“This is a huge move that could lead to a union of two million members. It lays the basis for British unions to be grouped around two centres — public sector workers in Unison, private in T&G-Amicus. It’s being done at great pace. The rumour before the T&G executive meeting was that the timetable is: executive decision now, conference decision in the summer and a ballot in the autumn.
There is some industrial logic to having T&G and Amicus members in the same union as many issues affect the membership of both unions. But the real pressure to merge is political. Big figures in the Labour Party, especially those around Gordon Brown, are very keen to have a union that can give political backing to Labour in what they hope will be the third, fourth and fifth terms.
The leadership will present the merger as a leftwards move — “merging to fight back” — but there is a danger that every issue will be submerged even more into the pro-business priorities of the Labour government.
There are also worries that this means the end of any attempt to have a real push towards union recruitment and organising. The officials may be worried mainly about their posts and their pensions—for the rest of us there are more pressing issues.
Finally, what sort of democracy will there be in the union? Will the rank and file have any effective control?
T&G and Amicus members need to discus what’s happening. GMB members — who will be under intense pressure to merge into either Amicus or Unison — also need to get moving.”