Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Unite 2010 general secretary election: red scare, organisation, insults, and anti-capitalism

The Unite general secretary ballot has been running for more than a week.
The advice on the union website says any members who have not received a voting paper by Monday November 8 should contact Electoral Reform Services – the independent company organising the poll.
Ballot papers must be returned by Friday November 19.
The giant union – with well over a million members - was formed by a merger of two organisations, Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union (T and G).
Candidate Les Bayliss, who came from Amicus, is accusing his rival Len McCluskey of trying to turn Unite into a “mirror image” of the T and G.
Bayliss’s website quotes the United Left faction – which supports McCluskey – to back up his case.
In an item posted yesterday Bayliss says: “Their plans are to drastically reduce the number of industrial sectors in the union and thereby concentrate power in the hands of the big battalions.
“Furthermore, they will dismantle the political structure and hand it over to the ultra left.”
In a post dated October 29 Bayliss complains that Unite members have been “receiving unsolicited letters, e-mails, text messages and phone calls” from other candidates.
There is no question that the Bayliss campaign has been sending unsolicited emails. They have been forwarded to The Workers United and reported here and here.
Gail Cartmail’s blog carries a four minute interview with the candidate which was posted on October 31.
Cartmail says Unite should have better organisation in more workplaces to protect people from attacks on wages and conditions.
She says of government policy: “Tax the rich so that we can invest in our industry – public and private sectors.”
Cartmail’s blog is regularly updated with messages from supporters. Today they are Mark Wood, a member of the Unite executive committee who works in local government; and Norman Chislett, secretary of the Ringwood branch in Hampshire ,
Jerry Hicks is the only candidate who is not already an assistant general secretary of Unite.
His rank-and-file campaign is not so well resourced and his website has not been updated since October 24.
Hicks is scheduled to speak on Saturday November 6 at 11am at an event called Anti-Capitalism 2010 at University College London (UCL), Gower St, WC1E 6BT.
According to the organiser's website he will “ speak on the industrial offensive of the ConDem coalition on working class people".
The most recent “news” update on candidate McCluskey’s website is a transcript of a letter from Unite’s joint general secretary Tony Woodley to The Guardian newspaper about the union’s long running dispute with British Airways.
Woodley criticises comments by Bayliss on the dispute saying: “I make allowances for the fact that Les has never led industrial negotiations as a union official, and would certainly be unfamiliar with a dispute of this magnitude and complexity, but for him to argue that the dispute is 'lost’ and has ‘lowered our standing and reputation’ is, to put it mildly, an unhelpful intervention from an official of a union which is in the midst of trying to resolve a difficult industrial dispute.”

Who are you supporting? Feel free to use the comments box to discuss the election.


  1. Disaster for the whole labour movement if Bayliss wins this.

  2. I'm not a Unite member, but if I were I would be asking Les Bayliss why he opposes things like:

    - Clearer commitment to lay member control and the rights of lay members – e.g. an Appeal mechanism against victimisation within the union structures.

    - Area Activists Committees to be directed towards influencing community politics (e.g. campaigns against hospital closures) – with the emphasis being on setting up broader meetings involving all activists in the given area in the campaigns, and the Committee having an organising role rather than just existing for its own sake.

    - Executive Council seats for Disabled and LGBT representatives.

    - Structures to be developed to allow Unemployed and Retired member to participate fully in appropriate areas of activity within the union.

  3. P.S. There's clearly money behind this election. Bayliss and McCluskey's websites have their flaws, but they've been paid for.