Former Bristol Rolls Royce Convenor and
Amicus Executive member Jerry Hicks has lodged a complaint with the government
appointed Certification Officer over the undemocratic extension to office of Derek
Simpson, the Joint General Secretary of Unite, beyond his retirement age next
year. In a change of rules agreed as part of the merger between Amicus and the
TGWU last year Simpson’s period of office was extended to December 2010 when he
will be 66. Simpson was elected as General Secretary of the AEEU in 2002 after
successfully challenging the change in rules to extend Sir Ken Jackson’s period
of office beyond retirement without an election. Members of MSF, GPMU and Unifi
have never had the opportunity to vote for a General Secretary of Unite.
Similarly Jackson was only elected by members of the minority EETPU section of
the AEEU before he was forced into an election.
If Jerry Hicks complaint to the CO is upheld,
it would force an election for a General Secretary for the whole of the Unite
union to be held next year. The result of the complaint to the CO is not
expected until October but it has already been reported that Simpson is
considering calling a snap election and would face a challenge from the former
TGWU General Secretary Tony Woodley.
Both Simpson and Woodley supported Gordon Brown
in the Labour leadership contest after refusing to back John McDonnell. They
also refused to back calls at the TUC from the Prison Officers Association to organise days of strike action,
including a major national demonstration against the government’s pay policy, and
Unite have now agreed to refer the local authorities workers pay claim to ACAS
to avoid embarrassing the Brown government.
Simpson reneged on his
election promises made in 2002 to support the election of officials in the
union and suspended – then sacked – three leading left officials as part of his
attempt to destroy left opposition to this move in the union. The Amicus
section Broad Left split in May after Simpson supporters walked out of the AGM after
losing the vote for chair. They have now launched a separate ‘centre left’ organisation
with the backing of Simpson. The remaining Amicus Broad Left is now in talks
with the TGWU Broad Left over a merger. It remains to be seen if they will
select a left candidate in any leadership contest.
Following the meeting of the Executive
Committee of Unite, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley have made a joint statement
announcing a new election for Simpson’s post of Joint General Secretary. Because
of what they call “the destabilising effect” of Jerry Hicks’ challenge, they
are “suspending the implementation of Unite’s full rules to…allow for this
election to take place.” So they are suspending rules which 95.3% of the
membership voted in favour of. The election will ballot only formerly AMICUS
members of Unite.
This decision is likely to come under
further challenge. At present nomination papers are due to go out next week. We
shall keep you informed of further developments within the Union.