Who is in the lead in Unite election?

With nomination papers for the election to become general secretary of the Unite union hitting doormats, it’s a good time to check what’s going on. And it has been a busy couple of weeks in trade union politics. So let’s take a look at the election’s two frontrunners.

Both Paul Reuter and Simon Dubbins have now withdrawn from the race, respectively backing Les Bayliss and Len McCluskey. The effect of this backing is not just to concentrate support, but to concentrate it in the hands of what might be called, without too much fear of reprisal, the establishment candidates. Bayliss, from the former Amicus side, is supported by joint general secretary Derek Simpson; McCluskey by JGS Tony Woodley.

Both Reuter and Dubbins are from the former Amicus side, Dubbins (like his father) from the GPMU graphical paper and media union, Reuter from the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Both Bayliss and McCluskey say they want to unite the T&G and Amicus halves of Unite – but (not that any of them can help it) the McCluskey-Dubbins agreement, unlike Reuter-Bayliss, is between a T&G and an Amicus man. So that should be of some propaganda value.

What’s more, Dubbins has this week published a list of supporters on his website who are following him over to Len McCluskey. Top of the supporters list are the national chairs of Unite’s industrial committees for aerospace and for graphical paper and media. Interestingly, one of Bayliss’ supporters is assistant general secretary Tony Burke, the chief official in charge of the GPM sector, while he is expected to pick up support in skilled ex-Amicus sectors like aerospace. So not too much can be relied on. (I have asked what supporters Reuter brings with him, but without result so far).

Finally some allegations and counter-allegations. Those not supporting Bayliss or, previously, Reuter have suggested that Reuter didn’t intend to run at all, and planned to support Bayliss prior to his announcement last Wednesday. This is strenuously denied by supporters. It’s certainly been rumoured for a long time, though, that an alliance was under discussion, as I mentioned last week, and Reuter didn’t flyer at the policy conference.

Simon Dubbins is accused of packing it in either because a) he realised he didn’t have much of a chance or b) that he didn’t have the necessary length of service under Unite’s rule book (rule 16.12. Yes I have read it), as Les Bayliss’ email says (see below). I hear that Dubbins did tell supporters he was an underdog in the election, and that he didn’t have quite the right continuous service – but that he was prepared to challenge that rule. But perhaps, if so, that would have become a distraction.

More on the Unite election – and its wider – implications – later…

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25 Responses to “Who is in the lead in Unite election?”

  1. The Watcher Says:

    You are correct, Reuter and Dubbins are from the former Amicus section, but rumour has it that Simon has never ever represented anyone, unlike Reuter who has been a steward, convenor, regional officer and national officer.

    You also seem to overlook that Bayliss is supported by the democratic WUG, which held regional meetings open to all Unite members so Bayliss is not just supported by DS.

    I would have thought that Reuter brings experience and knowledge to the table which could enhance the Bayliss campaign, but he would also bring support from both the moderate officers in both the former Amicus and T&G sections.

    I have also read the results of the last Amicus election on his blog. He could argue that he also has a proven membership vote of about 30k, a figure that should not be overlooked because GS elections tend to have low turnouts.

    It would be interesting if you asked Bayliss if he always knew that Reuter would get behind him, he may not be convinced as these other people and he may give you another answer!

    Simon packing it in because he knew he did not have a chance, I think it could be worse than that, I don’t even think that had sunk in…to win elections without a machine can be difficult…

    Anyone willing to run without the required service would be doing a disservice to their union. Willing to challenge the rule? At what cost to the Union and its members funds? I would have thought that members get fed up with candidates running to the Certification officer.

    You also forget to place an emphasis on another part of the Bayliss statement, which I have read in your other post and it appears to be very important. I find it staggering that there has been an attempt to remove McCluskey’s age of 62 from the ballot form.

    Is this because another legal challenge may be made if he wins and wants to go past his 65th birthday. And if he doesn’t, why would Unite want to run a very expensive election only to do it again in about 3 years time?

  2. sewnsew Says:

    Why do you continue to refer to these as the “two frontrunners”. The third candidate is also an Assistant General Secretary of Unite, Gail Cartmail, an equally experienced trade unionist with as much, if not more, industrial experience as the two candidates mentioned. Gail also has what some may describe as the major advantage of not being hampered by the baggage of divisive factionalism which the other two have.

