Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/479/2211
Amicus and TGWU to merge
AS EXPECTED, members of Amicus and the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) have voted overwhelmingly to support the merger of the two unions.
Both unions had 27% turnouts in the ballots, but the TGWU gave the go-ahead by 86.4% for merger and Amicus members voted 70.1% for merger. The difference may reflect the harder campaigning for the merger within the TGWU but also that sections of Amicus may have opposed the loss of the rights to elect full-time officials. This will be something Socialist Party members and others on the left of the new union will continue to fight for.
TGWU general secretary, Tony Woodley said: "The new union will be a progressive, organising, fighting back industrial giant focused above all on winning for our members in the workplace and taking trade unionism to the millions who need it."
Amicus general secretary, Derek Simpson, said: "The new union will be the greatest campaigning force on behalf of ordinary people that has ever existed. It is a precursor to the creation of a single global trade union movement capable of challenging the might of multinationals who seek to play workforces and governments off against each other to reduce jobs and hard won pay and conditions."
However, if these fine words are going to be transformed into reality, union leaders must resolutely defend their members' interests in disputes with the bosses. The recent settlement at BA left many of the cabin crew, who had voted 93% in favour of action to defend their conditions, disappointed with the TGWU leaders. The new union must have more democratic accountability over negotiations.
Similarly, its relations with New Labour will be crucial. Simpson said: "Despite the personal hostility between Mr Brown and Mr Blair, I don't think you can get a cigarette paper on policy between the two men"! He is right, but neither the TGWU nor Amicus have come out firmly in support of John McDonnell for the Labour leadership, despite him being the only candidate to proclaim the need for socialist policies.
The new union must fight vigorously inside the Labour Party for socialist policies and to get rid of pro-capitalist ministers and MPs, in order to justify the millions of pounds in members' dues spent. Or it should leave and form a new workers' party, as we have proposed, which could accurately reflect the struggle for socialist ideas that Andrew Murray, communications director of the TGWU, said was still on the agenda. The new union must be the opportunity for a new approach which will bring workers behind it to fight or it may not get off the ground.
In The Socialist 22 March 2007:
War and terrorism
Socialist Party campaigns
International Socialist Resistance
Socialist Party news and analysis
What we think
Marxist analysis: history
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis