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Why I’m standing – an interview with Jerry Hicks

This is the transcript of an interview conducted by Workers Power with Jerry Hicks.

Credit where credit’s due, McCluskey’s speech, his Ralph Miliband lecture, was good – though he lifted most of it out of a speech I made back in 2009 – and he said I was exaggerating then – so he’s three years behind the times. It should have been made on the gates of Honda, not just at the LSE.

Credit where it’s due also: the Community branches are a good idea but they don’t go far enough.

But McCluskey’s rhetoric doesn’t meet reality. He talks about coordinated national strike action. But back in March Unite’s leadership pulled the plug on action over pensions and isolated the PCS and NUT.

In 2010 he said no blank cheques for Labour, but in fact he has handed over £6 million of Unite’s money to them. I say, payment by results: let’s see Labour pledge to reverse the cuts, make changes and stand against the anti-union laws.

Instead, McCluskey talks tough but lets them off the hook. He’s already caved in on the date by shifting the General Secretary election so as not to embarrass them in 2015. He may be pinching John McDonnell’s rhetoric now but he backed “Red Ed” for leader, and agreed he should get him £100,000 of Unite’s money.

We don’t offer less but more. More democracy: election of all officials, not the appointments system. More control over our money, demanding results from Labour before we hand over funds. More support for direct action.

McCluskey claims Unite had a successful Olympics. He claims success on the London buses, winning the £500 Olympic bonus but we could have got a lot more like the RMT. Money’s good but more importantly we had a chance to smash the blacklist and take on the anti-union laws on the construction sites over the Olympics.

We should have been capable of inspiring occupations of the threatened Remploy factories [government-owned facilities specially fitted for disabled workers] during the Paralympics – that’s joined-up thinking!

My views are shared by more and more people – Occupy, UK Uncut, Arab spring… Leaders lead, people control. My vision for the union, for the UK, the world is that it is people who control, take responsibility, deliver change.

Inspirational leaders are important but… look at the Berlin Wall, the poll tax… ordinary working people – and unemployed people – are the ones who make things happen.

I worked with the construction rank and file [the “sparks”] that McCluskey tries to take credit for. Yet the National Construction Officer called the rank and file committee and Jerry Hicks – he mentioned me by name – a “cancer” and a “poisonous group”, and he’s still there. That’s the appointments system for you.

This election shouldn’t have been called now. We’re in the midst of a crisis. The focus should be on fighting the cuts and defending jobs, terms and conditions.

It’s been brought forward three years on a false premise, fast-tracked to avoid an election. McCluskey can claim no mandate – renewed or otherwise – unless 1.5 million members get the chance to vote. That’s why I’m standing.

Read the Workers Power statement on why we’re backing Jerry Hicks

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