Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, highlights abuses of power by both establishment candidates which are undermining democracy.
Democracy means the rule of the people. As a union’s power comes from the participation of members, democracy is not an optional extra. Yet both Coyne and McCluskey are acting as if our union is the plaything of a tiny numbers of senior officers, sacrificing democracy in their pursuit of power. Democracy requires that any member be able to contest a General Secretary election. Yet both establishment candidates are abusing their position and power to deny members a fair choice.
It started with McCluskey forcing this unnecessary election in the first place. No election was necessary this year. Bringing it forward denied members the opportunity to properly discuss who should stand before nominations opened. The timescale for nominations was halved, curtailing debate in branches and workplaces and making it harder for other candidates to get on the ballot paper. Officers and organisers employed by Unite played a huge part in pushing for nominations for McCluskey.
Unlike in previous elections, the union did not furnish all candidates with details of unite branches. I understand that Coyne, the candidate backed by the Blairites, has been using the union’s Branch Secretary Database, which he presumably has access to in his role as a senior officer of the union. Members like myself have no such access. Talking to Unite members at a variety of workplaces, a lot of members are complaining about the volume of unsolicited emails they are receiving from Coyne. One member suggested that this would-be “union baron” should be called Sir Spamalot. Has Coyne got these details from the Unite membership system? Or are the suggestions that right-wing elements of the Labour Party machine have provided him with membership data correct?
This week McCluskey’s campaign has taken things to a whole new level. Members of several branches that nominated me have received emails from firstname.lastname@example.org purporting to come from their branch and Unite4Len. The emails falsely claim that their branch nominated McCluskey. Wherever his campaign got the membership information from, and members are asking serious questions about this, it is clearly against the election rules to send a message promoting a candidate on behalf of a branch which did not nominate that candidate. These are not simply blanket emails, they are personalised with the name, email address and branch of each recipient.
What is perhaps even more absurd is that McCluskey’s campaign is sending emails claiming nominations from branches which don’t even function. One of the scandals of Unite which I have pledged to tackle is that huge numbers of members are without a functioning branch, depriving them of a democratic voice in their union and access to resources. Instead of tackling this, McCluskey’s campaign is simply acting on behalf of these defunct branches, giving members false information to help him cling on to office.
If you have received an email giving false information about your branch nomination, please register a formal complaint by emailing details to email@example.com, copying firstname.lastname@example.org and asking for the complaint to be passed to the Returning Officer.
To put the issue in perspective, with a lot of hard work but no access to Unite membership systems I have managed to build a campaign email list which amounts to less than 0.1% of Unite’s membership. Unless members reject the establishment candidates we will be locked in a cycle of every election having bigger budgets and greater abuses of power than the last. Instead of serving the members, elections become about a career path for existing cliques. Instead of elections being the exercise of power by members over the leadership, they become an exercise of power by the leadership over the members.
I want to change all this. I’m not standing because I want a fancy job. 95% of the work of the union is done by thousands of activists like me who don’t receive a penny in return – we do what we do because it is right. I don’t need a six-figure salary to represent members. It doesn’t help our campaigns to look like hypocrites when we criticise inequality in society or our own employers’ fat cat salaries. I’ve pledged to keep my current salary if I’m elected.
I want to shake up our union and put the members in control. If you want a stronger union, not one where democracy goes out of the window when it suits, get involved. When voting opens on Monday 27th March, let’s remind those at the top whose union this is.
Notes to editors:
Ian Allinson is a workplace activist at Fujitsu in Manchester who previously served ten years on the union Executive. Ian comfortably secured the nominations to be a candidate in the Unite General Secretary election. The other candidates in the election are Len McCluskey, the current General Secretary, and Gerard Coyne, Regional Secretary for the West Midlands.
Voting takes place 27 March – 19 April.
Ian is available for interview. For more information, call 07985 438 553 or email email@example.com.
Photographs are available at www.ian4unite.org/resources/
Ian has recently been on strike at his workplace. Information about the Fujitsu dispute is here: https://ouruniontest.wordpress.com/fujitsu-national-dispute/.