Unite Gs Election: Jerry Hicks – Wrong Era, Wrong Politics

This is a guest post by Jim Kelly, Chair of London & Eastern Region Unite the Union; here he is writing in a personal capacity.

I am putting this note forward to challenge the claim of Jerry Hicks and his confederates that somehow he is the candidate of the left and Len McCluskey just another bureaucrat. It is time to go beyond the hallmark of Hicks and his cohorts’ infantile attempt to see all those in official positions as the same, and to see McCluskey as someone whose occupation is selling out the rank and file. The starting point for unravelling all of this is to consider Hicks’s claim to be the candidate of the rank and file. We need first to consider who the rank and file are.

So who are the rank and file? The main plank of Hicks’ campaign is that he presents himself as the champion of the rank and file, indeed their self anointed leader in waiting. There have been no meetings of this “rank and file group” to democratically decide on a candidate; Jerry didn’t even attend the last Grassrootsleft national AGM in November in Birmingham. He just elbowed any potential alternatives out of the race in late December, by anointing himself. Even the Catholic Church has to go through the ritual of an election by a conclave of Cardinals, but apparently not our “rank and file”.

Now, while any trade unionist worth their salt will identify with the rank and file, who does Jerry Hicks speak for, and what does he mean by the rank and file?

One thing I share in common with Jerry Hicks is that I joined a union in 1976. I joined the old UPW, I went on to join the SWP in 1976. I became a rep in one of the largest and most militant sorting office in the country, and went on to help found the Rank & File Post Office Worker Group with other SWP activists.

Our rank and file group was one of a number at the time, Rank and File Docker, Teacher, Building Worker to name a few. While they were called rank and file groups, in fact all they were was the SWP and its periphery, with no independent political life of their own. Once the SWP decided to close them down they struggled to survive.

The point is that all of these rank and file groupings, like the SWP of the late 70s and Jerry Hicks’s Grassroots Left (GRL), are constituted by either one or more political organisations, or groups of and populated by the organisation’s membership and contacts. The fact that the GRL is comprised of people in different and no political organisations does not invalidate its political nature. Read their organisational structure clearly; it is a political formation with its own discipline and committee structure. Its political character is, I think shown rather neatly by the following piece of idiocy

For the right of the rank and file to veto all management decisions and workers control over all aspects of production, including hiring and firing, for workers’ control over and nationalisation without compensation of all firms sacking workers in the interests of profit.

Call me old fashioned if you will but to me this demand is a call for dual power and rather than a union; they are demands for workers’ council (soviets) linked to the formation of a workers’ government. Now is it that the Unite bureaucracy is stopping the members making this demand realisable (the bastards) or maybe is it a bit of an aspiration? And by the way, this will not be a right – as if in a state of dual power these rights would be given to workers, rather it is something we will struggle for and take.

So do they represent the authentic voice of the rank and file? Well, only in a post-modernist sense where asserting something makes it real. What Hicks and the political organisations supporting him have in common is that rather than being part of the rank and file, they appropriate the term rank and file as a label for their political project.

So when Hicks (SWP/GRL) speaks about the rank and file he is inevitably talking about the political programme he wishes union members to adopt. This is not unique; all organisations attempt to influence the union in one way or another, to their own end.

Of course there have been many rank and file movements in the past which have been just that- movements. The common denominator which binds together all such rank and file movements is they came into existence when a leadership pursues a policy opposed to members’ interests: close down democracy, block militant industrial action etc. Herein is the second problem for Hicks’s use of the term “rank and file”: there is no movement because there is no need for such a movement. Consider the following:

• Are there any ban and proscriptions on organising in Unite? No, contrast this with the attacks on the left in UNISON.
• Is there any attempt to close down industrial action? No, this has been fully supported.
• Is there an attempt to promote industrial action? Yes, the Union has sponsored industrial action, for example enhanced strike pay.
• Is there a democratic lay member structure? Yes this was fought for and won against the old Amicus leadership.
• Has Unite attempted to build the union through militant activity? Yes; the organising unit is testimony to this.
• Is there lay member control over officers? Yes, seen in the role of the Executive Council and in the National Industrial Sector Committees (NISCs)/Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs).

These are the reasons there is no rank and file movement. Does everything work in Unite? Clearly not. Much seems to me dysfunctional. I could write out a list of errors, mistakes etc. However when I criticise the national leadership I do so in the context of the leadership building a democratic, open class struggle union.

Given that McCluskey’s record is one of strengthening the union, encouraging lay participation and providing a national political voice for members, why do we have the spectacle of left groups campaigning against a strong effective “fighting back” left General Secretary? Because Hicks (the SWP & GRL) have set up their watertight division between the rank and file and the leadership. To argue anything other than that the leadership is selling out the membership would break down that division and with it the political dogma on which they rest.

Looking at the facts, the real question for the rank and file is this: has McCluskey strengthened or weakened our movement? What is his track record in the disputes where we have membership density? In the 3 biggest private sector disputes of the last 5 years, BA/Willie Walsh, construction/BESNA and the London bus workers Olympic 500 campaign, Len was instrumental in achieving historic victories by building on the energy of lay activists with the resources of the full time administration and uniting the union in difficult struggles. Let’s look at Besna and the Bus actions

The Besna dispute is viewed as being run and won by the rank and file. Indeed the dispute was going nowhere until Len called for the Organising and Leverage Department to work out a strategy for victory. At one of the final “rank and file mass pickets” at King’s Cross station the construction workers present were vastly outnumbered by Left paper sellers. An excellent set of Unite leaflets in many languages were produced by the region and the organising unit, but the paper sellers steadfastly refused to give these to building workers going into work, choosing instead to distribute obscure tracts amongst themselves. The dispute in London was rudderless and ineffective by this time. Any building worker present could be forgiven for thinking the circus had come to town rather than an effective trade union protest. Here we see how the term “rank and file” can be used to mean anything you like. In this instance “the rank and file” equalled “the Left” rather than rank and file building workers.

Then there was the bus workers’ dispute. In a major feat of organising, the London & Eastern Region brought together workers from 20 or so bus companies and won what was described by the press as a union’s first offensive victory in many years, while Johnson bemoaned ‘…we stuffed their mouths with gold for nothing’. This presented a model relationship between officers, the lay officials and members. Also, as with Besna McCluskey supported the strike 100%, providing the Region with the resources needed to win.

Of course with hindsight it is possible to criticise aspects of the tactics of these strikes. However this would be to miss the point; the leadership enabled maximum support in which officers and lay members acted. There are a number of points Hicks and his friends should take note of:

• Rather than sell out these strikes the leadership supported them and led them in conjunction with the lay members. It would be good to know why anyone would think they would do anything else.
• Many strikes today (including the ones cited) can only be won by the rank and file and leadership working in tandem. If unions are going to develop industrial muscle then there has to be a new relationship between the rank and file and the leadership.

As one looks closely at Hicks’s claims, we can see he does not represent the rank and file but has appropriated the term for his political project. The conditions to move the rank and file agenda forward from being an amalgam of left wing groupings to a movement do not exist because of the openness of the leadership and their commitment to militant industrial action. Indeed the entire rationale of the rank and file candidate against the bureaucrat falls apart. It is however impossible for them to admit that the union leadership could give full support to industrial action let alone sponsoring it. Unable to explain this, they either ignore it or they put forward rationalisations such as the trite, rank and file pressure.

What does Hicks stand for? Once removed from his rank and file wrapping what is Hicks’s radical programme? This is what his website tells us:

Some of what I stand for:
• Branch restructuring is chaotic but can be remedied: No member will be re-allocated to a Branch without their prior agreement.
• The election of all officials, elected by members, not appointed by an individual or a panel.
• Lead a fight to repeal the anti union laws UK & EU and when necessary to confront them.
• For a General Secretary to live the life of the members they represent, on an average member’s wage not a six figure salary.
• A Public Works programme, with the first jobs offered to blacklisted construction workers.
• The creation of one million ‘Green’ jobs. One million potential members.

Lead the fight? It may come as a shock but Unite is in the forefront of fighting to repeal the anti-union laws. Under McCluskey we have not repudiated any strike. So what’s the point in this statement? I think in must be the rev, rev revolutionary bit at the end – “…and when necessary to confront them”. We are left wondering what that means. Is it always right to confront them? Should it be a tactical question when to confront them? Who should decide? Should you take into account the wider consequences for the union? The statement is meaningless except as a polemical device for upping the ante.

A Public Works programme & The creation of one million ‘Green’ jobs? For sure we need an alterative economic programme. Now one can either put forward a revolutionary or a Keynesian programme but a couple of random slogans are not serious. There is also the not unimportant question of who will implement this call; how will you make this happen?

I guess these points are just there to make up a list, a botched attempt at transitional type demands.

The meat of Jerry’s programme is the following.

Election of officers.

This was debated at Unite’s first Rules Conference in 2011. It was overwhelmingly defeated by democratically elected lay delegates to the conference. So having gone through the Unite lay structures this key demand of Hicks has been rejected. Of course he has every right to raise it, but it is not something the GS can implement.

Why make such a big deal of this except as a political gesture?

I spoke against the motion for election of officers at that 2011 conference. Then as today there are several reasons why this would be a crazy idea for Unite:

1. How would officers be elected – by everyone (including retired members) in a region or by sectors?
2. Who would officers be accountable to – the members who elected them, or as now the RISCs, regional committees and regional secretaries?
3. What member would leave his or her job to sign up for a limited time period of employment which in some cases could necessitate a wage cut?
4. Officers could end up working in permanent election mode, gravitating towards workplaces or factions in their allocations which deliver a decisive vote. This would detract from any objective strategic recruitment, organising or retention strategy. It would further plunge our structures and working lives into a permanent state of confusion. It would give officers a political mandate, which should be the prerogative of the lay members.
5. Most importantly it would mean permanent factionalism in the union as left and right mobilised to get their person in office. Pity the rank and file!

Many of our members who see election of officers as a panacea for all our troubles are not informed that our present system – of appointment by a lay panel of the Executive Council, where no EC member can sit on an appointment panel for their own region – is far better.

The problems for the left in the union will not be solved by election of officers.

The answer to issues surrounding officer control is to make our lay committees and branches function more effectively, ensuring a proper lay scrutiny of officer performance and making sure the committees have the politics and confidence to tackle the issue of non performing, ineffective officers.

Maybe Jerry Hicks only listens to the rank and file when they agree with him, or maybe he is so out of touch with our new union’s democracy that he is oblivious to this important decision of our Rules Conference.

A General Secretary on a worker’s wage

A further key pledge is to only accept an average worker’s wage. Jerry says he is prepared to accept £26,000 a year. When a leading Hicks supporter put this to a training course of reps and branch secretaries he was met with a mixture of incredulity and laughter. As a long serving Branch Secretary put it, “That is less than I earn driving a bus in London – you must be joking!”

Unite is a general workers’ union, where many of our members earn anything from around £25,000 to £60,000+ for senior grades in some sectors. It has many hundreds of employees, manages many properties around Britain & Ireland and most importantly fights back on behalf of well over a million members. Ask the majority of our members if the highest position in our union, with such enormous responsibilities, should be paid a wage that would mean you couldn’t afford to live in many parts of London or Birmingham; you would not be taken seriously.

The issue of wages should be focused on negotiating more money and better terms and conditions for our members and increasing the amount of British and Irish workers covered by collective agreements, especially in the private sector. This is exactly what Len’s strategy is aiming to do.

This is an infantile plank of Jerry’s platform. It shows an opportunist “showman” attitude which runs through much of his manifesto.

Branch Reorganisation – a view from Unite’s largest region

Jerry started his campaign by stating that all individual members objecting to moving branch would not have to, that composite branches would stay, in effect, intact. He now has changed his position to agreeing with the principle but states branch reorganisation is chaotic and accuses Unite of being dictatorial.

This issue really exposes Jerry Hicks as out of touch. In my region the process was carried through by our lay committees reporting back to branches. The committee which oversaw the process consisted of myself, a lay Regional Chair and a lay Executive Council member, alongside the Deputy Regional Secretary.

Every Chair and Secretary of our 23 industrial lay committees was tasked with bringing forward proposals. These were scrutinised and amended where necessary. The lay RISCs then debated all proposals and amendments, finalised their proposals and resubmitted them. Where there was an issue the lay Chairs were again consulted and agreement was reached. Updates were reported to the Regional Committee; we even held a special Regional Committee to discuss proposals and progress. Composite Branch Secretaries were informed of the strategy. Branches affected were allowed to raise objections. Finalised proposals and objections were dealt with by the lay Executive Council.

Why branch reorganisation? Unite was a merger of 2 unions. Amicus itself was a merger of five unions, all with different traditions and culture, all suffering the scars of 20 years of employer attacks on our organisation and our fighters and activists.

One of the consequence of this was our composite branches with no industrial logic were allowed by our legacy unions to fill the vacuum. These composite branches were clearly bloated and dysfunctional in many regions and sectors. Yet within most were many thousands of members who would be better organised in workplace, sector, or sub-sector branches. In our region we recognised this would be a better platform to rebuild our bargaining strength in the workplace and, alongside the 100% campaigns and Organising Units, help to halt a strategy of managing decline. No only was it the right thing to do, it was done democratically bottom up. It also allows for new members to be better placed, participating in branches which are organised around an industrial logic.

It is not difficult to see why many composite branch officials want to stop change. However it is beyond me why Hicks, the SWP and GRL are supporting this conservative block to developing a militant trade unionism. The only answer is simple opportunism; let’s all abandon our rank and file principles and garner a few votes by supporting the conservatives.

This policy is now even more absurd when he states “No member will be re-allocated to a Branch without their prior agreement”. What is this nonsense? Let’s not forget we have been through a collective decision making process. How are we to inform the members? What happens if, say, one decides they don’t want to move? Do we keep the branch open? This is simply not serious. It not only stinks of opportunism, it should tell all that Hicks has not a clue about how to lead a trade union.

The Hicks programme and the union structure

While Hicks as a lot to say about the rank and file and industrial action, he fails to address the existing Unite structures and his view of them. We can guess by the fact he has held no lay office in Unite, as far as I am aware, he has never been a Unite delegate to a Policy or Rules conference. He has never sat on a regional committee or any of our Unite RISCs or NISCs. Despite his high profile attendance at many construction picket lines, he has had no experience of working within our lay structures; he has not been involved in the discussions within our union around our lay structures. This is one reason why the rank and file approach is disconnected from, and unconcerned with, our union committee structures, the sinews which bind the union together.

Fighting the battle of several unions ago

When you strip down what Hicks is saying, remove all the political verbiage, what makes sense comes from how craft unions organised and the radical tradition of militant shop stewards. Here stewards negotiated over pay and job control and along with the members of the shop had a large amount of autonomy from the Region and National organisation.

Many craft workers in Unite see this as the natural form of union organisation (as do many on the left, who would not know a capstan lathe if it hit them on the head. They have been told this form of union organisation is the road to militancy.) So Hicks can and does call on the past in his campaign and there will be many who like him wish to roll back the clock but it cannot happen.

