Ructions in Unite

Submitted by martin on 30 September, 2008 - 4:30 Author: A Unite member

According to reports from a delegate to the Executive of Unite (the union formed by merger of Amicus and TGWU), and other well-placed sources, the union's "joint general secretaries", Tony Woodley (TGWU) and Derek Simpson (Amicus) are presently engaged in "all out war".

It's so bad that the further integration of the two previous unions may now be at risk.

The reasons seem to have much more to do with personalities that any serious points of political or even organisational difference. Simpson has become more and more authoritarian and intolerant of any form of dissent - especially from former allies. There have been arbitrary sackings of staff members who have displeased him, and former Amicus members thought to be working too closely with ex-T&G people have come under attack.

Simpson's ally Les Bayliss has sent out an email to former Amicus officers saying, in effect, no further integration without the express permission of Bayliss himself. 21 Amicus organisers have been designated as "officers" overnight, without consultation with anyone from the former T&G.

The Executive itself was, apparently, a shambles, with no papers prepared and no finance report.

Ironically, Simpson is now hoping that the challenge to him remaining as joint general secretary until 2010 (when he'll be 66), from Jerry Hicks is successful! This would trigger a general secretary election either in the Amicus Section, or in Unite as a whole, in which Simpson would stand. If he were to be elected, he could then hold office for a further five years! If this happens, Woodley will almost certainly stand as well.

Insiders reckon that this scenario is unlikely, and Hicks's complaint to the Certification Officer is unlikely to succeed. The general secretary elction date of December 2010 is contained in the union's rulebook, which the Certification Officer was consulted on as it was being drafted! Still, stranger things have been known...

In the event of a Woodley v Simpson election battle, the out-and-out right from both sides of Unite, would stand back and let these "lefts" knock the shit out of each other. If Hicks's challenge fails, and the general secretary election is in 2010, the right will probably coalesce around either North West Regional Secretary Kevin Coyne (ex Amicus) or his brother, the Midlands Regional Secretary, Gerrard Coyne (ex T&G).

The Amicus Unity Gazette and the T&G Broad Left are now meeting together at national and regional levels, and generally working together reasonably well (though there are considerable organisational and "cultural" differences). The ultra-loyal pro-Simpson grouping around Steve Davison has split from the Gazette and is rumoured to be in discussions with the ex-T&G group led by John Aitkin.

There will be a launch rally of the new, united Left group (no name yet) in Birmingham on Saturday 29th November.