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Rank and file statement on Jerry Hick’s campaign
Independent Trade Union Rank and File.
The following statement is circulating among UNITE members in Ireland. It has been submitted for publication on the SD website by a bus worker.
The Trade Union movement is in crisis. It is a movement that has never recovered from the defeats of the 1980’s and the aggressive anti labour policies exemplified by Thatcher’s anti union laws. This inability to recover is mainly due to the self-interest of the union bureaucracies’ but it is also due to the lack of self-confidence of the working class during the neo-liberal era. Both issues are interconnected and need to be addressed in terms of practical measures. Even when Unite bailed out the British Labour party financially no amelioration of the Tory anti-union legislation was gained, this was either incompetence or a desire to maintain what has become a convenient method of bureaucratic control. The unwillingness of the labour movement’s leadership to act as defenders of class interests, choosing instead to bargain away hard won conditions of employment in return for less than inflation pay increases has resulted in union members feeling alienated from organisations that they no longer have any control of. In part this has been facilitated by historically low levels of class struggle, but this weakness is being perpetuated by a leadership habitually accustomed to making compromise their opening gambit in all situations. They have no meaningful connection with ordinary union members and see their role as one of controlling their memberships’ spontaneous actions. These actions, usually a measure only resorted to by workers in self defence, are consistently demobilised and sold out by a leadership that feels a sense of ‘responsibly’ towards the interests of avaricious capitalism. This sense of responsibility has led to betrayal after betrayal.
Without a fight the costs and requirements
of the present capitalist crisis will continue to be imposed on the working
class. This can already be seen from the attacks that have been made on
public sector workers in the south of Ireland and from those that have
been all but promised for the public sector in the north of Ireland. In
the south it is likely that more cuts are to follow, given the depth of
the crisis and the fact that the employers, and the State, have found that
they are pushing on an open door with the present Trade Union leadership.
This must not happen! The working class should refuse to pay for the banking
crisis and fight to roll back the cuts already imposed. Resistance to these
attacks is not forthcoming from the present Union leadership, in fact the
opposite is true. ICTU’s Croke Park deal is a conscious act of betrayal
and this leadership must be removed. The task of removing these leaders
falls to the rank and file, no one else will perform the task. The building
of rank and file opposition to these betrayals will act as a salve for
years of defeat and build the confidence required to perform a root and
branch rejuvenation of Trade Unionism. A first step in this direction has
been taken by Jerry Hicks’ campaign for the General Secretary’s position
in Unite. His demands for elected officials, a General Secretary on the
average industrial workers’ wage, and for a repeal of the Tories anti union
legislation strikes a chord with alienated rank and file workers and should
be enthusiastically supported. Most importantly, a campaign to elect Hicks
should only be the starting point in a campaign to build, from the ground
up, a vibrant, motivated, rank and file movement. Only in this way can
democracy, accountability and control be reintroduced to the Trade Union
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