Unite lost 158,000 members but still let them vote for new leader

Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, was losing “10,000 members a month” when it re-elected Len McCluskey as general secretary last year.

The “dire situation” was revealed during a misconduct hearing into the union’s election result, where it was revealed that more than 158,000 members left between June 2011 and January 2013 after refusing to pay their membership fees for six months.

Mr McCluskey, 64, won the election in April 2013 with 60,000 more votes than his opponent, Jerry Hicks, an unemployed former Unite shop steward. Mr Hicks complained to the Certification Officer, the trade union watchdog, to ask how 158,000 "former trade union members" had been allowed to vote in the election.

Mr Hicks told a misconduct hearing in London yesterday that Mr McCluskey and Unite's executive council knew about the lapsed members when it called the election three years before it was scheduled in 2015. He said they were sent ballots with a letter telling them about union benefits and that they could pay their arrears to stay in the union.

Mr Hicks said: "I think people could have construed that they weren't eligible to vote or had to join the union to vote. But they shouldn't have been sent a ballot at all, they should have been excluded or made to rejoin."

Turnout for the election was 15.2 per cent of the 1.3 million ballots sent to union members. Only 3 per cent of the 158,000 lapsed members voted.

Mr Hicks said Mr McCluskey and Unite's executive council called the election early to avoid the "embarrassment" for Labour of it coinciding with the general election, and to avoid real opposition to his re-election. He said: "It was brought forward by three years — an amazing amount of time. It had all the hallmarks of an election race not expected to happen."

Mr Hicks told the hearing that the election was the dirtiest he had ever been involved in.

Steve Turner, Mr McCluskey's "campaign manager", is now being investigated by Unite after retweeting a claim that Mr Hicks "condoned sex crimes against women".

Mr Hicks said: "1 was a 1,000-1 outsider, an unemployed man from Bristol against the general secretary, but it was clear we were doing far better than they had ever imagined."

Michael Ford, representing Unite, said the union did not recognise that the 158,000 workers who had refused to pay their fees for six months were not still members of Unite.

David Cockburn, the Certification Officer, said he would make a decision on the application to annul the election result within four weeks.

If the election is annulled, Mr McCluskey will remain in his post because his five-year term of office will still be in effect from the 2010 election.

Behind the story:
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The telling tale of two press releases. One a Balls up, the other from a hamster on a wheel

McCluskey: revolution my arse
Jerry Hicks writes: On a day of press releases, two stand out. One from Unite’s Len McCluskey, the other from Labours Ed Balls.

McCluskey promises Unites full support for Labour and Ed Miliband, including funding - and my word there will be a lot of that. While Ed Balls, Labour’s ‘would be’ next Chancellor of the Exchequer, promises what? Workers rights? Repeal of anti union laws? No, he promises tax breaks for businesses.  

What an about turn considering McCluskey recently caught the headlines when he said “Unite may break with Labour, threatening to launch a ‘new party’" adding that "Ed Miliband is drinking in the last chance saloon
When was this announced? At a press conference on April 1st or April Fools Day as it’s also known.  

So did Len McCluskey mean it? Not a bit! Unite under his leadership are completely and utterly wedded to Labour. Anyone who hopes, believes or argues otherwise should be in no doubt now. 
Lucky Balls

So when McCluskey wrote in his 2010 election address that there would be ‘No blank cheque for Labour’. Did he mean it? Not a bit! Unite doubled its donations to Labour in the first quarter of this year.

I predict up to £10m of members’ money will be stuffed into the coffers of Labour between now and the General election May 2015. So Ed Miliband is drinking in the last chance saloon eh? Well that’s one hell of a bar bill.

I say Unite should keep our money in clenched fist and demand that Labour repeal the anti union laws, reverse the privatisations of the past, end austerity by making the bankers pay for their mistakes. Labour makes no such promise, nor Unite make any such demand. Instead it offers cash galore, up front and unconditional.

I loathe the coalition, I detest the Tories, I despise the Lib Dems, but I have little faith in Labour and  Len McCluskey reminds me of a hamster on a wheel, forever running but getting nowhere.He has learnt nothing from Labour’s record when last in office. While Unite handed over £10ms of members money to Labour during their 3 terms, Labour refused to repeal anti union legislation that criminalizes workers who take solidarity action in support of others, carried on privatising, and prosecuted an illegal war. 

