UNITE behind Len

Even taking account the advantages of incumbency, the momentum, dynamism and confidence of Len McCluskey’s campaign to be re-elected General Secretary of Unite stands in sharp contrast to the lacklustre efforts of the right wing challenger, Gerard Coyne, and the amateur hour theatrics of the “grassroots” candidate, Ian Allinson.

What stands out is not only that Len can point to year on year achievement, but that his campaign is getting out and about meeting members in organized workplaces around the UK, where he is meeting a strong response.

Elsewhere, Gerard Coyne’s campaign has a streak of desperation about it, with key campaign pledges to freeze Unite subscriptions for the next two years, and to extend Unite’s support to more people through a family membership scheme. He is promising to do more member servicing with less money, and that could only be achieved by jeopardizing Unite’s financial stability, and therefore endanger the firm foundation upon which Unite can challenge rogue employers, whether through political or industrial campaigning.

Ian Allinson, undoubtedly an accomplished workplace militant at Fujitsu, fails to distinguish between the wish and the deed, and his campaign lacks any sense of realism about the real world constraints on the union. It is potentially worrying that friends and colleagues in Unite report that while Jerry Hicks took votes from both the left and the right of the union, Ian is only gathering support away from Len.

One thing that both Ian and Gerard Coyne highlight is the potential improvement of developing more opportunities for experienced lay members and retired members and officers to service members in one to one representation, freeing officer time for organising. A report of the issues facing Women officers in Unite was published last year. The substantive issues of women working in a male dominated culture are not unique to Unite, and the response to the report’s finding are properly for Unite to address without outside interference. However, it is clear from the report that servicing individual members can represent a disproportionate burden on the time of some Unite officers, and any opportunities to free those officers for other tasks would be worth considering.

I am not a member of Unite, but should Len be defeated, then this would have a destabilizing impact on the whole movement. Ian Allinson’s campaign seems utterly complacent about the threat from the right wing, ignoring the more politicized context of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, and the impetus that this gives to those who wish to deliver Corbyn a defeat by proxy in Unite’s election. Both Progress and the shadowy Labour First organisation have clandestinely encouraged their supporters to join Unite to vote for Coyne. Let us hope that we don’t all end up regretting the lack of judgement of Ian Allinson and his ultra-left supporters as they split the vote.

 

72 comments on “UNITE behind Len

  1. “I am not a member of Unite, but should Len be defeated, then this would have a destabilizing impact on the whole movement. Ian Allinson’s campaign seems utterly complacent about the threat from the right wing, ignoring the more politicized context of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, and the impetus that this gives to those who wish to deliver Corbyn a defeat by proxy in Unite’s election. Both Progress and the shadowy Labour First organisation have clandestinely encouraged their supporters to join Unite to vote for Coyne. Let us hope that we don’t all end up regretting the lack of judgement of Ian Allinson and his ultra-left supporters as they split the vote.”

    I don’t think there’s really much chance of Ian’s campaign preventing McClusky’s re-election, others may have greater knowledge about what’s going on inside Unite than I do, but I just don’t see him getting the numbers to do that.

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  2. I don’t think there’s really much chance of Ian’s campaign preventing McClusky’s re-election

    The issue is how much support Coyne can turn out. If it is close then every vote might count. What I don’t know is how much organisation Coyne can count on.

    Hicks had an advantage over Allinson in that he had a background in AUEW/Amicus, which appealed to a broader constituency, and could play the role of lightening rod for some of the more apolitical dissatisfactions arising from merger with T&G.

    An interesting observation, from following Len’s campaign on social media, is that he does seem to have done enough to keep the support of members in shipbuilding, where Coyne might have been hoping to make progress due to JC’s position on Trident

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  3. Brianthedog on said:

    The problem iwith you are saying is shall we just encourage the ultra left to keep doing this as a vanity project until it does help elect a right wing GS?

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  4. Brianthedog on said:

    The problem with what you are saying is shall we just encourage the ultra left to keep doing this as a vanity project until it does help elect a right wing GS?

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  5. Evan P on said:

    I agree completely, including with the characterisation of Ian, with whose branch my branch has a close relationship.

    We had a debate in my branch and we agreed very narrowly to nominate Len for GS. Nobody voted to nominate Coyle.

    The debate was characterised by an amazing level of complacency about the potential threat from the right on the part of Ian’s supporters, and a bizarre attack on Len by the member who made the main speech in support of Ian, for not mobilising Unite in solidarity with the French workers who stood against the attacks on union rights last year. As well as the ritual attacks on Len for “making concessions” on the issue of “free movement of labour”.

    Saddening because Ian is someone I emphasise that I have a lot of time for.

