LEADERS OF the new AMICUS union have shown their intention just days into the union's launch with their disastrous sell-out of Scottish Power strikers. The joint general secretaries, Ken Jackson from the AEEU and Roger Lyons from the MSF, have long fought to create a right wing bloc of support for New Labour inside the trade union movement.
They certainly don't want to use the strength of what is now Britain's second biggest union to challenge Blair's pro-business policies and privatisation of public services. And their desire to avoid confrontation also means letting bosses get away with attacks on pay, conditions and job cuts 'to keep British business competitive'.
Sir Ken Jackson, knighted by Tony Blair, wrote in the AEEU's economic report in December, 'We are committed to partnership. Partnership with a capital 'P' with both industry and government. Some unions criticise the use of Private Finance Initiative in providing new schools and hospitals. But I say to them, by what other means can we secure the type of finance needed to meet the construction cost? I believe there is a role for the private sector also in the delivery of public services.'
Such arguments are not accepted by most of the 1.2 million members of AMICUS. The union is now the biggest in the private sector and manufacturing industry. Its 'partners' at the head of manufacturing companies slashed some 250,000 jobs last year, bringing misery to many workers and their families.
AMICUS also has a large membership amongst healthcare professionals. Many are furious at New Labour's continued underfunding of the NHS while private firms profit from running more and more of the service. AMICUS is also the biggest trade union donor to the Labour Party. That influence could be used to voice the anger and concerns of the union's members over privatisation, public services, jobs and much more.
Yet instead the union's leadership used their first press release of the year to urge the government to hold an early vote over the euro! As economic recession bites and New Labour pursues more privatisation, the tensions between the rank and file and the leadership are likely to grow inside the union.
This offers the left inside the AEEU and MSF the opportunity to unite, challenge the stance of their leaders, and argue that the potential power of the 'super-union' is used to stand up against New Labour and its big business friends.