Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There's Nothing Else For It Comrades: Derek Must Go!

There is a risk of course in not backing Derek Simpson for one further year as Joint General Secretary of Unite (Amicus). Being that Tony Woodley will very likely become de facto General Secretary with a junior partner in tow.

But to be honest I rather like Woodley's chippy rabble rousing and spur-of-the-moment-ism. And I also think that given the slow progress on actually uniting Unite, one year like that would not be the end of the world. Might deal with the Gordian Knot.

The current Tweedledum and Tweedledee arrangements are obviously more about careers, and pensions, and saving face, and generous salaries, and jockeying for succession than about the requirements of the membership ourselves.

I didn't join Unite or indeed Amicus. I signed up with the GPMU, the successor to the NGA and SOGAT as a voice for Printing, Compositing and the like. Nice little union I thought. Specific industrial interests. Very poorly organised, outside site-based "chapels", as it turned out. Even there. The GPMU section did not thrive within Amicus. Having almost immediately being absorbed into Amicus and then Unite.

In six years membership I have never been organised into a branch. I have never been invited to a meeting. Even when I've tried to invite myself. It was a struggle to get even token/default £50 backing for local election campaigns - just one of three were supported. And though I was exempt from dues for a time, in their chaos I was lapsed and disenfranchised from participation as a TU member from both the selection of our parliamentary candidate and from the election of the Labour Party deputy leader.

Owe them some dues at the moment as it goes. If they're not going to organise me into a branch or invite me to a single meeting should I pay? Or give the money to a union that will actually do what it says on the tin?

Meanwhile Derek Simpson is fighting an extraordinary campaign to get "one more year" as Joint General Secretary. I'm finding it very off putting.

Let me count the ways:

1. A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from Derek paid for by the Union, on the Union's stationery, and in effect bragging about the incumbent's achievements. Other candidates have to organise and possibly pay for anything they send out. It's not fair Derek, it's just not fair, and it looks bad. This is not Stalin's Russia;

2. In the voting pack the Union's Executive had seen fit to issue an extraordinary refutation/beg to differ on some of the assertions and views expressed in a competing candidate's statement. Yes, the candidate Jerry Hicks is a hothead. He's been victimised by Rolls Royce over it after all. But why does the Union Exec get involved in rebuttal here? Effectively on behalf of Derek Simpson? it's not fair Derek. This is not Mao's China. And what the Exec say is not uncontentious;

3. Mr Simpson has been blogging at Labour List. And with the election "live" his latest post was not annotated to mention the contest or the other candidates. Following a complaint made in comments the post has been stealth edited to mention the election and the other candidates, using links I provided. The way it's been done by stealth and without acknowledgement actually tends to amplify Derek's incumbent advantage. Dereks sticking together?;

4. A couple of days into the live election period the Union's organ "United" spring edition arrives. Derek Simpson is on the cover. There are eight photos in all featuring one or both of the joint General Secretaries. Derek is in all eight of them. Four of them with Gordon Brown. Tony Woodley is in just one.

5. Derek has written the forward and is mentioned in bold type in thirteen news items or features in run of paper. Woodley is mentioned once. Fellow candidates Kevin Coyne and Paul Reuter each get one name check. Jerry Hicks gets none. On the letters page there are there are six letters defending Derek, four mentioning him by name.

It's not good enough Derek. The Union is floundering organisationally just as the workers need it most. The use of the Union machine in this election is very off putting indeed. Kevin Coyne speaks of "Building a union with Integrity" in a letter sent from his own address. I'm voting for Kevin Coyne and would urge other members to reject this crass stitch up for the incumbent.

If Simpson wins, I'm off. Even if he doesn't win I'd like to be part of a Union that is more than a numbers game and I'll be reviewing the situation. Oh, and the cheque's in the post.


Anonymous said...

Great post. But I have voted for Paul Reuter, and I am glad I did!
Go for it Paul...give us a union WE deserve.

Chris Paul said...

The Derek Simpson appreciation Facebook group is a bit depressing.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Coyne is the only really serious alternative to Simpson. Coyne is far from a right winger. If he was I wouldn't be voting for him as I'm left of Simpson (who it appears only owes polical alliegance to himself). Read Coyne's website and you will see that he commands the respect of all the ordinary members he has worked with and, crucially, will be able to bring the merger forward ( Reuter IS a right-winger from the old Jackson camp (Coyne was MSF), and a vote for Reuter will only help Simpson because Reuter has no chance of winning.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the back page of the Unite mag either with a link to Union TV. Guess what, Simpson's on that as well...ref above, that's the trouble with Coyne nobody knows where he is coming from, or going, but it appears as though he is chasing any vote. Coyne was MSF,one of the MSF for Labour group, there is some information about MSF for Labour on Dear Unite.Com. But I could not find anything about Reuter being in Jackson's camp which was mostly ex EETPU, Reuter was ex AEU. Every candidate has a chance of winning who are we to say otherwise, do we know better than the members? Hicks stuff can be found at
Reuters stuff can be found at
and Simpsons stuff can be found everywhere, if in doubt see Union mag!!