Socialist Worker

Battle is on for a fighting Unite union

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2340

Jerry Hicks at a meeting with Visteon workers last week
 (Pic: Smallman )

Jerry Hicks at a meeting with Visteon workers last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

More than 100 branches and workplaces of the Unite union have nominated blacklisted engineer Jerry Hicks to be their new general secretary.

It comes as a vindication for a campaign that many predicted would not get the 50 nominations needed to get Jerry on the ballot paper.

“For an election designed never to happen, this is amazing,” said Jerry.

Unite’s current general secretary Len McCluskey called the election three years early—on a timetable that made it difficult for other candidates to stand.

His left wing speeches mark him out as one of the government’s most prominent critics.

But he has called very little action to back this up and lead a fight that could challenge the government and the bosses.

Jerry, on the other hand, led an occupation of his workplace to save the jobs of two fellow workers.

He is determined to bring that militancy to the union as a whole.

Jerry didn’t agree with calling for the election early but he has insisted that for it to be meaningful there had to be two candidates on the ballot paper.

Andrew Osbourne is a Unite rep in the electronics sector in Cambridge.

“Getting nominations for Jerry has been a doddle,” he told Socialist Worker. “We’ve been picking up several nominations a day. Last Tuesday we got five.

“One was from the workers at Cambridge University Press.

“The youth rep of Unite’s regional committee went down there to propose Jerry’s candidacy, and was well-received—the vote was unanimous.”

Central London community health care Unite branch met last week and also voted to nominate Jerry.

Jerry hopes to get as many nominations as possible to show the breadth of support for a fighting alternative in the union.

On Thursday of last week he spoke at the branch meeting of former Visteon Ford workers in Basildon, Essex.

They also have experience of occupying their plant to stop attacks by the bosses.

“There’s many examples of how remote the union’s officials are from the members,” said one worker, Frank.

“I remember in our own dispute the arguments we had to have with the officials.

“The Bridgend site was the ace in our hand, but they were screaming at us not to go.”

He told Jerry, “Hearing you is great—it’s made me feel like we can make a difference.”

On the same day Jerry spoke at the protest of blacklisted construction workers at the Crossrail site in central London (see page 3).

“Being blacklisted is a badge of honour,” Jerry said.

“Blacklisted construction workers have shown that we can take action into our own hands.

“Against Besna, in Runcorn and in Widnes it’s actions that speak louder than words.”

That’s the fighting spirit that Jerry can now take to Unite’s 1.5 million members when the election proper gets underway on 18 March.

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Tue 12 Feb 2013, 16:39 GMT
Issue No. 2340
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