Even if Hicks was to win (God help us) he could not run Unite on such lines. It may have passed him by but Unite is not a bigger version of the AEU. Even in workplaces where this model is still appropriate there is often an ineffective membership density, for example one of our SWP members (always banging on about the need to be more militant) had less than 5% density in his British Aerospace workplace, despite having a recognition agreement locally and national agreements. This is replicated to a greater or lesser extent across workplace organisation in semi-skilled and skilled sectors. However if this was our only problem we would be in a far better place then we are. We are also faced with:

• A lack of stewards; Unite has far fewer stewards then the T&G had in the early 80s, and maybe even fewer then the T&G did in the 1950s when there was neither legal recognition nor any formal role within the union.
• Huge numbers are in workplace where there are less than 50 members.
• Collective bargaining has declined from around 70% to 30%; large numbers of members do not have any bargaining rights.

Without collective bargaining and stewards to undertake it, craft unionism is not possible. So while a small minority within Unite are still able to function in this way the vast majority cannot. For the majority Unite is a general union.

If Hicks and his friends kept their eyes open instead of putting negatives wherever McCluskey puts a positive, they would see a new pattern of industrial struggles emerging which link together the “real” rank and file (the members) and the full time officials but hey, why bother about taking the class struggle forward when you can call black white? Much more fun!

Jerry’s campaign is not a progressive campaign. He is standing against the most outstanding Left leader of the British and Irish trade union movement, a leader who has not repudiated one strike as General Secretary, who has given his support to all the major Unite industrial disputes over the last few years, British Airways, Besna, London bus workers. Len McCluskey is a General Secretary who has a clear vision and strategy: to rebuild union strength in the workplace and in working class communities.

Jerry Hicks’s campaign is a bringing together of large sections of the sectarian left, which like Hicks lives off dogma rather than addressing the nature of today’s class struggle.

Jerry Hicks is also, in my view, going to receive a big vote from right wingers manoeuvring to undermine Len McCluskey’s strategy for building a fit for purpose, fighting back union. The Right, not the Left, will gain from Jerry’s decision to continue even though he received only around 135 branch and workplace nominations to Len’s nearly 1100. Jerry’s campaign is more about the divisions and manoeuvrings in the sectarian left than anything else. More than that, Jerry Hicks is clearly a member lacking the vision or politics to take our great new union, Unite, forward.

Jim Kelly

Chair London & Eastern Region Unite the Union (personal capacity)

182 comments on “Unite Gs Election: Jerry Hicks – Wrong Era, Wrong Politics

  1. Darren Cahil on said:

    “Jerry Hicks’s campaign is a bringing together of large sections of the sectarian left, which like Hicks lives off dogma rather than addressing the nature of today’s class struggle.”

    Source?

    “Jerry Hicks is also, in my view, going to receive a big vote from right wingers manoeuvring to undermine Len McCluskey’s strategy for building a fit for purpose,”

    Source? And I believe you’re expressing an opinion as fact.

    ” The Right, not the Left, will gain from Jerry’s decision to continue even though he received only around 135 branch and workplace nominations to Len’s nearly 1100.”

    Unsubstantiated and evidence please?

    “Jerry’s campaign is more about the divisions and manoeuvrings in the sectarian left than anything else. More than that, Jerry Hicks is clearly a member lacking the vision or politics to take our great new union, Unite, forward.”

    More opinion as fact, *yawn*

  2. Brianthedog on said:

    #1 Workers Fight, Socialist Resistance, CPGB, Workers Power and the rape scandal SWP to name a few.

    All in all a timely and very good article by a rank and file cab driver.

    Isn’t it about time Mr Hicks made a public statement and distances himself from the SWP?

  3. Viv Willis on said:

    Why are we – Unite having an election for General Secretary when Len McCluskey has 3 years of his term of office left to run?

  4. Brianthedog: Workers Fight, Socialist Resistance, CPGB, Workers Power and the rape scandal SWP to name a few.

    This is the tragedy. I remember being at a meeting during the last ellection campaign where a leading member of Socialist Resistance said that the London HIcks support group had good attendence from Workers Fight, Socialist Resistance, CPGB, Workers Power and SWP – and then absolutely seriously said “but none of them are members of UNITE”

    Sadly I was rude enough to laugh out loud.

  5. uncle albert on said:

    Brianthedog: Isn’t it about time Mr Hicks made a public statement and distances himself from the SWP?

    He must be desperate – support from the SWP will most likely be the kiss of death to his campaign.

  6. Brianthedog on said:

    Oh and I forgot the 3 people behind ‘The Commune’ yours and mine favourite sectarian anarcho-syndicalists support Jerry Hicks too.

    The 3 fordist communalists are so sectarian they even managed to get themselves kicked out of the Wobblies. None of them are members of Unite either but don’t worry they have set up a new union that you have never of.

  7. Graham Day on said:

    An excellent set of Unite leaflets in many languages were produced by the region and the organising unit, but the paper sellers steadfastly refused to give these to building workers going into work, choosing instead to distribute obscure tracts amongst themselves.

    You could frame this as a distillation of the essence of ultra-left stupidity.

  8. Darren Cahil on said:

    uncle albert: He must be desperate – support from the SWP will most likely be the kiss of death to his campaign.

    Guilt by association fallacy!

  9. Unionworkeruk on said:

    I was on many of the London pickets and demonstrations in support of the sparks over Besna. Many of us were annoyed at the lack of decent leaflets from both the rank and file and Unite.
    Unite did finally produce some leaflets near the end of the dispute aimed at sparks but none calling for support from other workers. I never saw any leaflets in other languages apart from one produced in Polish by the IWW. It is true most leaflets were from the political organisations.
    It was annoying that sparks and building workers were often outnumbered by paper sellers and leafleters from left groups but that is as much a criticism of the union as the rank and file. Apart from the major mass pickets no effort seems to have been made by the union to mobilise any support apart from some full time workers from Union HQ.

  10. Darren Cahil on said:

    Andy Newman: This is the tragedy. I remember being at a meeting during the last ellection campaign where a leading member of Socialist Resistance said that the London HIcks support group had [strike out]good[strike out] POOR attendence from Workers Fight, Socialist Resistance, CPGB, Workers Power and SWP – and then absolutely seriously said “but none of them are members of UNITE”

    Sadly I was rude enough to laugh out loud.

    You neglect the fact that the some labour party supporting trade unionist will vote for Hicks. Anyway, what’s your point?

    Anyway, I know who I’m backing, it’s Hicks. I’m backing the one calling for more democracy, not the wooden, militant in words only, Len McClusky. :D

  11. Pangur ban on said:

    Brianthedog:
    Oh and I forgot the 3 people behind ‘The Commune’ yours and mine favourite sectarian anarcho-syndicalists support Jerry Hicks too.
    From the far off vantage point of Ireland what an exotic group of creatures inhabit the zoo ,,,,

    The 3 fordist communalists are so sectarian they even managed to get themselves kicked out of the Wobblies. None of them are members of Unite either but don’t worry they have set up a new union that you have never of.

  12. Darren Cahil on said:

    Brianthedog:
    ……. Damn! It was all going so well then along came Sacha from the AWL!

    That is what happens with guilt by association fallacies, they just as easily apply to other side as well, eg. If I were to say that Counterfire, SPEW,(they have a scandal by the way) the International Marxist Tendency and AWL support Len McCluskey, therefore Len McCluskey is bad, I would rightly open myself up to ridicule for such a logical fallacy.

  13. Roger on said:

    Len was instrumental in achieving historic victories…
    Jim Kelly

    Splendind role for McCluskey with BA, at least now the Spaniards can suffer the same fate not just us Brits..

    McCluskey Role
    THERE can be only one response by BA cabin crew to the latest attempt by the national leadership of Unite to impose a ‘settlement’ and end their two-year fight against job losses and wage and pensions cutting, and that is to reject emphatically a deal that gives BA almost everything it wants.

    Introducing this rotten sell-out, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey called it an ‘honourable settlement’ and a ‘victory for common sense’ – it is neither!

    Under this settlement the union is accepting the existence of a two-tier workforce.

    New entrants are being employed on lower pay and pensions and worse conditions than existing staff – a cost-cutting condition that was at the heart of the dispute when it started in 2009, when BA and its then Chief Executive Willie Walsh first proposed to slash the number of crew on flights and impose a two-year pay freeze.

    On pay, the two-year freeze has already been carried out. BA are now proposing a two-year pay deal, only backdated to last February.

    This involves a 2.9% pay increase this year followed by an increase of up to 3% next, well below the projected 5% inflation rate for next year.

    No wonder a BA spokesman crowed that ‘the original cost savings we were looking for have already been achieved, it was a matter of the union understanding that they are permanent.’

    In the course of the dispute, cabin crew – who are members of the BASSA section of Unite – have faced a barrage of intimidation both from the company and from the law courts.

    Numerous overwhelming ballots in favour of strike action have been overturned by the courts and declared illegal while members of the BASSA branch have been sacked and victimised in a campaign designed to intimidate them into submission.

    Alongside this intimidation, Walsh organised a campaign to recruit scabs to replace striking crew in an open attempt to break the union at Heathrow.

    The leadership of Unite, first under Tony Woodley and now under McCluskey, have sought at every step to undermine any action, caving in to the courts and calling off strikes at short notice, and agreeing with Walsh that the biggest stumbling block to giving BA what they wanted was the intransigence of the BASSA branch and its members.

    Bending over backwards to accommodate BA means that Unite and McCluskey have agreed to management’s insistence that the BASSA branch must be wound up. It is to be merged with a branch of Amicus.

    With McCluskey’s blessing, BA now have the right to dictate union organisation – an unprecedented concession by the Unite leadership that betrays the independence of the union.

    As for the cabin crew, who have been sacked during the dispute for supporting their union, this agreement simply allows for their appeals against dismissal to go to the independent arbitration service (ACAS) for binding decisions, a complete retreat from the ‘no victimisation’ demand, and one that lays these members open to being sacked with the agreement of the Unite trade union.

    BA has been forced to make one compromise, notably, on the reinstatement of travel concessions for cabin crew.

    This only serves to underline the fact that if the full strength of Unite had been mobilised on the airport against the union-busting attacks by BA this dispute could have been won within days.

    It was the refusal of the Unite leaders to lead such a struggle that has resulted in this sell-out.

  14. Darren Cahil: If I were to say that Counterfire, SPEW,(they have a scandal by the way) the International Marxist Tendency and AWL support Len McCluskey, therefore Len McCluskey is bad, I would rightly open myself up to ridicule for such a logical fallacy.

    Yes but you would be making a stupid point if you said that, because the support from the far left is only a small component of McCluskey’s constituency, which is far broader.

    Whereas Hicks is supported openly only by ultra-lefts, and tacitly by the right wing keen to weaken Len (the same sort of unholy alliance that saw an ineffectual ultra-left elected as GS in a small public service union, who has since been utterly useless)

  15. This is a great article by Jim Kelly, BTW, identifyng a number of the key issues that the left in the unions need to discusss now.

    Sadly, the Hicks campaign is the wrong argument; it puts the dividing line between the ultra-left who cannot actually deliver, but sure can talk; and on the other side the praggmaitic militants who see the need for action, but want a sensible debate about what action can seriously be delivered, knowing that we will be the ones who have to actuallly deliver it. The real right wing who don’t want action at all, can just sit on their hands.

    Personally I am fed up with being lectured in meetings about the need for general strikes by people who when action is actually called cannot even get out their own work colleagues.

    Jim Kelly is also spot on in discussing the relationship between officials and lay activists. In both GMB and UNITE this is the experience, and those on the left banging on about “bureaucracy” are relying upon dogma, not an evidence based examination of the current labour movement.

    I am interested in Kelly’s views on general branches, as the branch secrertary myself a large general branch, I think I see the advantages of that strucutre, without necessarily seeing myself as a “conservative”! but I appreciate that there are countervailing advanagtes of workplace branches, and branches with industrial logic. moreover, UNITE has particular challenges in rationalising a branch structure out of several diferent unions.

    The key is finding something that works, without dogma. I have observed that some of the most successful GMB branches are those where the lay officers share premises with the full time officers, for example, which is more accident than strategy. Larger branches do have advantages of more resources, and being able to allow the strong to support the weak, if the branches are well led. However, we should alsways be looking for opportunities for groups of workers to set up their own branches where there is logic, and they would be self-sustaining,.

    One of the argumwents against small workplace branches, and there was some LRD research on this a few months back – is that they can bob up and down depending upon quite contingent factors in that one workplace. But that is a practical issue for the lay activists to discuss and decide.

  16. Brianthedog on said:

    #17 As a trot once said to me never let the facts get in the way of a good ultra left story.

    Roger who do you think BASSA, the biggest and most organised branch in the country have nominated for Unite GS. Len McCluskey!

    You would think those members who were ACTUALLY involved in the dispute rather than some deluded armchair revolutionary spouting off missives would know if they had been sold out. You would also think that if they had been they would not be supporting Len.

    However thanks for the post Roger as you do us all a favour in exposing all that is wrong with Hicks and his supporters.

  17. Manzil on said:

    Darren Cahil: Anyway, I know who I’m backing, it’s Hicks. I’m backing the one calling for more democracy, not the wooden, militant in words only, Len McClusky.

    But what would Jerry Hicks do that Len McCluskey wouldn’t?

    Because when it comes to Jerry’s commitments to “lead a fight to repeal the anti union laws”, for a “Public Works programme” and the “creation of one million ‘Green’ jobs”, surely this is an example of militancy in words only, which we’ve just discounted as irrelevant?

  18. Darren Cahil on said:

    Andy Newman: Yes but you would be making a stupid point if you said that, because the support from the far left is only a small component of McCluskey’s constituency, which is far broader.

    Whereas Hicks is supported openly only by ultra-lefts,

    Only? How big do you think the most of the so-called far left is? A few thousand at most, 2,000 for the SWP at the most. Also, why do you imply that not giving open support is better than open support? I don’t see what point you’re making here.

    “and tacitly by the right wing keen to weaken Len”

    Source?

    “(the same sort of unholy alliance that saw an ineffectual ultra-left elected as GS in a small public service union, who has since been utterly useless)”

    Source? And please do elaborate. Calling somebody utterly useless without a basis just shows your habit to state opinion as fact.

  19. Darren Cahil on said:

    Jota:
    A rather ultraleft interpretation, Roger.

    http://airstrikes.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/united-left-criticizes-swp-reaction-to-cabin-crew-deal/

    “We all know that the BA settlement was not an outright victory and that labour cost savings were always going to part of any final settlement.” (from the article you posted)

    Ok, what I’m getting from this is the UL and SPEW rationalising what would have been considered unacceptable several decades ago. How far we’ve come.

  20. Darren Cahil on said:

    Manzil: But what would Jerry Hicks do that Len McCluskey wouldn’t?

    Because when it comes to Jerry’s commitments to “lead a fight to repeal the anti union laws”, for a “Public Works programme” and the “creation of one million ‘Green’ jobs”, surely this is an example of militancy in words only, which we’ve just discounted as irrelevant?

    True to a point, but we won’t know unless Hicks is elected, which is not that likely anyway, although, it’s not impossible.
    As to what Hicks would do that is different, besides making left-Keynesian demands(it beats me how some of you think this is “ultra-left”), things like democratising the union and taking an average workers wage resonates with me, even if it doesn’t with you, Andy, Jim Kelly and others.

