Members of Britain’s largest union will begin voting this month for the union’s next general secretary. And blacklisted former aerospace rep Jerry Hicks has made sure they’ll get a choice on the ballot paper.
His message that Unite needs to lead the resistance to the Tories’ and the bosses’ attacks has struck a chord with workers.
More than 130 Unite branches and workplaces have formally nominated Jerry to take on current general secretary Len McCluskey.
This is despite the fact that the election had been sprung on them three years early on a condensed timetable.
Jerry has contrasted McCluskey’s high profile left wing rhetoric with his reluctance to call action.
“Civil disobedience isn’t just a catchphrase,” Jerry told Socialist Worker. “It’s time we fought to smash austerity and make the rich pay for a crisis of their own making.
“We’ve seen some strikes—and what a brilliant result it was for the tanker drivers last week. But they’re left isolated. Unite needs to coordinate action.
“That’s how to recruit and build the union—by showing that we can recognise an opportunity and take the lead in the fight.”
The election has been called now partly to avoid a clash with the general election in 2015, when McCluskey wants the union to throw its weight behind Labour.
“Mr McCluskey likes to talk about leverage,” said Jerry. “Well we should use leverage not just against the employer but against the Labour Party too.
“We should only fund it after it does right thing, otherwise it’s just a debt on our members. Unite should support councillors who vote against cuts, and withdraw support from MPs who vote against our policies.”
The election will also allow Len McCluskey, if he wins, to extend his term until he reaches the age of 67.
But Unite’s policy has been to campaign against raising the retirement age, which until recently stood at 65.
“We should lead by example,” said Jerry. “That’s not retiring when you’re 67, it’s retiring at 65.”
Jerry believes the union is in a unique position to lead the resistance—and that means helping its members take initiatives.
“The construction workers who won their victory against the bosses’ attack on their pay last year were led by the rank and file,” he said.
“We need to build a rank and file in every sector.
“Unite needs to call a national demonstration to defend the NHS. The members know how popular this is. We need it now, not next month or next year.
“We need to give members control of the union.”