Unite

Sharon Graham, Unite and “workers’ politics”

Workers' Liberty members and supporters in Unite the Union have not yet decided who to collectively campaign for for Unite’s General Secretary. For debate and discussion on the election, see here. Unite GS candidate Sharon Graham’s proposals for “a Workers’ Politics” point in the wrong direction. In many respects they represent a regression from Unite’s current political strategy. The wider output from Graham’s campaign says little in terms of political struggles and largely disparages political trade unionism in favour of “returning to the workplace”. She has denounced rival left candidate...

Unite general secretary: Beckett pulls out

For more on the Unite General Secretary election, see here. On 18 June Howard Beckett pulled out of the contest for election as the next Unite the Union General Secretary. (Balloting begins on 5 July). Despite his posturing in recent months as the only candidate worthy of election, this was no surprise. Of the three left-of-centre candidates, Beckett got the lowest number of branch nominations (328). Nearly half (143) came from Scotland alone, thanks to the union’s Scottish bureaucracy and its "Progressive United Left Scotland" delivering nominations from a myriad of small and inactive...

Skwawkbox, Beckett and Waterloo

For more on the Unite General Secretary election, see here. One of the many benefits of the 18 June decision by Howard Beckett to withdraw from the Unite General Secretary contest was that it exposed – yet again – the abyss which separates the "investigative journalism" of the Skwawkbox website from mundane reality. For nearly a year Skwawkbox has propagated a narrative in which Beckett, a millionaire lawyer and charlatan-socialist, was a man of principle hated by the Establishment for his uncompromising commitment to class-struggle politics. At every stage the narrative combined factual...

Electricians win deskilling fight

A campaign of direct action by electricians in the construction industry has scored a major victory. Contractors Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey are “permanently withdrawing” plans to introduce a new grade of electrician with lower training standards at the major Hinckley Point C (HPC) development. A letter announcing the bosses’ climbdown said the plans were scrapped “after Unite [union] raised concerns.” Those “concerns” were expressed in a campaign, taking place over several months, in which workers and their supporters mounted protests, including demonstrations and sit-ins, at sites connected...

The threat from the right in Unite: Stop Coyne!

For more debate and discussion about the Unite General Secretary election, see here. Nominations for the Unite the Union General Secretary election closed last week. All four candidates secured enough branch or workplace nominations for a place on the ballot paper. The minimum number needed was 172. Howard Beckett (Head of Unite’s Legal Department) had 328. Gerard Coyne (Unite West Midlands Regional Secretary until his dismissal in 2017) had 196, Sharon Graham (Head of Unite’s Organising Department) 349, and Steve Turner (Unite Assistant General Secretary) 525. Coyne is the candidate of the...

NHS pay: on the streets, 3 July

Within the next few weeks, the issue of NHS pay will be sharply back on the agenda. The NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) is due to make their recommendation on pay for England and Wales in “mid-June”. That will be followed by an offer from the government. After 18 months of the Covid response which has stretched NHS workers to their limits, proved fatal for over 800, and left many more physically and mentally scarred, the offer will certainly bring disappointment and anger. The immediate focus of campaigning is the well-timed day of action called by Keep Our NHS Public, Health Campaigns Together, NHS...

Unite the Union deadline is 7 June

Two of the four candidates seeking election as the next General Secretary of Unite the Union have already won enough branch nominations (175) to get on the ballot paper. Branches can add nominations until 7 June. Voting will be between 5 July and 23 August. Sharon Graham, head of the union’s Organising Department, announced her 175th nomination on 25 May. On 29 May Howard Beckett, head of the union’s Legal Department, announced that he had 231 nominations. Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner, backed by the union’s United Left (UL), had just 120 nominations (as of a tweet on 26 May), while...

"This is about the kind of world we want to live in"

Ali Treacher is a care worker, Unite the Union activist and workplace rep, and Secretary of the Care and Support Workers Organise! network (CaSWO!) She is also a supporter of Anti-Capitalist Resistance. She spoke to us about care workers' fight. CaSWO! has been meeting throughout the last year, since the start of the pandemic, after a Unison-organised call which brought together care workers around issues like workplace health and safety and PPE. The initial focus was basically offering each other solidarity and advice and sharing information. Government guidelines were so vague that we had to...

McVitie's factory: more strategy needed

Around 250 people turned up on 22 May for a rally protesting the proposed closure of the McVitie’s biscuit factory in the East End of Glasgow. The focus of the campaign against closure is a cross-party alliance to demand intervention by the Scottish Government to guarantee the factory’s future. Having the local Tory councillor denounce Pladis (owners of McVitie’s) for treating the workforce with contempt probably helps build confidence (“everyone is on our side”). But, for obvious reasons, it also lacks credibility. Demanding intervention by the Scottish Government also makes sense. Some 700...

Go North West: gains and concessions

As we reported in Solidarity 591 (5 May 2021), sustained strikes by bus drivers at Manchester’s Go North West succeeded in forcing bosses to back down from their plans to use “fire and rehire” tactics to impose new contracts. The dispute has now been formally settled, with drivers voting by a 79% majority to accept a deal that sees the “fire and rehire” plan scrapped. The strike ran to 12 weeks in total, the longest bus workers’ strike in British history. Two workers sacked during the course of the dispute have been reinstated, with disciplinary charges against 37 more dropped. An above...

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