  21. Manzil on said:

    Darren Cahil: True to a point, but we won’t know unless Hicks is elected, which is not that likely anyway, although, it’s not impossible.
    As to what Hicks would do that is different, besides making left-iKeynesian demands(it beats me how some of you think this is “ultra-left”), things like democratising the union and taking an average workers wage resonates with me, even if it doesn’t with you, Andy, Jim Kelly and others.

    McCluskey is no less “left-Keynesian” than Hicks, so the rhetoric won’t be different.

    As to these examples (and thanks for replying), Jim Kelly’s article says the general secretary has no power to impose election of officials, nor does there seem to be call for it within Unite. Your thoughts?

    So the only practical difference would be a cheaper general secretary, and giving individual members veto powers over branch reorganisations? You’re right, it’s not ultra-left. It’s not really anything…

  22. Darren Cahil on said:

    Brianthedog:
    #17 As a trot once said to me never let the facts get in the way of a good ultra left story.

    Roger who do you think BASSA, the biggest and most organised branch in the country have nominated for Unite GS. Len McCluskey!

    Speaking from authority fallacy, just because they are the most organised and biggest, it doesn’t mean they are correct.

    “You would think those members who were ACTUALLY involved in the dispute rather than some deluded armchair revolutionary spouting off missives would know if they had been sold out. You would also think that if they had been they would not be supporting Len.

    A logical fallacy, if one third of the working class vote Tory, the tories can’t be that bad, see what I mean?

    “However thanks for the post Roger as you do us all a favour in exposing all that is wrong with Hicks and his supporters.”

    I get it, we’re all deluded, thanks for the ad homien. And I guess Hicks is also deluded by association. *rolls eyes*.

  23. Darren Cahil on said:

    Manzil: McCluskey is no less “left-Keynesian” than Hicks, so the rhetoric won’t be different.

    As to these examples (and thanks for replying), Jim Kelly’s article says the general secretary has no power to impose election of officials, nor does there seem to be call for it within Unite. Your thoughts?

    So the only practical difference would be a cheaper general secretary, and giving individual members veto powers over branch reorganisations? You’re right, it’s not ultra-left. It’s not really anything…

    Those poor officials being subjected to election, imposed on them in effect, by members, perhaps it was a Freudian slip that Len McCluskey talks about imposing on people. :D The key words in your post is, “nor does there seem to be a call” for elected officials. I don’t see it as a problem to raise it as a demand.

    And so what if individual members are empowered and have more say. I also do not see politicising and giving the membership more power as rather healthy. To be told how things should be from above, is a recipe for resentment. As an anecdote by the way, I know a few trade unionists in the Labour party, (supporting Jerry Hicks), who complain about it.

  24. Manzil on said:

    Darren Cahil: Those poor officials being subjected to election, imposed on them in effect, by members, perhaps it was a Freudian slip that Len McCluskey talks about imposing on people. The key words in your post is, “nor does there seem to be a call” for elected officials. I don’t see it as a problem to raise it as a demand.

    And so what if individual members are empowered and have more say. I also do not see politicising and giving the membership more power as rather healthy. To be told how things should be from above, is a recipe for resentment. As an anecdote by the way, I know a few trade unionists in the Labour party, (supporting Jerry Hicks), who complain about it.

    Eh? McCluskey didn’t talk about imposing anything. I did – referring to Jim Kelly’s explanation it’s not something the GS actually has the power to enact on his own initiative.

    So no, there’s no problem with raising it as a demand, but like the million green jobs and the anti-union laws, it’s not actually something that Hicks can do differently to McCluskey. And even in terms of rhetoric and style, I don’t see a big difference – I certainly don’t recognise your characterisation of McCluskey as a top-down, anti-politics type, nor I imagine would many people in the labour movement.

    The differences are a GS on £26K and individuals having veto rights on branch reorganisations.

  25. Darren Cahil on said:

    Manzil: Eh? McCluskey didn’t talk about imposing anything. I did – referring to Jim Kelly’s explanation it’s not something the GS actually has the power to enact on his own initiative.

    So no, there’s no problem with raising it as a demand, but like the million green jobs and the anti-union laws, it’s not actually something that Hicks can do differently to McCluskey. And even in terms of rhetoric and style, I don’t see a big difference – I certainly don’t recognise your characterisation of McCluskey as a top-down, anti-politics type, nor I imagine would many people in the labour movement.

    The differences are a GS on £26K and individuals having veto rights on branch reorganisations.

    Ok, McCluskey didn’t specifically say anything about ‘imposing anything’, fair enough. Onwards.

    Firstly, I think you’re assuming that having elected officials isn’t the result of previous discussions before the last GS election. Of course, you are correct to say it is not something he can do alone, nor would he want to. I’ll assume then, you have no problem in the membership democratically deciding.

    I would like to see McCluskey subject to free criticism, but currently you give me little confidence that this will be the case, a lack of self-criticism leads to conceit, conceit leads to complacency, I think we’ve already seen Walsh outwit McCluskey, but no self-criticism from the McCluskey camp.

    Also, given low turnout, we do not necessarily know what around 85% of the union members think, have you ever asked yourself why so many members are uninspired to bother with their ballot paper?

    On your last point, I think taking an average workers wage is an important gesture, and surely branch reorganisations without the say of members is exactly top-down imposition, you can choose to recognise that or not if you wish, anyway, I have to disagree with you on that issue.

  26. Four Goals on said:

    “Unite is a general workers’ union, where many of our members earn anything from around £25,000 to £60,000+ for senior grades in some sectors. It has many hundreds of employees, manages many properties around Britain & Ireland and most importantly fights back on behalf of well over a million members. Ask the majority of our members if the highest position in our union, with such enormous responsibilities, should be paid a wage that would mean you couldn’t afford to live in many parts of London or Birmingham; you would not be taken seriously.”

    OK, so a small minority of members might earn over £26,000 (and how many of them will be working many hours of overtime or working very unsocial hours to get this sort of money), but far more will be like me- I’m a bus driver working for the UKs largest bus operator and I earn just less than £18000. And when I talk to my workmates about the GS wage they are astounded and shocked- its just wrong and to argue that just because the job involves a lot of responsibility the pay should be enormous, is no different to the argument used by bankers, company directors, etc.

  27. Manzil on said:

    Darren Cahil: Ok, McCluskey didn’t specifically say anything about ‘imposing anything’, fair enough. Onwards.

    Firstly, I think you’re assuming that having elected officials isn’t the result of previous discussions before the last GS election. Of course, you are correct to say it is not something he can do alone, nor would he want to. I’ll assume then, you have no problem in the membership democratically deciding.

    I would like to see McCluskey subject to free criticism, but currently you give me little confidence that this will be the case, a lack of self-criticism leads to conceit, conceit leads to complacency, I think we’ve already seen Walsh outwit McCluskey, but no self-criticism from the McCluskey camp.

    Also, given low turnout, we do not necessarily know what around 85% of the union members think, have you ever asked yourself why so many members are uninspired to bother with their ballot paper?

    On your last point, I think taking an average workers wage is an important gesture, and surely branch reorganisations without the say of members is exactly top-down imposition, you can choose to recognise that or not if you wish, anyway, I have to disagree with you on that issue.

    I didn’t make any judgements about the wage/reorganisation differences between Hicks and McCluskey, I was just saying, they’re not exactly worth people falling out over IMO. :)

    I think Hicks’ offer to take an average wage is highly commendable. Certainly, Jim Kelly is wrong to call it infantile and opportunistic. It shows that Hicks is sincere in his commitment, if anyone could have doubted that. On the other hand, I don’t agree with Hicks’ position on branch reorganisations. Because it’s not a question of top-down or not – Hicks is saying that no member should be moved without their consent. I think that’s quite an individualistic and potentially anti-democratic position.

    I think there is plenty of self-criticism from people supporting McCluskey (which is different than “the McCluskey camp”). But in the context of the election, obviously people tend to exaggerate differences and adopt a more partisan outlook, based on who they intend to support. I, for instance, am not a spokesperson for “the McCluskey camp”, I’m just interested in what the serious differences are between the two candidates – and this will necessarily tend to focus on Hicks, as we pretty much know what a McCluskey re-election will result in, based on his track record as GS.

    It’s a fair point about low union participation – but equally, if the 85% have just been waiting for someone like Hicks to energise them, then presumably this election is surely in the bag for him. Outside of that (I think we can agree, unlikely) possibility, we have to accept it’s a more serious, widespread problem for the labour movement, and not down to either the personal failings of individual trade unionists, or to specific policies like appointment of officials by the union.

  28. Goran Karrman on said:

    That Andy Newman, a social democrat and member of the Labour Party – and his website SU, supports Len McCluskey and deplore Jerry Hicks, seems reasonable.
    Why are anyone surprised?

  29. I dont “deplore ” Jer Hicks, I have known him for years, and i like him.
    Doesn’t mean he is the best candidate in the context of this election

  30. Darren Cahil on said:

    Manzil,

    Interesting points you’ve made. I want to pick up on this one:

    “On the other hand, I don’t agree with Hicks’ position on branch reorganisations. Because it’s not a question of top-down or not – Hicks is saying that no member should be moved without their consent. I think that’s quite an individualistic and potentially anti-democratic position.”

    I can’t see there being consensual decision making,(which of course would be undemocratic) with trade unionists doing the jazz hands thing can you? I think you need to further explain this ‘potential’ for being anti-democratic, because you’re talking in abstractions, give an example.

    Also, I think this interview gives you an idea of what Hicks is arguing for.
    ‘Jerry Hicks interview: Not more of the same’Weekly Worker #952
    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/952/jerry-hicks-interview-not-more-of-the-same

  31. Manzil on said:

    Darren Cahil,

    Sorry, could you clarify what you find abstract or confusing? Hicks’ position is quite clear: “No member will be re-allocated to a Branch without their prior agreement.”

    It privileges individuals over the union’s democratic structures. As Jim Kelly writes, “Let’s not forget we have been through a collective decision making process. How are we to inform the members? What happens if, say, one decides they don’t want to move? Do we keep the branch open?”

    The Weekly Worker interview doesn’t touch on this issue.

    The interview does, however, paint a disparaging picture of McCluskey’s time as GS, while not actually showing any real policy difference – e.g. over the Labour link. It seems more like a rebuttal to the unfair criticisms levelled against Hicks (fair enough) than a positive vision for Unite.

  32. Darren Cahil on said:

    Manzil:
    Darren Cahil,

    1.Sorry, could you clarify what you find abstract or confusing? Hicks’ position is quite clear: “No member will be re-allocated to a Branch without their prior agreement.”

    2.It privileges individuals over the union’s democratic structures. As Jim Kelly writes, “Let’s not forget we have been through a collective decision making process. How are we to inform the members? What happens if, say, one decides they don’t want to move? Do we keep the branch open?”

    3.The Weekly Worker interview doesn’t touch on this issue.

    The interview does, however, paint a disparaging picture of McCluskey’s time as GS, while not actually showing any real policy difference – e.g. over the Labour link. It seems more like a rebuttal to the unfair criticisms levelled against Hicks (fair enough) than a positive vision for Unite.

    1.I appreciate this response, you’ve made your case easier to understand.
    2.Fair enough
    3.True

  33. Darren Cahil on said:

    Most importantly it would mean permanent factionalism in the union as left and right mobilised to get their person in office. Pity the rank and file!” – Jim Kelly

    You’d be at home in the SWP. :D

    On branch changes:

    “Yet within most were many thousands of members who would be better organised in workplace, sector, or sub-sector branches.”

    But what about the deconstruction of labour that has led to a more fragile form of the traditional labour movement? Jim Kelly isn’t living in the 21st century West Europe, if he thinks workplace organisation can carry on as usual. Apparently Hicks is out of touch, my question would be, projection much?

    Considering the above, this is why the means of struggle needs to change from workplace to district collective organising electing their own officials. In addition, the trade unions as Matt Wrack said in yesterday’s SERTUC conference, they need to unite the employed, underemployed and employed, because unemployment is used to discipline workers.

    Unions also need to not only address collective bargaining on wages and conditions, but perform welfare and education functions.

  34. BombasticSpastic on said:

    Branch restructuring wasn’t merely about breaking up large, too often unwieldy, composite branches, which were, sometimes, run by Secretaries who did little work, but pocketed sizable sums of money. This was an obvious problem, caused by a number of factors, including poor administration within the regions, but more importantly a loss of industrial focus and political direction from the centre.

    Thus we had scores of thousands of members who were in the wrong industrial branch; in branches that held no relevance to the work in which they were engaged; and languishing in holding branches due to the reasons given above.

    Of course, in a union that organises the range of sectors as does Unite; and given factors such as rural workers, spread, often thinly, over large geographical areas, we can, and do, appreciate that not all workers will conveniently fit into the ideal workplace branch.

    However, Unite is right to look to the workplace branch as the ideal, while operating other types of branch to better suit the structure of the sector involved. For instance in the voluntary sector demanding all workers form into workplace branches would not be feasible given that our members are dotted around, many, in small numbers across hundreds of organisations. Typically in the voluntary sector you’ll find shops and organisations ranging from less than a handful to twenty or thirty; with larger concerns, like Shelter that employ 1,000 across Britain.

    While the voluntary sector is not the best example of how the branch structure operates at workplace level, it does none-the-less demonstrate that Unite has not set out to impose a one-size-fits-all policy to the restructuring of branches.

    As a member of a Unite Regional Committee and F&GP, I was involved in the restructuring process; and, indeed as a Branch Secretary I had an input. Every Branch Secretary had a chance to attend an open meeting from which they could deliver information to their members; where more complex set-ups were in place some secretaries met face-to-face with the Regional Chair and a senior RIO.

    In fact that the process created three main types of Branch:
    1. The workplace branch which serves Unite members in a particular workplace or workplaces;
    2. The sector branch which serves Unite members in a particular sector. These branches can be quite specialist, such as my branch which organises workers who are employed as advisors within the VS; or, the housing branch which deals with organisations such as Shelter. Therefore these kinds of branches have a sectoral and geographical role.
    3. The last is the composite branch which takes in people from different sectors within a given geographical area.

    There are other types such as National Branches, but these are the exeption to the rule.

    Sadly, as the restructuring began to roll out, there were individuals who felt that their right to remain in a branch which may have been their home for decades should supersede that of the industrial and political logic of placing them into properly structured groups.

    More often we found secretaries of composite branches complaining when they discovered that a group of 100 members were being taken out to form a workplace branch. In one instance seven branches were formed from one ‘holding’ branch by the end of the process – with the holding branch remained a quite large composite branch.

    Of course democracy bonds us as trade unionists. Without democracy we would fall. Yet, there are also other bonds within our organisation without which we would be equally vulnerable and weak. Where would we be without unity; without the strength of the workplace membership. The branch isn’t merely an administrative construct, it should be basis of industrial power, the source by which political influence is gained and the very bedrock of union democracy.

    Anyone who regards Unite’s branch restructuring as a diminution of the democratic rights of the member doesn’t actually understand that allowing the individual to pick and choose his or her branch on the basis they are a member and therefore entitled to this right doesn’t actually understand the democratic process, and misses by miles the whole point of unions.