    Perhaps it is time to talk about candidates in equal terms and measure their current standing in the ballot by what they have done rather than by the support of outgoing joint general secretaries.

    Those that attended Gail’s hustings meeting at the policy conference will know that this is not a third candidate but a runner who can keep up with the rest and hold her own in the race to the finish. This is by no means a two horse race.

  3. Dr S. Pin Says:

    Sewnsew does exactly the same. The post goes on to to say candidates should be treated on equal terms and then doesn’t refer to the fourth candidate. So what are you actually saying? Gail doesn’t have any political opinions or those that share those opinions don’t wish to support her?

  4. John Says:

    It is pushing in a bit to argue that Gail Cartmail could be considered a leading candidate. She may or may not be the right person for the job but she hasn’t got a chance in reality. I am told 30 people turned up to her event at Unite conference. McCluskey’s event, which I myself attended, had over 300 people at it.

  5. Undecided Says:

    Very interesting developments. I am a former Amicus section member and attended the Unite Policy Conf and watched closely how all the different candidates performed over the week.
    My observations are as follows

    Len
    Had lots of activists around the conf, with a significant machinery behind him. He was well spoken at his hustings meeting which is what i would expect from a seasoned officer. There was around 250 people there. He said all the right things and didn’t court to much controversy. During the week he was always mixing with activists and looked quiet comfortable.

    Simon
    Didn’t really see him about much and there was no fringe meeting.
    Considering he is not from the establishment he did seem to have the hardest and most committed team of supporters/activists around. Every morning they were in front of conference giving out a different policy document. I found some of the policy documents quiet interesting especially “The Future Structure of the Union” some well paid officers must have definitely found that uncomfortable reading.

    Gail
    Seen her out on the steps first day giving out leaflets with a few of her supporters. Seemed very nice. Her Hustings was okay but lacked any real passion. There was probably about 60 people there.

    Les
    Didn’t really see him or know who he was until i attended his hustings. There was about 100 people there. He was the only candidate that offered a free bar which was a big tick from me. He isn’t the best spoken person in the world which surprises me for someone who is standing for election of GS.

    Paul
    Don’t even know what he looks like. I did happen to speak to some senior activists from his sector who seem to be a bit miffed about the whole episode. They also didn’t have many kind words to say about one of the candidates due to a bad experience in their sector with that candidate.

    All in all everyone seems to be saying very similar things. I’ve had emails about recent developments re Paul – Simon. Reading in between the lines clearly people have taken sides. The one observation in relation to this age issue none of the candidates looked very young apart from Simon who is no longer running.
    The key thing for me is what activist think because they tend to be the ones that will do the work.
    Len seems to have a lot of activists supporting him.
    Gail has the support of the Health sector activist.
    Les I’m not sure about.
    For me as a senior conveyor with over 1500 members if all the candidates are supposed to be unity candidates they should have activists from all sections/sectors supporting them.
    I am still undecided but i have found the Len & Simon developments quiet interesting as Len now has activist from the two former union supporting one candidate. Long time to go yet

  6. Activist Says:

    I am a T&G activist and I will be supporting Hicks and I would ask all other T&G activists to do the same, lets not have a Woodley mark 2

  7. Jim Says:

    I agree with Undecided about the positive development re Simon and Len, it seems they have put aside any factional Amicus/TGWU differences for the future good of the union. They both bring positive qualities to the table (Len a lot of experience, Simon fresh ideas for the future) and will make a formidable team. Les seems to have his base in the old rightwing AEEU faction and I again agree with Undecided on his speaking ability; he seemed to lack confidence and was really unsure of himself, in fact he looked like he couldn’t wait to get away from the microphone. Gail I am not convinced about yet, it seems her support is limited to one sector. Hicks just comes accross a bit mad, despite having some very interesting proposals to make the union more democratic.

  8. Pete Says:

    I agree partly with Jim, Hicks does come over as a bit mad, but he is a very good speaker, which just goes to show that being a good speaker isn’t everything. I would hope that McCluskey would show some experience being only a few years from retirement at the age of 62…!What about the policies? On the face of it the Bayliss idea about a political school appears to be a good one. I read some of the Dubbin’s publications and they were full of crazy ideas, its ok having new ideas, but they have to be affordable and workable.

