THE ELECTIONS for the Amicus union executive last week indicated how much has changed in Britain's second largest union. Members of the left wing Unity Gazette slate won 23 out of 48 positions, almost a majority.
Amicus was formed from the merger of the MSF and AEEU unions, both of which had a right wing leadership.
Derek Simpson surprised many when he won the election for general secretary last year, beating the Blairite Sir Ken Jackson.
Executive members have now been elected from different sections of the union. Jerry Hicks topped the poll in the aerospace and shipbuilding section. He told Socialist Worker, 'Three candidates were elected in my section.
'Two of us were Unity Gazette candidates. The third was the existing NEC member. It was a hotly contested election, with 11 people standing. For the last decade the union has been in the grip of the right wing. They have sucked up to Labour both in opposition and in power. The result reflects people's discontent with Labour, and anger at the union leadership who have toadied up to them.
'The Unity Gazette has really come from nowhere in the months since Simpson was elected. There will be arguments over policy-Simpson believes that the Labour Party can be changed, but we want to stand up to New Labour. We want a campaigning union.
'We have to use the positions we have won to build up the networks in the industries-making sure our members gain from the result.'
Ian Allinson won one of two executive positions up for election in the electrical engineering, electronics and IT sector. He explained how the union was changing:
'People were pleased with the result. It represents a huge shift to the left in the union. Even though the left doesn't have a majority, we can work on the ground to rebuild the union at the grassroots-that's the big challenge now. We want to go around and speak at meetings-I've already had an invitation to speak to stewards in another company about organising at work.
'The key election slogan was taken from Derek Simpson: 'We need a union that doesn't have one eye on Downing Street and one eye on the employers but that has both eyes on the members.' Making the full time officers elected positions and the rejection of sweetheart deals were key issues in the election.'
In the health section of the union the Unity Gazette slate won all three of the positions. Gill George spoke to Socialist Worker about the result:
'The right wing slate was led by Dave Houliston, who has been around for decades. He thought he owned the health sector. But he came sixth out of seven candidates. That was a vote of no confidence in the old leadership.
'The ballot was topped by myself and two other Unity Gazette members. This is a really significant result.
'Part of the reason the left did well was because we fought on real issues. The government is trying to force through Agenda for Change-a pay and productivity deal that will mean many of our members lose money.
'In some sections of the union there is an active campaign against this. Other issues were privatisation and foundation hospitals. A new rule book comes in this January which will concentrate control in the hands of the officials. A lot of the day to day structures for ordinary union members will go. We want to reverse this.
'We want to open up the union's structures-allowing the members to meet as often as they want, and giving them the information they need to make decisions.'