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We carry below a statement by Jerry Hicks, rank and file candidate for General Secretary of UNITE. He was responding to a newspaper interview given by Les Bayliss, who told the Guardian that he believed Unite had lost the dispute around BA cabin staff a long time ago. He said: "It has been disastrous. It has lowered our standing and reputation. We need to make sure it never happens again." Bayliss is one of four candidates standing for election as general secretary of UNITE, with voting starting this weekend.
20 October 2010
'BA workers are pawns in an election chess game - used by Bayliss and McCluskey, abused by Willie Walsh, let down by New Labour.'
The day before half a million public sector workers are told they will lose their livelihood and after 100,000 finance workers have already lost their jobs, Les Bayliss, Assistant General Secretary of UNITE, chooses to direct his attack at workers brave enough to resist and fight for a better future - the BA cabin staff. He should be ashamed of himself.
A year ago, Len McCluskey was parachuted into the BA dispute, probably believing it would be a quick victory and a launch pad for his own election ambitions.
UNITE's leadership, including three of the four candidates in the current General Secretary election who are Assistant Secretaries, has failed to secure the repeal of the laws against trade unions while funding New Labour to the hilt with £ millions of UNITE members money. They were too close, too cosy, paying too much for too little and are collectively responsible for that failure. Tens of millions of people within and outside the union have been left angry and vulnerable as a result.
They feign anger while posturing in the election campaign but no amount of angry words will stop these public service cuts. Only if the unions fight will we stand a chance. In France, the unions have responded magnificently to the assault on pensions. If they can do it there, we can do it here!
It is all very good for Les Bayliss to talk of negotiation when it's someone else's pay, pension and job, whilst he and other appointed senior officials face no such threat to their six figure pay packages and jobs for life. Negotiation is always useful but it will not save half a million public sector jobs and it has not stopped the wave of sacking and suspensions of BA workers. How does Les Bayliss propose to negotiate with employers that illegally blacklist 3,200 construction workers?
Willie Walsh's blatant attempt at union busting has resulted in 14 sacked union members and 70 suspended while on a legal legitimate strike. It has reduced terms, conditions and pay for the BA cabin crews. The outstanding response from cabin crews has not been built upon by the UNITE leadership. It is not the strikes that are disastrous but the failure to extend the action might turn out to be. White flags and retreats send all the wrong signals to bullying bosses.
Instead, Les Bayliss is trying to promote his own ambitions at the expense of thousands of members facing an employer hell-bent on breaking union organization and undermining hard-won rights at work. I don't think anyone with a huge pay package and an appointed job for life can possibly be fully on the same side or at least in the same boat as their members. This is precisely why I am standing - a member of the union and not an official, free of the infighting and independent of the union's machine.
Woodley, McCluskey and others are expressing outrage at Bayliss's latest antics. They could debar Bayliss from the union election for his alleged breach of union protocols and the Data Protection Act. Despite their consternation and for whatever reason, they choose not to do this. I call for him to be censured and removed from the ballot paper.
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