  9. Helen Says:

    Gail does have one part of my sector supporting her and as a female rep I would like to see her do well and full fill her personal ambition to become deputy GS. But I know it will be difficult for her when as a rep I can go into Transport House in Birmingham and blatantly see McCluskey’s election material all over the place. I hope Tony will do something about this as it does not seem fair to all of the other candidates.

  10. George Says:

    Helen I’m afraid you are going to have to lump it. I’ve attended a number of united left meetings there with former t&g section officers and nobody has ever tried to stop us.

  11. Gail Cartmail Says:

    Rene’s blog is a favourite of mine so I’ve decided to dive in on this discussion. An instruction was issued by JGS Tony Woodley today quite rightly advising staff and officials that displaying or wearing election material while at work is prohibited. Secondly, while I really appreciate Helen drawing attention to my multi-sector support my aim is to get elected as GS of Unite, to end in-fighting and factionalism and to take the union forward in the battle we face against the ConDem coalition. My AGS colleagues have had every opportunity to Unite the opposing left factions and use their position in the inner circle to deliver integration – they have sadly not stepped up to the mark on either count so time for a fresh start, a different approach.

  12. The Reality! Says:

    I’ve read all the comments and appreciate the sentiments and prejudices of all sides, however being a long standing AEU, AEEU, AMICUS and now UNITE member and being involved in these political battles in the past, it gets back to what it always does… a establishment right-wing candidate versus a left-wing candidate. With all due respect for Gail and Jerry, as a union we are at a fundamental crossroads… if the membership wishes to move in the direction of a right-wing political alliance…then they should vote Bayliss (& Reuter). If they wish a left-wing political alliance…then they should vote McCluskey (& Dubbins)! To me it’s a simple decision, but it will be the membership that will decide!

  13. Helen Says:

    Hello Gail. Will you please raise the issue of McCluskey’s campaign material in the Birmingham Broad Street office and the holding of United Left meetings there on Union property with Tony Woodley please? If he has issued an instruction lets see if he means what he says by suspending those involved and giving you a fair chance!

  14. Undecided Says:

    Very interesting debate.

    I would agree with the point about Jerry. Also in the last election i do not believe a lot of people voted for him,i believe alot of people voted against Derek.

    Helen pointed out that she would like Gail to fulfill her ambition of becoming Deputy GS. Why is she standing for the GS position? Unfortunately i haven’t heard or see anyone openly supporting Gail other than activists from her own sector

    As it stands now from all the candidates Len does seem to have the broadest range of support across both sections of the old unions. Also he has a number of prominent activist declaring their support for him. This includes a number of major National Sector Chairs, UNITE NEC members and senior activists. I haven’t seen this sort of support for any of the other candidates.

    Also after reading the ageist,discriminatory remarks made by Les Bayliss about Len McCluskey i would say Len has to be favourite for the election now. I certainly wouldn’t vote for someone who believes that age should count against someone applying for a job.
    Just out of interest does anyone know how old Les Bayliss is?

  15. Bill Says:

    Rumour has it that she is standing to do a deal, and some think she already has to split the former Amicus section vote. I don’t think any comments Bayliss made were ageist, I think he had a moan about the fact that others were trying to remove Len’s age and length of service from the ballot paper. Why do this? Surely his age of 62 and membership service should be celebrated not hidden from the membership, I would have thought that the attempt to remove those details are possibly ageist as it implies that for some reason the membership will see it is a disadvantage, so it is implying that the general membership is ageist. He’s 62, so what! I read somewhere that Bayliss is 57 so he could, in theory do two terms when Len couldn’t.

  16. dougal Says:

    I attended a meeting in the midlands were Len openly stated his age as 59 by the end of the election process, however what differnce that makes to taking Unite forward over the next five years is beyond me.
    I hoped, as Len suggested, the election would be conducted in a civilised and comradely manner by all the candidates, but unfortunetly this seems to be a step to far for some of them.

