Officials loyal to Derek Simpson, general secretary of the Amicus union, have taken control of Amicus Unity Gazette, the union’s main broad left organisation.
In a recent election Steve Davison, chair of Amicus’s national executive, narrowly defeated his rival Jimmy Warne to win the key post of chair of the Gazette group.
Davison argued that the Gazette had to work closely with the national executive and Simpson. His election has brought to a head an ongoing conflict within the Gazette.
The conflict revolves around two issues – the election of full time officials and the proposed merger of Amicus with the T&G and GMB unions.
The election of all full time officials had always been at the centre of the Gazette’s policies. This position was won at the union’s rules conference last year.
But the union says it is not going to implement this rule change. Gazette supporters roundly rejected this position at a national meeting – but nevertheless most Gazette supporters on the national executive voted to support Derek Simpson’s line.
Gazette supporters also voted against Simpson to back a resolution calling for safeguards for union democracy before there could be any merger with the T&G or GMB.
Subsequent to these votes several leading left wingers in the union came under attack. Three leading Gazette supporters were suspended from their jobs with the union on charges that could lead to them being sacked.
With a new Gazette editorial board loyal to Simpson, the Gazette could lose its independence from the union’s leadership.
The Gazette campaigned for Simpson in the 2002 election for general secretary of the AEEU union. Simpson defeated the right wing incumbent, Sir Ken Jackson, in what was seen as a huge step forward for the union.
Simpson’s election saw the introduction of better policies and a more open atmosphere in the former AEEU.
The Gazette has since expanded to include the broad left groups from the unions which merged with the AEEU to form Amicus.
Simpson sees the future for trade unions as lying in mergers and political influence with government, rather than in shopfloor organisation and mass recruitment campaigns.
When Simpson was first elected, he promised to “give Blair a migraine”. Yet at the last national executive he opposed the union taking a position on ID cards, the education White Paper and incapacity benefits. He has also opposed affiliation to the Stop the War Coalition.
The attack on the left in the Gazette has been marked by red-baiting. Left activists in the union now have to map out a way forward.
Simpson’s agenda is a large merged union linked to New Labour. Lay control is under attack. We cannot allow this to happen.