popular struggle against cuts?
LM: Of course they have. We have to constantly keep things on the boil. That’s why the vote by the TUC to consider taking general strike action was grist to the mill. It allows the media, even if they are attacking us, to keep it bubbling along. That’s why we are calling on our members to actively engage in the anti-cuts committees which exist in the towns and cities right across our nation. Of course we’ve got more to offer. In fact we are the only people who can offer that lead. The Labour leadership is not offering a lead. We are the only ones who can take that lead and we’ve got to fulfill that historic role which has been given to us. So there are lots more to do.
BS: You’ve been a big supporter of the Coalition of Resistance since its inception. One of the strongest groups in the country is here in Glasgow. What we are looking to do is to bring together the Coalition of Resistance and the Community project. Would you be up for coming back up to Glasgow to help us launch that?
LM: Of course I would be up for that. By all means, feed the dates back to my office and if I’m free I would be delighted to do it.
Thanks, and I appreciate your support.

Suki Sangha is a member of the International Socialist Group in Glasgow. She is a member of Unite the Union in the voluntary sector and is on the STUC Youth Executive. Bryan Simpson is a member of the International Socialist Group in Glasgow. He is a shop steward for Unite the Union in the finance and legal sector and is the young member’s representative on the Executive Council.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Leeds Campaign Meeting Report

Over 150 activists from the North East, Yorkshire & Humberside Region packed the hall of Yorkshire Ryder Club in Leeds on Wedneday 16th January, to hear Len McCluskey the Unite Generasl Secretary explain why he was calling for support to be re-elected as Unite General Secretary.
Highlighting his vision for the future, stating that he felt Unite had finally started to become a union that commands rerspect in the Trade Union movement but still had a long way to go.
Promising that if re elected he would work tirelessly to achieve his aims to benefit working people
A lively Q&A session followed with questions from the floor on: -
·        Labour Party
·        Organising
·        Blacklisting
·        Community Organising

He ended the session with a packed hall applauding one activist said 'a very comradely meeting with plenty of stirring questions and frank answers!' 
Branch Nominations close 15th February with voting period beginning 18th March 2013.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Why We Should Support McCluskey

Following the recent decision by Unite the Union to call an early election for their General Secretary, Bryan Simpson argues why Socialists should offer their critical support to Len McCluskey.

In the aftermath of the occupation of Tory HQ at Millbank, those involved were branded “criminal thugs” and subjected to a witch hunt which led to dozens being sent to jail. Yet, while the liberal media, the NUS and most of the Labour party were falling over one another to condemn those involved, the Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union publicly applauded them as an “inspiration”. Quite a courageous thing to do the week before a General Secretary election in which he was a candidate, particularly when the main threat was perceived to be from the right. Even before his successful election, Len McCluskey had appeared to align himself with the far left of the trade union movement.
In the two years since the protests in 2010, McCluskey has proven himself as the most progressive General Secretary in the country and one of the most left wing trade union leaders of the last decade. Under his leadership, Unite the union has become the most progressive union in Britain. It is one of only a handful of unions, and the only one affiliated to the Labour party, to oppose all cuts. As an ardent supporter of the Coalition of Resistance he stood squarely behind groups such as UK Uncut, calling for “mass direct action and civil disobedience” against the cuts.
With the establishment of the Unite Community campaign he has initiated a programme which seeks to bring together those most acutely affected by the cuts. This initiative not only has the potential to revolutionise the way trade unions interact with and are thus perceived by the working class but it could also tie together two of the most crucial battle grounds for class politics – the workplace and the streets. It is the initiative of someone who has a clear understanding not only of where we are in terms of the balance of class forces but where we must go in order to avoid destruction.
He has also been a thorn in the side of the right wing of the trade union movement, arguing persistently for coordinated strike action across the public and private sector. When public sector workers struck in November, Unite and PCS formed joint strike committees, following the agreement signed between Mark Serwotka and Len McCluskey in May 2011. Both general secretaries were undoubtedly instrumental in winning the argument over motion 5 at the 2012 TUC Conference; which committed the TUC to look at the practicalities of a General Strike. Needless to say, with the likes of USDAW and ATL among its members, the TUC General Council was prepared to do nothing to initiate the actions mandated by conference. In fact it took a rather heated intervention from McCluskey to demand that it be brought back on the table.
What is clear is that Len McCluskey is no bureaucrat. He is a grass roots general secretary. His ideological stance, not just in rhetoric but in tangible action, in support of mass direct action including industrial action is proof of this. It was not the officialdom which put him there. They wanted Baylis. It was the electoral machine of United Left which is made up of tens of thousands of rank and file shop stewards and activists. They now hold him to account via arguably the most left executive of any trade union.
Uniting Unite
Despite the incredibly negative campaign launched by the Baylis camp in 2010, McCluskey was quick to quell the idea that he would be a T&G only General Secretary and has been instrumental in uniting what was previously a divided union. Under his leadership, Unite the union has been transformed from a union dogged with internal battles during the Woodley-Simpson era to one which looks outward, taking a leading role in both the trade union and anti-cuts movements. The makeup of the NEC is testament to this transformation, with over 75% of the Executive now United Left. This is important not just for Unite but for the trade union movement as a whole because, as the biggest trade union in Britain, it can now lead the movement and continue to pull it to the left.
This is not to say that things are perfect. At the last Executive Council it was clear that there was significant disagreement both from the right and left, with 18 voting against an early election. This clearly shows that some divisions still exist, even within United Left. These divides can only be bridged with the continuity of a progressive leadership. The last thing it needs is for that progress to be cut short by a change in leadership which would almost certainly plunge it bank into the dark days of division which held Unite and the trade union movement back for so long.
Why now?: Democracy and Accountability
Critics of an early election have justifiably raised concerns over how it may be perceived by the members. Some EC members from both the right (workers united)and the left (supporters of Jerry Hicks) have argued that calling an early ballot will be seen by members (particularly ex-Amicus) as another attempt by a General Secretary to cling onto power.
The simple fact is that McCluskey is no Simpson. The aforementioned changes brought about under his leadership both in uniting the union and pulling it to the left clearly demonstrate that. Furthermore, as opposed to in 2010 when it was used to push Unite rightwards, calling an early election now in 2013 has the sole purpose of solidifying the dominance of the left within Unite.
When we choose who to support in an election like this, as socialists and trade unionists, we cannot and should not allow our decisions to be governed by party political allegiances alone. A political organisation which has a healthy internal culture will make allowances for the fact that members operating within a specific union understand the balance of forces therein and thus have a unique vantage point when it comes to decision making within their own area of operation. Although Unite members should be accountable to the wider organization, through regular consultation and debate, they should also be trusted to make informed political decisions. For socialists operating within their trade union, if they are seen to be receiving their ‘line’, unquestioned, from external forces; they run the risk of alienating members and ultimately hindering the development of solidarity.
The simple fact is that the left needs at least another five years to push forward with the progressive reforms required to make this union genuinely democratic and accountable to its members. Only by adopting a politically pluralistic structure – where branches, not the Executive, choose who they affiliate to – can this be achieved. This has to mean disaffiliation from Labour. At a recent area activist meeting in Glasgow, McCluskey made clear that he would not be willing to fund Labour’s next election campaign should they refuse to include the removal of anti-trade union laws in their next manifesto. Our job as rank and file members of Unite is to hold him to that promise.
Watch out for the forthcoming interview with Len McCluskey conducted by Bryan Simpson and Suki Sangha.

