No Unite General Secretary Election until 2018

Jerry Hicks, Unite General Secretary candidate 2013
From Jerry Hicks: Sadly Unite will not hold an election for General Secretary until 2018

The complaint I took to the Certification Office [CO], that Britain’s biggest union Unite had balloted 158,000 non- members during the ‘snap election’ in 2013 showed that the union membership records were shambolic, though not shambolic enough to secure the re-run I had hoped for, but I was successful on two other major points.

It was always going to be a long shot with only a slim chance and I am disappointed of course. Ironically by balloting too many rather than too few it made it easier for Unite, harder for me. 

However, I am delighted that, with the help of Jody Atkinson [a barrister acting for me ‘pro bono’ [free] we did prove that Unite had not reasonably kept its register of membership accurate and up to date.  Indeed, it had knowingly masterminded its own downfall by ceasing the very operation that would have kept its house in order.  

Steve Turner, since promoted to Unite Assistant General Secretary
Even more importantly for me, was that we proved that Unite failed to deal with my complaint properly regarding a vile re-tweet by senior appointed official SteveTurner. 

Steve Turner is often talked about as a future General Secretary and played a big part in McCluskey’s campaign. Who, I learn, instead of being held to account has been promoted. 
As soon as I saw the most offensive of Steve Turner’s twitter activity aimed at me, I complained to the General Secretary Len McCluskey and to Mr Andrew Murray ‘chief of staff’, himself a senior appointed official.  

I asked, as was proper procedure, for the complaint against Steve Turner and any other who had ’indulged’ themselves to be taken to the Executive Council for it’s consideration.

Andrew Murray, Unite's appointed Chief of Staff: "I'm not a member of any faction"
Mr Murray sat on the complaint for 18 months. In my view, he chose to protect the institution that appointed him rather than serve the interests of the members who pay his wages. 

Laughably, three weeks before the CO hearing was due to commence he did begin his own investigation, though he has refused to allow me to be involved, and will not assure me that I will even be informed of any outcome or reason. 

Happily matters have now been taken out of Mr Murray’s hands. Mr Murray has been humiliated by the CO’s Enforcement Order that my complaint, just as I had asked for 18 months earlier, must be heard by Unite’s elected Executive Council, and that has to happen before December 19th 2014.

I have stood for General Secretary three times, each time remarkably, given the disparity of the contests, coming runner up and each time increasing my share of the vote.

In this last election I was the 1,000 to 1 outsider in a two horse race. Me, simply an unemployed member with no resources, stood against Len McCluskey, the incumbent General Secretary who held all the resources. 

Even so it turned out to be dirtiest and most abusive election of them all. Actions or inactions have a consequence. Instead of turning members on, it switched them off from taking part in the democratic process. The turn out for the 2013 election was just 15%. McCluskey struts the stage with only 6% of Unites 1.3m members actually voting for him. 

Had I not shone a light on these matters, had I let it go unchallenged, things would only get worse. Future elections have to be better than this?!

Disturbingly, there seems to be little accountability of appointed officials - especially those appointed to very senior positions, epitomising all that is wrong with institutions and establishments, just like the police, the church, bank bosses, politicians and political parties.
Whether by design or by default, many or most end up looking after each other and in the process of doing so, lose the trust of those they are supposed to be serving.

I read today [Sunday 26th October] ‘As for falling wages, the real enemy is not immigration but gravely weakened trade unions. If the wage share in national income were the same as 35 years ago, the average worker would be £100 a week better off. The voters of Clacton, Rochester, and Heywood and Middleton would be better directing their anger at the way Britain’s leaders have weakened protections for average workers.’

13 of those most recent years were under the Labour Governments of Blair and Brown, backed to the hilt financially to the tune of £10’s of millions of pounds by the trade unions with members’ money. 

Those Unions failed to exact value for money from Labour, failed to repeal anti-union laws - laws passed to shackle us, laws that stop us from taking solidarity action or hold workplace industrial action votes. Unite the biggest donator to Labour must then take the largest share of the blame for that failure.

Why would they let Labour off so lightly? The promise of knighthoods? Or that Union leaders are out of touch? I wonder when was the last time any of them experienced being on strike, or struggled to pay a bill. 

Far from learning from their mistakes or ever admitting any mistakes, Unite’s leadership blunders on regardless. Backing ‘Red’ Ed Miliband for Labour party leader instead of supporting John McDonnell was a colossal error. 

It seems to me that Unite are in danger of repeating the mistake, by blowing kisses at Andy Burnham who when he was in Government was a privatiser of the NHS!

There are and has been heroic struggles by workers, occupy etc, but strike days remain low. Promises of co-ordinated strike action and talk of civil disobedience has not been delivered
Instead of Labour or a party to the left of Labour representing past, present and future workers - offering public ownership, council house building programmes and a million green jobs and winning by-elections and council seats, it’s the right wing led by UKIP who benefit by gaining votes.

The full decision by the Certification Officer will be posted on the Certification Officer’s web site Monday 27th October 2014
[They did not wait 18 months!]
Jerry Hicks, Unite member.


Unite lost 158,000 members but still let them vote for new leader

Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, was losing “10,000 members a month” when it re-elected Len McCluskey as general secretary last year.

The “dire situation” was revealed during a misconduct hearing into the union’s election result, where it was revealed that more than 158,000 members left between June 2011 and January 2013 after refusing to pay their membership fees for six months.

Mr McCluskey, 64, won the election in April 2013 with 60,000 more votes than his opponent, Jerry Hicks, an unemployed former Unite shop steward. Mr Hicks complained to the Certification Officer, the trade union watchdog, to ask how 158,000 "former trade union members" had been allowed to vote in the election.

Mr Hicks told a misconduct hearing in London yesterday that Mr McCluskey and Unite's executive council knew about the lapsed members when it called the election three years before it was scheduled in 2015. He said they were sent ballots with a letter telling them about union benefits and that they could pay their arrears to stay in the union.

Mr Hicks said: "I think people could have construed that they weren't eligible to vote or had to join the union to vote. But they shouldn't have been sent a ballot at all, they should have been excluded or made to rejoin."

Turnout for the election was 15.2 per cent of the 1.3 million ballots sent to union members. Only 3 per cent of the 158,000 lapsed members voted.

Mr Hicks said Mr McCluskey and Unite's executive council called the election early to avoid the "embarrassment" for Labour of it coinciding with the general election, and to avoid real opposition to his re-election. He said: "It was brought forward by three years — an amazing amount of time. It had all the hallmarks of an election race not expected to happen."

Mr Hicks told the hearing that the election was the dirtiest he had ever been involved in.

Steve Turner, Mr McCluskey's "campaign manager", is now being investigated by Unite after retweeting a claim that Mr Hicks "condoned sex crimes against women".

Mr Hicks said: "1 was a 1,000-1 outsider, an unemployed man from Bristol against the general secretary, but it was clear we were doing far better than they had ever imagined."

Michael Ford, representing Unite, said the union did not recognise that the 158,000 workers who had refused to pay their fees for six months were not still members of Unite.

David Cockburn, the Certification Officer, said he would make a decision on the application to annul the election result within four weeks.

If the election is annulled, Mr McCluskey will remain in his post because his five-year term of office will still be in effect from the 2010 election.

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