Jerry Hicks is standing for general secretary
of the Amicus section of Unite. ‘Socialist Appeal’ supports Jerry’s campaign.Jerry stands for:
election of all officers
pledges that, if elected, he will draw only an average skilled member’s
combine committees and lay democracy in negotiations
repeal of all anti-union legislation, including the right to reinstatement
after a tribunal victory
pensions linked to earnings
ownership, against the privatisation of jobs
programme of building affordable council housing
The background to the election was dealt with
in more detail in a previous article http://www.socialist.net/unite-amicus-elections.htm
). Here we interview Jerry on the major issues facing his campaign and the
future of the Union. We intend to cover other issues as long as the campaign
What kind of response have you received so far to your
If we look at the time I launched my challenge, though
it would not be true to say I was in a minority of one, it was near to it. We
were derided from all sides as having no chance. Since then we have received 48
branch nominations from as far afield as the Shetlands to the Isle of Wight, and
from Wales and Ireland. Not only have we received support from all points of
the compass but also from every sector the union represents. I come from the
engineering sector, and you might reasonably think I would get most support
from that sector, but the support I have received has been truly wide and
diverse.Within the last 48 hours alone
I have had backing from the financial sector in London, from a Swansea branch
and from 4 workplaces in different sectors. I have been overwhelmed by the
people who support me and people who are prepared to actively work on behalf of
You decided to launch a
legal challenge against Derek Simpson staying on in office without an election.
What were your reasons for doing this?
The reasons I mounted the challenge to Derek Simpson are
simple and straightforward:It is quite simply wrong that General Secretary Derek
Simpson should go for 8 years without facing an election. I believe it is also
illegal.It was my overriding belief that it was necessary to
correct this wrongdoing. He (Derek Simpson) knew that it was unlawful because
he himself challenged Sir Ken Jackson’s right to remain in position without
holding an election in 2002 using the Certification Officer.I have received
widespread support for my actions. It is just wrong that the highest authority
in the Union, the joint General Secretary Derek Simpson and the legal advisers,
have no problem with a rule that is unlawful.People will say that a majority voted for the merger
which has been set back by my successful challenge. That is true, but 83% have
never voted for Derek Simpson.
One of the
criticisms levelled against you is that you were willing to use Tory legislation to do this. What is your
response to this criticism?
I’ll reply loud and clear on that for all who want to
listen. The laws (empowering the government appointed Certification Officer to
decide on the interpretation of the union rulebook) are not ‘Tory anti-union
laws’. After all haven’t we had 3 terms of Labour government over the past 11
years, and that position and that legal power have stayed on the statute book? As
a matter of fact I have been told it was Harold Wilson who first brought in the
post of Certification Officer. Why has the law not been repealed if it is such
a problem? Why have the union leaders not been campaigning against it?
Amicus Gazette officially backed Lawrence Faircloth. How do you think this
reflects on the Gazette? What would you say was the overall health of this
I have been most saddened by the attitude of the Gazette
(long regarded as the ‘broad left’ within the Amicus section of Unite). ).
Lawrence Faircloth who has been endorsed by the Gazette as their candidate,
(formerly part of the Sir Ken Jackson regime) had never ever been to a Gazette
meeting in fact he only attended his first Gazette meeting in order to be selected!
Prior to that event taking place on the 9th
of October when nominations for general secretary opened, he was already openly
looking to get the ‘nod’. On the 19th of October the North West
region endorsed Lawrence as their candidate and importantly, they have a policy
of mandating their delegates. On the 1st of November, Faircloth was
duly endorsed at a ‘selection’ Gazette meeting which was held in Preston, the
heart of the North West region. In my view this was a foregone conclusion, at a
meeting where the majority of minds were already made up.
As regards Lawrence Faircloth
I have no axe to grind. I have been told he is a hardworking regional official.
On his salary I would hope for the membership’s sake he and all the officials
are hardworking. They say he’s a nice man but nice is a fit description for
biscuits, not prospective general secretaries. Lawrence Faircloth (formerly
part of the Sir Ken Jackson regime) has never been at Gazette meetings and in
fact attended his first Gazette meeting in order to be selected!
I believe those who currently support the
Gazette have made a whole series of errors of judgement and they selected the
wrong candidate. They have lost support as a result. My campaign has got
considerable support from many Gazette supporters. There is a greater broad
left in the union than just the Gazette supporters. I am standing unashamedly
on a left platform. I have attracted many people who are new to activity in the
union as well as those who have drifted away from the Gazette and from active
involvement in union politics over the years.
It has been said that
you have previously had very little involvement locally or nationally
in the Gazette. How do you respond to this criticism?
My history in
the union is well documented. I have been actively involved in the left of the
union and with the Gazette for more
than 20 years. Of course I haven’t attended all the meetings but the shop
stewards’ committee at Rolls Royce (where Jerry worked till he was victimised 3
years ago) had a standing order to the Gazette, which represented both
political support and financial assistance. When Derek Simpson was campaigning
against Sir Ken Jackson for general secretary, I took days of holiday in order
to support his campaign. In fact Derek Simpson spent 2 nights under my roof as
part of his campaign, travelling round with my help to get support. I have
stood as Gazette candidate for the NEC of Amicus, incidentally polling the
If the Gazette had held a democratic selection and chosen
an alternative candidate with a proven left record would you have continued to
stand as an independent left?
The best answer I can give to that is that if for one
moment I thought the 1st November Gazette was democratic, a meeting where
delegates were able to make a choice based on a candidate’s politics, their own
past record, policies, and presentation I would have been there. So in that
case, if not selected myself, then I would have supported the successful
candidate and campaigned for them.
sort of local organisation have you been able to build throughout the course of
your campaign? What sort of input do
your supporters have to your programme?
To add to what I said earlier (in answer to the first
question) the campaign is already much more than local. It has become a
national campaign. I have addressed 26 branch and workplace meetings where I
always say our campaign is about being inclusive. Anyone can make a
contribution if they agree with the basic principles. For instance I’ve been
involved in the fight at the Staythorpe Gas Fired Power Station (where the
bosses were breaking agreements and the Union under Simpson was reluctant to
get involved). They have sent me material on their struggle that I have
included in my election materials. There is stuff on our website from people
I’ve met on the campaign. (http://jerryhicks.wordpress.com/)
Supporters in all sectors will be invited to contribute to future election
There are those who argue that trade unions shouldn’t get
involved in politics, that they should simply ‘represent their members’. What
would you say to this?
Those that argue that could not be more wrong. The link
between workers, unions and politics are inextricable. I have said this loud
and clear to all those who listen to me. If the trade unions just represent
workers at the workplace they will die, they will wither on the vine and die.
The anti-trade union legislation is intended to shackle trade union activity on
the shop floor. The only way to repeal those laws is through unions’
involvement in politics. Workers rights, trade union freedoms, decent state
pensions, pay and conditions, public ownership of utilities is the way forward
especially now during the chaos that the free market has created, our arguments
have never made more sense. The last thing I’d like to say on this is I’m not
afraid of the ‘S’ word – socialism.