Cut regions’ power

Submitted by Anon on 11 March, 2006 - 2:17

By an AMICUS member

A CONSULTATION document has been issued to TGWU branch secretaries on the proposed TGWU/Amicus/GMB merger.

The document describes those structures that the three unions have in common and puts them forward as the basis for merger. The idea is for a merger on the basis of minimal disruption to the bureaucratic status quo (bar the inevitable jockeying for position and scramble for early retirement deals that will follow amalgamation).

At the centre of the proposed new structure stands the power of the regions.

The regions are defined as providing for “effective lay member scrutiny and control” and charged with “acting as the main driver for membership service delivery”. In practice there will be no real lay membership control. Control will be in the hands of officials at regional office.

A merged union should be a democratic federation of different industrial organisations. Only a constitution in which the industrial structures of the union are completely dominant and regions are merely supportive administrative and campaigning units can provide for that kind of democracy.

Trade union democracy has to be rooted in the workplace. Without clear lines of democratic control and accountability that flow from the workplace, through stewards’ committees, to company-wide and industrial structures there, can be no effective control of officers or elected representatives.

The familiar pattern of regional officials cutting dirty deals and undermining rank and file industrial control will be replicated in the new union.

Things don’t have to be like that. The merger doesn’t have to mean combining the worst Amicus should be a new start.

The merger provides the possibility of creating an effective organisation only if it is used as an opportunity to ditch the outdated regional structures that create networks of patronage and corruption. The regions have to be cut down to size. They should cease to be fiefdoms, and become resource centres that serve industrial organisation rather undermine it.

AWL members in Amicus, GMB and TGWU will be circulating model responses to the consultation in the near future: watch this space!

• TGWU consultation document available at

GMB out of merger?

Rumours are widespread that the GMB leadership is getting cold feet about the merger. It is believed that the GMB regional secretaries fear for their positions of power and patronage within the new union. However, it is not ruled out that influential elements in the national leadership will wish to continue as part of the process for fear of the alternative: a membership war which they cannot win.

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