Monday, 21 January 2013

The unite general secretary election

Very soon there will be an election for general secretary of Britain’s biggest trade union – Unite the current general secretary Len McCluskey who has only been in the post little over 2 years is holding a snap election to gain a second term. I do feel this is quite an undemocratic move even if his intentions are too sure up support for the left. Many have excused this move and said well we’d not be happy if the right wing did this but its ok for the left to? Seems a little contradictory to me. But putting this all aside the short time given for any challenger is all designed to make it as hard as possible for anyone to challenge Len’s record to date. So far only one has declared and has enough nominations and that is Gerry Hicks who stood last time and gained 50 thousand odd votes. I myself am a unite member and am in a community branch. The community membership set up last year to give the unemployed students and low paid workers a voice. So far this has not been a big success for Unite with only a few thousand joining since its launch. As for Len’s reclaiming the labour party only 5000 have joined the labour party since he urged unite members to join the party and exert influence. With what democratic structures len ? As with Kingsley Abrahams a Labour councillor in Lambeth who voted against cuts in the labour group not even in the council chamber was suspended for his actions yet Len told Kingsley to go back into the labour group therefore accepting the cuts agenda and unite cannot garuntee support to councillors voting against cuts. This is just not good enough for a union supposably against the cuts.It must put its money and support where its mouth is. The united left which is a broad left organisation of left unite members containing the socialist party is backing Len Mccluskey and the socialist party itself is giving critical support to Len. The socialist party did support Gerry Hicks back in 2009 in the leadership contest for what was Amicus back then Gerry stands for a lot of what the socialist party stands for repealing of anti trade union laws confronting them when necessary and for democratic election of all unin officials. To me our position to back Len McCluskey appears more tactical than strategic. There doesn’t appear to be a challenger from the right wing as yet no Les Baylis like before so the idea critically supporting Len will sure up the left in the union i’m not convinced on personally. I myself am torn I actually agree with allot of what Gerry Hicks is standing for. For example he pledges to stand on a average wage of a member in unite this for me is a very important principle and one of the reasons I joined the socialist party and their strength and feeling around this issue that no elected official should receive more than the ordinary man or woman in the street in that area they live in. Now Gerry seems to be quite open and clear about this as for Len I can’t find any mention of him pledging to do this if re elected. As far as I know Len is on a very nice 6 figure salary paid to him by our membership subs. While Len’s record is far better than his predecessors who wasn’t hard to do he still lacks in many areas for me. For example Len claims that unite do no longer give blank cheques to the labour party. This is simply not true Unite has given 6 million pounds to labour over the last 10 years and with no strings attached. His gushing speech for Ed Miliband at last year’s labour party conference really wound me up too claiming it was one of the best speech’s he’s ever heard was disgusting Given the fact that Labour will carry out the cuts if re elected Unite should be pulling its funding on the labour party until it pledges to reverse all cuts, if it does not then we look again at working class political representation . Len does support calls for a 24 hour general strike to give him his due but will this be more hot air from a leader who loves the big speech, the big moment the applause from the crowds yet has been found excusing Labours austerity light cuts agenda when around the Labour party. Unites role in the public sector pensions sell out can’t be ignored either of course it wasn’t down to one union but Unite had the weight it could have used. But McCluskey’s rhetoric doesn’t meet reality. He talks about coordinated national strike action. But back in March Unite’s leadership pulled the plug on action over pensions and isolated the PCS and NUT. The real reason for the election – and McCluskey has admitted this – is to avoid a clash with the general election in May 2015. But it would seem Len with his reclaiming labour project is missing a trick here if there was an election in the same year as the unite general secretary election unite could use its weight to force labour into supporting anti austerity policies. As it is it could be the case that Unite backs labour to the hilt in 2015 whether it supports the union’s policies or not that is an unhealthy relationship. I am for the breaking of the labour party link none of the candidates standing pledge to do that I think unite should be backing anti cuts candidates with a proud record of fighting all cuts. So I am still very unconvinced by Len yet I agree with a lot of what Gerry says I’m still not sure I can vote for him. I’ll have to decide between now and the election but at present the jury is still very much out for me with Len.

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