Members need Unite structures which help seize the opportunities

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, explains how Unite’s structures reflect the past and managerial convenience, not members’ current needs and organising opportunities, and pledges to involve members, officers and staff in a major review if he is elected.

Unite’s current structures are not fit for purpose. A large proportion of power and resources lie within regions, but this structure doesn’t fit the reality of members’ employment and how we need the union to support us. The structure reflects the history of Unite’s constituent unions, the compromises made during mergers, and managerial convenience. The Rules Conference process is effective for tweaking the structure, but a review is required to bring forward coherent proposals for more fundamental changes.

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Will Unite break its own election rules?

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, is calling on Unite to stick to its own election rules, and on Len McCluskey and Gerard Coyne to agree to livestreamed hustings so that members can make up their minds on the strength of the arguments about the pressing issues we face.

This General Secretary election shouldn’t even be happening. For the second time Len McCluskey has forced an early election, resulting in timing that benefits only one candidate, himself. Only he knew the election was coming, so only he was unaffected by the compressed timescale for the campaign and nominations.

Almost all the information about the election process has been removed from the Unite web site, but I was sent a copy of the ballot guidelines by email in response to a request.

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Video: Ian Allinson explains why he is standing for Unite General Secretary

While the other candidates may have huge campaign budgets, films that look like slick party political broadcasts, and friends in the media, the campaign to elect workplace activist Ian Allinson as Unite General Secretary in 2017 only has arguments and the efforts of volunteers.

This short film summarises why Ian is standing. There’s more detail here and elsewhere on this web site.

If you like what Ian has to say, please get involved, and make sure you branch and/or workplace nominates Ian Allinson between 16 January and 17 February 2017.

First Ian Allinson for Unite General Secretary leaflet

The first leaflet for the campaign to elect Ian Allinson as Unite General Secretary is now available for download.

Image of front page of ian4unite leafletWe will be getting the leaflets printed in bulk in the coming days. If you would like to order some to distribute in your own workplace, at nearby workplaces, at events etc., please fill in the form with your details, including the address to send them to and how many you need, or alternatively email ian4unite@gmail.com.

Printing and mailing out leaflets all costs money. Unlike the two establishment candidates, Ian Allinson isn’t paid from members’ subs, doesn’t have a big salary. Neither does he have rich and powerful backers. If you support the campaign, please donate. Members can donate either via www.donorbox.org/ian4unite, or by cheque payable to Ian Allinson, 11 Germain Close, Higher Blackley, Manchester, M9 0SQ. Branches can only donate after nominating. Donations will be receipted. Any member can inspect the campaign finances.

Ian Allinson backs Jeremy Corbyn

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate, explains his support for Jeremy Corbyn and why Corbyn supporters in Unite should back him in the General Secretary election.

Corbyn speaking to large crowd from top of fire engine
Photo: Alan Gibbons

It is unusual for an internal union election to be so tied up with the question of who leads the Labour Party.

As soon as this unnecessary election been called we started hearing voices from the Labour right urging people to join Unite to take part in the General Secretary election and undermine Jeremy Corbyn. It is a disgrace if well paid activists on the Labour right, even MPs, are joining Unite Community for this reason. Unite’s Rulebook makes clear “Unite Community Membership shall be open to all not in paid employment as well as those not seeking employment“. Community membership is not intended as a cheap route for people in paid work and who have no genuine interest in Unite’s community organising to interfere in our democracy. It is telling that Labour’s right are much less vocal urging people to join unions to defend their communities, jobs and rights at work.

The Labour right haven’t learned from Labour’s last two election defeats (or the international experience) and still think it’s possible to win elections with identikit politicians and middle of the road (i.e. pro-market, pro-austerity, anti-union and pro-warmongering) policies. They have no answers for the declining living standards, crumbling services and warming planet we face, let alone the international rise of support for fascist and right-wing populist parties. The Labour right have found their champion in Gerard Coyne, who says we mustn’t be “distracted” by party politics and accuses Len McCluskey of playing Westminster power games. In fact Coyne is playing the biggest Westminster power game of all. Pulling Unite’s support away from Corbyn would mean turning the clock back to the days when Labour leaders attacked us rather than backed us.

