Jerry Hicks, candidate for Unite union leadership, backs wildcat strikes

Jerry Hicks is the only challenger to incumbent general secretary, Derek Simpson, in the contest to lead Unite-Amicus.

Having worked for years at Rolls Royce before being sacked in 2005 for his strong defence of workers’ rights as a trade union activist, he is in touch with the concerns of ordinary members and wants democratic control of the union.

He says, “I believe in elections by the members with officers answerable and accountable to the members. As proof of my commitment to the principle of election of officers I was offered a Full Time Officers Job with the Union in 2003 by Derek Simpson but declined his offer as this would have been an appointment and so against my belief in elections.”

Whilst not backing a break from the Labour party, he promises to ensure support is only given to Labour MPs who back workers’ rights and will scrap the anti-union laws, brought in by the Tories, which criminalise people who fight for their jobs.

He says: “Unite is not only the country’s biggest trade union it’s also the biggest single donator to the Labour Party, having given £11 million of members’ money since 2005. But despite all this and with 100 sponsored MPs, anti trade union legislation is unchanged. Even the most basic right to re-instatement when unfairly dismissed has not been achieved under Derek Simpson’s leadership. Slavish support for the Brown government from our union has to end.”

Whereas Simpson is paid £126,939 with a host of privileges, Jerry promises that if he’s elected he’ll follow the socialist tradition of only being paid the wage of the average skilled worker, not a City fat cat.

Here’s the latest post from Jerry’s blog in which he gives his full support to the striking construction workers who are defying the anti-union laws:

An emergency meeting of the national construction shop stewards forum took place in London as long ago as the 8th January. The meeting discussed the escalating crisis in construction following a series of protests in November and December of last year, over employment rights and also the proposed exclusion of UK workers by foreign companies on power stations and other major UK contracts.

The meeting was originally called for at Newark on the 3rd December following a series of protests at the gates of Staythope Power Station. At the meeting shop stewards voted overwhelmingly to organise a programme of demonstrations toward targeted construction projects within the UK power generation sector.

Shop stewards and trade union activists find it is hard enough as it is to get a job in the industry because of the black listing by the employers. It is a way of reducing their costs and attempting to break union organisation on the major projects.

Rank and file members are preparing for mass disruption on projects throughout the country that refuse to recognise union national agreements. There will be organised demonstrations strikes and mass disruption. We are preparing for a battle to defend our jobs.

Jerry Hicks a candidate in the coming election for General Secretary in the UK’s biggest union Unite-Amicus is supporting the action. He was present at a recent protest at Staythorpe power station where he sustained a fractured leg, having been assaulted by the police.

He said “This should come as no surprise to anyone. The employers have deliberately and actively been looking for ways to exploit cheap labour while covering their eyes and ears to the growing rage of discontent and ignoring all the warning signs, it’s outrageous”,

He went on to say, “To its shame the union leadership failed miserably to grasp the nettle months ago when the dispute was a crisis in the making. The union needs to confront the employers and organise a national campaign for industrial action.”

The employers watch and listen to everything we say and do. If the union does little and says even less they drive the boot in harder and our situation gets worse.

This is not about race or prejudice it is about the exploitation of labour, playing one worker against another. It is about the employers trying to break nationally agreed arrangements and in doing so it is an attack on the union.

Gordon Brown, who at the last Labour party conference said ‘British jobs for British workers’, has created a huge problem all of his own making. He can no longer simply sit on his hands waiting on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, other energy companies are observing what happens next as they seek to further exploit the cheap foreign labour market.

This issue is as a result of the Employers deliberately exploiting a situation, the union leaderships woeful lack of response and Browns pronouncement, Now they act like the like the three monkeys. Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.

Beating the blacklist, constructively

… and the anti-union laws.

It’s possible:

Victory against the blacklist
By Steve Kelly (London Construction Unite)
Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The blacklist in construction is back with a vengeance. It is a well known fact that the blacklist has been used against construction workers for many years especially since the Shrewsbury strike in 1972.

It was always difficult to prove, but in 2006 a case involving three Manchester electricians who were sacked from a job at the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Manchester (having been elected by the workers on that site as their shop stewards and safety rep), was heard at industrial tribunal brought by the T&GWU, now Unite, for unfair dismissal. Evidence was bought to the tribunal by an ex-employee of a well known electrical contractor called Haden. Alan Wainwright swore on oath that indeed a blacklist was most definitely in operation and there was a list of 500 electricians who had worked on the Jubilee Line extension, Pizers (in Kent), and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden .

These sites were all organised by electricians in the past with elected shop stewards and safety reps .Any action taken on those sites would have been unofficial action which annoys firms as well as union bureaucrats. In construction that’s always been the case, and will continue to be so, due to the nature of the industry. Strike while the IRON IS HOT so to speak. The three electricians in Manchester eventually won the tribunal for unfair dismissal, sacked for organising in a trade union.

Two of the workers recently got work after bravely demonstrating outside the site every day since May 2006. A third worker, Steve Acheson, was still struggling to find work up to 3 weeks ago. Steve was offered a job at the Fiddlers Ferry power station in Warrington. Three weeks ago he was told he could start along with 20 others. Two hours later Steve was told by the company on site they only needed 19 workers .Seems like they realised who Steve was (steward from MRI).

The workers on site immediately said they would walk off the job unless Steve was employed. It was obvious to them the blacklist was being used against Steve. Unite full time officers were called in for talks with the company to avert a walkout by the men. After 4 weeks Steve had still not be offered a job on the site. On the 14th August the workers on site told the union that if Steve was not on the job by Monday 18th August they would not go into work and picket lines would be set up for Monday morning.

The other trades assured the electricians of their full support. Steve Acheson was given a job on the site within a couple of hours. This shows how, if workers unite and stick together and defend their fellow workers, the blacklist can be defeated. This kind of action may be necessary in the future – most likely on the Olympic project in Stratford, which is rumoured to need 9,000 workers when it is in full swing.

The main lesson here is all construction workers should join a union and take unofficial where necessary, especially when told not to by trade union officials. They would say we are breaking the law. Rank and file trade unionists have been doing that since 1834!

Unity is strength!

The workers united can never be defeated!