  35. Viv Willis on said:

    Will someone out there, answer the question, why is Unite calling for an election for General Secretary, when the present one, Len McCluskey has 3 years of his term of office left to run? What would be the point of an uncontested election? Jerry Hicks did not call for such election.

  36. Darren Cahil on said:

    “allowing the individual to pick and choose his or her branch on the basis they are a member and therefore entitled to this right doesn’t actually understand the democratic process, and misses by miles the whole point of unions.”

    This looks like a straw man fallacy to me, although I appreciate the most of Bombastic’s informative post, as far as I’m aware, I didn’t think Hicks was simply arguing for members to pick and choose their branch.

  37. Viv Willis: why is Unite calling for an election for General Secretary, when the present one, Len McCluskey has 3 years of his term of office left to run?

    I think this is straightforwards. If the election for GS was held in the period running up to a 2015 general election, then it would impact on the ability of UNITE to discuss its relationship with Labour freely

  38. BombasticSpastic on said:

    Darren Cahil:
    “allowing the individual to pick and choose his or her branch on the basis they are a member and therefore entitled to this right doesn’t actually understand the democratic process, and misses by miles the whole point of unions.”

    This looks like a straw man fallacy to me…

    Well, you would say that; now, wouldn’t you?

    However, there are far too many Unite members wedded to the idea of single member autonomy, especially from the right of the union; and Jerry has benefitted from this, judging by his nominations.

    So, even if Hicks has realised the necessity of Branch restructuring on industrial rather than patronage lines, he has attracted a group of followers who are supporting him for all the wrong reasons.

  39. John Fisher on said:

    With reference to Jim Kelly`s comments my interpretation of the term `rank and file` is simply the members as opposed to the officials. It does not constitute a political description, rather a reference to the 52,000 give or take of those who voted last time. Whatever your preference in this election the truth of the matter is that over 150,000 members voted for left candidates in the last election far outstripping the others who you might call right officials. Incidentally why would the `right` vote for Jerry?Surely that would be an own goal. I know the right aren`t stupid but this would prove me wrong. Incidentally I knew a lot of shop stewards who had different views to my own or indeed the left in general but were not averse to advocating strike action if they thought the employer was `unreasonable`. In fact one of our stewards was a Tory councillor who represnted members very well including supporting strike action. We had many arguments about politics, but rarely diagreed about his employer!
    Jerry never expected to stand for another election but his main reason for standing was so there would be an ELECTION!! It can hardly be called an election if there is only one candidate unless we go back to the glorious days of the Soviet Union and other countries when the sole candidate used to get 99.9 % of the vote!
    The reasons given for having an election seem fairly vacuous to me as to have an election in the year of the next general election seems to add to rather than detract as it would ensure that arguments for the respective candidates would relate to the politics of the time.
    The incredible haste with which the election was called and is subsequently been run is just a little bit suspicious. The earliest nominations could be secured was January which probably meant some branches either did not meet in time or did not meet at all which meant the only opportunity would be February. At this time of the year attendance at branch meetings can be small i.e. inquorate. I spoke to Jerry shortly after the election was announced, early January and he believed and I agreed that it would be difficult to secure the requisite nominations in such a short period. Another worry was that usually a number of branch meetings are not properly conducted insofar as sometimes there are breaches of the tight rules which are quite correctly enforced. On the last occasion a number of nominations were ruled out of order, certainly as far as Jerry`s nominations were concerned but also in respect of other`s nominations. I am not implying any unfair practice but obviously if you are doubtful of the number of nominations then reaching fifty in such a short time is a concern. In fact Jerry told me ther would probably be a requirement for up to eighty nominations to ensure that he received the requisite number. In the eventI think he secured over 140 nominations which I am sure any fair minded person would regard as a remarkable achievement whether you supported him or not – I certainly did.
    As far as branch reorganisation has been concerned it has been a real shambles. My own branch did not receive any funds from May onwards and therefore did not meet. Most of us were only allocated our branch just before Xmas. In any event there could not be a rearrangement of branches without an annual conference so what are you all getting het up about.
    Jerry did not seek the support of the SWP or any other organisation and I understand there was some disagreement in the SWP Unite faction as to whether to support him or not. I should point out that Jerry left the SWP at around the time of the dispute in Respect, the SWP took the view that John Rees was being `witch-hunted` by Galloway, and because like me he did not believe that he left.Following that a number of SWP members in Bristol cold shouldered Jerry and his partner Jo Benefield about which they were both not unnaturally upset.Just for the record Len McClusky met with Peter Taffe of the Socialist Party and someone from the SWP presumably to solicit their support so the comments on his election address seem somewhat hypocritical!
    As for the election of officials I did not have a strong view eitherway when I was appointed as an fto in ASTMS in 1970. In fact I was very surprised to get the job – I think it was because I had previously worked for the EEF so the novelty of gamekeeper turned poacher may have been the deciding factor! In any event I am proud to be a genuine class traitor! My experience as an fto convinced me that the election of officials was a good idea because the GS,in my case Clive Jenkins, had extraordinary power. Any official who crossed him was in for a hard time as I subsequently found out. When he did move to have me dismissed by the EC it was only the threat of seven coaches of members descending on the next EC meeting that saved me. Very few of them shared my politics, many of them being `foremen` but apparently they thought I was a good official! The present situation is that many officials are supporting Len and in fact breaking the rules insofar as they are openly in some cases advocating his election. In my view they should be sacked perhaps if Jerry is elected he might do that after applying the correct disciplinary procedures, although I haven`t discussed it with him!
    You have to understand that fto`s are objectively seperate from the members insofar as they enjoy high salaries plus a car and reasonable expenses with more or less a guaranteed job. For a better analysis of their role you might look up Beatrice and Sidney Webb`s view, I`m sure some of the contibutors to this site will kindly supply the reqired refernces perhaps you Andy?
    The argument that the GS has a very responsible job and should be paid a very large salary is one of the arguments I have heard all my union life – except that its usually the argument of Chief Executives and Managing Directors!
    My view has always been the same that working as a full time official is a privilege and whether you are a regional officer, a national officer, AGS or GS you should all be paid the same. Jerry takes the view that the salary should be an average of the Unite members and I don`t disagree with this, but if you think that`s difficult to determine perhaps it could be determined to with reference to some other benchmark. Incidentally I do know someone who became an M.P. and chose to accept the average wage of a skilled engineering worker. Was he a worse M.P. bacause of that? I don`t think so, he was even voted as the best M.P. with the highest attendances in Parliament. I am not a supporter of the Socialist Party but I admired him for that and the way in which both then and until recently he dealt with constituents` problems. He was beaten at the last council elections by a determined campaign by the local Labour Party – I think dirty tricks would not be overstating the campaign. His name – Dave Nellist- shame that his organistaion believes in the election of officials as a matter of principle!
    There is more to say but I have to get on with some other matters. I will no doubt receive some criticism, but if so please let me know your union and position in it. As you will probably realise I am now a pensioner and trying to get them moving as my current project. Finally I know that Jerry is a man of real courage and conviction. Whilst you may diagree with some of his views I do hope you can refrain from challenging his motivation and particularly his integrity. Any way he can`t be all bad even Andy likes him.

  40. John Fisher: Incidentally why would the `right` vote for Jerry?Surely that would be an own goal. I know the right aren`t stupid but this would prove me wrong.

    It was certinly the strategy of the right in the FBU, to dislodge an effective and capable left leader, Andy Gilchrist, and replace him with a useless ultra-left windbag.

    It was a very effective strategy for the right, which has kept the FBU both industrially passive, and also politically impotent.

  41. John Fisher: Jerry takes the view that the salary should be an average of the Unite members and I don`t disagree with this

    So in this view – the GS of Prospect or FDA should be paid more than the GS of USDAW or BFAWU as question of principle? Union GS’s can increase their salary by refusing to organise low paid workers, and instead organising the highest paid?

  42. John Fisher on said:

    How do you know its the right that support Jerry I thought it was a secret ballot. Can you name some prominent right winger of significance who is advocating support? I don`t have as good a memory as you Andy, but such as it is I think there was a lot of criticism of Gilchrist`s leadership in the firefighters` national strike for pay. I recall being on a demonstration ending in Hyde Park when he was shouted at by a significant element of the crowd – of course they might have all been loony lefties and loony righties!Again how do you know the right wing voted for his successor?
    Was Matt Wrack the ultra-left windbag? If so I have to disagree with you, he`s a friend of mine too. We seem to have different friends-you I think admire Milliband and Kinnock to some extent. I am far too polite to give my opinion of them or indeed a large number of their ilk.Keep smiling!

  43. BombasticSpastic on said:

    John Fisher:
    How do you know its the right that support Jerry I thought it was a secret ballot. Can you name some prominent right winger of significance who is advocating support?

    Branch members are not bound by secrecy when nominating for this or any other election. Branches that are predominently right wing still have left wing members. It is through left wing members of right wing branches that we gleened our information.

  44. John Fisher on said:

    BombasticSpastic: Branch members are not bound by secrecy when nominating for this or any other election. Branches that are predominently right wing still have left wing members. It is through left wing members of right wing branches that we gleened our information.

    Thank you for this – but I still don`t understand why the`right` would vote for Jerry,surely however much they don`t support Len they would support someone like Jerry even less?

  45. This statement is in fact a lie. Chris Ford is not a member of ‘The Commune’, he is a member of the Labour Representation Committee and UNITE. He has never been thrown out of the IWW. AS for the independent workers union he is an officer of – well John Lewis, Barbican and many other cleaning company bosses respect our unions struggles as do PCS and RMT. Perhaps Jim Kelly and his supporters can overcome their rabid cynicism built up by years of disappointment in the sectarian organisation which they were longstanding members.

    Brianthedog:
    Oh and I forgot the 3 people behind ‘The Commune’ yours and mine favourite sectarian anarcho-syndicalists support Jerry Hicks too.

    The 3 fordist communalists are so sectarian they even managed to get themselves kicked out of the Wobblies. None of them are members of Unite either but don’t worry they have set up a new union that you have never of.

  46. Brianthedog on said:

    #50 Mr Fisher please re-read Andy Newman’s post #46 for an explanation.

    Also many right wing branch secretaries love Hick’s stupid individualistic, anti collective, anti democratic statement that any member who doesn’t want to leave a branch doesn’t have to.

  47. John Fisher: If so I have to disagree with you, he`s a friend of mine too.

    so what do you think of:

    i) the FBU abolishing its equalities strands
    ii) the failure of FBU to ballot for industrial action for N30 2011?
    iii) the significant drop of industrial action ballots

    John Fisher: I recall being on a demonstration ending in Hyde Park when he was shouted at by a significant element of the crowd – of course they might have all been loony lefties and loony righties!

    Not “loony righties”, but the right wing in the union, who were happy to see the FBU disaffiliate from labour, and did not like the fact Galichrist had led national industrial action.

    BTW, Gilchrist through that campiagn got firefightrs the biggest pay rise in living memory.

    What has Matt Wrack achieved since then? I am suprised you are such an easy sucker for the old “talk left, act right” routine.

  48. Brianthedog on said:

    #51 Did I say that Chris Ford was a member of the Commune? Er no,so I am not sure what I said was a lie!

    IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT regarding recent … – IWW
    iww.org.uk/node/771
    Aug 17, 2012 – The IWW has committed much time and effort in supporting the … and IWW Cleaners’ Branch lodged against Chris Ford and Alberto Durango, …

    According to the above article the IWW beg to differ about Chris Ford.

    Unfortunately Chris Ford is the ultimate sectarian and would put Monty Python and their ‘splitters’ skit to shame. At least some parasites have the good sense not to feed off and destroy their host.

    Dear old Chris does love an ‘officers’ title though and this time he gone to such huge lengths by setting up his own tiny union. Officer Chris your Mum must be very proud.

    Can you let Chris know that the Unite officer who looks after the cleaners is doing a great job and membership continues to grow. Chris will know who I mean – a committed hard working Colombian man who despite assassination attempts on him and his family by right wing death squads which meant he had to flee his homeland has continued to be a great and fearless trade unionist in London.

  49. Brianthedog on said:

    #51 I am happy to stand corrected as Officer Chris Ford may still be a member of Unite – a Unite member who has set up his own union ! LOL what sort of anorak does this kind of thing?!?

    I’ve heard of people having membership of two unions but never membership of another union after setting up your own union. This takes the biscuit but its so funny it’s made my day.

  50. Yes like Jim Kelly I do have a past in sectarian socialism, just like many on the left, that says a lot about the left. If Jim is hiding behind this pseudo-name he can recall himself being a member of SWP, Red Action and even the high sounding Revolutionary Democratic Group ( External Faction of the SWP).
    If being a member of the LRC, and the Labour Party makes me a sectarian then it puts a whole new dimension on the category. Does being a member of small independent workers union which has earned the respect of many in the movement make me a sectarian – hardly. Our union does not have unelected full-timers but is run by volunteers. Overwhelmingly migrant workers, many of our activists who are political refugees for their union work in Latin America. It was because of the genuine problems in UNITE our union developed, because of stifling bureaucracy, betrayal of cleaners trying to fightback and ballot rigging of the old UNITE Cleaners Branch that led to its demise and the mass of members being alienated. If organising strikes against rotten cleaning companies, stopping cuts in hours, redundancies and winning the London Living wage makes us sectarians then I would rather be a sectarian than a bitter old cynic who substitutes abuse for debate.

    Here are some sectarians at work – we will be on strike at the Barbican on Thursday selling papers to each other and having splits on the picket line:

    http://londonprogressivejournal.com/article/view/1440/barbican-centre-cleaners-in-historic-strike-for-the-living-wage

    http://www.demotix.com/news/1849565/capgemini-cleaners-demand-london-living-wage

    http://www.demotix.com/news/1767495/cleaners-protest-living-wage-barbican-london

    http://www.demotix.com/news/1685879/schroders-cleaners-call-justice-christmas#media-1685840

    http://www.demotix.com/news/1569635/cleaners-protest-tower-london

  51. Brianthedog on said:

    #51 and #56. This just gets weirder ‘Chris’ who is ‘Chris Ford’ in post # 51 actually writes about himself in some kind of obscure third person style – like the ‘royal we’.

    Hello Officer Chris or should I address you as he who is officer of independent
    kingdom …opps. I mean union. Chris I know and now the readers on here know that its you Officer Chris Ford that stated a split in the IWW and it was you that set up a new union called the IWGB. I suppose that makes you a member, officer and brother No 1. Should I also be addressing you as President or General Secretary as well?

    Nope the person who wrote the article is Jim Kelly, no pseudonym or need to write in the third person. Jim Kelly clearly stated that he had once been many years ago a member of the SWP. I admire him that in his youth he had taken on the fascists on the streets and when I mean on the streets I don’t mean behind a barricade shouting whose streets, our streets :)

    Like some on the left (like the people who run this blog) they may have in the distance past been involved with the SWP but through a combination of political maturity and witnessing infantile destructive sectarian behaviour leave and move on.

    Chris you do move on but the difference is you don’t change you sectarian destructive behaviour. To get suspended from the IWW takes some doing – Officer Chris I salute you!

    Chris can you respond to the IWW article that I posted on here as your version of events maybe very enlightening.

    The rape scandal SWP and Chris Ford- Jerry Hicks way to go!

  52. Chris on said:

    A far more pertinent question I would ask the UNITE United Left is their policy as regards the Labour Party. When John McDonnell MP stood for the leadership to stop a Gordon Brown coronation, the United Left voted to back John4Leader. Despite many nice speeches not one person on a UNITE leadership which had a United Left majority was prepared to move support for McDonnell. The explanation given to me was they would not have got a seconder. This symptomatic, setting up a think tank if fine but where is the actual support for a socialist revival in the Labour Party – when one gets off the ground is not backed.

  53. Brianthedog on said:

    LOL he that is Officer Chris Ford doesn’t like to be accountable to anyone or answer uncomfortable questions.

    Maybe you should have stayed just as old Chris on here, as it would have been much easier to play sectarian dodge ball.

    The issue of John McDonnell has been done to death, including on here. I recall Andy Newman explaining the ABC’s of why very succinctly.

    Much more interestingly is why you as a Jerry Hicks supporter split from and was suspended from the Wobblies whilst maintaining your Unite membership and set up your own union the IWGB. Don’t be shy Officer Ford for your ego has never got in your way before.

    You are a member of and a officer the IWGB – as (re)founder of the IWGB do you hold any other positions and are there any democractic elections in your own union?

    You are affiliated to the WIIU. Which I assume is where those anarcos who are too sectarian even for the IWW end up. I may be wrong so can you enlighten us what the WIIU is? I have already noticed its international by way of meaning Florida, Texas and Portsmouth!

  54. I would be a happy to answer your questions – when you stop hiding behind your rabid dog identity tag and state honestly who you are by what grand authority you level such wild accusations and abuse??????

  55. Brianthedog: The rape scandal SWP and Chris Ford-

    Don’t forget Gerry Downing’s support. Recently pursued for libel by UNITE official Wayne King (I find that name hard to beleive too, what were his parent thinking?), and then I understand recently sacked from his job on the buses for verbally abusing a passneger travvelling with a mentaly distressed child.

    It is the fucking A team

  56. Brianthedog on said:

    #60 Officer Chris Ford and founder of the IWGB and affiliate of the WIIU but also member of Unite and supporter of Jerry Hicks please don’t answer the questions for my benefit but rather do it for the readers on Sociailist Unity and the wider labour movement.

    She,he,we (sorry I can’t get the hang of writing in the 3rd person) graciously await your answers with great interest.

  57. Brianthedog on said:

    #61 You could not make it up!!

    Gerry Downing is claiming in a letter to the CPGB (who recently had to give a grovelling apology to Mr King for previously publishing Gerry Downing’s LIES ) that his dismissal for abusing a passenger travelling with a mentally distressed child was politically motivated due to his support for Jerry Hicks General Secretary election.

    It truly is the fucking A team!

  58. Darren Cahil on said:

    Andy Newman: It was certinly the strategy of the right in the FBU, to dislodge an effective and capable left leader, Andy Gilchrist, and replace him with a useless ultra-left windbag.

    It was a very effective strategy for the right, which has kept the FBU both industrially passive, and also politically impotent.

    Left-Keynesian demands make Jerry Hicks ultra-left? He’s not a member of the SPGB,nor is he advocating left-communism! Either you don’t know what ultra-left,(not so uncommon due to the SWP’s mis-educational’s) means or you abuse the term for SWP hack style mudslinging purposes, I would contend its the latter.

  59. Darren Cahil on said:

    Andy Newman: Don’t forget Gerry Downing’s support. Recently pursued for libel by UNITE official Wayne King (I find that name hard to beleive too, what were his parent thinking?), and then I understand recently sacked from his job on the buses for verbally abusing a passneger travvelling with a mentaly distressed child.

    It is the fucking A team

    Libel? It is an anti-free speech law for the rich! Also, judge and jury on Gerry Downing, kicking people when they’re down, says a lot about you. Instinctively side with the manager/privileged class, says a lot about your class loyalties.

  60. Andy Newman on said:

    Darren Cahil,

    How can it be libel? Those were the grounds of his dismissal based upon the account from Gerry Downing’s own press release!

  61. Brianthedog on said:

    #65 Calling for a trade unionist to be sacked whilst knowingly spreading all over the place nasty lies (HR at a logistics company unrelated to Downing even reprinted his lies and spread them around the workplace during a dispute in an effort to undermine the members and Mr King) that you know will serverely damage their reputation, career and cause grievous upset to them, their family and their union is not the preserve of the rich it’s the preserve of a coward and someone who thinks they are accountable to no one.

    Its just the characteristics you do not need for a trade union but no wonder Downing is Hick’s right hand man.

    Mr Cahill can stay in the cesspit and try and defend this filth but we would rather not.

  62. BombasticSpastic on said:

    Darren Cahil: Libel? It is an anti-free speech law for the rich! Also, judge and jury on Gerry Downing, kicking people when they’re down, says a lot about you. Instinctively side with the manager/privileged class, says a lot about your class loyalties.

    What about siding with people with mental illness, or does a working class hero like Downing trump a disabled person from our class?

  63. Brianthedog on said:

    #68 ……… Or calling for a decent working class trade unionist to be sacked on the basis of a complete pack of lies – its f**king vile.

    I know where my class loyalties are its Mr Cahil who is confused here but he can carry on supporting and defending the deceitful liar that is Downing.

  64. Brianthedog on said:

    What’s it all about? Not less: Not the same: But more:

    Jerry Hicks is continually calling for and says he will support unofficial action and occupations so now is his big chance during his visit to London Bus garages today.

    There can only be one subject and one message so expect Jerry Hicks to make a statement to not only bus workers but also put out one of his usual press releases calling for a mass walkout in support of his right hand man Gerry Downing. Further more actions do indeed speak louder than words so also expect the two J(G)erry’s to start and lead an occupation.

    Only a different leadership will make a big enough difference.

    It does not appear to have mattered to Mr Hicks that Downing is a lair who calls for a working class trade unionist to be sacked and who himself has been sacked for abusing a bus passenger travelling with a mentally distressed child. We should not be surprised though for he has yet to distance himself from the rape scandal SWP.

    What we do wrong we must put right.

    Solidarity is the key brothers and sisters and if brother Downing conspiracy theory is to be defended we must recognise the opportunities and maximise their potential.

    Lets see what happens.

  65. Vanya on said:

    #70 2 sparate issues – the politics and practice of Mr Downing and the question of whether he abused a child with mental health issues. The former is evidenced by his own utterances. Is there clear evidence that he is guilty of the latter?

    After all, people do get sacked on trumped up charges as we know. Is he taking the matter to a tribunal?

  66. Vanya: 2 sparate issues – the politics and practice of Mr Downing and the question of whether he abused a child with mental health issues. The former is evidenced by his own utterances. Is there clear evidence that he is guilty of the latter?

    The isue was being abusive to the carer of a mentaly distressed passenger.

    The facts do not really seem to be in dispute, based upon Mr Downing’s own account of the matter.

  67. BombasticSpastic on said:

    Vanya:
    #71 Sorry that should have said Downing not Dowling.

    Don’t worry, he probably won’t abuse you.

  68. Darren Cahil on said:

    Andy Newman: The isue was being abusive to the carer of a mentaly distressed passenger.

    The facts do not really seem to be in dispute, based upon Mr Downing’s own account of the matter.

    Barrack-room lawyer type arguments aside, if satisfying your own vanity is worth threadjacking your own blog, go ahead.

  69. Brianthedog on said:

    #76 Still in the cesspit Mr Cahil.

    So you think on the basis of Gerry Downing own disgusting infantile lies it was okay for him to call for the sacking of a decent working class trade unionist?

    Lying about and demanding the sacking of a man who has a young family and a mortgage, which might sound bourgeois to you but is pretty normal for most working class people.

    Lying and calling for the sacking of a man and having your own treacherous article used by a seperate multinational company to undermine members in dispute.

    Lying and calling for the sacking of a man who was behind the conception of the Unite Olympic £500 bonus scheme. Who delivered this strategy of organising the dozens of seperate London bus companies to stand together and strike over this issue when others were saying it could not be done.

    You had an opportunity to answer yesterday but some how went AWOL and have now crawled back with a smarty pants thread jacking jibe.

    You have so far been unable to answer the most basic of questions.

    Creep!

  70. #74 I’m sure he would,, and I have no time for his politics.

    But in the absence of evidence I am not going to join in on condemning someone just because I don’t like their politics, just as I wouldn’t automatically assume someone was innocent because I agreed with them.

    I mean, if Jim Denham was doing a job like that (yes, I know) I wouldn’t assume he was capable of such behaviour.

    Btw a member of the AWL actually had some sensible things to say at a meeting I went to tonight. But then.again, what do they say about a stopped clock?

  71. Brianthedog on said:

    “What about siding with people with mental illness, or does a working class hero like Downing trump a disabled person from our class?”

    Mr Cahil you also still haven’t bothered to answer Bomba’s #68 post or is dealing with reality or having to answer to the proles too much for the likes of you?

    Mr Gerry Downing is a liar and based on his own lies called for the sacking of a working class trade unionist. Fact!

    Mr Gerry Downing has been sacked for abusing a bus passenger who was travelling with a mentally distressed child. Fact!

  72. Brianthedog on said:

    Jerry Hicks is the chair of grassroots left and Gerry Downing is its secretary. Gerry Downing has stated that his dismissal for abusing the carer of a mentally distressed child is politically motivated. Fact!

    That Jerry Hicks is an idiot for being unable to publicly distance himself from the rape scandal SWP and the liar that is Gerry Downing is open to question.

  73. Btw a member of the AWL actually had some sensible things to say at a meeting I went to tonight. But then.again, what do they say about a stopped clock?

    Everyone’s wearing their best clothes at the moment cos of the resignations from the SWP.

  74. Vanya: But in the absence of evidence I am not going to join in on condemning someone just because I don’t like their politics, just as I wouldn’t automatically assume someone was innocent because I agreed with them.

    I don’t think we lack evidence, given that Gerry Downing has effectively conceded the facts of the case in his own press statement.

  75. Incidently while the SWP are saying that the rape scandal has had no real world impact.

    Len MacCluskey’s election statement to more than a million trde unionists referring to “political opportunist relying on the support of the discredited Socialist Workers Party”

    real world enough?

  76. Andy Newman: Len MacCluskey’s election statement to more than a million trde unionists referring to “political opportunist relying on the support of the discredited Socialist Workers Party”

    He actually ends his Election Address on that particular point:

    “I have a clear positive agenda. My opponent in this election has no such plan, merely a wish list of gestures which would wreck our union and leave our members defenceless.

    Crucially he’s played no role whatsoever in our union at any level for several years. He is a political opportunist relying on the support of the discredited Socialist Workers Party. We must not allow a small political clique to hijack our union.

    This not scaremongering for votes, it’s the truth.

    Unite belongs to its members and, under my leadership, that’s the way it will stay!”

  77. John Grimshaw on said:

    #83 Andy i couldn’t find the speech you refer to although admittedly it was only a cursory search. However I did find this gem on Unite Now ( an interview with the Morning Star)

    “Len McCluskey urged Ed Miliband and other leading Labour figures to give more recognition to the important role of the Morning Star, even if they did not agree with all its editorial policies.
    “The Morning Star is an authentic voice of organised labour, and also reflects the aspirations and concerns of ordinary people and the realities of their lives.
    “If Ed and the Labour leadership want to re-connect with ordinary people, then they should use every vehicle possible. And that certainly includes the Star.” ”

    I wonder if Ed’s listening?

  78. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jay never trust a union leader when they say:

    “Unite belongs to its members and, under my leadership, that’s the way it will stay!”

    Or similar. It usually means they think it belongs to them.

  79. John Grimshaw: It usually means they think it belongs to them.

    Agreed John. I just posted McCluskey’s comment for info, not because I agree with it.

    I seconded Jerry’s nomination at our branch meeting – it’s also Jer’s branch – Bristol Community Unite :O)

  80. I’ve received my ballot paper and read the addresses.

    One thing I note and fully support in LMs adress is is reference to involving retired members. Which stands in contrast with one of the digs made at JH on here by an outspoken LM supporter that the size of JH’s vote in the last election was due to the high number of retired members who voted for him.

    Also, while I fully understand why the SWP are held in some contempt at the moment to say the least, but bear in mind that they were booted out of the UL for supporting JH. I wonder how ‘discredited’ they would have been had they decided to support LM.

    I must say that they are in good company with Gerry Downing, as they both acted as the left wing of the Guardianista attacks on the oil refinary workers strikes. To his credit JH did not.

    Btw, a question to any SP members reading this- would you envisage that your new workers’ party would take a unified position on who to support in an election like this?

  81. Andy Newman: I don’t think we lack evidence, given that Gerry Downing has effectively conceded the facts of the case in his own press statement.

    Do you have a link?

  82. Brianthedog on said:

    #86 what a nonsense post by John Grimshaw, can you back any of this up with any evidence.

    Len McCluskey is already the GS so your claims should not be difficult to prove.

  83. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Vanya: Btw, a question to any SP members reading this- would you envisage that your new workers’ party would take a unified position on who to support in an election like this?

    I’m not a Socialist Party member, ex-Militant like yourself. However, the answer to this question is pretty obvious. If you are talking about a broad workers’ party then it could hardly, in normal circumstances, support one candidate over another in a union election. Especially if it were an affiliated union. Whether a revolutionary group within a broad workers party should support a candidate is a very different question. I’ve already expressed my view that, in normal circumstances the group’s activists within the union should be allowed the final decision. I don’t see anything wrong with the group as a whole discussing the political implications of one candidate or another winning though.

    Although I’ve always thought Gerry Downing is a tosser, and would be sceptical about most things he says, I must say that Brianthelapdog has actually made me seriously question my views about who is the best candidate in this election. On balance I still think McCluskey is a lot better than the quality of his fanboys would indicate.

  84. Brianthedog on said:

    #90 “I must say that Brianthelapdog has actually made me seriously question my views about who is the best candidate in this election. ”

    :) powerful stuff there eastern hemisphere because me and others highlighting and evidencing some of the very dodgy behaviour of the key supporters of Jerry Hicks in some way reflects badly of Len McCluskey?!?

    Lets also not forget the very good post by Jim Kelly about Jerry Hicks ‘Wrong era, wrong politics’ that started this thread. Have you read it? And if so did it sway you towards Hicks?

    A really bad attempt by you to turn something on its head. And it does not work.

    Jerry Hicks main political backers have been involved in a disgusting rape scandal.

    Jerry Hicks right hand man and secretary of his grassroots left group is a known liar who has called for the sacking of working class trade unionist and has now himself been sacked for abusing the carer of a mentally distressed child.

    Officer Chris is well Chris Ford someone so sectarian he even managed to get suspended from the Wobblies and goes off and sets up his own union but keeps his Unite membership.

    From the disgusting, to the bizarre, to the ridiculous.

    As Andy Newman said on here ….. ‘Its the fucking A Team’

  85. Andy Newman: I don’t think it is on the web

    Is there any chance that you could either post it in some form on here or get a copy to me.

    Like EH I have no time whatever for Downing but I would like to know myself whether it is justified to label him as having behaved in the way alleged.