  17. Undecided Says:

    I buy into the idea that Gail will probably have to consider(if she hasn’t already)doing a deal with Len or Les.
    If and when she does, the key question will be, will her supporters move across to her chosen partner or will they desert her chosen partner?
    I agree that the election must be coducted in a civilised and comradley manner.
    It’s a pity that Les and his “supporter” in desperation are having to resort desperate measures to try and attract attention to his campaign.
    On a seperate not I have to say his web site is like the candidate “Rubbish”.
    I’m 90% going to support Len.

  18. Gail Cartmail Says:

    Read my lips, no deals – mine is an open and principled campaign for GS, see my pledges (www.votegailcartmail.org.uk) and industrial experience. Choice should be based on facts, performance, delivery and commitment in practice to unity going forward. I have proposed a Husting organised by the union in every one of our 10 Regions – waiting for other candidates to respond. I think members should have the chance to quiz all candidates on an equal footing – do you?

  19. Nottelling You Says:

    I am a former T&G section industrial organiser, and if you have ever seen TW shouting and balling at us like he does you would be like me, and many other organisers, 90% in favour of NOT supporting Len. Once bitten twice shy as they say. Sorry Gail, I can’t read your lips from here, but based on delivery I am still waiting for the Job Evaluation exercise to be completed, you know the one, the one you are in charge of and has taken months and months and months and…you get the picture…

  20. Gail Cartmail Says:

    I assume you mean the JE that has brought together all former sections TU and management reps in a project that meets good practice equality standards, in partnership with no hint of divisions all too evident elsewhere in Unite – and that is within the planned and original timeline? What’s so sad about the union is that too few people bother getting the facts from the ‘horses mouth’. If you work for the union and have concerns about JE contact me or your union rep in confidence, and yes – we have retained confidentiality with the support of all colleagues involved in this project. A demonstration that unity in action is possible. Often the truth is more interesting than speculation. It’s a project I’m proud to lead.

  21. Nottelling You Says:

    I am pleased to see that you are that busy that you can find the time to trawl blogs and make personal comments at 9.57 on a Friday morning. Are you on a days holiday…?

  22. Gail Cartmail Says:

    My hours are 24/7 – no one’s ever accused me of being lazy! ‘Notelling’, you’re obviously nursing grievances – why not get in touch to talk them through? My personal email can be accessed via http://www.votegailcartmail.org.uk

  23. TomB Says:

    I went to three campaign meetings at the conference. Len McCluskey’s was the best attended, maybe because it was during the daytime when everyone was around. He spoke well but I am not sure he said anything. Lots of the usual platitudes (“lay deomocratic controlled”, “support the members”) but no real meat. His only policy appears to be giving more money to branches but I am not sure how this is worthwhile.

    Les Bayliss had a decent turnout but not as many as Len Mccluskey. He didn’t deliver his speech as well as Len but had more substance – I liked his ideas for a 24/7 support centre, for political reps to politicise the membership, and his proposals for channelling money into reps education and dispute funds. So he’s obviously thought a lot about the job and what it needs and for my money came out ahead on the basis of what I heard, but I am not committed yet. I can’t believe he is a right winger since I am told he was one of the main opponents of Ken Jackson in the AEU but who knows.

    Gail Cartmel seemed earnest and honest but I’m not sure she has much interest outside the public sector. Her meeting was not as well attended. Also after Abbott came into the Labour leadership race I wondered if Gail Cartmel also has only entered the election to have a wider choice of the type of candidate. Which seems daft.

    I have never heard of Simon Dubbins, international manager doesn’t seem a front line job and I was told he has never been an officer or a shop steward so I guess he wasn’t a serious candidate.

    Favourite at the moment? McCluskey’s team created a lot of noise but Bayliss is probably ahead with greater substance.

  24. Undecided Says:

    Gail I don’t think “nottelling you” was inferring that you were lazy, I don’t think any full time official of the union can be with their workloads. I think the point being made is that you have called for a protocol and clearly stated that the unions resources should not be used in this election. Resources can be viewed as both equipment and time so by sending emails out using your own work account is one thing, but it is another trawling blogs and making comments at 9.57…

  25. Toronto Football Club Says:

    Toronto Football Club…

    […]Who is in the lead in Unite election? « René Lavanchy's Blog[…]…

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