Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/11937
Socialists elected to leading positions in Greenwich Unite
On 26th April Unite union members working for Greenwich council, south London, elected Socialist Party members Onay Kasab and Chris Slater into the positions of branch secretary and treasurer respectively.
In addition two other lefts were elected into the positions of assistant secretary and chair, making it a clean sweep against a slate of candidates that represented a tired and out-of-date right-wing tradition that previously existed in the former ACTS branch.
The election took place as a result of the merging of the ACTS branch with the ex-TGWU branch to form the new Greenwich Unite 2050 branch. A packed meeting of around 150 took the opportunity to hear from candidates.
However, Onay's opponent announced on the night that she had no desire to address the meeting as her election material had stated all that she wished to say.
It was certainly the case that her campaign had issued a large number of glossy leaflets over just a few weeks. Even council lifts were plastered with her posters.
She also took the opportunity to use her position as an incumbent to hog trade union notice boards and mail out to stewards.
In one leaflet, she implied that she had no political affiliation, asking members to vote for her if they put their employment before politics. This came across as an attack on the Socialist Party.
On the night, campaigners not employed by Greenwich but wearing Unite tabbards handed out yet another leaflet on her behalf. In this they referred to her opponents as mavericks who would lose jobs and highlighted that she had made connections with the local Labour Party.
In sharp contrast, Onay and Chris chose not to make any complaint about what looked like a breach of election rules nor did they attack their opponents.
Instead they emphasised their own record including pay rises for large and several groups of staff, preventing pay cuts and redundancies, stopping library cuts and winning one of the best 'single status' deals in the country.
Onay's opponent was not able to give one specific example of a gain she had won for Unite members. On the night Onay won by a majority of 120, gaining 132 votes as against 12 for his opponent.
When the result was announced virtually the whole room erupted into cheering.
This sent a clear message - workers do not forget a fighting record, no matter the slurs or slanders. It also sent a clear message to the Unison witch-hunters who used undemocratic methods to impose their administration of the Greenwich Unison branch and who have expelled Onay from Unison.
When the question is put to workers to decide, they will choose fighting leaders
Rebuilding Unite in Greenwich is now an urgent task. This will be done in the teeth of the battle against the cuts.
What is clear from the campaign is that there are hundreds of workers who will now be joining Unite very quickly as a result of this election. Workers over the last few weeks took Unite forms while saying that they would only be joining if Onay was elected.
This election result was best summed up by one worker who said after the meeting:
"Now we know the Union is in safe hands - now we know we have a chance against the cuts".