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Ten ways you can support Ian Allinson for Unite General Secretary

Ian Allinson, standing as a workplace activist, doesn’t have the resources of the establishment candidates who are well-paid from members’ subs and have powerful backers. If you want things to change, please get involved.Elect Ian for UNITE Gen Sec

Get in touch via the leave your details form, email ian4unite@gmail.com or phone 07985 438 553 to offer whatever help you can. For example:

  1. Email details if you are willing to publicly endorse Ian Allinson for Unite General Secretary.
  2. Request leaflets and other campaign materials – the campaign can suggest local workplaces you could contact.
  3. Like, follow, share and retweet on social media (Facebook, Twitter)
  4. Campaigning costs money. Can you donate or collect money? There’s a collection sheet here. Members can donate either via www.donorbox.org/ian4unite, or by cheque payable to Ian Allinson, 11 Germain Close, Higher Blackley, Manchester, M9 0SQ. Branches can only donate after nominating. Donations will be receipted. Any member can inspect the campaign finances.
  5. Suggest people the campaign should contact and provide their contact details. And why not contact other Unite members or activists yourself?
  6. Contact local media to promote the campaign.
  7. Send in your ideas for how Unite could improve.
  8. Let us know when your nomination meeting will be. Invite Ian or someone from the campaign to speak at your branch or workplace meeting, or to visit your workplace.
  9. If you want to nominate from your workplace, request nomination forms from your Regional Secretary from 2 January.
  10. Secure a nomination from your branch and/or workplace (see how to nominate me)

If you are campaigning for Ian, please stick to the rules and keep it constructive. The aim of the campaign is to improve Unite and encourage participation – personal abuse discourages participation.

Investigate the role of union officials in blacklisting

Thanks to the efforts of the Blacklist Support Group, construction industry blacklisting has been exposed and some compensation settlements obtained. Ian Allinson, the left rank and file candidate in the General Secretary election, supports calls for the next stage of investigations to include the shameful role played by some union officials who colluded with employers to victimise activists and drive effective union organisation out of the construction industry.

Photo: BESNA 2011 protest, Becca Francis

Blacklisting union activists, often for raising health and safety concerns or other legitimate union activity, is a serious breach of human rights and the law. However, the law provides inadequate protection or sanctions and many activists believe that the blacklist uncovered is merely the tip of the iceberg. It is right that Unite campaigns for stronger protection. Is this the political campaigning Gerard Coyne wants us to do less of?

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Unite general secretary candidates should join me to champion workers’ rights to free movement

There has been a very positive response to Unite General Secretary candidate Ian Allinson’s article in the Guardian yesterday defending workers’ freedom of movement, and explaining why Len McCluskey’s approach gives too many concessions to the racists and nationalists.

What is even more worrying is the silence from Gerard Coyne on the question. He is being backed by many of Corbyn’s opponents in the Labour Party, the people who brought us the infamous “racist mug”. As if people motivated by fear of immigration would vote Labour as a result.

Mug reads "controls on immigration: I'm voting Labour"Ian ended the article:

“No general secretary candidate should chase votes by undermining the unity members need to defend their jobs. I am calling on Len McCluskey and Gerard Coyne to join me in championing workers’ rights to move freely (not just within the EU) and opposing any employment restrictions based on nationality.”

So far at least, neither of the two establishment candidates for General Secretary seem willing to take a clear stance for equality on this question. They really should.

Workers’ rights need fighting for

Pickets, banner reads "Job security, not 1800 job cuts"

As Unite members who are airport baggage handlers, check-in staff and cargo crew at Swissport and BA mixed fleet cabin crew join workers at Southern Rail, Crown Post Offices, Royal Mail’s Accrington Delivery Office and Weetabix in potential strike action over Christmas, while our own action at Fujitsu continues, backbench Tories are baying for ever greater restrictions on workers’ rights.

The United Kingdom has some of the worst anti-union laws in Europe, put in place by Tory governments and left in place by New Labour. While employers have the flexibility to make changes quickly, workers face innumerable obstacles if they want to resist.

If workers want to strike, complex notification rules create delays and opportunities for injunctions. The delays really matter, as many “perishable” issues become fait accompli before workers can legally take any action. In England, Scotland and Wales employers can push through even the biggest redundancies in just 45 days. Today my own employer, Fujitsu, informed reps that it proposes to make the first of its 1800 UK job cuts on 17th February in parts of the company where workers don’t yet have union recognition.

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McCluskey in disarray on free movement of workers

Freedom of movement banner
Photo: Rasande Tyskar, flickr

When I launched the campaign for General Secretary of Unite on Thursday evening, Len McCluskey’s backsliding on free movement of labour was one of the issues I raised. Little did I know how the issue would explode yesterday, with McCluskey and his supporters in full denial mode.

This is not a new issue. Even before the Brexit referendum, McCluskey described EU migration as a gigantic experiment at the expense of ordinary workers. At the Unite Policy Conference shortly after the referendum, I moved an emergency motion from my industrial sector which defended free movement. McCluskey and the Executive Council opposed this in favour of a woolly executive statement that called for a “debate” on free movement.

Since then McCluskey has set out his position in various places, including a speech for the think tank CLASS.

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