  86. Brianthedog on said:

    I note that Jerry Hicks has not yet occupied Gerry Downing’s workplace or led his work colleagues on a unofficial walk out.

    It does appear with Mr Hicks that words speak more than action. In this case is the pen now mightier than the sword Mr Hicks?

    Mr Hicks has been on twitter with a ‘reinstate Gerry Downing and he is a great supporter of myself’ tweet.

    It would appear so.

    Also you judge someone by the company they keep!

  87. Manzil on said:

    Vanya: Do you have a link?

    Indymedia to the rescue.

    Now, I have a life-long antipathy towards bus drivers, who in my experience regard their passengers as spoiling what would otherwise be a lovely drive. However, a quick glance through the linked press release doesn’t appear to show this Downing bloke having conceded that he’d been abusive (other than an ambiguous reference to “my body language and the tone of voice”).

    Unlike apparently everyone else in these comments, I’ve no idea who the man is, so couldn’t give a stuff. I just like to help the technologically-deprived Vanya when I can.

  88. Vanya,

    The Chair of the Grass Roots Left Gerry Downing was summarily dismissed on Tuesday 12th by Metroline Travel at its Cricklewood garage a spurious charge of “inappropriate behaviour towards members of the public whilst driving a route 210”
    The dismissal was clearly politically motivated during the election campaign of Jerry Hicks for General Secretary of Unite. It comes on the heel of the libel action taken by Unite against Gerry and the Weekly Worker by Unite’s Regional Industrial Officer Wayne King over an article defending sacked Sovereign buses Convenor Abdul Omer Mohsin on 12 January 2012. This action was initiated by Thompson’s solicitors on 5 December, the day after the snap General Secretary election was called by the Executive Council on 4 December.
    His letter to Unite’s General Secretary and Executive Council on 30 December (attached) remains unanswered.
    Gerry has been a thorn in the side of Metroline for over two decades as he says in his submission to the hearing (attached);
    “This escalation of the seriousness of the matter cannot be separated from my previous history with Metroline in disciplinary matters – the fact that I was dismissed by Metroline twice in the past and subsequently re-employed due to the buying of the small companies I worked for, the affair in West Perivale where I was charged with Gross Misconduct about an allegation of racism which was dropped without explanation and again charged but not dismissed. There was also the charge of an assault against the previous Rep Lamont Jackson, which CCTV showed to be false and that I had been the victim, where the matter was dropped with no further action by Mr Sampandia Manager of Willesden Garage. Then there was the subsequent charge of distribution literature in Cricklewood for which I got a written warning overturned on appeal.”
    This sacking must also be seen in the context of the huge rise in the sacking rate in Metroline as a consequence of the introduction of appalling new contracts for starters in January 2012. The saving for sacking a ‘senior driver’ on relatively good rates and conditions and replacing him or her with a new driver on a far inferior rate and much worse conditions is very considerable. This follows the recent sacking of a West Indian woman driver for three minor accidents like clipping mirrors after twenty years driving for Metroline. Oscar Alvarez, an Industrial Workers of the World member in the Metroline West Perivale garage was recently sacked also on a similar charge after a confrontation with a woman driver. They also deemed a exchange with a driver to be Gross Misconduct with no proof of any insulting or rude remarks other than a remonstrance with the driver who had admitted cutting up the bus.
    The outcome of Gerry’s hearing was practically predetermined by the inclusion in the disciplinary pack of a letter from the Garage Manager, Leroy Webley in reply to one of two complaints from passengers over an incident that took place on the 210 bus on 15th February.
    The reply contained the phrase
    “As such, they’re expected to behave in a polite and professional manner at all times.
    We failed to do so on this occasion, and I am sorry for any upset/distress you may have suffered as a result of the poor customer care displayed by the driver.”
    The was 12 days before the Gerry had been asked for his version of the events and its inclusion in the pack amounted to an instruction to Darren Hill, the most junior Operations Manager in the garage who heard the case, to bring in the required verdict.
    This is Gerry’s account of the disciplinary:
    The hearing spanned almost eight hours and three other disciplinary also scheduled for that day had to be postponed because Mr Hill was experiencing considerable difficulty in justifying the sacking and obviously needed assistance. He spent almost an hour and a half consulting the Garage Manager, Leroy Webley, before delivering the verdict after 6pm more than an hour after both should have gone home.
    Ridiculously the judgement came down to whether I was under stress because the mentally ill child had been screaming on the bus for a half an hour and was now back on the same bus to return to where he came from, the Whittington Hospital in Archway, or whether I was concerned for the child’s safety. I had asserted that both was the case but he insisted this was not possible and I had acted because of the stress of the situation and my own domestic problems (my partner was about to undergo a major operation for throat cancer) and I had no legitimate concerns for the child’s safety. He rejected also my plea that such stress was a health and safety as it could cause the driver to have an accident.
    I was unaware of the relationship between the child and the adult and towards the end of the hearing the manager admitted that if the man accompanying the child was a carer and not his father his actions as seen on CCTV in continually covering the child’s mouth and holding him wrapped in a blanket so tightly would amount to abuse. Why it did not amount to abuse irrespective of the relationship he did not explain.
    After the hearing was over another and as we awaited the verdict another 210 driver came up and told how he had the same man on his bus a few weeks previously and he had been screaming in the same way. He said it was clear the kid was mentally ill and needed assistance. After three stops he stopped the bus and got out of his cab and asked that man if he would call an ambulance as the kid is sick? The man said, “No, no, no, the child is just upset.”
    He said the safety of the child seemed to be in danger and he looked like he was attacking him. The driver gave his details and was prepared to give evidence to the hearing but the manager refused to hear him as he said the case was now closed. He has agreed to give evidence to the appeal.
    It all came down to my body language and the tone of voice I used when asking two questions of the man. This was deemed so gross and offensive that I had to be sacked immediately to protect the public.
    Bus driving is a very stressful job at the best of times. The 15th February was less than a week before my partner was facing a major operation to remove her voice box for throat cancer on the 21st. It was due to take a whole day we were told and her chances of survival were only 30%. It became almost impossible to continue driving with that level of screaming. It might cause me to have an accident, and I had no knowledge of how long it might go on, all the way to Brent Cross maybe? I could not have continued driving for much longer under that pressure but then the child needed urgent assistance and I confronted the man because he clearly was not seeking medical assistance for the child as quickly as possible – he had come from Whittington hospital and had passed the medical clinic in Almington Road on the way to Finsbury Park. I am only speculating that when he got off at Almington Road it was to take the child to the medical clinic which he had missed on the trip from Archway because he was so distressed himself. I have never in the past been found guilty of any inappropriate behaviour to passengers.

  89. Brianthedog on said:

    #99 consider yourself lucky you have never come across Gerry Downing.

    Thanks for posting this as I had previously seen some other document. However what myself and Andy Newman have said is correct and neither of us have made any comment about whether his dismissal was justifiable.

    What I do know is that Gerry Downing is a liar and someone who calls for the sacking of trade unionist’s.

  90. Brianthedog on said:

    Eastern Hemisphere …………

    #90 “I must say that Brianthelapdog has actually made me seriously question my views about who is the best candidate in this election. ”

    I take it from your post below on another thread that you do not live in the UK, Ireland or Gibraltor so I assume you are not a member of Unite or involved in the wider British labour movement. If so it kind of makes your musings on the subject somewhat redundant.

    “No shit. In the time I’ve been living abroad has the rhetorical question fallen out of fashion or something? “

  91. Manzil on said:

    Brianthedog:
    #99 consider yourself lucky you have never come across Gerry Downing.

    Thanks for posting this as I had previously seen some other document. However what myself and Andy Newman have said is correct and neither of us have made any comment about whether his dismissal was justifiable.

    What I do know is that Gerry Downing is a liar and someone who calls for the sacking of trade unionist’s.

    Oh no, I know – I was only commenting on whether he’d accepted ‘the facts of the case’ based on that linked-to press release. I don’t know anything about the man (I’ll take your word for it re: my luck!), this situation, or… well, anything not posted here! :)

    So this Gerry Downing is responsible for the Weekly Worker’s current begging letters?

  92. Manzil: doesn’t appear to show this Downing bloke having conceded that he’d been abusive

    He quotes himself as “confronting” a passanger.

    It is a statemement of undisputed fact that he was dismissed for being abusive to a passenger; and Mr Downing accepts that he “confronted” that same passanger, and discusses how stressed he was.

    Substantially therefore, the facts of the case were not realy in dispute; had I been representing Mr Downing, then I would have argued that the situation was outside the normal parameters that a driver is expected to deal with, and that the particular stressful circumstances that he had in his private life should be taken in mitigation; I would argue that it was an unfortunate coincidence of exceptional circumstances that are unlikely to reoccur, and that are not relevent to the driver’s ability to do the job in more normal or reasonably foreseeable circumstances. As such dismissal would be disproportionate.

    For what it is worth, I think from Mr Downing’s account the decision to sack him was harsh, given the stressfulness of the situation recounted, and his own personal circumstances at the time. However, it would also seem to be within the reasonable range of responses in such a situation that an employer might lawfully take.

    There is always the problem for militant shop stewards that if the give management a pretext to sack them, then sacked they will be.

  93. brianthedog on said:

    #105 Gerry Downing is not a miltant shop steward. He colleagues at his bus garage have not elected him as a rep but he is a Unite member.

  94. Manzil on said:

    #104. lol

    Andy Newman: He quotes himself as “confronting” a passanger.

    Yeah, but surely that – in and of itself – isn’t necessarily “inappropriate behaviour”, which is what he was sacked for. I’ve seen bus drivers “confront” people who are littering on their bus, or getting in the way of the doors etc. No one bats an eye-lid.

    On the other hand, I once saw a driver, not confront as such, but still get proper arsey with someone in a wheelchair because he needed to get up and set up one of the manual ramps they used to have (old bus). Which obviously is bang out of order – it’s all about context.

    Just saying, from his account he doesn’t seem to say, “Yeah, I totally did what they allege”. I mean, that’s the whole point of his press release, isn’t it? That he was unfairly dismissed?

    Edit to add: If he really is that much of a tosser, can I just apologise for seemingly defending him. :P

  95. Manzil: Just saying, from his account he doesn’t seem to say, “Yeah, I totally did what they allege”. I mean, that’s the whole point of his press release, isn’t it? That he was unfairly dismissed?

    He disputes how serious it was; and I agree that dismissal seems harsh

  96. Lurker on said:

    #108 If, as I suspect it is, concerns about child protection are an issue in this case, it is not wise for comrades to suggest management were right to discipline GD. Child protection is the responsibility of everyone in relation to their job roles – not just the professionals. Are bus drivers given any training? Are there any company policies which cover potential child protection situations?

    I guess we will have to wait for the evidence brought out at the appeal.

  97. Vanya on said:

    Driving a bus all day must be a bit of a pain sometimes in fairness, especially dealing with some of the knobheads you must come accross.

    Having said that, my last confrontation with one was when he called me a cunt because I got up before my stop because I mistakenly thought it was the next one and then didn’t sit down.

    Rather than responding in kind I gestured with my mobile to indicate I was reporting him. As I don’t like to grass I did no such thing of course, just wanted to shit him up.

    I wonder if he was a supporter of Workers’ Fight, because he certainly nearly got into one.

  98. Vanya: Driving a bus all day must be a bit of a pain sometimes in fairness, especially dealing with some of the knobheads you must come accross.

    I remember reading some research that it is one of the most stressful jobs

  99. BombasticSpastic on said:

    #100

    Thanks for putting this piece up. Gerry Downing’s actions and his concern for the child’s wellbeing are laudable – whether or not he read the situation correctly he attempted to do the right thing. Travelling on public transport with children can be a fraught experience in itself. I suspect travelling with a child who has, possibly, severe mental health issues on a London bus must be difficult for all concerned.

    Actions of carers of disabled people can be misconstrued. What we see as heavy handedness could indeed be the best way of dealing with a situation. Then again, it could be that the carer is using too much force.

    These are difficult judgements to make at the best of times, and I would veer away from making them at the distance of space and time that the Internet offers.

    Gerry isn’t Mr Popular. But then, in the 15 years or so I’ve known him, he has never put himself forward to win any popularity competitions. But, if we’re going to continue having a pop at him, let’s leave the situation of his dismissal out of the scenario.

  100. Manzil on said:

    Vanya: As I don’t like to grass I did no such thing of course, just wanted to shit him up.

    Sod that for a laugh, what if he’d spoken like that to someone who was vulnerable?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to go through my day effing and blinding at people, it’d probably help prevent stomach ulcers; but short of the occasional treat, I restrain myself. Loads of people have to deal with stress, that’s no reason to push their weight around or abuse people.

  101. Brianthedog on said:

    #112 Fair play Bomba but I don’t expect similar behaviour or any signs of decency from Gerry Downing.

    Gerry Downing has still not made a full apology to Mr King for the lies, hurt and damage he has caused. Trying to ruin the reputation and calling for the sacking of Mr King is beyond contempt whether you are a trade unionist or not.

    Indeed he drags Mr King into his own dismissal press release and also makes claims with out substantiating it that his dismissal is politically motivated due to his support of Jerry Hicks election.

    Jerry Hicks recently tweets that Gerry Downing is one of his ‘great supporters’ and also states in his Unite election address ‘what we do wrong we must put right’.

    Well to make sure this is not more empty rhetoric from Mr Hicks he has two choices about his right hand man from his grassroots left group. Use his influence to immediately get Mr Downing to make a full and unequivocal apology to Mr King and also substantiate or withdraw his press release that his dismissal is politically motivated or publicly put out a statement distancing himself from Jerry Hicks and call on him to resign as secretary of his group.

    Mr Hicks thinks he is worthy of running the UK’s biggest trade union and this and distancing himself from the rape scandal SWP is litmus test.

  102. BombasticSpastic on said:

    115#
    It won’t happen. Downing has always flirted with controversy. A few years ago at a T&G Broad Left meeting he laid into Comrades from the buses accusing them of taking the guvnor’s shilling, that is attending a conference paid for by the bus companies. Gerry piously spouted that they were in the pay of the bosses because they accepted hospitality – the bus companies paid for an evening meal and refreshments.

    But what crowned it all was that Gerry was in attendance himself eating the food and drinking the drink.

    Honestly, you don’t have to make anything up were Gerry Downing is concerned. To say Gerry flirts with controversy is really not doing the man justice; as in reality what he actually does is to take controversy and give it a good seeing to!

  103. BombasticSpastic on said:

    Brianthedog:
    #116 What about a potential future GS then is he going to do the right thing?

    I’m sure if you approach Paddy Power now you’ll get good odds on Jerry Hicks for the 2025 Unite GS election, cos he’ll still be running! LOL

    If the Unite GS Election was an Olympic event you’d be a fool not to put your money on JH to take the silver, every time.

  104. ADRIAN SMITH on said:

    Adrian Smith Branch Secretary of Bassa replies

    The logical way to address your ill-informed assertions is to ask a simple question: Did Walsh ultimately achieve his objectives?

    BA management recently confirmed what BASSA, the BA cabin crew branch of Unite, had always known; the main objective of the 2010/11 dispute with cabin crew was smashing the union once and for all.

