The attacks on the jobs and conditions of car workers among others in recent weeks shows the importance of the response of the unions to the crisis.
In that context a national meeting of Amicus Unity Gazette supporters, the broad left grouping in the union met in Preston on Saturday to select a candidate for the upcoming general secretary election in the union.
Laurence Faircloth was selected at the meeting as the organised left’s candidate.
The election is taking place because the existing general secretary, Derek Simpson, is not legally allowed to stay in office past 65 without the election.
When Derek Simpson was first elected five years ago, it was seen as a tremendous victory for the left. He beat Sir Ken Jackson, Tony Blair’s favourite trade unionist, with the backing of the Gazette group.
Since then Simpson has moved to the right. He is an enthusiastic supporter of giving millions of pounds of members’ money to Labour with no strings attached. He has become the most effective backer of Gordon Brown in the trade union movement.
Simpson opposes the “organising approach” to trade unionism promoted by the other joint general secretary of Unite, Tony Woodley. That approach is associated with the victory of the Shell tanker drivers and the pay dispute on the London buses.
Laurence Faircloth is currently the regional secretary of the union in the south west. While a life long member of the Labour Party, he argued on Saturday that union funds should only go to those MPs who supported union policies.
He has a reputation in as someone who has always promoted lay involvement.
Laurence is committed to making the merger between the T&G and Amicus work. While Simpson has resisted integration of the union at the regional level, Laurence has promoted it.
In the midst of future massive attacks on private sector workers following on from the economic crisis, a united union is crucial. Senior figures in the T&G section believe that the merger will be severely threatened if Simpson comes out of this election strengthened.
Socialist Worker supporters argued at the meeting that there needed to be a political campaign. That means rather than an election over personalities there needs to be a campaign over policies that can defend union members.
The best way for that to happen is by backing a candidate who agreed to campaign as part of the organised left.
The campaign needs to focus on arguing that the union should fight to ensure workers do not pay the price for the economic crisis, and emphasize that the union should always put members’ interests first rather than those of the government.
Former Socialist Workers Party member Jerry Hicks, who has stated his intention to stand in the upcoming election, regrettably did not attend the Amicus Unity Gazette meeting and has not attempted to work with the organised left in the union. The other candidate is the north west regional secretary Kevin Coyne who is campaigning on the issue of speeding up the merger.
The ballot takes place next February, but nominations must be made in November and December. Every branch and chapel should make a nomination at their regular meetings.
Workplace reps can also nominate but must ask for nomination forms from their regional officer. It is important that Laurence gets as many nominations as possible.
Details for the nomination forms: Laurence Faircloth, Branch: Plymouth 0738, Address: 36 Burnham Rd, Highbridge, Somerset TA9 3JH, membership number 30835343
Laurence can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org