Posts Tagged ‘Tony Woodley’

So. Farewell then, Les Bayliss

Wednesday 1 December 2010

As I write, Les Bayliss, former Unite assistant general secretary for finance and third-placed candidate in the general secretary election, has quit his job and supporters of Len McCluskey are celebrating their election victory at a Central London hotel. Bayliss was of course the preferred candidate of joint gen sec Derek Simpson, who leaves his post formally on New Year’s Eve, leaving McCluskey and his backer Tony Woodley in charge.

Unconfirmed reports say that Bayliss is to join the Joint Industry Board for the Electrical Contracting Industry, which regulates relations between electrical contracting companies and one union (guess which).

A Unite official tells me: “The general secretary’s [Simpson] gone. The power base has gone. If they stay on after that, they risk getting insulted.”

This is a family blog, and my mum reads it, so I won’t report some of the other things said about Bayliss by his critics at McCluskey’s leaving party – you can probably guess. The serious point is: now he’s gone, will the union be able to unite around McCluskey, his bitter adversary for the top job? On which more later.

P.S. The number of Unite election casualties now stands at two. The first was Richard O’Brien, former joint head of communications for Unite and PR man for the Bayliss campaign, who resigned, and walked, as soon as the result was announced.

Another Unite official (and McCluskey supporter) asked if anyone else from the Bayliss camp should quit, said: “I don’t think it should go any further” and denounced the practice of purging officials in the former Amicus section.

Poles apart as Unite election voting begins

Wednesday 27 October 2010

The battle lines are drawn as ballots start dropping on the doormats of some 1.5 million Unite members this week.

The three with the biggest stacks of nominations, Les Bayliss, Len McCluskey and Jerry Hicks, have spent the past weeks on a fortress strategy. Not triangulating, not reaching out to each other’s supporters, but digging in, reinforcing and restating their positions.

Thus Les Bayliss took a pot shot at his boss Tony Woodley this month, saying that watching him conducting the British Airways dispute was “like looking at an episode of Life on Mars”.

Thus Tony Woodley hit back last week, calling Bayliss’ remarks about the BA dispute “nothing short of scandalous”.

But it was ever thus. Last year, in an interview with lobby correspondent Ian Hernon of the Liverpool Echo, McCluskey said that he’d supported the Militant Tendency [while not joining them] and “on the chief issues they were right.”

While on his website, Les Bayliss says that his “favourite book of all time is Left Wing Communism & Infantile Disorder [sic] by Lenin”, a coded message to students of left-wing politics that he has no time for Trotskyists, Militant supporters and the like.

McCluskey is ever portraying himself as the young-at-heart insurgent, Bayliss as the head-screwed-on moderate.

Meanwhile, Jerry Hicks attacks both of them as guilty of breaking election rules (I first broke the news of Hicks calling for Bayliss’ head on this website, below) and reiterates that he is the rank and file candidate. Bayliss, McCluskey and Gail Cartmail are in “jobs for life”, he says; whereas Hicks hasn’t even got a job to lose.

Gail Cartmail speaks to this blog

Wednesday 23 June 2010

I really need to pay more attention to what goes on on this blog – but then it’s a very part-time pursuit. Last week, to my ignorance, Unite general secretary election candidate Gail Cartmail waded in to a lively discussion on my post below, in order to respnd to critics and explain her position. Here’s what she had to say:

On the support for candidates by full-time officers and other Unite staff:

“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.”

Very interesting – at Unite’s policy conference, the biggest example by far of wearing election material came from supporters of Len McCluskey. Several full-time officers such as former national officer for civil air transport Steve Turner were seen wearing McCluskey lanyards and poloshirts embroidered with  ‘Unite 4 Len’ logos. McCluskey is of course Woodley’s preferred candidate, so this doesn’t seem a partian move on the face of it.

Cartmail also attacked McCluskey and Les Bayliss as being part of the establishmednt and part of the problem:

“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.”

Clearly she doesn’t see herself as being part of that inner circle. If either Les Bayliss or Len McCluskey want to respond, the comments thread – and my inbox – is yours…

Unite’s Tony Woodley: I did it my way

Monday 31 May 2010

Listening to Unite’s joint leader Tony Woodley addressing the union’s first annual policy conference in Manchester this morning, you couldn’t help but be struck by how much he wanted to impress on delegates the right – and wrong – ways of leading a union. And he picked on one of his favourite words in trade unionism: organising.

Woodley said: “Why should an employer listen to a union representing a minority of employees? Of course they won’t and they don’t. That’s why we need to push… for 100 per cent membership [in a given workplace]”.

“…So I make no apology for having our commitment to properly resourced organising written into our rule book. I know some may have doubts. Is it working? Is it cost effective? I would put that question, comrades, another way. After the experiences of the last 20 years or more of decline, can we afford not to do this?”