McCluskey Head of Unite
But just imagine how effective the public sector strike on July 10th would be if every other worker had the right to decide to support their fellow workers by taking our own action against the coalition government.
It amazes me how some sections of the political left, the labour movement and the media are so easily or readily taken in and question little or nothing. Well done then to the delegates of the independent PCS union currently being urged by their leadership to accept a takeover by Unite, who rejected these overtures at their conference.
I find it remarkable that in a union as big as Unite with hundreds of appointed officials, scores of senior appointed officials, not one ever speaks out, airing caution, let alone any criticism. It may have something to do with the fact that they are all appointed by the union, it would be easier to, if they were elected to office by the members.  

I was Len McCluskey’s only rival in last year's election for Unite General Secretary, surprising everybody by polling nearly 40% of the vote. Then it emerged that 158,000 ballot papers had been sent to members no longer paying fees. Notwithstanding that, during the election some senior appointed national officials who are paid out of members pockets failed to remain neutral by openly supporting Mr McCluskey, some even slurring my character. 

After getting nowhere with the union I lodged a complaint with the Certification Officer [CO] the independent trade union watchdog, which after a very long process, I have been granted a full hearing by the CO to be held in London on 1st and 2nd of October. And it may result in the election having to be re-run. So perhaps Labour will have to work harder for our members money after all? 

Jerry Hicks


2014 Executive Election Results

Lesley Mansell
Grass Roots Left's best result was Lesley Mansell coming a close second in the LGBT seat. If we could have persuaded just 0.3% of the electorate to return their ballot papers and vote for Lesley she would have won.

The turnout was 5%, appalling even by Unite's low standards.

Full results here


Unite NEC elections begin this week!

The ballot papers will be sent to each individuals home from 26th March. To be returned by 23rd April.

Of the 60 posts up for election, already 22 candidates have been appointed without an election. If you believe that we the members should elect their officials and not have them foisted upon us by appointment, then vote for:

Lesley Mansell
Golam Bhuiyan
Glyn Williams 

They are the only candidates (that we know of) who want elected officials: by the members, for the members & accountable to the members!

This is an election for a whole new NEC. National, Regional & Sector seats will be balloted: Please vote for........

Lesley Mansell
Golam Bhuiyan

Nationally Lesley Mansell for the LGBT seat Email: Phone 07980 695117 

Nationally Golam Bhuiyan BAEM seat Email


Regionally Glyn Williams for the North East, Yorkshire & Humberside seat. Email Phone 07975595971

Glyn Williams

• A democratic union :- Officers elected by you the members, not appointed by the General Secretary or a panel.

• A fighting union, not just a campaigning one :- Confronting anti-union and other unjust laws in the UK and EU.

Grass Roots Left Conference

The Grass Roots Left is holding a conference in Birmingham: ‘Where we are & what’s next?

Saturday 12th April 2014: 12 noon to 4pm.

  • Victories compromises & defeats. From Hovis to Grangemouth, from NHS to Royal Mail privatisation.
  • Proposed merger between Unite and the PCS. Its reason & its effect.
  • Unite & the Labour party.
  • Unite NEC elections & candidates with GRL support. 
  • A longer working life, a longer working week. Is the 35 hour week being defended or being surrendered. & what’s happened to the ‘fighting’ fund? 

This meeting is open to members of UNITE the union, their families, friends & trade unionists who are supporters of the Grass Roots left initiative.

The Comfort Inn: Station Street B5 4DY opposite Birmingham New St Station:

The Comfort Inn is also a short walk from Snow Hill & Moor St stations.

Jerry Hicks calls for Unite leadership election result to be annulled

Jerry Hicks lodges complaint after revelation that Unite sent over 158,000 ballot papers to 'former members'.

McCluskey: "It's Time to Deliver"
Jerry Hicks, Len McCluskey’s only rival in this year's election for Unite General Secretary has lodged a complaint calling for the result to be annulled after it emerged that 158,000 ballot papers were sent to members no longer paying fees. And it may result in the election having to be re-run

Len McCluskey, 63, won the election in April with a margin of 60,000 more votes than his opponent Jerry Hicks, who surprised everybody by polling nearly 40% of the vote. Remarkable given that he [Jerry Hicks] remains unemployed following his unlawful sacking for Trade Union activities by Rolls Royce in 2005.

But Jerry Hicks is complaining that between the end of December last year and January this year the union increased the number of potential voters in the leadership race by about 158,000. He has written to the trade union watchdog – the Certification Officer - to ask how "former trade union members" could be allowed to vote in the leadership election. 

During the election there were some attempts to slur the name of Jerry Hicks, and these matters are also included in the complaint.

The certification officer has wide-ranging powers and in 2011 forced construction union UCATT to re-run a leadership election, declaring the vote invalid. 

The Barrister acting against UCATT on that occasion was Jody Atkinson, and he is now representing Jerry Hicks on a ‘pro bono’ basis [free of charge]. 

Mr Atkinson said  " it appeared that Unite had been balloting people who had left the union, most likely because they had not paid their subscriptions. And it seems that ballot papers have been sent to people who have not been members for years."

Vote McCluskey 2012
Vote McCluskey 2010
In an interview with ‘The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh’ Jerry Hicks said that he was told by Electoral Reform Services, which oversaw the union ballot, that Unite had identified "there was a group of 'members' who the Union had considered no longer to be members of the union" but "it was decided that they should be treated as continuing members and therefore for the purpose of the election eligible to vote" More interestingly it might be that as many as 77,000 of the 158,000 ballot papers had no postal address at all, so what on earth happened to them?

Jerry Hicks said he wanted "Unite's leadership to explain why people who weren't members of the Unite union could vote in the election of its General Secretary. So far I've been offered no explanation."
Jerry Hicks, said Mr McCluskey called the "snap election" after the union's Executive Council last September changed the rule book to raise the retirement age of senior officials to 67 and an attempt was made to double the number of branch nominations required to stand in a leadership election from 50 to 100. 

Adding “They thought that would deter me but they failed. I am an ordinary member who managed to get more than 150 nominations," The leadership got arrogant about their own power. They are paid six figure sums and have lost touch with ordinary members."

Len McCluskey, who has been Unite's General Secretary since 2010, had called the election early arguing he did not want to take to the hustings in the run up to the general election in 2015. Labour's biggest donor by far is Unite, which has provided 20%, about £12m, of party donations since the election.

Click here for  todays' Guardian article


Unite By Election Results

LGBT seat:

Jenny Douglas (McCluskey Supporters' Club) 26,085 (elected)
Lesley Mansell (Grass Roots Left) 14,644
Matt Irish 10, 260
Patsy Turner 11,865

Turnout 6.2%

London and Eastern Region seat:

Richard Allday (McCluskey Supporters' Club) 8,056 (elected)
Ian Bradley (Grass Roots Left) 5,878

Turnout 6.9%

The winning candidates will only hold office for 8 months - the whole executive are up for election in April 2014.


Panic in the Bureaucracy

ERS Head Office North London
The signs are that the election is very close, the General Secretary's election team (which calls itself the 'Broad Left') has been sending out increasingly desperate emailshots, 9 in total with the latest last Thursday.

Electoral Reform Services (ERS) count the votes as they arrive.  No one except them should know the figures but this information may have leaked before:  In April 2000 the left anti-establishment candidate Sue Michie was banned from all office the day after the ballot closed and two days before the result was announced by ERS (she topped the poll). At the time we believed the results had been leaked to the union in advance, ERS denied it.

Lesley Mansell
Anyway if you haven't voted it is not too late.  If you have lost your ballot paper down the back of the sofa it is not too late.  Call free 0800 783 3856 or from the Republic of Ireland 0818 333 155 and they will send you a new ballot paper.

The ballot closes on Tuesday 27th August.

Vote for the Grass Roots Left Candidates Lesley Mansell (LGBT) and Ian Bradley (London And Eastern).


Vote Now!

X marks the Grass Roots Left Candidates
Vote now! If you haven't received a ballot paper or have lost it contact the ballot enquiry service now for free on 0800 783 3856 or from the Republic of Ireland 0818 333 155


Executive elections

Lesley Mansell - robbed last time just like the members are being now?
Ballot papers will be with you this week.  The Grass Roots Left candidates are Lesley Mansell (LGBT) and Ian Bradley (London Eastern) .

Apparently it will cost members over £1,000,000 to run this ballot.  The cost is outrageous.   It's a shame this has to be done so soon. 

Members are querying why the runner up (Lesley Mansell)  was not allowed to take up  the seat to save this enormous expense. Perhaps because she is truly on the left and opposes McCluskey's entrenched bureaucracy.

Lesley stood for the seat in the first place and was challenged by Harry McAnulty with seemingly little experience either at work or in the LGBT field.  McAnulty then decided to take off for Australia after a short time in the post. In our view he has let down the LGBT members and the Unite left. There seems little evidence of any impact he has made on the LGBT agenda. He failed to turn up at National Unite LGBT meetings and the TUC LGBT conference.  So LGBT members were not being represented.

