EVERY TRADE unionist should be asking questions about what is happening inside the TUC. While some newspapers denounce the 'politically motivated union men' behind the rail strikes, we can show who the real plotters were.
There is clear evidence that a meeting took place at the TUC headquarters in central London to plan a campaign to prevent Bob Crow becoming general secretary of the RMT union. 'During the next few months the RMT is facing its biggest challenge for a generation,' begins one document. 'The challenge comes from the extreme left for the most senior jobs in the union. There is a real prospect that left wing fundamentalists could hold the top four jobs by the middle of 2002.'
It singles out Bob Crow for 'a long record of activity on the extreme left. Recently he has associated himself with the Trotskyist fringe and backed the Socialist Alliance in the general election. Crow has never shown any inclination to associate positively with the Labour government. He has personally advocated ending the RMT's link with Labour.'
In contrast, continues the document, 'Crow's main challenger, Phil Bialyk, is a long-standing Labour Party member who comes from the modernising left in the Party.' Other documents make detailed suggestions for the way Bialyk should fight his campaign.
They suggest his pledges should include a commitment to 'stop the union being taken over by left-wing fanatics.' Socialist Worker knows of two men who were involved in this campaign. One is Mike Power, a former member of the Communist Party who is now a senior officer in the TUC's important campaign and communications department. The other is Mick Cash, who is standing for assistant general secretary of the RMT.
He is also a Labour councillor, representing the Callowland ward in Watford borough, and deputy council leader there. An RMT member told Socialist Worker, 'If you go to any conference-Labour or union-you will see Mick shuttling between the New Labour representatives and the union delegation. He is very committed to making sure the union is in line with what New Labour wants.'
Power and Cash met at TUC headquarters to discuss the Bialyk campaign Mike Power described it as a 'useful chat' and afterwards gave detailed advice. After a newspaper leaked some of this information last week Mike Power was denounced by his superiors. TUC leader John Monks sent a letter to Vernon Hince, the RMT's acting general secretary.
Monks wrote, 'It was entirely inappropriate for Mike Power to involve himself in internal elections in this way.' But Power was not just involved in the current intervention in the RMT. He had earlier been consulted about at least three other important union elections. The first was in the RMT, where he helped Jimmy Knapp's campaign against left winger Greg Tucker.
Power also played a role in the campaign by Barry Reamsbottom against left winger Mark Serwotka in the PCS union. He was also involved in the CWU union, where he assisted the campaign of John Keggie. Such a record makes it hard to believe that nobody else at the TUC knew what Power was doing.
Was the conference fixed?
A RECORD of another meeting at the TUC, seen by Socialist Worker, is in some ways even more shocking. It suggests that Mike Power was one of the TUC's most trusted insiders, allowed into inner strategy discussions with New Labour.
Three men met just before the TUC congress last September. We know only their initials-JM, IM and MP. Could Mike Power tell us who 'MP' was? Could TUC leader John Monks suggest who 'JM' might be?
Might Ian McCartney, a government minister famed for his links to union leaders, make a stab at who 'IM' is? The exchanges went along these lines.
IM: Is everything OK for the prime minister's speech?
JM: Everything is running smoothly apart from RMT. Everything is OK, but UNISON might pull a trick or two.
[IM then led a discussion on privatisation.]
JM: There will be trouble over this, we'll have to bend.
IM: What's going on in the PCS?
JM: Serwotka is under control at the moment but I can't guarantee for how long.
IM: Can we get him onside?
JM: No way.
MP: Serwotka is out of control. Our sources say he meets up with the Trots.
IM: Union leaders?
MP: No, SWP and the like.
IM: What about the others, RMT?
JM: No change.
IM: The CWU?
JM: Too early to say, we should review this.
IM: We all feel very strongly about this. There is no way we can give an inch to the PCS, RMT or CWU. If we do we will unleash a dragon.
MP: We are trying to get on top of this.
Can it really be that last year TUC figures were huffing and puffing about government policies in public and yet at the same time were trying to carve up the conference in private? Is it possible that Labour ministers do not examine the merits of any particular dispute (such as the present one in the civil service) but simply stand unblinkingly firm in case a retreat might 'unleash a dragon'?
Trade unionists must demand that Mike Power is sacked immediately. But there must be serious investigation into what he did, and who else has been working to fix things for New Labour and its favoured candidates in elections.
Uproar in the unions
THE SUGGESTION that people inside the TUC might try to decide what happens in elections for leaders of the constituent unions has caused uproar. A TGWU union insider told Socialist Worker:
'There are people inside the leadership who were seething when they got an inkling of this. Remember, when Bill Morris was elected the candidate that New Labour favoured was Jack Dromey. The TGWU will not look very kindly on anyone who tries to dictate from outside who will take over when Bill Morris retires soon. Then in 2004 John Edmonds of the GMB retires. He won't want some TUC official poking his nose in or doing a covert operation to get an unthinking New Labour supporter elected. You might not like everything Bill Morris or John Edmonds does. But they are their own men and very protective of what they see as their territory. Outside interference which is in any way connected to the TUC stirs up a hornets' nest.'
Angry letters demanding to know what is going on have been sent to Monks by unions such as the PCS and TGWU. Every union member should ask their leaders where they stand over the revelations about goings-on in the TUC headquarters.
RIGHT WING candidate Phil Bialyk enthusiastically took up Mike Power's suggestions. For example, an article by Bialyk in the Labour weekly Tribune on 14 December said:
'The RMT must not become a narrow, inward-looking and ultra-left group. The RMT does not need a general secretary who spends his time promoting left-wing splinter groups and speaking on platforms of the Socialist Workers Party.'
PCS is a smear target
'IT IS disgraceful that the non-elected can denigrate people who have been elected by their union members. At a critical time for the PCS we now know that there are people who are working with those who want us to be defeated. It is outrageous that there are people who are conniving with right wing anti-union newspapers to make propaganda against those who are battling on behalf of their members.'
MARK SERWOTKA, PCS general secretary elect