Union democracy

Steps forward at RMT AGM

Daniel Randall was a delegate to the recent AGM of the RMT rail union. He reports here in a personal capacity. The annual general meeting of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers (RMT) took place in Leeds from 24-29 October. The AGM had held-over business from the truncated 2020 AGM, which took place online, as well the 2021 business. It took place against the backdrop of threats including big job cuts in Network Rail, a pay freeze across the rail industry, and cuts on Transport for London. Recent officer elections in the union have seen the Broad Left alliance between...

Trade union struggle and political struggle - an interview with John McDonnell

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington and former Shadow Chancellor, spoke to Sacha Ismail. After Labour Party conference, what do you think will happen with Starmer’s leadership? Do you think he’ll be around for a long time? It’s impossible to tell at the moment. At the conference he used the traditional Blairite, Mandelson playbook. Attack your own party to demonstrate you’re a strong leader; do a big personal speech to try to demonstrate you’re a normal human being; make banal statements instead of policy commitments. It didn’t work: the bounce in the polls didn’t happen. The...

Unison: fight for democracy to fight for pay

The victory of the left in the national executive council (NEC) elections of the public services union Unison in June was a major opportunity to transform the country’s largest union. Unison has been politically and industrially timid with little fight against privatisation, losses of jobs and services or real-term pay cuts. Democratising the union is essential so members can debate and decide a new strategy for the union. The union’s largest service groups, Health and Local Government, have both rejected pay offers but there has been no forum to discuss how to win ballots under constraints of...

RMT elections: vote Pottage and Hoyle

Elections for the Assistant General Secretary and National President positions are currently taking place in the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers (RMT). Supporters of Workers’ Liberty active in the union are backing Alan Pottage (AGS) and Sean Hoyle (National President). The past year in RMT has seen outbreaks of conflict within the union over the application of its rule book and how much power should be held by union officers and staff, as against lay bodies like the National Executive Committee. The former General Secretary Mick Cash retired early, following claims...

After Sharon Graham's election, some immediate ideas to change Unite

Scrap all Regional Secretary posts. Overhaul the Legal Department. End meddling in lay-member democracy by full-timers. Reformat meetings of constitutional committees. Campaign for union policy on scrapping anti-union laws. Review support for the Morning Star. These are the proposals which a motion passed by my Unite branch earlier this month called on the higher levels of the union’s constitutional committees to give consideration to. The motion was passed in the context of, and on the basis of, Sharon Graham’s election as Unite General Secretary. Graham stood on a platform of change, a focus...

Getting issues on the CWU agenda

Having safely navigated its way through a virtual special conference called to discuss equality issues earlier this year, and the biennial National Executive Committee (NEC) elections, the hierarchy at the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has arranged another virtual two-day event starting 7 November. The agenda is restricted to general policy and political issues. This gives activists no opportunity to challenge the partnership approach adopted on the postal side of the union or the recent sell out of the BT dispute. The bureaucracy extends beyond HQ, with a substantial number of regional...

“Worker’s wage” pledge fulfilled

John Moloney (speaking) with Royal Parks strikers When he was just taking office in July 2019, the new Assistant General Secretary of the PCS civil service union, John Moloney, outlined in Solidarity how he would be implementing his pledge to take only a “worker’s wage”. He explained his motivation: “I must stress that my stance on the AGS wage is not that of a hair-shirt moralist. It is political. During the five years of my contract, my take home will only increase in line with that of DWP London EOs [a numerous civil service category, as explained in the article]. Poor pay awards will hit...

More organising, more democracy, more politics: how to push in Unite

On 25 August Sharon Graham won the Unite general secretary election, becoming the first woman to lead the union. Graham got 46,696 votes, with Steve Turner — the favoured successor of outgoing general secretary Len McCluskey — gaining 41,833. Many feared that two left candidates in a First Past the Post election would allow right winger Gerard Coyne to win; in the event, Coyne came third with 35,334. The turnout was around 10% of Unite’s 1.2 million-strong membership. It was 12% in 2017, 15% in 2013, and 16% in 2010. Workers’ Liberty supporters in Unite called for a critical vote for Sharon...

Unite: Sharon Graham's win

Sharon Graham has won the Unite general secretary election, becoming the first woman to lead the union. Graham won 46,696, with Steve Turner - the favoured successor of outgoing general secretary Len McCluskey - gaining 41,833.

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