Return to Trade Unions/Social Partnership menu

Jerry Hicks, rank and file candidate for general secretary of UNITE, in successful tour of Ireland

John McAnulty 

4 October 2010

Jerry Hicks was invited by Ireland by Socialist Democracy during the last week of September on the grounds that there would be a wide audience for his call for a new rank and file trade unionism. The trip was very successful with very many workplace visits, support committees set up in Belfast and Dublin and organisers in major workplaces.

Jerry was at his strongest in the workplaces. His message of rank and file control, an average industrial wage for officials and unrelenting opposition to the working class paying a penny for the banking crisis receive enthusiastic support.  Many workers referred to the Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme indicating official corruption in the union leaderships and cosy deals with management to the detriment of workers.  Many workers spoke of the difficulty in getting officials to deal with ordinary grievance disputes and the likelihood that you would find the official holding private meetings with the boss rather than the workers.

A surprising aspect of the public meetings was the absence of some socialist groups.  Some groups are backing the ‘left’ bureaucrat Len McCluskey but seem unwilling to discuss this policy in detail given McCluskey’s role in the struggle by Cabin crew against British Airways management. This absence was more than offset by the interest and enthusiasm of trade union and independent activists.

Open support groups have now been set up and can be contacted through this website.  The immediate task is to get out the vote for Gerry Hicks in UNITE and there are many workplaces yet to be contacted. However many people, including Jerry himself, agree that there is a need for a rank and file movement that goes across union boundaries and which replaces the current trade union debate about the timing of cuts and suggestions that a Keynesian programme of state investment will solve our problems.  We need a rank and file movement that opposes the bank bailout and advocates a socialist alternative and that movement will continues long after the last vote is counted.


Return to top of page