By Matthew Cookson
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Jerry Hicks sets pace in Unite general secretary election campaign

This article is over 12 years, 2 months old
Jerry Hicks, a leading union activist who was victimised out of his job at Rolls Royce in Bristol, is standing for the general secretary of the Unite union – Socialist Worker is backing his campaign
Issue 2204
Jerry Hicks
Jerry Hicks

How can the union resist the government and employers’ offensive?

The axes of evil are sharpened to a razor’s edge and the government and the employers will use them to cut as deep as they are allowed to get away with.

We need to send out a message that the union is no longer simply a campaigning and lobbying union against those cuts. We will fight them.

We need to instill confidence in members so they have the courage to fight, within the law preferably. But if the circumstances dictate otherwise we should be prepared to confront the anti-union laws.

When someone fights back, the union has to put everything behind them to win a victory for the class as a whole.

When a group of workers walk out, or better still sit-in and occupy, they need to know that their union will back them—not repudiate them.

This was shown by what happened at Lindsey oil refinery where people walked out unofficially.

As a union we repudiated this strike, so instead of the picket lines being a sea of Unite flags there were the placards with the “British jobs for British workers” slogan.

If I am elected as general secretary it would send a message to the government and the employers.

It would also say to the members that Unite is going to be a very different union. It would be their union.

What are the chances for your campaign?

We did remarkably well by coming second when we stood last year. I travelled thousands of miles and met many reps, branch officers and members.

It was a genuine campaign of left individuals and groups, not just a one person show, as was reflected by the numbers of branches and workplace reps that nominated me.

This was also an important factor in my decision to stand.

After the election something surprising happened. A number of people contacted me to say that they’d swallowed the lie that voting for me would mean that Kevin Coyne, the right wing candidate, would win.

This meant that they’d voted for the incumbent general secretary Derek Simpson with a peg on their nose and they regretted it.

With these people backing me it means there are sufficient forces to mount a credible challenge for Unite general secretary.

The other people standing are all senior officials who, in my view, are part of the problem, not the solution. Members deserve a rank and file candidate.

There are two objectives: One is to get the union back into the hands and control of the members.

The second is to bring together a group of people in the union to be the voice of opposition. This should not be an electoral machine but a fighting group of people.

What should Unite members do to help you win?

To be on the ballot paper we will need a combination of 50 branch and workplace rep nominations. The nomination months are July and August.

The more workplaces and branches that get our leaflets the better. Every place that our campaigners visit will debate the future of the union. This connects with the members and I hope will increase the turnout in the election.

If you are a Unite member, find out when your nominating month is and go along to get the nomination for us. If you are a Unite rep, you are entitled to nominate a candidate by calling a meeting of your members.

I am seeking nomination on the basis of building a movement, and workplace reps are vital to creating this.

We will need to campaign tirelessly to deliver the best possible vote in the general secretary election when 1.7 million members will be balloted during October.

For more information and to get involved go to or email [email protected]

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