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! 

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