Most strikingly, he warned: “If this union ever, ever retreats from organising and it does go back into a comfort zone of sweetheart deals, managing decline, then this union will have wasted the vast potential that we’ve built in Unite.” Hardly comforting words. But decline is what Unite has to deal with: its membership has been falling for decades.

Woodley’s words require no inference. He is clearly proud of the approach he has backed in the T&G before it merged with Amicus to form Unite: that of relentlessly organising. Harvesting workers and raising the density of union membership in workplaces. In this approach he differs from fellow joint general secretary Derek Simpson, who has traditionally placed more of an emphasis on mergers and collaboration (the formation of transatlantic union Workers Uniting, an alliance of Unite and the US United Steelworkers, is very much his project). That’s not to say either man is right or wrong, or that their views are mutually exclusive (this blog takes no sides in the matter of Unite policy).

So Woodley’s message to conference in a nutshell was: I did it my way, it’s the right way, and don’t screw up the union after I’ve gone

Listening to Unite’s joint leader Tony Woodley addressing the union’s first annual policy conference in Manchester this morning, you couldn’t help but be struck by how much he wanted to impress on delegates the right – and wrong – ways of leading a union. And he picked on one of his favourite words in trade unionism: organising.

Woodley said: “Why should an employer listen to a union representing a minority of employees? Of course they won’t and they don’t. That’s why we need to push… for 100 per cent membership [in a given workplace]”.

“…So I make no apology for having our commitment to properly resourced organising written into our rule book. I know some may have doubts. Is it working? Is it cost effective? I would put that question, comrades, another way. After the experiences of the last 20 years or more of decline, can we afford not to do this?”

Most strikingly, he warned: “If this union ever, ever retreats from organising and it does go back into a comfort zone of sweetheart deals, managing decline, then this union will have wasted the vast potential that we’ve built in Unite.” Hardly comforting words. But decline is what Unite has to deal with: its membership has been falling for decades.

Woodley’s words require no inference. He is clearly proud of the approach he has backed in the T&G before it merged with Amicus to form Unite: that of relentlessly organising. Harvesting workers and raising the density of union membership in workplaces. In this approach he differs from fellow joint general secretary Derek Simpson, who has traditionally placed more of an emphasis on mergers and collaboration (the formation of transatlantic union Workers Uniting, an alliance of Unite and the US United Steelworkers, is very much his project). That’s not to say either man is right or wrong, or that their views are mutually exclusive (this blog takes no sides in the matter of Unite policy).

So Woodley’s message to conference in a nutshell was: I did it my way, it’s the right way, and don’t screw up the union after I’ve gone (Woodley is due to retire at the end of next year, a year after Simpson). Several officials close to him privately expressed support for this view.

He said a lot more of course, which this blog will return to. Alan Jones of PA has a good summary here.

. Several officials close to him privately expressed support for this view.

He said a lot more of course, which this blog will return to. Alan Jones of PA has a good summary here.

(from Tribune blog)

Power grab in the Unite election?

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Retired members in the former Amicus side of Unite are up in arms after Unite’s executive council voted at their meeting this month to exclude them from regional council elections – and, from what I can tell, the general secretary election too.

This could have a profound impact on the outcome of the election, due to take place after that other election you may have heard about.

Retired members from the former T&G side of Unite do not have a vote; so in depriving the Amicus members, the executive was harmonising the two sides as the merger process rolls on and the union slims down its structures.

But some people are unhappy that they didn’t decide to just give the T&G side a vote. Actually, unhappy is probably an understatement: one has spoken of the union “taking our money and then crapping on us from a great height”. The counter-argument is that with the GS election and the regional elections coming up, there wasn’t time.

Anyway, what does it mean? Well, if retired members were to vote along membership lines, i.e. for a candidate for the Amicus side, as some no doubt will, then taking their votes away puts those candidates at a disadvantage to the T&G candidate, Len McCluskey, supported by Tony Woodley. It would also hamstring any candidate who’s been campaigning among retired members.

It may be a coincidence, but I am told that Woodley supported this decision.

This one will probably run and run…

Jack Dromey loses his parachute

Wednesday 27 January 2010

There’s been a fair bit of speculation over the past few months about the career plans of Mr Harriet Harman, as he probably doesn’t want to be known. I broke the story that the deputy general secretary of Unite was being touted as a possible Unite general secretary candidate in September. And of course he’s been mentioned several times as coveting a parliamentary seat – Leyton and Wanstead is the most commonly mentioned; the new constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn has also cropped up. This week’s Tribune should have more details – go and buy one.

