Unite: Hicks has crossed class lines

March 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm (apologists and collaborators, Asshole, capitulation, class collaboration, ex-SWP, grovelling, law, Murdoch, posted by JD, SWP, unions, Unite the union)

Above: Jerry Hicks

The following article from today’s Times requires little comment from me. I am by no means an uncritical supporter of Len McCluskey, but the developments described in the article (which, like previous pieces in the Murdoch press, has clearly been written with the full co-operation of Hicks) vindicate my assessment that Hicks was not worthy of support in last year’s Unite election and is entirely unfit to lead a trade union. If Hicks had any genuine concerns about the conduct of the election, he could have raised them within the union, which whatever its faults under McCluskey is at least a fairly open and democratic organisation. Those leftists (not just the SWP) who supported Hicks should now be hanging their heads in shame. Incidentally, anyone who knows anything about Unite will know that any “phantom voters” would have been, overwhelmingly, from the ex-Amicus side of the merged union – precisely the constituency that Hicks was appealing to in his campaign. A shameful indictment of a man (Hicks) who can no longer be considered even to be a misguided part of the left:

Union leader faces re-election inquiry after ‘ghost’ vote claim

-Laura Pitel Political Correspondent

The head of Britain’s biggest trade union is to face a formal hearing over claims that his re-election to his post was unfair.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, has been accused of a series of irregularities by Jerry Hicks, his sole rival in last year’s contest.

Most serious is the allegation that ballot papers were sent to 160,000 “phantom voters” who should not have been allowed to take part.

Unite is being investigated by the independent trade union watchdog over the claims. The Certification Office has the power to order a re-run of the race if Mr Hick’s concerns are upheld.

This week it announced a formal hearing into the claims, provisionally scheduled for July.

Mr Hicks, a former Rolls-Royce convenor who was backed by the Socialist Workers Party, believes that Unite’s decision to include 158,824 lapsed members in last year’s vote was in breach of the rules. The charge emerged after the discovery that there was a mismatch between the number of people granted a vote and the number of members cited in its annual report.

It has been claimed that some of those who were sent a ballot paper for the election, which took place in April 2013, had not paid their subscriptions for several years and even that some of them were no longer alive. The Times revealed in January that fewer than 10 per cent of the disputed members had renewed their subscriptions.

The hearing will listen to eight complaints, including allegations that Unite resources were used to campaign for Mr McCluskey and that it refused  to allow Mr Hicks to make a complaint.

All the charges are rejected by Unite, which says that the rules were adhered to throughout the contest. It argued that it sought legal advice on sending ballot papers to those in arrears with their membership and was informed that excluding those who had fallen behind with their payments would be against the rules.

If the complaint about the disputed voters is upheld, Mr Hicks will have to persuade the watchdog that it could have had a significant impact on the outcome if he is to secure a re-run. Failing that, the ombudsman may instruct the union to take steps to ensure that the breach does not happen again.

The outcome of  the vote was that Mr McCluskey won 144,570 votes compared with 79,819 for Mr Hicks.

Mr Hicks said he was “very buoyed up” by the news that he had been granted a hearing. He lamented the low turnout in the race, when only 15 per cent of Unites 1.4 million members voted and said he hoped that his complaints would lead to a more democratic union.

The last time a re-run of a general secretary contest was ordered was in 2011, when Ucatt, the construction union, was found to have sent ballot papers to only half of its 130,000 members.

* the use of alleged “extreme tactics” by trade unions is to become the sole focus of an official inquiry into industrial relations, ministers have revealed (Michael Savage writes).

The investigation, announced last year, was originally ordered to examine bad practices by employers as well as the controversial “leverage campaigns” wages by some unions. However, it will now only focus on the alleged intimidatory tactics used by unions.

 

9 Comments

  1. Unite: Hicks has crossed class lines | OzHouse said,

    […] Mar 29 2014 by admin […]

  2. Andrew Coates said,

    Hicks reminds many of the activities of the right-wing of the AEU in the past.

    Perhaps that’s where he learnt his tricks from.

  3. Terry Crow said,

    Evidence for assertions would be nice……

    • Jim Denham said,

      Terry: do you mean you don’t believe either that Hicks has taken Unite to the Certification officer, and/or that he’s been blabbing to the Murdoch press?

      • terrycrow said,

        The “Full co-operation” assertion infers a hand-in-glove arrangement, Jim, whereas The Times asked Hicks if it could ask him some questions (I checked with Jerry Hicks on Facebook). This being so, the debate then is around whether he should have refused on principle to talk to the Times, which would be a good question. And does Len McCluskey refuse to talk to The Times/Sky on such on internal union issues? (I don’t know).

        It is then asserted by “Shirazsocialist” that Hicks could have raised his concerns with the union, but according to the Times article, one of Hicks complaints is that the union “refused to allow Mr Hicks to make a complaint.”, which if true leaves little choice.

  4. Chris Rylance said,

    So far as I understand the issues in Unite, Hicks is wrong. But I’m slightly bothered that this post reads as if any resort to the Certification Office, or to the mainstream press, over a union matter, would damn the initiator forever.

    It’s good to be reminded that the default socialist rule in such cases should be not to bring the courts or state institutions into the labour movement’s internal affairs. That rule has been forgotten by many on the left, and not just by Hicks. But there are cases, aren’t there, where bureaucratic union procedures mean that attempts to open up union democracy would be paralysed if they made avoiding such resort an absolute, all-overriding rule?

    To concede that in a balanced way would make the specific argument stronger, no?

    Though Unite democracy is deficient (witness the way Unite reps on the Labour NEC were strong-armed from above into voting against clear Unite Exec policy on the Collins Review), I see no evidence that Hicks has exhausted the channels within the union for raising issues about the conduct of the election.

    • Jim Denham said,

      I can agree with all of that.

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