Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/414/4706
USDAW presidential election
Broad Left candidate speaks to the socialist
USDAW, BRITAIN'S fifth largest union, is currently seeking nominations for the positions of President and Executive Council (EC). These elections take place every three years and are vital in deciding the direction of USDAW, a union which principally organises workers in retail and distribution.
The socialist recently spoke to Terry Savage, the broad left candidate for President.
"The broad left agreed to support me at the Annual General Meeting, earlier this year. I have been travelling the country speaking to USDAW activists throughout the summer. The feedback has been generally positive, even though the union leadership are desperate to get their candidate in place. Union officials will in most cases,' toe the line' in the nomination process.
It will be no surprise to see their candidate achieve the most nominations, in a process which devalues the union as a democratic workers' organisation.
Officials have in the past, even been given targets by one over-zealous divisional officer. Whilst I don't think that this will be evident again, I am certain that a lot of work has been done behind the scenes. I have sought to get the union to hold hustings meetings with all candidates, at divisional conferences, in order that members can have the chance to decide which person they wish to lead the union.
A letter I wrote to all EC members asking for this to happen, was ripped up by one of the EC members in theatrical fashion at the executive meeting.
Once again ordinary members of the union are being kept well 'in the dark' about the elections. The first that most members will know about them will be when a ballot paper drops through their letterbox in January.
No wonder most will chuck them straight into the bin! Even the Tories have a more democratic election process!
USDAW is wedded to a failing partnership model, which alienates ordinary members and is loved by employers and the Blair government. Members are amongst the lowest paid, many are on the minimum wage.
Tesco retail workers no longer have a vote on their pay and conditions. Sainsbury staff are kept on low wages because the USDAW leadership refuses to work with the TGWU to force wage bargaining in the company. Staff at Jackson's, a regional company taken over by Sainsbury last year, are paid the minimum wage.
There is a lack of vision and ambition amongst the leadership, which results in the union being seen as weak by many members. Imagine how the union would grow if workers saw USDAW as a strong voice speaking up in support of workers in dispute with employers, rather than speaking weasel words, or all too often saying nothing at all.
The election of a broad left EC, supporting me as President will re energise USDAW, and allow members to get involved, by turning the union into a campaigning force, which puts their interests at the forefront of all decisions taken by the leadership."
In The Socialist 3 November 2005: