Britain’s biggest union is rushing through a general secretary election—and blacklisted former rep Jerry Hicks is campaigning for a fightback against austerity and job cuts.
The Unite union’s current general secretary Len McCluskey called the election in December—three years ahead of schedule.
The timetable seems designed to exclude challengers, who have until mid February to get nominated by at least 50 Unite branches.
It means McCluskey, if successful, will be able to run Unite until he retires at 67.
This will avoid having a debate inside the union in 2015, when it will be throwing its support behind the Labour Party.
Jerry has criticised the decision to move the election. “It comes at a time when the union should be concentrating all its resources on fighting the cuts to services, pensions, and jobs.
“Unite should be fighting attacks on members and their families’ livelihoods.”
Now Jerry, who got over 50,000 votes when he ran in 2010, has stepped up to make sure there is a challenge to McCluskey on the ballot paper.
This will give Unite members a chance to vote for resistance to public sector austerity and resist job and pay cuts in the private sector.
“A new strategy is needed that doesn’t just negotiate the terms of restructuring but opposes outsourcing and closures,” said Jerry.
“Unite needs to argue for effective industrial action, including where necessary, solidarity action and site occupations.
“An effective strategy of resistance must be at the heart of the fight to retain jobs and sites.”
Some McCluskey supporters have attacked Jerry for standing at a time when he is unemployed.
But for him the fact that he risked his job to fight for members is “a badge of honour”.
“I was victimised by Rolls Royce, using anti-union laws that had been left in place by Labour,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We had occupied our factory for three days and won the reinstatement of three members’ jobs.
“I later found that I—like 3,200 others—had been put on a blacklist.”
Jerry could soon be challenging the blacklist in court.
And he believes Unite’s commitment to the Labour Party is holding it back from leading the kind of protests and struggles that McCluskey often pays lip service to in his speeches.
“We were promised ‘no more blank cheques for Labour’ two years ago,” he said.
“Since then it hasn’t been blank—but a cheque with £6 million written on it.”
Unite branches around Britain have already begun to send in nominations for Jerry,
“I’m delighted that 17 branches have already been in touch to say they’ve sent nominations in,” he said.
And the race is on to get enough for a real election inside the union.
For more on Jerry’s campaign www.jerryhicks4gs.org
How your branch can nominate Jerry bit.ly/V9YQjc