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  6. Brianthedog,

    Not really. Personally I don’t really see the point of a far left candidate standing at the moment, I just think that particular argument is incorrect, and will end up having a boy crying wolf effect. It’s not just used in Unite, it’s used all the time both in union and political elections.

    For what it’s worth, in my opinion standing a “grassroots” candidate is only worthwhile if there’s a genuine grassroots network that you represent, or you think standing will help to create one. I don’t think either apply in this case.

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  7. Brianthedog on said:

    Tim N,

    Yes you make some valid points although I would add it appears that being ‘grassroots’ almost always coincides with being a member of some ultra left grouplet who is either not ‘grassroots’ or representative or supported by the ‘grassroots’.

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  8. Often it’s an attempt in general to make the argument that the union should be run by the membership rather than the bureaucracy, by standing a “grassroots” i.e. lay member candidate. In some cases, such as John Burgess in Unison, it is the leader of a recent important campaign who isn’t a member of any particular “grouplet”, or one that has a genuine claim to be a rank and file militant with a base outside their particular workplace (I’d argue Jerry Hicks fit into that category).

    I think most people’s complaints about far left candidates standing is they don’t like them politically, they think they’re “ultra left” or “sectarian” and they are happy with Len McClusky. If that’s your opinion fair enough, but that’s an argument to support McClusky not that Ian shouldn’t have stood at all.

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  9. brianthedog on said:

    Tim N,

    I wouldn’t over inflate Jerry Hicks ‘grassroots’ credentials.

    He has not worked since Unite has been existence and most shop stewards don’t know him or can’t recall him.

    The Unite ‘grassroots’ group appears to be only slightly bigger than one man and a dog and the ‘grassroots left reclaiming unite for the members’ website is not only moribund but is last posts of well over a year ago are constantly going on about the GMB and a sacked appointed officer.

    Also a fellow unite member told me lately ‘mickey mouse could put themselves forward for GS and get tens of thousands of votes’.

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  10. brianthedog,

    The grassroots organisation Jerry attempted to set up was certainly a flop (not helped by trying to take the union to court). However, it would be going a bit far to say he didn’t have an appeal amongst union members. It’s fair to say that most Unite shop stewards don’t know him, however that could be said for pretty much every Unite activist, including the majority of full time officials.

    The failure of Jerry’s campaign, from the perspective of an ultra left sectarian such as myself, was the inability to build an actual organisation of any value out of it. Personally, I think it showed that trying to build a grassroots network via a general secretary campaign was an ineffective shortcut, which is why I’m sceptical of what Ian can achieve this time round.

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  11. brianthedog on said:

    Tim N,

    I never said Jerry Hicks didn’t have any appeal amongst members as obvious he got nominations and votes.

    However in my opinion he tapped into a very small base of the ultra left that is present in most unions, along with a group of members who were nostalgic about the Amicus tradition of trade unionism and didn’t accept that there was a new union called Unite. He also tapped into and played on the element of members who are for what ever reason are usually disgruntled.

    I have never seen Jerry Hicks as being of the left and have personally witnessed someone who is an opportunist, divisive and cynical.

    He latest obsession appears to be inline with the neo liberal Lib Dems as he is repeatedly calling for a 2nd UK referendum on leaving the EU.

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  12. brianthedog: However in my opinion he tapped into a very small base of the ultra left that is present in most unions, along with a group of members who were nostalgic about the Amicus tradition of trade unionism and didn’t accept that there was a new union called Unite. He also tapped into and played on the element of members who are for what ever reason are usually disgruntled.

    I really don’t think that you gain 80,000 votes from those constituencies.

    brianthedog: He latest obsession appears to be inline with the neo liberal Lib Dems as he is repeatedly calling for a 2nd UK referendum on leaving the EU.

    Where’s he been saying this? (Not doubting you, just curious). He is active in immigration groups in Bristol (or was for some time), which may be where that position stems from. I don’t support calling for a second referendum- even on a basic tactical level that’s absurd, but I don’t think doing so aligns you with the Lib Dems or makes you a closet neo-liberal.

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  13. John Grimshaw on said:

    Tim N,

    I haven’t seen anywhere Jerry calling for a second referendum either which is not to say it’s not true. Unless he means a referendum on the conditions of leaving? I support neither but I do think it’s crucial that Parliament should debate every little nook and cranny of whatever is cobbled together.

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  14. John Grimshaw on said:

    brianthedog: However in my opinion he tapped into a very small base of the ultra left that is present in most unions,

    My understanding is that on both occasions he get fairly sizeable votes.

    brianthedog: He also tapped into and played on the element of members who are for what ever reason are usually disgruntled.

    Thus speaks the union bureaucrat?

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  15. John Grimshaw:
    Tim N,

    I haven’t seen anywhere Jerry calling for a second referendum either which is not to say it’s not true. Unless he means a referendum on the conditions of leaving? I support neither but I do think it’s crucial that Parliament should debate every little nook and cranny of whatever is cobbled together.

    I actually see the logic for having a referendum on the conditions of leaving, but given that this wasn’t a part of the original plan, and I don’t remember anybody suggesting it should be before the result, that horse has bolted. People I know who voted to leave want to leave pretty much whatever the conditions will be.

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  16. brianthedog on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    Check out Jerry Hicks on twitter and he tweets on #EURef2 on a regular basis. As far as I can see he is aligned with Tim Farron on attacking the Labour Party and calling for a second referendum until the plebs vote the right way.

    Its the kind of (anti) democracy whereby if something ever amounted to anything it should be ignored or abolished. It symptomatic of the EU and Denmark and Ireland comes to mind when they previously voted ‘the wrong way’.

    All hail the EU Empire #EURef2 now 🙂

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  17. brianthedog on said:

    John Grimshaw: the

    John Grimshaw: My understanding is that on both occasions he get fairly sizeable votes.

    Thus speaks the union bureaucrat?

    Taking something out of context and ignoring the rest of the content doesn’t make for good debate it just makes you look like a smartarse, which more and more I think is your intention. 🙂

    As for the bureaucrat if the cap fits I’ll gladly wear it.

    Or do you think no union or any organisation should have any bureaucracy or rules?

    Maybe a anarchistic libertarian way of trying to run a large organisation would be better?

    Safe places and consensus through waving both hands?

    John Grimshaw: My understanding is that on both occasions he get fairly sizeable votes.

    Thus speaks the union bureaucrat?

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  18. brianthedog on said:

    Tim N,

    I think my analysis holds water and Jerry Hicks was able to tap into this and also the fact that he stood twice for GS when it was still the Amicus section of Unite and once more as the only challenger against Len McCluskey when it had solely become Unite.

    He lost three times.

    I agree with you that this was based on taking short cuts and also his campaign having a too narrow base and with too many cynical, negative and opportunistic policies and tactics.

    Opportunistic and negative campaigning will always deliver votes in any Trade Union election but it will rarely make you the winner.

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  19. brianthedog: I have never seen Jerry Hicks as being of the left and have personally witnessed someone who is an opportunist, divisive and cynical.

    I have known Jerry for a number of years, and I think that is an unfair evaluation of his past activity as a workplace militant, when he was an AUEW convenor. It would be fair to say that since losing that job, his judgement has been suspect at times, and I do not think that he plays a constructive role in Unite now.

    brianthedog: Check out Jerry Hicks on twitter and he tweets on #EURef2 on a regular basis. As far as I can see he is aligned with Tim Farron on attacking the Labour Party and calling for a second referendum until the plebs vote the right way.

    From Facebook, I think that is broadly correct

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  20. brianthedog,

    Certainly an challenger will tap into “discontent”, whether from left or right. The key question is whether the issues the challenger raises or champions are valid or not; are right wing or left wing, or neither. One can impugn the motives of the individual all they like (genuinely, feel free, I do it all the time and it’s fun), but surely the level of support for such a campaign can gauge the mood of the membership and how happy it is with the current leadership and the direction of the union.

    One could actually argue that it is best for the a-political malcontents that apparently inhabit the union membership in the tens of thousands be given a Left Opportunist option rather than leaving them to be hoovered up by Right Opportunist challengers? If their support for Hicks in the past was based solely on the fact that they’d vote for anyone who was having a go at the leadership, surely those votes will revert to the right this time round, and might tip the scales in Coyne’s favour? In which case, better stand an ultra left sectarian to syphon some votes?

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  21. Tim N: I think it showed that trying to build a grassroots network via a general secretary campaign was an ineffective shortcut, which is why I’m sceptical of what Ian can achieve this time round.

    I am sceptical of the whole idea of a “grassroots” approach. What does that even mean. Are branch secretaries grass roots? reps on facility time? FTOs?

    It seems an entirely superfical approach, what is important is not whether someone is “grassroots” but whether they are on the left or right politically, and whether they are an effective militant or not.

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  22. Tim N: If their support for Hicks in the past was based solely on the fact that they’d vote for anyone who was having a go at the leadership, surely those votes will revert to the right this time round, and might tip the scales in Coyne’s favour?

    Anecdotal evidence is that this is not what is happening, Ian is taking support away from McCluskey, not from Coyne

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  23. brianthedog on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Fair enough as my starting point of Jerry Hicks was in 2010 and the GS elections. His behaviour and judgement was suspect then and in particular his antics at the Manchester united left GS candidates hustings.

