Unite EC elections start

Kevin Parslow, Unite LE12/28 branch secretary, personal capacity

Ballot papers have gone out to Unite members in elections for the union’s executive council (EC). Ballots have to be returned by 12 noon on 23 April.

The new EC will face some crucial issues, particularly its relations with New Labour and its industrial response to a possible Miliband government pledged to continue austerity.

It must also actively consider coordinating action with other unions when necessary to fight against attacks on jobs and living standards.

The EC, which has been reduced slightly in size from its present 63 members, has nevertheless seen 22 candidates elected unopposed! Socialist Party members in Unite are supporting the United Left (UL) slate, the full list of which can be found here: http://www.unitedleft.org.uk/index.php/campaigns-a-elections .

The UL is likely to retain its majority but the right-wing ‘Unite Now’ group has a list of 15-20 candidates plus independents it is supporting.

The ‘Grassroots Left’ group associated with Jerry Hicks is fielding just three candidates. But one of these has pictures of himself on his Facebook page with various New Labour ‘dignitaries’.

Another, challenging left-wing candidate Steve Miller in North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, is a senior steward in Scunthorpe steelworks who, as a Labour council candidate, stood on a programme of limited cuts in 2011.

The election comes following the executive’s decision to support the Collins Review reforms of the Labour Party, which were backed by general secretary Len McCluskey.

In the key vote, EC members supporting the main left grouping, UL, split three ways! This was despite the UL having supported the principle of the union’s collective strength in the Labour Party almost unanimously a few months previously, and the broad agreement with this position at the December EC.

The decision to support the Collins’ proposals has caused some disquiet and disillusion among Unite activists of all political persuasions.

Socialist Party members have explained the character of New Labour, as a pro-big business party, and demanded that not a penny more should be given to this party. But we also recognise the potential political power of trade unions in Britain.

That’s why we call for the unions to break with Labour and set up a new mass workers’ party. That task will be on the agenda for the next EC and the union’s Rules Revision Conference next year.