But all this gossip reminds me of what I’ve been told privately – that even if Dromey does run, he will no longer be ‘parachuted’ into a seat by the Unite machine. Last year, joint general secretary Tony Woodley was going round telling his staff to find Dromey “a seat, any seat”. Anyone would think he wanted the man out of his office. Anyway, that is now over and the parachute is, the blog fan club tells me, firmly back in its box. That’s not to say Dromey won’t run – but he won’t be pushed.

And rumours are still flying around that Dromey may still throw his hat into the Unite leadership ring, on the grounds that since he ran in the last two T&G elections, it wouldn’t be the same without him. It’s getting crowded. A poster below has pointed out that John Rowse of the former T&G section also intends to run. I did actually hear about this but Rowse hasn’t made any public pronouncements. Watch this space.

The fight for Unite the Union is on

Thursday 3 September 2009

The battle for Amicus is over. The battle for Unite is about to begin.

Well, actually that was the state of play as soon as Derek Simpson was re-elected Unite Amicus general secretary by a resounding 4.88 per cent of the membership. A quiet campaign for who should become the first single leader of Britain’s biggest union – and biggest donor to the Labour party – has been running since then, with the election a year away. And this weekend should see some interesting developments. Bear with me, there’s a lot to digest and I’m going to name a name which, for some of you, may be a surprise…

The contest for Unite seems rather more open than that for Amicus, because then there’s no single clear establishment candidate. Part of the reason is that Unite, although officially merged in May this year, is still in spirit two unions, Amicus and the T&G.

On the T&G side the candidate with the most ballast seems to be assistant general secreatary Len McCluskey, widely thought to be supported by his boss Tony Woodley. On the Amicus side is another AGS, Les Bayliss, who is jointly in charge of the finance department with the T&G’s Ed Sabisky. Trouble is, Bayliss does not seem to have the same backing from his boss,  Derek Simpson, as McCluskey has from Woodley. Some would say that makes a T&G victory more likely – and make no mistake, there are elements in Amicus who want to stop that.

Both Bayliss and McCluskey would consider themselves leftist candidates, but only McCluskey is seeking the nomination of United Left, the left-wing political faction within Unite formed out of two caucuses in Amicus and the T&G. Bayliss is seeking the nomination of Workers Uniting Group, which Derek Simpson helped found. Both groups are holding meetings this weekend, and United Left is set to pick a candidate.

But both support Labour. Two more candidates, Jerry Hicks and Rob Williams, don’t however. Hicks has form, as regular readers of this blog will know: he ran against Derek Simpson earlier this year. Williams doesn’t; he only rose to prominence after being sacked by his employer, Linamar in Swansea, and then reinstated following a union campaign (ironically involving Len McCluskey). Interstingly, both men are past or present union convenors and both are active members of socialist parties (Respect Renewal and the Socialist Party). Perhaps they will strike a deal? Who knows. Only Williams has said he wants Unite to disaffiliate from Labour, but as he comes to this contest as an outsider I doubt Labour HQ is too worried about that right now.

Oh, and did I mention deputy general secretary Jack Dromey, aka Mr Harriet Harman? I know he’s said to covet a parliamentary seat, but if he fails to get selected, well… Dromey ran against Tony Woodley in 2003 for T&G general secretary.

So what do I predict? McCluskey looks most likely to get the UL endorsement this weekend. That may lead to a flurry of activity as Amicus tries to find a “stop Len” candidate. Bayliss is currently negotiating with ex-Amicus GS candidate Paul Reuter, who has said for a while he wants to run.

But there’s another possibility. One insider predicts that United Left will break down due to the “tribal instincts” of its T&G and Amicus components. Unite, they say, is not united and never will be until it has one leader. And it’s true that the factions that merged to form it, T&G Broad Left and Amicus Unity Gazette, didn’t see eye-to-eye. In which case… more infighting before the candidates list is narrowed. Infighting which could draw in Unite’s current general secretaries – who won’t even be resigning at the same time. Simpson goes in December 2010, Woodley in January 2013. What if Woodley ends up having to work alongside Simpson’s preferred choice of successor and not his? I can already hear Jim Pickard sharpening his BlackBerry.

Whatever happens, it’s hard to see how Unite isn’t going to divide down Amicus/T&G lines, if only for one last time.

Update: Having linked to Hicks’ blog, I’ve been asked to point out that Paul Reuter has a blog too, right here.

Workers Uniting group didn’t like my article in Tribune, and have taken particular offence at my use of the term ‘more right-wing’. They also say they’re not having a hustings meeting. The ‘ more right-wing’ tag wasn’t perfect I admit but then no label ever is and I doubt any label I might use for them would be above criticism. Note that I said ‘more right-wing’ not ‘right wing’. As for the meeting, well, candidates are turning up, so is it a hustings or not? Decide for yourselves.