10 Mar 2009

Thank You from Jerry!

Ours was absolutely a left campaign calling for people before profit, public ownership not privatisation, and a green campaign.

Discussing with our members why it’s wrong for Unite to support more nuclear power stations simply in the name of some jobs when green energies, Sea, Solar and Wind could produce ten, twenty, thirty times as many jobs without leaving a thousand years of toxic waste!

Debating with construction workers that Unite had been wrong to declare support for a third runway at Heathrow – and that investment in public rail transport would create even more jobs with less cost to our environment.

D Simpson: 60,048

Jerry Hicks: 39,307

K Coyne: 30,603

P Reuter: 28,283

Thank you all those who nominated, those who campaigned and those who voted for me in the election for General Secretary of Unite / Amicus.

It was due to your efforts and generosity that our campaign was able to reach out and touch and win the hearts and minds of tens thousands of our members who returned this magnificent vote.

Our message was clearly and proudly taken into workplaces and homes, across every industry and in every part of the country and inspired, motivated and gave hope to the many thousands who heard it and responded to it. The result is a clear vindication of the relevance of the election and appeal of our policies.

The turnout was low at 15 percent, reflecting as we always said the, disconnect and yawning gap between the union and our members, but the result was extraordinary. It wasn’t so much a battle of ideas as a battle between no ideas, and our idea of what the union needed to do.

When I began my campaign it was in a minority not far short of one as a grassroots rank and file member with no access to the union’s resources, and pressing the case single-handed for an election to take place. So coming second, with nearly 40,000 votes, well ahead of the other two candidates both full time officials, (Reuter was routed and the penny dropped with Coyne!) is a magnificent achievement.

The 15% turn out of our one million members and Derek Simpson’s failure to win more than 38% of the vote is a terrible indictment of his 6 years in office.

All this in spite of the use and abuse of the union’s resources: a letter to every individual member at a cost of £250,000 proclaiming the successes of Derek Simpson, the Spring issue of the union magazine that came out in February and even before the daffodils. Also the outrageous inclusion of the document with the ballot paper, wrongly accusing me of lying in my election address.

Amongst the many questions during the election, one that kept being screamed out was “why Unite keeps throwing tens of £millions at the Labour Party”, and getting nothing back. CWU members, UNISON members and many more across the country must be asking just the same.

Of all the moments three in particular stood out: ‘The good’ ‘The bad’ and ‘The ugly’

First there was ‘the Good’ which was the eruption a few weeks ago of the rumbling volcano of anger in the construction industry, with the unofficial strikes at the Lindsey oil refinery; a very clear example of the frustration within the membership that I was raising at every meeting I attended.

As the construction workers ratcheted up their demands for action, the inadequacy of the union leaders became even more obvious. The Lindsey strike was unofficial – because after three terms of a Labour government the Tory anti-union laws are still in place: but within five days, the members achieved more than they had in five months of delaying tactics from national leaders.

Then there was ‘the Bad’ where I attended a meeting of union members at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in Aldgate in London. On the agenda was a newsletter for members and the election for General Secretary. This was on the very day the RBS bosses were being put through the wringer in Parliament. The members newsletter headline was “Why should we pay for their mistakes?” – but the union officials would not let them put it out because it might compromise negotiations. So our members never received it and had to read about what was happening to them in the mass media rather than hear from their own union.

And then ‘the Ugly’ where at Cowley’s BMW plant, the management sacked four shifts, 850 temporary staff – at an hour’s notice, with no redundancy pay. When the management left the building after making the announcement, furious members pelted the union reps with tomatoes, seeing the union as part of the problem instead of the solution.

How could it get to this? How is it that after three terms of a Labour government, workers some who had worked for BMW for 4 years can still be treated like that?

Now more than ever before, we don’t just need a “campaigning union” we need a fighting union, one that instils a confidence in members to resist employers’ attacks.

Ours was absolutely a left campaign calling for people before profit, public ownership not privatisation, and a green campaign.

Discussing with our members why it’s wrong for Unite to support more nuclear power stations simply in the name of some jobs when green energies, Sea, Solar and Wind could produce ten, twenty, thirty times as many jobs without leaving a thousand years of toxic waste!

Debating with construction workers that Unite had been wrong to declare support for a third runway at Heathrow – and that investment in public rail transport would create even more jobs with less cost to our environment.



As the campaign progressed so did its support and optimism. By the end we had a real coalition of individuals, branches, committees and almost every left group. The stuff that dreams are made of we were living in reality.

I travelled over 4,000 miles to attend meetings, take part in demonstrations and to give out leaflets at workplaces. All this along with every other cost was funded by generous donations from a few committees and so many individuals.

Everyone who was a part of this campaign got something positive from it. You yourselves will know the people you met or contacted, the places that you leafleted.

Me - You – Us – We were all so close to making history. It has given us a glimpse of what is possible.

Apart from the disappointment of not actually winning the election, a great disappointment has been the failure of sections of the left to recognise and grasp this opportunity for what undoubtedly would have been an historic breakthrough.

The Morning Star urged its readers to vote Simpson (Pro Nuclear, Pro Heathrow, Pro Gordon Brown) on the false pretext of “Vote Hicks, Get Coyne”. This was never going to happen and if it was genuinely believed, was a gross misjudgement.

Unfortunately other left groups couldn’t break with their bureaucratic and sectarian attitudes, and instead of backing me, to begin with threw their weight behind Lawrence Faircloth a right winger, who when he failed to win as many nominations as me, dropped out of the race and recommended a vote for Derek Simpson.

This confirmed the suspicions of many who had always regarded him as a stooge set up by Simpson to prevent the emergence of a genuine left wing challenger.

Even then after that debacle, those sections of the left did little or nothing in the contest for the one clear left candidate.

Madness is making the same mistakes over and over again but hoping for a different outcome.

In Unite we now have an amazing network of people who care and want something better for us. During the campaign I have, promised, pledged and said many things.

To all of those who want to listen and even to those who don’t I promise that this is not the end but the beginning.

The bureaucracy will hang on in there until we build a movement strong enough to move them. But if you fight hard enough, with enough confidence, all things are possible.

Finally I intend to make a complaint as to the legitimacy of the election given all the dirty tricks and wrong doings, especially the letter sent out with the ballot papers.

Expect the unexpected! Keep on keeping on

Kind regards to all.

Yours, Jerry.

No comments: