Support is pouring in for sacked aerospace engineer Jerry Hicks in his bid to get onto the ballot paper for the Unite union’s coming general secretary election.
So far more than 35 representatives of Unite branches, chapels and workplaces have contacted Jerry to say they’ve voted to nominate him.
One was the IT workers’ Fujitsu north west branch.
“The cuts are getting worse and we need a tough leadership to lead a real fightback,” said Fujitsu worker Lynne Hodge.
“I know Jerry’s had to lead people through lots of difficult disputes and I think we’re going to need that.”
The election was called on a lightning timetable in December by current general secretary Len McCluskey.
McCluskey wants to win a new five year mandate. And unless Jerry can get 50 nominations by mid February, he will be the only candidate.
In 2010’s general secretary election Jerry astonished many observers by winning 52,000 votes to McCluskey’s 101,000—beating right-winger Les Bayliss into third place.
“I’m overjoyed, and I feel incredibly honoured by the tremendous progress we’ve had so far,” Jerry told Socialist Worker.
“For members to be given a voice there has to be two candidates—and that means branches need to nominate me.”
McCluskey gave a reminder of how powerful his rhetoric could be last week when giving the Ralph Miliband lecture at the London School of Economics.
He said unions “must work to educate, agitate, organise” and called for “a longer-lasting alliance between organised labour and radical protest.”
Yet he didn’t mention any Unite disputes, whether ongoing, recent or historic.
“Credit where credit’s due, it’s fabulous rhetoric,” said Jerry. “But the next day he should have been saying it in the car park of Honda—where more than 800 redundancies have been announced.”
For Jerry, the recent calls for strikes from members of the NUT and PCS unions (see page 7) are a reminder that the opportunity for action in the public sector hasn’t gone away.
“Unite should be involved so our members can join the call wherever possible,” he said.
“Our duty as a union is to inspire people to vote yes for strikes, to feel confident to take the fight to the employers and the government alike.”
That’s the vision that Jerry and his supporters are organising—on a shoestring budget.
They are trying to get into as many Unite branch and workplace meetings as possible as the nomination period reaches its halfway point.
Last week Jerry spoke at the London construction branch of Unite.
Rank and file workers there defeated the big construction companies’ Besna plan of de-skilling and wage cuts.
One worker took Unite to task for its record over the past year.
“With the pulling back of the Remploy dispute when a factory was close to occupation during the Paralympic Games and with the closure of Coryton, the union has shown a lack of fight when it is most needed,” he said.
“Can our union’s only real plan be to wait two years to get Labour re-elected?”
The meeting voted to nominate Jerry.
He had provided a lot of active support for the rank and file campaign back when Unite’s officials were still denouncing it as a “cancer”.
Kathy Taylor is secretary of Unite’s Bristol health branch, which has also voted to nominate Jerry.
“I’m interested in getting someone who’s not a soft option,” she told Socialist Worker.
“I meet lots of people who are dissatisfied with their union leaders not being as proactive as they could be in leading action.
“I think Jerry ticks all the right boxes there.
“He also wants to tackle the Labour subsidy. I think it’s fine to support a political party. But when that party doesn’t support the unions it’s a bit of a one-way street.”