    In pursuit of that end, Walsh sought advice from the Burke Group and indulged, accordingly, and with more than a little help from his friends across the corporate and media worlds, in every union-busting tactic there is:

    He tied BASSA and Unite up in costly legal cases to drain union resources, distract and stop a strike for which 92% of 10,000 cabin crew had voted “yes”. He threatened and enticed and successfully enlisted alternative work forces, most notably hundreds of BA’s own pilots, to train as cabin crew and break the strike. He took away travel concessions in an effort to force cabin crew who live all over the world and rely on those concessions to get to work, to break the strike. He created a Stasi like climate of fear in which 100 crew members were suspended or sacked for crimes like using a BASSA pen on board the aircraft or daring to discuss the issue of ‘scabs’. He attempted to decapitate BASSA by taking out a number of key reps to render the union ineffectual.

    So yes, he did everything you describe and might imagine and a lot more besides to prevent that strike from ever happening and once it did to break it. And all this he did to break the collective strength of 10,000 cabin crew who had won relatively decent terms and conditions for themselves over many years: Cabin crew, not known for their political militancy, who are scattered all over the world, of different nationalities, who don’t have a shop floor, who have no historic or geographic industrial base, who don’t even know each other and largely meet each other for the first time when they get on an aircraft together.

    So, it really should have been a piece of cake for Walsh.

    But Walsh, who had been advised by union-busters specifically to concentrate on driving a wedge between BASSA and Unite underestimated entirely not only the solidarity of the cabin crew under BASSA’s leadership but, crucially, the unerring support proffered by Unite under Len McCluskey. McCluskey, who took a personal interest in every sacked or suspended member; who stood on the picket line on countless occasions; met the members, listened to their concerns, made rousing, well informed speeches, negotiated for days on end with Walsh and the BA hierarchy. McCluskey who authorized the costly fighting of every injunction; backed BASSA in every tactic and in passionate pleas to the press; funded enhanced strike pay for almost 10,000 crew striking for 22 days, and co authorized five strike ballots.

    The dispute was one of the most protracted, intractable and bitter of modern times ultimately costing BA £300 million.

    The assertion that the brave, intelligent, well informed and questioning cabin crew; crew who stood together and fought together for eighteen months in extraordinary circumstances and against all the odds, could be simply hoodwinked into a final “rotten” settlement which 92% of them voted to accept (the first strike vote was also 92%), is patronizing in the extreme.

    92% of 10,000 cabin crew voted to accept the final settlement and they subsequently turned out the strongest vote of any branch for Len McCluskey in the last GS election; a vote that was hardly proffered in gratitude for a ‘sell out”.
    So what did they accept? All pay, terms and conditions remain intact. Yes there is a two tier workforce now and that is far from ideal, but under the terms of the settlement stringent protections were put in place for all existing cabin crew restricting the rate of the transferal of flights to “Mixed Fleet” and ensuring that existing crew are paid regardless: Variable pay (the extra money crew are paid for flying) can never diminish and indeed rises in line with inflation. So, crucially, if BA has to pay crew regardless, they may as well keep them flying, undermining the desire to move flights across to the new, cheaper fleet.

    What of the “sold out” sacked? At the time of the strike, Len McCluskey gave a commitment that no one would be left behind. He stuck steadfastly to that agreement and led lengthy negotiations with BA on behalf of all those who had been dismissed. The negotiated settlements are confidential to BA and the individuals concerned but were to the satisfaction of all involved and saw many returning to work.

    The plan to destroy the union once and for all? BASSA’s membership continues to grow particularly boosted recently by the TUPE transfer of ex British Midland crew. Mixed Fleet now has 1000 Unite members, is soon to be given complete recognition and is meeting and being advised by BASSA. Pay deals are on the table for both fleets.

    All out victory? No, but a significant, hard fought victory, nonetheless; a decent, honourable effective settlement against all odds: A win.

    If you’re still in doubt, ask the cabin crew themselves how they feel about this alleged “rotten sell-out“ two years on?

    They’ll tell you this:

    BASSA IS BACKING LENNY McCLUSKEY

  105. ADRIAN SMITH: All out victory? No, but a significant, hard fought victory, nonetheless; a decent, honourable effective settlement against all odds: A win.

    Thanks for that, an inspiring and convincing account.

  106. BombasticSpastic,

    Your charitable comments about Gerry’s sacking are a credit to you. But I think you miss the point that he is effectively arguing that McCluskey’s campaign is behind a politically motivated sacking.

    When in fact he seems to have been harshly treated but it was a decision an employer could reasonably make in the circumstances.

  107. Brianthedog on said:

    # 122

    I agree with you Andy that this is what the known liar Downing is insinuating and he should substantiate it or withdraw his statement.

    Unfortunately this kind of behaviour is a hallmark of Downing.

    When you peel away the thin veneer of Trotskyism, Anti Good Friday armchair Irish Republicanism and faux trade union militant all you are left with is a very nasty and pathetic man.

    I have also noticed a typo from a previous post of mine in post #116 which said Jerry Hicks instead of Gerry Downing. I have amended it below ………

    “Well to make sure this is not more empty rhetoric from Mr Hicks he has two choices about his right hand man from his grassroots left group. Use his influence to immediately get Mr Downing to make a full and unequivocal apology to Mr King and also substantiate or withdraw his press release that his dismissal is politically motivated or publicly put out a statement distancing himself from Gerry Downing and call on him to resign as secretary of his group.”

    Jerry Hicks and Gerry Downing we are still waiting and your silence is deafing.

  108. Brianthedog on said:

    # Counterpose Adrian Smith who was directly involved in the BA Cabin Crew dispute excellent and powerful statement with Jerry Hicks BA statements.

    What you find is that Hicks not only has no idea of the dispute and no idea of what it is like to be a senior rep in a major long term strike involving ten thousand members where the employer is trying to smash the union with the help of the notorious Burke group.

    Not only that, it didn’t stop Hicks disgracefully putting out defeatist statements which undermined the BA cabin crew members during and after the strike.

    It also begs the question why Hicks never had the intelligence or the decency to ask the rank and file leaders at BASSA about the dispute.

    I suppose one issue is that Hicks also has no clue what rank and file means.

    To Hicks R&F means ultra left paper sellers and getting yourself ‘elected’ on to a committee for an industry you have never worked in. For Hicks it should read R&O – Rank & Opportunist!

    And Hicks thinks he is fit to run the UK’s largest union.

  109. Rank & File bureaucrat on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I don’t know the facts about the Downing Sacking whether it was, as he said, or as the company made out, it is up to him and his steward how to deal with the case. Of course like any trade unionist I hope he gets his job back. There would not be anything else to say except the guy put out a press release. This is the scary bit:
    The dismissal was clearly politically motivated during the election campaign of Jerry Hicks for General Secretary of Unite.
    This is a statement of a fantasist who is telling us he was not sacked for anything as mundane as being a thorn in the side of the employer, rather it was` politically motivated’, all tied up with the GS election. So we must be talking about a player, a big man in the election campaign, I have being trying to work out why anyone – and it must be McCluskey- would bother to get him sacked and more importantly how did all these events come together which enabled this political motivated sacking to take place.
    As I said I feel sorry for Gerry and I hope he gets his job back but to claim this was politically motivated takes the GS election into a totally new and very bad direction where the irrational takes hold and paranoia fuels our understanding of events. So here is one irrational and paranoid interpretation of how this politically motivated sacking occurred.
    McCluskey realising Dowling was a major threat to his campaign deployed his Black Ops Bureaucrats (BOBs) to pose as passengers on Downing Bus, their mission to inveigle him into an altercation. Once they succeeded it was a simple matter for them to complain to the Company.
    Sitting in his swivel chair on the 7th floor of Unite House, McCluskey hears the news that his BOBs had been successful. Stroking his white cat he instructs his lackey – mini Scouse to pay the BOBs out of the Bureaucrats’ Slush Fund No 1: The Brown Ale and Pina colada Fund. He then picks up his special phone – Bosses – Lackey Hotline (if you ever go into his office you cannot miss it, it is big and red and has Bosses Lackey Hotline written across the top) and contacts Downing’s boss. He instructs him to rid him of this turbulent rank and fileist, assuring him that if he does there will never ever be another strike on London buses. Putting the phone down McCluskey laughs to himself in a Scouse like manner (think Chuckle brothers), tickling his cat Sell-Out on the tummy he says ‘… it’s about time I rang my best mate Miliband and work out a few more ways to screw the members’
    When fantasy and paranoia take over from any objective assessment it really does not matter what you say – all that is irrational becomes real once on the blogosphere. You work out your own fantasy as to how this sacking was political?

  110. Adrian Smith — thanks for that inspiring account. I wasn’t going to bother to vote but you’ve just convinced me to vote for Len.

  111. Brianthedog on said:

    #126 Mayday, Mayday there is a BOB down-in Streatham get Chuckle brother No1 to send in more black cat go karts to save him.

  112. Rank & File bureaucrat:
    Andy Newman,

    I don’t know the facts about the Downing Sacking whether it was, as he said, or as the company made out, it is up to him and his steward how to deal with the case. Of course like any trade unionist I hope he gets his job back. There would not be anything else to say except the guy put out a press release. This is the scary bit:
    The dismissal was clearly politically motivated during the election campaign of Jerry Hicks for General Secretary of Unite.
    This is a statement of a fantasist who is telling us he was not sacked for anything as mundane as being athorn in the side of the employer, rather it was` politically motivated’, all tied up with the GS election. So we must be talking about a player, a big man in the election campaign, I have being trying to work out why anyone – and it must be McCluskey- would bother to get him sacked and more importantly how did all these events come together which enabled this political motivated sacking to take place.
    As I said I feel sorry for Gerry and I hope he gets his job back but to claim this was politically motivated takes the GS election into a totally new and very bad direction where the irrational takes hold and paranoia fuels our understanding of events. So here is one irrational and paranoid interpretation of how this politically motivated sacking occurred.
    McCluskey realising Dowling was a major threat to his campaign deployed his Black Ops Bureaucrats (BOBs) to pose as passengers on Downing Bus, their mission to inveigle him into an altercation. Once they succeeded it was a simple matter for them to complain to the Company.
    Sitting in his swivel chair on the 7th floor of Unite House, McCluskey hears the news that his BOBs had been successful. Stroking his white cat he instructs his lackey – mini Scouse to pay the BOBs out of the Bureaucrats’ Slush Fund No 1: The Brown Ale and Pina colada Fund. He then picks up his special phone – Bosses – Lackey Hotline (if you ever go into his office you cannot miss it, it is big and red and has Bosses Lackey Hotline written across the top) and contacts Downing’s boss. He instructs him to rid him of this turbulent rank and fileist, assuring him that if he does there will never ever be another strike on London buses. Putting the phone down McCluskey laughs to himself in a Scouse like manner (think Chuckle brothers), tickling his cat Sell-Out on the tummy he says ‘… it’s about time I rang my best mate Miliband and work out a few more ways to screw the members’
    When fantasy and paranoia take over from any objective assessment it really does not matter what you say – all that is irrational becomes real once on the blogosphere. You work out your own fantasy as to how this sacking was political?

    I read this with my silver foil hat on and still couldnt understand it!!

  113. Vanya on said:

    People may be interested to know that Jerry Hicks has stated that he does not condone the way that the SWP dealt with the rape allegations. He also states that Len McCluskey asked for their support.

  114. Vanya on said:

    Also on the subject of Unite, I was pleased to be sent an email by the Union asking for people to sign Ricky Tomlinson’s e-petititon on ths Shrewsbury pickets.

  115. Darren Cahil on said:

    Manzil:
    #104. lol

    Yeah, but surely that – in and of itself – isn’t necessarily “inappropriate behaviour”, which is what he was sacked for. I’ve seen bus drivers “confront” people who are littering on their bus, or getting in the way of the doors etc. No one bats an eye-lid.

    On the other hand, I once saw a driver, not confront as such, but still get proper arsey with someone in a wheelchair because he needed to get up and set up one of the manual ramps they used to have (old bus). Which obviously is bang out of order – it’s all about context.

    Just saying, from his account he doesn’t seem to say, “Yeah, I totally did what they allege”. I mean, that’s the whole point of his press release, isn’t it? That he was unfairly dismissed?

    Edit to add: If he really is that much of a tosser, can I just apologise for seemingly defending him.

    ^This^

  116. Darren Cahil on said:

    Vanya:
    People may be interested to know that Jerry Hicks has stated that he does not condone the way that the SWP dealt with the rape allegations. He also states that Len McCluskey asked for their support.

    Interesting. Also, Len McCluskey says of Hicks:

    “He is a political opportunist relying on the support of the discredited Socialist Workers Party”

    I don’t see how he is a political opportunist, but the SWP certainly is discredited. McCluskey then goes on to say:

    “We must not allow a small political clique to hijack our union”

    Contradiction much? How can a discredited political clique possibly hijack the union? It is a mystery that only McCluskey is privy to. :D

  117. Brianthedog on said:

    # 130 “people may be interested to know that Jerry Hicks has stated that he does not condone the way that the SWP dealt with the rape allegations. He also states that Len McCluskey asked for their support.”

    I saw this quote earlier today and it appears that for Mr Hicks he believes that ‘actions speak louder then words’ is a phrase that applies to everyone in the TU movement but him.

    The McCluskey line is a red herring as unfortunately in my opinion the SWP were not kicked out of Unite Left at the last GS election. Therefore as part of the UL they were expected to support Len McCluskey in 2013. This was before the whole kangaroo court rape scandal came out in to the wider political and public domain. Showing their usual sectarianism they again chose not to and thankfully this time they were kicked out.

    The real story is that Mr Hicks is happy to have the SWP be his main foot soldiers distributing his leaflets as well as their newspapers (with articles and photos of Hicks) at Unite workplaces around the country.

    Until now he doesn’t seem that concerned by being associated with the discredited SWP. Nice warm words by Hicks for not condoning but where is the action?

    It appears to many as turning a blind eye to the rape scandal for the political opportunism of having a team of SWP leaflet distributors. For many on the left this not only looks shoddy, shows lack of judgement but smacks of desperation.

  118. Brianthedog on said:

    #133 Cahill behaves like a troll who pops up with silly statements which when challenged leads him to disappear only to pop up a few days later with more stupid statements.

    Where is the contradiction?!?

    Most Unite members (thankfully) have little or no idea about the SWP or the disgusting rape scandal. The SWP are discredited and getting more and more so as the scandal gets out to the wider public arena.

    Anyone standing in an trade union election always stands a chance of winning and therefore there is a danger of a political ultra left clique taking over and hijacking the union.

  119. Vanya on said:

    #134 other than saying he disagrees with them over the rape issue I don’t really see what he can do. How can he stop them supporting him?

    And wasn’t their decision to back him made before the rape scandal came to light?

    And of course we don’t know what level of ‘distancing’ there would have been from Len’s camp if the SWP had decided to support him and not Jerry, precisely because this was the reason for their expulsion from the UL and not the rape issue.

    What exactly would you have done in that event?

  120. Vanya on said:

    #137 and 138

    You haven’t answered my 3 questions.

    Also, are you saying that a candidate for GS should refuse to address a branch because one of its elected officers is a member of the SWP?

