THE FUTURE of Tony Blair's favourite union general secretary hung in the balance this week. On the first count of votes Sir Ken Jackson was in front of the left challenger, Derek Simpson, by 89,300 to 88,500 for the leadership of the giant Amicus engineering, electrical and manufacturing union. But a recount then put Derek Simpson ahead. Further recounts were taking place as Socialist Worker went to press.
Whatever the final figures, Jackson has been humiliated. Tony Blair knighted Jackson for 'services to industrial relations'. A huge number of Amicus members have dubbed him a dunce because he has served management and let workers down. When the campaign started it was not at all clear that Derek Simpson would get enough nominations to stand.
Jackson expected to walk the election, and to breeze his way to a triumphal coronation. Instead he is now a broken man. The methods of some of Jackson's backers were exposed during the campaign. Amicus official Roger Maskell, a Jackson supporter, resigned last month after an alleged attempt to cover up a ballot-rigging scandal. He quit after he was accused of an 'amateurish' attempt to wipe incriminating computer records.
Someone had tampered with electronic information showing at least four union officials had switched branches to vote for Jackson at more than one nomination meeting each. Nothing can erase the fact that around 90,000 Amicus members have voted against Tony Blair, against the fake promises of 'partnership' with the employers, and for a much more robust struggle in defence of workers' rights. The result confirms the trend seen in elections for leaders of the RMT, Aslef, PCS, FBU, Natfhe, CWU and other unions.
This time it was overwhelmingly manual workers who showed that left wingers can win a mass audience.
Sir Ken Jackson boasted, 'I have my foot in the door of Number Ten-I think I have more than my foot in the door.' The union gave £2 million to Labour's election campaign last year. Many Amicus members are questioning this approach. Ger Hicks, convenor of Rolls-Royce Test Areas in Bristol, talked to Socialist Worker about the impact of the election result:
'The shift to the left in the union is colossal. Jackson had the full weight of the union machine behind him, and was supported by Blair. Yet Derek Simpson, starting from a small base, pulled half the union membership behind him. There is no mandate for partnership with the bosses or privatisation.'
In every town and city across Britain there are hundreds of Amicus members who have voted for resistance. Ger explained, 'We need to turn the anger shown in the election result against the bosses. We are going to go back round the factories we leafleted during the election. I've invited Derek Simpson down to come round with us and talk to people, so we can start to build a fightback.'
The task now is to organise as many as possible of those who voted for Derek Simpson into organising resistance. This is the beginning of the fight to win the union back for its members, not the end.
'THE VOTE shows the massive sense of anger in the union. This is a tremendous vote for the left. Tens of thousands of union members want change. People have defied a right wing machine that has been in power for the last 30 years. The right wing had every official avenue on their side, yet they have got a bloody nose. They must be shattered. Now we have to rebuild the left and rank and file organisation among the tens of thousands who voted for Simpson.'
WILLIE BLACK, senior Amicus-AEEU shop steward, Scottish Power