The election for the key post of general secretary of the Unite union began this week. Some 1.5 million members are to vote in the next few weeks for the leader of Britain’s biggest union.
The result will help determine the course of resistance to the government’s attacks.
Right wing joint general secretary of Unite Derek Simpson is backing Les Bayliss in the election, while the more left wing joint general secretary Tony Woodley is supporting Len McCluskey.
Bayliss and McCluskey have spent a fortune on the election, with full page adverts in the Guardian and Mirror newspapers respectively.
The Sun and the News of the World have approvingly quoted Bayliss’s criticisms of strikes. Right wing papers have attacked McCluskey as a left wing “hardliner” because he supports coordinated strikes against cuts.
But it is the campaign of rank and file candidate Jerry Hicks that offers a real lead to the fight against the Tories.
A large number of Unite branches, workplaces and activists are supporting Jerry’s call for a campaigning union that is run by grassroots members.
Jerry is also critical of the huge financial and political support the union gives Labour without getting anything in return.
McCluskey would make a far superior general secretary to Bayliss, and the other candidate Gail Cartmail.
But he has been part of the current leadership, which has failed to organise a fightback.
He has also been involved in Unite’s strategy in the British Airways dispute, which has resulted in a terrible offer being put to members.
Jerry Hicks has a great chance in the election. He and his supporters have been out around the country talking to union members in workplaces such as hospitals, factories, printworks, council depots and offices, banks and many others.
Jerry said, “I have had people from the BA cabin crew approaching me. And last week I spoke at a packed construction branch meeting in Liverpool, and council workers’ and IT workers’ meetings in Manchester.”
A strong vote for Jerry in the election, which ends on 19 November, will show the mood of resistance that exists at the base of the union.
And his election campaign can also help to create a network of activists that will be needed for the fights to come.