    And frankly, I simply do not believe that the United Left would have done any more than Jerry Hicks has done in respect of the SWP and the rape scandal had the latter decided to support Len McCluskey. The fact that you are conflating the 2 issues of their ultra-left politics and their behaviour over the rape issue just reinforces that belief.

  121. Brianthedog on said:

    # 139 i think I have …. However………….

    Mr Hicks has been making much of Len McCluskey not turning up at ‘hustings’.
    This is either Hicks being naive or deliberately playing dumb because ….

    Two things:

    We all remember whether we were there or not (I was) at the attempt to have a hustings with Hicks during the previous Unite GS elections. Hicks did an infantile pre-meditated stage managed walk out.

    Most of the advertised ‘Hicks’ poorly attended hustings appear to be organised in one way or another by the SWP. We all know of SWP fronts and Ian Allinson’s ‘branch’ hustings was advertised if I recall correctly as the ‘Manchester hustings’.

    Hicks may not care about the SWP rape scandal enough to distance himself from them, neither is he probably important enough or taken seriously enough by the national press for them rightly or wrongly to care but if Len McCluskey was to attend a SWP hustings you can imagine the field day the press would have with it.

    A naive and a fool Hicks maybe but McCluskey is not.

  122. #140 The hustings that Jerry Hicks walked out of was organised by the United Left, not an official body of the union. It was organised before the election had even started and nominations taken place Of course the reason ‘we all remember’ it is because some people won’t stop banging on about it. I’ll simply repeat what I’ve said before about this. I don’t care what happened at that meeting, nobody was under an obligation to be bound by any decision it made, even if they were allowed to vote, and if you think such meetings should be able to bind their participants you shouldn’t be organising them. I have exactly the same view about caucuses by such groups as the SWP in fact.

    Who I vote for will be based on making my own mind up and on discussing with other members of the union.

    Jerry Hicks has stated that he doesn’t condone the way the SWP handled the rape issue and points out that their decision to support him was prior to that issue becoming public knowledge.

    I won’t be voting for him, but I am happy that he has said all he needs to on that subject.

    I also think the decision by the McCluskey camp to make an issue of the SWP’s support for Jerry Hicks is a dangerous game which could easily backfire. The last reference in an election address by the GS of the biggest union in the country going to over a million members is to the SWP. A great piece of free publicity for them.

  123. Brianthedog on said:

    # For the love of Bod!

    I said ‘we all remember’ in a tongue in cheek manner, so do calm down dear Vanya.

    It don’t take much for you to get into a huff :)

    United Left is not a proscribed or secret organisation in Unite and Hicks asked to attend as a speaker/candidate of the now infamous hustings with the intention if possible to become the UL’s chosen candidate.

    Mr Hicks as we all know has since set up his own Unite Grassroots Left grouping with the known liar Gerry Downing who calls for fellow trade unioinists to be sacked as its secretary. Mr Hicks doesn’t bother with any internal democracy in his group regarding GS elections and instead in the style of a royal decree decided to appoint himself. Which is I suppose is kind of nice for him anyway.

    The United Left has generally been (with the exception of the inclusion of the SWP and AWL) been very successful – esecially in being a positive force of driving and under pinning a progressive direction for the UK’s biggest union.

    You don’t agree with the Unite Left, Vanya I GET IT but don’t agree with you.

    Neither do I agree that Hicks saying he is not condoning the SWP handling of the rape scandal is enough. He should of publicly distanced himself and not been so reliant on them during his election campaign.

    I think it is completely right and proper for the ‘McCluskey camp’ to highlight it. If we follow a similar logic then Andy Newman has been wrong to raise this whole ongoing SWP rape debacle on here. I personally think he was brave and it was the right decision.

    As for a million members and free publicity for the SWP the more people who know about their deeply dodgy behaviour of the SWP the better. One thing that last few months have shown is that the clique around the SWP CC thought they could bury this and that the Unite election would also help act as a good diversion. How wrong they were.

  124. Brian, the processes by which the peoples front of judea or the judean peoples front decide who they will back for gs are irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. What matters is how many branch nominations you get.

    I’m aware that the UL isn’t proscribed. I don’t understand your point there. Nor do I think it should be. Then again, neither is the SWP.

    Btw if the AWL are also on their way out I may even join the UL. That would be fun eh?

    And I didn’t suggest that it was improper for Len to mention the SWP in his address, merely unwise.

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  126. John Grimshaw on said:

    #149 I was surprised at how close Jerry came, although I notice the turn out was around 15%. It would seem a lot of members remained uninspired by either candidate.

  127. A fairly normal turnout for a union election I think. I was also surprised at how well Hicks did (although I’m not sure I’d describe him as coming close) but glad Len won. Good on him.

  128. I think the result should show to the current Unite leadership the need not to be complacent.

    Clearly there have been improvements, and in my view sufficient ones for me to switch to voting for McCluskey, but this vote shows that there is a perception among a significant section of the more conscious membership that not enough is being done.

    Whether you like it or not, Jerry Hicks and the sentiment he represents have not gone away and in fact have, contrary to predictions consolidated and strengthened their position.

    If only this could now be given a positive direction in the Union.

  129. brianthedog on said:

    Hicks stood and lost for the 3rd time.

    However for some bizarre reason and in an attempt at blatant spin, Hicks and his camp are claiming the result a success.

    Claim No 1 … that Hicks percentage of vote went up from last time. This is clearly statistics for dummies as yes whilst that may be true, so did Len’s percentage go up to. The reason why was there was only two candidates this time and not four.

    Claim No 2 …… That Hicks got 40% of the vote. No he did not, he got 36% to Len’s 64%. That makes it a clear landslide victory for Len.

    Brianthedog …… who is not and has never been Jim Kelly :)

  130. vanya: Clearly there have been improvements, and in my view sufficient ones for me to switch to voting for McCluskey, but this vote shows that there is a perception among a significant section of the more conscious membership that not enough is being done.

    Possibly, or possibly Jerry’s campaign became a lightening rod attracting the votes of everyone malcontented or disaffected, from right and left.

  131. Mark P on said:

    Surely the derisory turnout is deserving of at least some serious comment. And to say its the norm in trade union ballots is o explanation/justification at all.

    If this was a parliamentary or council election 15% would be the basis for the Left quite rightly calling into question the legitimacy of the vote and the rasons why the overwhelming majority chose not to vote.

    To duck this question for trade union votes isn’t good enough.

    Mark P

  132. vanya: Jerry Hicks and the sentiment he represents have not gone away

    Well we know what sentiment Jerry himself expresses, what we don’t know is the sentiment of those voting for him.

    There has been a tradition of non-political members voting for “anti-establishment” candidates, electing such useless sacks of potatos as Shaun Brady or Matt Wrack

  133. Andy Newman: Shawn Brady or Matt Wrack

    Incidently, an interesting paralel that Brady campaigned against Mick Rix in Aslef on a platform of getting rid of the equalities strands,etc. Last year Matt Wrack pushed through abolition of the equalities strands in the FBU.

  134. Mark P: Surely the derisory turnout is deserving of at least some serious comment. And to say its the norm in trade union ballots is o explanation/justification at all.

    I think most members don’t see the relevance of the GS election, or don’t feel sufficiently informed to make a judgement.

    Mandatory all member ballots were brought in by thatcher, and a better system would be voting by branches, or an electoral college.

  135. Vanya on said:

    #156 Both candidates did an election address that was sent to every member of the Union. In their election addresses they set out what they stood for. I don’t think it’s rocket science tbh.

  136. Vanya: Both candidates did an election address that was sent to every member of the Union. In their election addresses they set out what they stood for. I don’t think it’s rocket science tbh.

    That assumes a more perfect correspondence between the candidates’ intentions and platform and the voting motives of the electors than I think is justified; particularly in the case where there are only two candidates.

    Anyone who spends much time canvassing on the doorstep in elections will know that people decide who to vote for on the most random basis sometimes.

    It would require a proper evidence based study to determine why people voted, and there are a number of different reasons people might have voted for Jerry, in addition to the obvious one of agreeing with him, for example, that he is an outsider, that he is not the incumbent, that he was an engineer. Jerry’s more critical stance to the Labour Party may have attracted right wing and apolitical votes as well as left votes.

  137. brianthedog on said:

    # 154 & 156 I agree with you that Hicks attracts malcontents and the disaffected from right to left. This is how Hicks deliberately positions himself.

    An analysis of Hicks statements and manifesto is based on populism and an undeliverable wish list.

    This may get you a significant vote but never in my opinion a victory. But hey Mr Hicks you carry on and no doubt we will see you again in 2018.

    On the subject of the turn out it is the norm for trade union election. I would prefer it to be much larger.

    One would hope it would be given the direct mailouts to all members regarding the election and then the branch nominations, election statements and ballot paper. There has also been good use of social media and seperate campaigning all over the country by Jerry Hicks and Len McCluskey and their supporters.

    So for Hicks to blame Len for the low turn out and that he is personally responsible is a joke.

  138. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Jerry’s more critical stance to the Labour Party may have attracted right wing and apolitical votes as well as left votes.

    So to be critical of the LP is to be right-wing or to allow right-wingers to vote? I’ve heard that one before. H’mmm.

  139. John Grimshaw: So to be critical of the LP is to be right-wing or to allow right-wingers to vote?

    What??

    It is well known that opposition to the link between the unions and Labour comes from BOTH the right and the far left.

  140. John Grimshaw on said:

    #164 Andy no this is not fair. The right (well depends which “right” you mean) is opposed to TUs fullstop. The left of Labour Party left is not. Rather it is opposed to what it sees as the unholy lash up between the LP leadership and the TU bureacracy which ensures that members money is funnelled into the PLP with no real gain for workers. Of course there are some left of Labour formulations around that seem to want to replace this “unholy” situation with another one which crassly seems to want to redirect that funding in their direction, but without any change in political culture. Whether thats what they mean is moot point.

  141. John Grimshaw: Andy no this is not fair. The right (well depends which “right” you mean) is opposed to TUs fullstop. The left of Labour Party left is not. Rather it is opposed to what it sees as the unholy lash up between the LP leadership and the TU bureacracy which ensures that members money is funnelled into the PLP with no real gain for workers.

    But what can happen in terms of politics, is that the far-left and the right can both share an interest, despite differences in their subjective rationalisations, as happened in the FBU, which since disaffiliation has been significanty less influential.

  142. John Grimshaw on said:

    #166 Is this due to its disaffiliation? Or to the nature of its leadership which you have alluded to elsewhere? Or to the nature of the union itself (i.e. narrow, craft based etc). Or that once disaffilliated they had no real other strategy?

  143. vanya on said:

    brianthedog:

    ‘This may get you a significant vote but never in my opinion a victory. But hey Mr Hicks you carry on and no doubt we will see you again in 2018′

    However you spin this result, he got a far bigger vote than you were expecting, and whatever you concede publically, fail to address what’s going on at your peril.

    The people you dismiss as ‘malcontents’ are ordinary Unite members who have a right to be treated with a degree of respect, even if you don’t like how they have chosen to excercise their votes.

  144. brianthedog on said:

    #168 Vanya you are naughty and a master at spinning what I say.

    In this case what i repeated was what Andy Newman actually said which was Hicks attracts malcontents and disaffected from right and left.

    For example you are a branch secretary of a ‘rotten borough’ branch that also has no attachment to a workplace, but brings you personally in a tidy second income or tops up your pension and you don’t like the EC lay members decision regarding branch rescruture- then Hicks has got an App for that.

    Don’t want to merge a branch at your workplace because you were in the ex T&G and the other branch at your workplace was ex amicus – then Hicks has got an App for that too.

    With Hicks if you individually don’t want to abide by collective democratic decisions he would give you a veto and you can not be moved from that branch.

    Appealing for votes around this in his negative populist manisfesto was reactionary and plays to vested interests whether they see themselves as left or right.

    Negative campaigning for GS has lost Hicks the election 3 times.

  145. brianthedog on said:

    #169 I am suggesting that examples like this and many other of Hicks negative campaigning, reactionary populism and wish list do account for many of the votes.

    Also in a two horse race i am not shocked that Hicks got just over a third of the vote particularly as he has stood 3 times and therefore has a profile and name recognition amongst members.

    This does not negate that once more he lost and Len McCluskey won by a landslide.

  146. John Grimshaw on said:

    brianthedog: This does not negate that once more he lost and Len McCluskey won by a landslide.

    To repeat myself I hardly think 75% of a 15% turn out is a landslide.

  147. brianthedog on said:

    #173 Ok John, just for you, of those members who voted in the Unite GS election Len McCluskey won by a landslide.

  148. 'Don't let the truth intervene' on said:

    The only evidence of right wing support was that for McCluskey, who received nominations from former right wing ‘MSF for Labour’ supporters and the Royal Mail managers CMA branches. So you just invent lies and slurs about Jerry’s support in order to cover your own capitulation to the right wing Andy.

  149. 'Don't let the truth intervene': So you just invent lies and slurs about Jerry’s support in order to cover your own capitulation to the right wing Andy.

    This is nonsense isn’t it. I have said that much of Jerry’s support is from people who agree with him politically, or agree with his approach indistrially.

    However, in any two horse race, the challenger will also attract support from assorted malcontents from left and right, just because they are the challenger.

    Therefore without a proper evdience based study of who voted and what their reasons are, then we have to be cautious about how much weight we give to this vote.

    I suspect that it does not mean there is a far left constituency in UNITE as large as the 80000 votes, and certainly not as large as 30% which is the proportion of those voting.

    Size matters becasue the larger the minority who support Jerry’s approach, then the more critical mass they have in branches and workplaces. I see no evidence that Jerry Hicks’ support represents an effective grassroots current in the union actually able to shape events industrially.

  150. vanya on said:

    #177 Well that may be correct, but #176 puts forward what they purport to be evidence that 2 of the most right wing sections of the union supported McCluskey. I have seen no such evidence presented in respect of Hicks.

    Of course given the politics of both candidates I’m sure anyone genuinely on the right would support either only as the perceived lesser of 2 evils. I still think that most members will have voted on the basis of what’s in the election addresses.

    I do recall with regard to the cma that Jerry made himself very unpopular with an outspoken attack on scabbing during the big CWU disputes a few years ago. Then again, in fairness to their leadership, I don’t think they endorsed it, but perhaps didn’t do enough to try and stop it.

  151. John Grimshaw on said:

    #178 Of course Vanya there will be a number of reasons why the turnout was so small, especially with such a large union. And without analysis its hard to know, however I wonder if, given a “soft” left incumbent and a “hard” left challenger, if many right-wingers didn’t vote?

  152. Brianthedog on said:

    # 179 Hard and soft in this context are really of no little use.

    Comparing Len’s record as GS as opposed to the Hick’s populist and often reactionary wish list manifesto is what is important here.

    What Andy says about no evidence of shaping things industrially in Unite is important too. Hicks grassroots left faction has been unable to break through in any way.

    Not surprising when you look at the negative misinformation they put about and the caliber of individuals involved in it – like the liar Gerry Downing who calls for trade unionist’s to be sacked.

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  154. Vanya on said:

    As the issue was discussed on here, I thought some readers may be interested to know that Gerry Downing has apparently won his appeal against dismissal.