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  24. brianthedog on said:

    Andy Newman: Anecdotal evidence is that this is not what is happening, Ian is taking support away from McCluskey, not from Coyne

    That is my anecdotal evidence as well speaking to comrades at their branch meetings (mine is on Monday).

    Coyne has not been in the frame at these meetings except speakers on behalf of Ian Allinson attacking Len and Unite for:

    . Not arranging a national demo in support of the junior doctors strike. (The BMA is their union)
    . Not supporting a strike by French workers.
    . Attacking Len on his statements regarding EU free movement of labour and stating that free movement should not only be defended but that the UK should have global free movement and open borders.

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  25. Jellytot on said:

    brianthedog: Attacking Len on his statements regarding EU free movement of labour and stating that free movement should not only be defended but that the UK should have global free movement and open borders.

    Such a bizzare concept. How anyone advocating that can be taken seriously is beyond me. It’s the perfect synthesis of ultra left navel gazing and drippy liberalism.

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  26. Andy Newman: I am sceptical of the whole idea of a “grassroots” approach. What does that even mean. Are branch secretaries grass roots? reps on facility time? FTOs?

    It seems an entirely superfical approach, what is important is not whether someone is “grassroots” but whether they are on the left or right politically, and whether they are an effective militant or not.

    A grassroots, or rank and file, approach, is in my opinion, the idea that the best route to radical and independent activity in trade unions is through mobilising and organising at the workplace, and forming workplace organisations. Whether individuals are “grassroots” is something of a red herring really. I do believe the trade union bureaucracy is a clear and distinct strata with its own social interests, and that influences individuals’ activity, and most importantly the existence of a whole strata of such people inevitably influences the direction of the union. I think that whether the bureaucracy are left or right wing in their politics is important, but won’t necessarily override the influence their social position has on them. That being said, the best rank and file campaigns, the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Rebellion for example, managed to pull important sections of the bureaucracy with them.

    The reason why I’m sceptical of General Secretary campaigns for “grassroots” candidates, is that, as others have indicated, often this means little more than “more left wing”, and rarely either represents an actual rank and file movement, or a realistic attempt at building one.

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  27. brianthedog on said:

    Tim N,

    I could be wrong but on face value you post looks like a rehash of the ultra left line that workers are just champing at the bit to stick it to the boss. Its just the dead hand of the lazy trade union bureaucrat that is stopping them because they another social agenda that is aligned with the capitalist class.

    “radical and independent activity in trade unions is through mobilising and organising at the workplace , and forming workplace organisations”

    It depends what you mean by independent?

    Independent of the company, then yes that is what Unite is. That doesn’t mean you don’t often have constructive and respectful industrial relations.

    Or do you mean independent of the Union?

    Unite has as best practice an organising model which is championed by Len McCluskey. It is about mobilising and organising in the workplace on collective issues. Its about empowering and supporting reps. Its also about where possible having workplace branches.

    “Trade union bureaucracy is a clear and distinct strata with its own social interests”

    Not sure what you mean here as most full time bureaucrats want to give workers a voice, collectively organise workers and improve their pay and conditions. There are a few who are not up to the job, but I would suggest you get that in any workplace or organisation.

    What are these different social interests?

    The only one I can think of recently in Unite is its critical support of the EU in the referendum, when I would suggest a majority of our members voted leave. I put this down to group thinking and stemming from signing up to the Jacques Delors’ speech to the ETUC in 1988.

    I never fell into this position and during the Brexit vote was in a minority. However as the saying goes, ‘events dear boy’ and the political analysis and direction is changing.

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  28. brianthedog on said:

    Tim N,

    I could be wrong but on face value you post looks like a rehash of the ultra left line that workers are just champing at the bit to stick it to the boss. Its just the dead hand of the lazy trade union bureaucrat that is stopping them because they have another social agenda that is aligned with the capitalist class.

    “radical and independent activity in trade unions is through mobilising and organising at the workplace , and forming workplace organisations”

    It depends what you mean by independent?

    Independent of the company, then yes that is what Unite is. That doesn’t mean you don’t often have constructive and respectful industrial relations.

    Or do you mean independent of the Union?

    Unite has as best practice an organising model which is championed by Len McCluskey. It is about
    mobilising and organising in the workplace on collective issues. Its about empowering and supporting reps. Its also about where possible having workplace branches.

    “Trade union bureaucracy is a clear and distinct strata with its own social interests”

    Not sure what you mean here as most full time bureaucrats want to give workers a voice, collectively organise workers and improve their pay and conditions. There are a few who are not up to the job, but I would suggest you get that in any workplace or organisation.

    What are these different social interests?

    The only one I can think of recently in Unite is its critical support of the EU in the referendum, when I would suggest a majority of our members voted leave. I put this down to group thinking and stemming from signing up to the Jacques Delors’ speech to the ETUC in 1988.

    I never fell into this position and during the Brexit vote was in a minority. However as the saying goes, ‘events dear boy’ and the political analysis and direction is changing.

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  29. brianthedog: I could be wrong but on face value you post looks like a rehash of the ultra left line that workers are just champing at the bit to stick it to the boss.

    Not at all, although “rank and file” is often advocated in that way, which suggests that the leadership of the bureaucracy is what’s holding people back. In that sense, you wouldn’t need independent workplace organisation, just a change in general secretary and a few appointees (which I don’t think’s correct, hence my scepticism about “grassroots” general secretary campaigns).

    I actually think that the leadership of Unite is probably to the left of the majority of its membership, probably by a long way.

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  30. Andy Newman on said:

    Tim N: I do believe the trade union bureaucracy is a clear and distinct strata with its own social interests, and that influences individuals’ activity, and most importantly the existence of a whole strata of such people inevitably influences the direction of the union.

    If you don’t have an infrastructure and organisation then you don’t have a union. Any organisation of humans will include individuals who put their own personal or sectional interests first. This is true of giant corporations, political parties, government, trade unions, the local budgerigar fanciers club, and the allotment society.

    Trade unionism is an art that has to be learned and the skill and knowledge passed on and shared through organisation. Managing the relationship between lay member activists and FTOs to mutual benefit is something that everyone needs to work at. But don’t be dewy eyed about the “grassroots”, shop steward and branch secretary positions are just as likely to have their own personal interests as any full time officer

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  31. Andy Newman: If you don’t have an infrastructure and organisation then you don’t have a union. Any organisation of humans will include individuals who put their own personal or sectional interests first. This is true of giant corporations, political parties, government, trade unions, the local budgerigar fanciers club, and the allotment society.

    Trade unionism is an art that has to be learned and the skill and knowledge passed on and shared through organisation. Managing the relationship between lay member activists and FTOs to mutual benefit is something that everyone needs to work at. But don’t be dewy eyed about the “grassroots”, shop steward and branch secretary positions are just as likely to have their own personal interests as any full time officer

    I haven’t been “dewy eyed” since that unfortunate incident in Amsterdam.

    I’m not arguing what you think I’m arguing. Shop stewards and branch officers will of course have personal interests. In fact, they, and workers in a particular workplace or industry will often have sectional interests which are actually detrimental to the membership of the union as a whole, or the class as a whole. A national organisation is obviously needed to transcend such things.

    Of course we need infrastructure and organisation. That’s a given, the manner of how we organise and the nature of the infrastructure is not a given. That needs debating constantly.

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  32. Karl Stewart on said:

    Jerry Hicks was a sound rank and file union militant in his time. A skilled aero-engine test fitter and AEEU convenor at Bristol Rolls Royce Aerospace in Bristol.

    He was victimised and sacked for standing up for members and there was a long campaign for his reinstatement.

    When he challenged Derek Simpson for GS of ‘Amicus’ (which was the corporate Blairite ‘rebrand’ given to the merged union created when MSF and GPMU joined with AEEU) he was absolutely right to do so.

    Simpson had abused the rule book to seek to prevent an election in exactly the same way that his predecessor Ken Jackson had done in 2002.

    Hicks used exactly the arguments that Simpson himself had used against Jackson, and Hicks won significant support from former Simpson supporters who were disappointed that the ‘man of the left’ from 2002 had turned into Jackson MarkII.

    And Hicks also won significant support on the basis of appealing to the AEU tradition of rank and file democratic control. The AEU/AUEW had a 100-member lay national committee, which was an extremely democratic, member-led union.

    (Brian, there’s a rich and proud AEU/AUEW/AEEU tradition, but there is no ‘Amicus tradition’ mate – that ‘rebrand’ was not popular and in the event was pretty short lived, same as the equally risible ‘Consignia’ rebrand of Royal Mail).

    So, in that first GS election in which Hicks challenged Simpson, he didn’t win, but he picked up a respectable vote.

    Unfortunately, because he didn’t win his job back, he gradually lost touch with his workplace and was no longer – through no fault of his own – a rank and file workers’ representative.

    But I do think that any criticism of Hicks today needs to be tempered with an acknowledgement that he did fight the good fight for a long time and that he was totally right to stand for GS the first time.

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  33. Brianthedog on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Karl seriously you do like to stretch things sometimes. Amicus was not a Blairite rebrand just a made name because various unions decided to merge and …..err a new name was given.

    Using your logic Unison and Unite were also Blairite re brands as well.

    I am sure that Jerry Hicks was once a good shop steward. However he and others have created a myth about him. I also recall speaking to the national officer who represented him at RR and Hicks behaviour and the support of his members is slightly at odds with the myth.

    Many felt that he didn’t need to stand against Simpson when it had already become the Amicus section of Unite.

    The AEU had a lay member and democratic union. Good and so does Unite.

    Unfortunately Hicks ended up believing his own myth and his own ego damaged him. His vile, undemocratic behaviour was laid bare at the Manchester hustings.

    It wasn’t about building solidarity amongst a new union it was about being divisive and all about him.

    The man has become an opportunist and an oppositionist.

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  34. Brianthedog on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Karl seriously you do like to stretch things sometimes. Amicus was not a Blairite rebrand just a made up name because various unions decided to merge and …..err a new name was given.

    Using your logic Unison and Unite were also Blairite re brands as well.

    I am sure that Jerry Hicks was once a good shop steward. However he and others have created a myth about him. I also recall speaking to the national officer who represented him at RR and Hicks behaviour and the support of his members is slightly at odds with the myth.

    Many felt that he didn’t need to stand against Simpson when it had already become the Amicus section of Unite.

    The AEU had a lay member EC and democratic union. Good and so does Unite.

    Unfortunately Hicks ended up believing his own myth and his own ego damaged him. His vile, undemocratic behaviour was laid bare at the Manchester hustings.

    It wasn’t about building solidarity amongst a new union it was about being divisive and all about him.

    The man has become an opportunist and an oppositionist.

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  35. Karl Stewart on said:

    Brianthedog,

    When you say Hicks didn’t need to stand against Simpson because it was due to become the Amicus section of Unite, this is exactly the argument used by Jackson against holding the scheduled GS election in 2002.

    Simpson used exactly the argument that he himself had fought against just a few years previously. Jackson and his minions toured our AEEU branches telling all of us that an election was not necessary because the AEEU was about to merge with MSF and Jackson and Lyons would be the joint GSs.

    We rejected that argument as undemocratic and we went out and fought hard for a Simpson victory (sorry, but at the time, all we knew was he was a Gazette activist from Sheffield who had been instrumental in fighting a militant dispute and we hated Jackson and his cronies).

    This is why Hicks’s first campaign was absolutely right and part of the reason why it gained significant traction. As well as his appeal to the AEU tradition.

    (And my point about Amicus was that there is no ‘Amicus tradition’ – it was just a short-live brand, which I don’t recall, as an AEEU member at the time, being asked my opinion of.)

    Anyway, I’ve been out of the industry for a long, long time now and not a member of Unite, so obviously won’t be involved in the current campaign. I haven’t had a conversation with Jerry for several years – the last time I spoke with him, he was at some Green Party event, so not my kind of politics at all.

    Just wanted to explain some of the previous Brian.

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  36. Brianthedog on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    I respect your explanation.

    However Unite was already formed when Hicks stood against Simpson. It was at the stage of being Unite with 2 GS’s and two sections. What I do recall is some unease that Hicks didn’t seem to bother to consult with the left within the T&G Section when he decided to stand against Simpson. It was also taken that he was using this to personally position himself for the up and coming sole GS election of Unite a year or so later.

    He lost and if I recall rightly has was against the merger.

    Also no one asked me about naming the new union Unite, however I didn’t care as I didn’t see it as that important and have also become to like it.

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  37. Andy Newman on said:

    Brianthedog: Unite was already formed when Hicks stood against Simpson. It was at the stage of being Unite with 2 GS’s and two sections

    IIRC, or so I was told at the time, the suggestion of Hicks standing came from that chap, cannot remember his name who was a long term member of Socialist Appeal, and was working at that time for Honda in Swindon, and whose brother was a full timer in Socialist Party ( can’t remember his name either)

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  38. Andy Newman: Genuine question. What are you proposing then?

    I’m not proposing anything specific really, except that socialists should be concentrating on building workplace organisation (I don’t think that’s controversial). There is a real overreliance on the full time apparatus in the trade union movement, which means that the kind of strike movement which we would need to defeat austerity is unlikely to happen.

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  39. Andy Newman on said:

    Tim N: socialists should be concentrating on building workplace organisation (I don’t think that’s controversial).

    It is how you do it that is the question. We cannot just build density and capacity where we already have unions, as that is managing decline.

    Breaking into Greenfield sites is a skill, where experience and knowledge count. Of course some lay members are able to do this, and not all FTOs are battle ready for this sort of fight. But this cannot be accomplished without lay member activists and officers working together.

