By an AMICUS member
While the TGWU has started a process of consultation on the creation of a new super union, developments in the other two unions (AMICUS and GMB) could well undermine the project.
AMICUS is in the middle of a major witch hunt that threatens its already weak democracy. Three officials of the union have been issued with dismissal notices. Des Heemskerk, Jimmy Warne and Cathy Willis. The charges are unclear, but it appears they are accused of being involved in a “plot” to oust General Secretary Derek Simpson.
The bitter irony is, all three played an important role in helping to get Simpson elected in the first place.
Des was editor of the AMICUS Unity Gazette. The former Deputy Convenor at Ford Dagenham, he took a pay cut to work in the AMICUS campaigns department at Simpson’s request. Jimmy Warne was Gazette chair and former convenor at Swan Hunter. He was a member of the dissident group on the old AEEU executive that stopped the Blairite stooge Ken Jackson declaring Simpson’s election null and void. Cathy Willis suffered years of victimisation by the Jackson regime after it was discovered she was married to Phil Willis a leading AMICUS militant in the construction industry. Like the other two, she worked hard to get Simpson elected.
People close to the case believe that Simpson and his cronies know that the charges against the three won’t stack up at an Employment Tribunal, but don’t care. They would rather the union lose an unfair dismissal case than have articulate dissidents at HQ. Simpson wants to silence those within AMICUS who would fight for a democratic merged union, particularly over the issue of the election of officials.
The victimisation of the three is the latest in a series of attacks by Simpson and his supporters on the independent minded left activists who got him elected.
Though elected on a left ticket, to all intents and purposes Simpson has become the mouthpiece and tool of the old right wing AEEU bureaucracy that ran the union under Sir Ken Jackson. Simpson enjoys a certain degree of arbitrary power over other union officers, but lacks the political compass or industrial strategy to run the union.
The people behind Simpson want to form the new union in the image of AMICUS. The behaviour of the AMICUS reps on the Labour Party National Executive is equally bad. While Jack Dromey of the TGWU has been making life difficult for Blair by not covering up secret loans, Mike Griffiths of AMICUS, the self-styled main trade union fixer for the Blairites on the NEC, has been trying to undermine and isolate him. This is nothing new. Griffiths saved Blair’s bacon and stabbed the TGWU in the back at last year’s party conference by providing the formula under which the Labour party leadership stopped the NEC voting to support changing the law to legalise solidarity action.
The victory of the honest trade unionists in the recent TGWU elections means that the door is closed to deals that would see the GMB and TGWU regional barons sharing the spoils of merger. With a supportive executive Woodley is now free to continue the work of cleaning up the TGWU and imposing some basic financial and organisational accountability on regional secretaries (a few have fallen by the wayside in recent months). The continuation of this drive into a merged union is a prospect that is not exactly attractive to your average GMB regional secretary. So the line has gone out that the merger is “off” and best to ask no questions.
Serious socialists in all three unions should continue to make the case for merger because it makes industrial sense, but not for merger on any basis. We want a merger based on proper industrial organisation and strong rank and file control that can cut down to size Simpson, his cronies, and the rest of the officer caste.
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