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Unity in Unite unravelling
Unite members will be bemused and concerned at the news that the union's joint executive committee has delayed the full merger of the Amicus and the Transport and General sections of Unite for six months. Despite over 95% of those voting in a members' ballot supporting the new constitution and integration on 1 November, the delay has been made to allow Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson to face re-election.
Kevin Parslow, 1/1228 TGWU/Unite branch secretary, personal capacity and Mick Cotter
This is because a challenge was made by sacked Rolls-Royce convenor Jerry Hicks to the Unite instrument of amalgamation that enabled Simpson to stay on as joint general secretary of the new union for a year beyond his original retirement date. It was likely to be ruled unconstitutional by the trade union certification officer.
These were the same grounds on which Simpson challenged the previous right-wing Amicus general secretary Ken Jackson's belief he could stay in office!
It appears Tony Woodley's supporters on the executive approved the moves to delay the merger because Simpson's retirement also triggers Woodley's retirement a year later.
The ballot, for which nominations start immediately, will take place in February and March next year. Simpson will stand for a further period of office to end in December 2010 but many on the left are now hostile to the idea of Simpson being able to take the union forward.
Laurence Fairclough, a regional secretary, has announced he will stand as a candidate promising swifter amalgamation, while Jerry Hicks is also promising to stand. Socialist Party members will discuss with the left Gazette group on support for the candidate best able to lead the union in a fighting direction.
As worrying, was another reason given for delay of the full merger. Some officials are alleged to have obstructed the merger process, effectively flouting the democratic decisions of Unite members. Even the possibility of the unpicking of the merger has been raised as a reason for delay. If the obstruction continues, it was argued by some, it would have been impossible to decouple the union if it had fully merged on 1 November.
Unite has been at the forefront of some high-profile disputes this year (Grangemouth, Shell, Shelter amongst others) and will have to remain in the forefront of struggles to defend the jobs of the million or more finance workers in Britain should their greedy bosses want to make them pay for the crisis.
Unite has 180,000 members in this sector and could recruit tens of thousands more if it took a fighting lead against the fat cats. But that will mean also taking on the Labour government, with large shareholdings in the banks now, with Unite now the biggest donor to the Labour Party.
Socialist Party members in Unite oppose this money going to Labour, the obstruction of the merger and the possibility of a split. Members must be mobilised to defend the merger against those mainly unelected officials standing in the way of unity.