Lesley was the "runner" up after the last election.  Four of her nominations were suspiciously given to the winner and Unite failed to do much to correct their error. 

Vote Lesley Mansell the candidate with the experience, commitment and track record of securing rights for LGBT and other members.

"I have represented members for over 30 years, founded Lesbians and Gays in MSF (1989)  and had a very positive impact which resulted in the TUC awarding me their prestigious Gold badge.

Homophobia and transphobia have not gone away. I continue to challenge the discrimination members still receive. We can be the first to go during any cut backs.

My record is outstanding in giving expert advice and support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans members to improve their lives.

I've led campaigns for:
·       Equal rights at work
·       Repealing Section 28
·       Inclusion of bisexual and trans people
·       Civil partnerships
·       Dignity and respect for HIV+ members.

I started my union activity in engineering and became convenor and held various elected union positions including:
·       TUC LGBT Committee
·       National LGBT Committee
·       Equality Representative
·       Regional Council Deputy President
·       Standing Orders Committee

I am standing as a Grass Roots Left member and will fight for:

·       Unite to be a model for genuine involvement of LGBT members and all equality groups.
·       Officers elected by the members
·       Confronting anti-union and other unjust laws in the UK and EU.
·       A fighting union for jobs, terms and conditions, not just campaigning.
·       Public ownership and keeping public services.
·       Re-building manufacturing.
·       Employees/officers to be reinstated whenever a Tribunal
finds employers guilty of unfair dismissal.
·       A union fully accountable to members.

I am an NHS Equality manager and held similar roles in councils, education and voluntary organisations. I am a Labour party member and Chair the local Town Council.   Please contact me on mobile: 07980 695117

Ian Bradley: 

"I am from a new generation of Unite activists. I am a socialist and was elected to the Electricians’ Rank and File London Committee during the BESNA dispute and play an active role nationally. I hope to bring the independence, experience and the spirit of the successful fightback in construction onto the Executive.

It’s great to see the union is finally taking on the blacklist in Construction and supporting the campaign launched by ordinary members. Professor Keith Ewing described the blacklist as, “the worst human rights abuse in relation to workers in Britain for 50 years.”

Many members want to see a more determined united fight to save jobs, services and pensions and stop years of pay freeze and pay cuts. Len McCluskey has spoken out against Tory austerity and called for civil disobedience and mass strike action against the government and employers.

But there is a gap between what Len is saying and what’s being delivered. The example in construction of rank and file activists working with the union leadership to deliver official and unofficial action was the key to our success. I believe we need to try and develop a similar approach across other sectors in Unite―in finance, passenger transport, manufacturing and the public sector.

I consider our union’s Equalities agenda as one of the most important aspects of our work, and one that must be developed alongside our industrial strategy. This is especially true after the terrible events in Woolwich. The EDL and BNP are trying to use the horrifc murder to make us blame migrants instead of bankers and politicians for the economic mess we face.

That’s why I’ve been active on all the recent protests against the BNP and EDL in the region. We must continue to take a lead in opposing discrimination in all its forms in the trade union movement and wider society.

We’ve just successfully delivered a big vote to keep our union’s political fund. It’s great that Unite has the ability to campaign for the NHS, against austerity and the Nazis. However, many members don’t see why we should be donating millions to Labour when Ed Miliband attacks our union if we strike or when Len McCluskey says Labour shouldn’t make the Tories cuts for them. We need to spend more of our political fund on political campaigning and we need visibility of how much money goes to Labour.

That’s why in the recent general secretary election, alongside almost 80,000 Unite members I voted for Jerry Hicks for a democratic union and the election of officers on an average workers wage. I support the unions Organising drive and am in favour of branch restructuring and the emphasis on workplace branches. However, I am opposed to the closure of branches without any consultation in our region.
I ask you to vote for me as part of building a genuine network of solidarity across Unite. I am happy to address branch meetings and reps committees. 

Please contact me for further information about our campaign at:

Ian addressing the crowds in Trafalgar Square at the May Day Rally 2012.
I played a leading role in this region in initiating a fight by ordinary members against 35% wage cuts and employers’ attempts to tear up national agreements in Construction. A combination of official protests and unofficial action delivered a huge victory for our members and our union.” 

Get in touch with Ian:Email:  Phone: 07513 333 845"