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  40. Andy Newman on said:

    Tim N: There is a real overreliance on the full time apparatus in the trade union movement

    You will find few FTOs who would be anything but delighted if lay member organisation was capable of acting more independently.

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  41. Andy Newman on said:

    Tim N: the kind of strike movement which we would need to defeat austerity is unlikely to happen.

    It is hard to think back through history to a time where British unions have ever challenged broad economic policy through industrial means, so you may be setting too ambitious a task for the unions

    Even challenges to pay restraint in the 1970s were a) sectional, and b) not a root and branch challenge to the concept

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  42. Andy Newman: It is hard to think back through history to a time where British unions have ever challenged broad economic policy through industrial means, so you may be setting too ambitious a task for the unions

    Even challenges to pay restraint in the 1970s were a) sectional, and b) not a root and branch challenge to the concept

    Well sure, it seems unlikely that the union movement can simply strike “against austerity” as such (although the public sector strikes a couple of years back were close to that), however strikes against the many varied manifestations of austerity are certainly possible. Those would of course be sectional.

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  43. Brianthedog: I am sure that Jerry Hicks was once a good shop steward. However he and others have created a myth about him. I also recall speaking to the national officer who represented him at RR and Hicks behaviour and the support of his members is slightly at odds with the myth.

    I don’t really know what you mean by that – Jerry’s support in that workplace was very solid and very real.

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  44. Andy Newman on said:

    Tim N: I don’t really know what you mean by that – Jerry’s support in that workplace was very solid and very real.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I recall it, there was support for action in support of Jer from the test department, but insufficient support to make action viable from the rest of the Filton site.

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  45. Jellytot on said:

    brianthedog,

    To be fair….Alex Callinicos’s piece on Trump and TPP/neo-liberalism this week in SW at least tries to get beyond the hysteria and tentatively look for answers.

    To me, Callinicos is like the proverbial Monkey in a locked room with a typewriter. Eventually it will produce The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

    Ditto with Alex. He writes so much that occasionally (very occasionally) you’ll come across something useful and worthwhile.

    Same goes for John Wight ans even “Comrade Delta” on his blog had a couple of interesting Trump/Right wing Populism articles.

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  46. Karl Stewart on said:

    brianthedog,

    Kevin’s a pretty decent guy Brian and he writes well, I think.

    In the piece I linked to, he writes that there was strike action beyond the test bed, and that there was strong support for Jerry across the company as a whole.

    But also that there were threats from the business to close plants if the action went ahead.

    What parts of Kevin’s article do you think are inaccurate Brian?

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  47. Jellytot on said:

    Brianthedog:
    Jellytot,

    You damn with faint praise

    Callinicos is the guy, remember, who attempted to equate the Libyan Rebels/terrorists with the genuinely heroic Italian partisan movement of WW2 back in 2011.

    I also recall him at a meeting, in 1986 on South Africa upstairs in the Acton Trade Union club, stating categorically that only a 1917 style revolution could end Apartheid. A few years later came De Klerk.

    The fact that this guy is considered some kind of oracle and visionary says a lot about the paucity of analysis on the Left in Britain today.

    It’s also a reason why they are desperate to bring “Delta” back…..but cannot for obvious reasons. I suspect Delta still plays a big part in the SWP behind the scenes, especially financially. The SWP’s finances are, and always have been, notoriously opaque. It’s the main reason they do not contest elections under their own name (forget all this “we are revolutionaries….we don’t do elections” bollocks!). If they did stand they would have to publish accounts.

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  48. Karl Stewart: Kevin’s a pretty decent guy Brian and he writes well, I think.

    He is a journalist and political activist.

    However, leading industrial action is a different game entirely.

    I am sure this is an acurate judgement from Kevin:

    The workers were up against a ruthless company which, it became clear early on, had decided to sack an effective union convenor months ago and had set aside a large amount of money to do so

    RR were determined not to roll over.

    The result was that while 212 voted to ballot for action, 326 voted against. The closeness of the vote shows that a confident lead from the national union would have delivered a yes vote.

    In my world, that is not a close vote, that is a decisive rejection of taking industrial action. Even had the vote been the other way round with 60% in favour, that would be a slender mandate for the type of action that would have been needed.

    Remember every fight carries with the the possibility of defeat as well as victory, It looks like Kevin thinks that Amicus should have bet the whole farm on a weak hand, already knowing that the opposition were determined for a decisive fight. Sometimes the art of generalship is knowing when NOT to engage.

    This was the fourth time the workforce had been asked if they wanted to ballot for strike action. At three previous mass meetings the answer had been an overwhelming yes.