Bryan Simpson is a member of the International Socialist Group in Glasgow. He is a shop steward for Unite the Union in the Finance and Legal sector and is the Young Members representative on the Executive Council.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sheffield Council cuts will hurt this City

Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance warned today that the Government's austerity cuts will really hit working people this year – and £50M Council cuts in April will be only just the start.


“These cuts will really hurt” says Martin Mayer who chairs Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance. “Axing childcare facilities like nurseries will impact on Sheffield mums and hurt families hard. Closing libraries and major sports facilities, and slashing funding for vital community support will literally change the face of this city. Taking away council tax benefit for working people on low incomes is yet another example of how austerity is making the poorest people pay for a crisis which is not of their making”


A major demonstration is planned in Sheffield on Saturday 19th January to protest the £3.5M cuts to childcare centres and nurseries many of which will close if the decision is not reversed. The demonstration which is backed by Sheffield Community Forum is supported by Sheffield Anti Cuts Alliance and a number of unions including GMB, UNITE, NUT and UNISON. Thousands of leaflets have been distributed and a big turn-out is expected. “There's a lot of angry mums out there who depend on these services” said Martin Mayer “ and they're determined to come out on Saturday with prams and pushchairs and kids in tow to show how they feel. They are right to be angry. They are seeing for the first time that austerity is really impacting on their lives now”.


Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance says austerity is not working. It's unfair and will do major damage to the living standards of working people. Meanwhile the rich and super-rich who are responsible for the crisis get off scot-free. Millionaires get a massive tax handout now the top rate of tax has been slashed (average tax rebate is £47,000 this year!) and big business benefits from a whopping reduction in Corporation tax – with further cuts promised!


There is an alternative. £100B per year is evaded, avoided or uncollected in taxes from the richest in society. A Robin Hood tax on every financial transaction in the City of 0.05% would bring in £20B. Just recovering  a fraction of this money each year would eradicate the deficit without the need for any cuts in public spending at all.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

General Secretary Campaign Election Meeting

Len McCluskey Unite General Secretary will address an open meeting of Unite members in Leeds during January.

The meeting is being held at:
Yorkshire Ryder Club
Railway Street

Wednesday 16th January 7pm to 9pm

Len's term of office from Jan 2010 has seen:
·                   very rapid progress to consolidate the merger
·                   real leadership in the fight against austerity - UNITE's message is clear: "no to all cuts-don't make workers pay for the crisi
·                   genuine empowerment to members with the branch as the base
·                   branch funding for every branch implemented
·                   £25M dispute fund set up
·                   leverage strategy developed and now major resources devoted to further work
·                   a genuine fighting back strategy that is seeing real wins for UNITE workers when they take strike action
·                   community membership introduced - a first in the union movement
·                   50,000 new members from a relaunched 100% campaign
·                   plans for a new conference/training centre in Birmingham city centre
·                   a real fightback in the Labour Party with a brand new UNITE political strategy - no more blank cheques!
·                   a culture of openness, tolerance and democracy throughout the union
·                   new ecoms strategy giving UNITE the best website and member contact in the union movement
·                   membership data systems overhauled and simplified
·                   no repudiations of any dispute since Len took office
·                   root and branch review started of every UNITE department to make it "fit for purpose"
·                   new impetus to our international work -developing a fighting back organising strategy in all the GUFS
·                   ending the TGWU/AMICUS divide and genuinely uniting our new UNTE union