    If they kept having mass meetings, then I suspect it is because experienced shop stewards were telling the officer that while there was enough bravado for members to stick their hands up in a car park, they were nervous about their ability to actually win a formal strike ballot and deliver action. They will have hoped that the theatrical display of the mass votes would be enough to presurise management.

    where the constant delay in acting on the previous votes fed into a lack of confidence.

    Conjecture. Remember the test area were already out, and management had not budged. It would be difficult to judge confidence from outside, that is why the private opinions of the shop stewards about what they believed could be actually delivered would be crucial

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  49. Karl Stewart on said:

    Interesting result from today’s ASLEF ballot. On a 72 per cent turnout, the ‘deal’ allowing train companies to dispense with the use of guards was rejected 54 to 46 per cent.

    As someone who uses trains, I’m very relieved and hope the train companies will be beaten back over this.

    Well done ASLEF members.

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  50. Karl Stewart: Interesting result from today’s ASLEF ballot. On a 72 per cent turnout, the ‘deal’ allowing train companies to dispense with the use of guards was rejected 54 to 46 per cent.

    As someone who uses trains, I’m very relieved and hope the train companies will be beaten back over this.

    Well done ASLEF members.

    Especially good given the ASLEF leadership recommended acceptance of the shoddy deal.

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  51. Karl Stewart on said:

    Tim N,

    Same old anti-union bias on the BBC – the story is introduced as “…more misery for long-suffering commuters as deal rejected…etc…” no mention of the fact that the ‘deal’ would put those very same commuters at risk.

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  52. Karl Stewart,

    Yeah I was just reading the BBC report online, no surprises there.

    The really good news about the deal is that ASLEF members, who are mostly drivers and therefore less immediately affected by the issue, have voted to keep unity with the RMT, whose members there are mostly conductors and were going to remain out. Really good result.

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  53. Karl Stewart on said:

    Tim N,

    It’s a great result. And I think the drivers probably also feel affected by the issue as they would be the ones who would be held responsible for the safe dispatch of the trains.

    So yes, their showing of solidarity with the guards is great, but it’s also that they face detrimental terms and conditions themselves.

    What I really can’t understand is how train travellers could possibly oppose the train unions’ stance here. They’re protecting the safety of the travelling public here.

    We all need to support them. If Southern are able to get rid of their guards, all the other train companies will quickly follow suit.

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  54. Karl Stewart: What I really can’t understand is how train travellers could possibly oppose the train unions’ stance here. They’re protecting the safety of the travelling public here.

    I’m never really convinced by the media spin on these things. Commuters are obviously going to be pissed off by disruption, but who they blame will depend on their outlook. Of course often the most vocal who are willing to rant to reporters tend to be more right wing, and the reporters will be actively seeking people like that out.

    My experience of being on strike as a public sector worker is you get a mixed reception, depending on who you speak to and just how much their life has been disrupted by the action. It may have been easier to get support when more people were in unions and had been on strike themselves.

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  55. Karl Stewart on said:

    Tim N,

    There’ll always be people who moan. The key for unions is to make their action effective. Winning the ‘ground war’ is what really matters and the ‘air war’ is secondary.

    Ultimately, if the trains don’t run, the train workers win.

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  56. Jellytot on said:

    Karl Stewart:
    Tim N,

    There’ll always be people who moan. The key for unions is to make their action effective. Winning the ‘ground war’ is what really matters and the ‘air war’ is secondary.

    Ultimately, if the trains don’t run, the train workers win.

    I agree with this. The nonsense about “public” support, or lack of it, is frequently used to demoralise the workers. Anyway, the whole notion of the public is a fairly amorphous one. The workers involved and the management are concrete.

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  57. Karl Stewart: There’ll always be people who moan. The key for unions is to make their action effective. Winning the ‘ground war’ is what really matters and the ‘air war’ is secondary.

    Ultimately, if the trains don’t run, the train workers win.

    Don’t disagree with that at all, was just pointing out how the media drums up anti-strike feeling amongst passengers.

    On that note, I’m sick of hearing from “user groups” which claim to represent train users. I use trains all the time, I I don’t recall being asked to elect them to speak for me.

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  58. Tim N: On that note, I’m sick of hearing from “user groups” which claim to represent train users. I use trains all the time, I I don’t recall being asked to elect them to speak for me.

    Quite seriously though, are there any progessive passanger advocacy groups? If not why not?

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  59. Andy Newman: Quite seriously though, are there any progessive passanger advocacy groups? If not why not?

    Not that I’m aware of. It does seem like this field generally has been yielded to the right. “Consumer” groups generally seem to be made up of right-wing anoraks.

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