I have been a continuous member of what is now Unite for more than 50 years (McCluskey wins but row continues, 22 April). I arrived as white-collar, via the Barclays staff unions, Unifi and then Amicus. The programme of merging disparate unions into a “superunion” was born out of the scale-inefficiencies of smaller unions. It was sold to us as an administrative confederation to connect with the “missing millions”. This in turn was integral to the then “New Unionism” project.
However, in reality, it turned out to be mis-selling on a “superunion” scale. For, despite our diverse political allegiances and social backgrounds, we have all been subsumed into a retro-socialist convention where our scarce resources are diverted in the vain hope of securing a leftwing Labour government. The goodwill of the many became a gift to the ideological few.
Four years ago, our general secretary was elected by less than 10% of our members against a turnout 15.2%. Now, it’s 5.4% against 12%. Perhaps more alarmingly, the balloted membership has dropped from 1.47 million to 1.08 million. This is hardly a personal mandate. It is, though, a clear instruction to lead in the interests of the hard-working silent majority.
Modern unionism surely now needs to be universally fit for purpose (for all walks of life). Len McCluskey is therefore wrong to associate all his 20 trade sectors with his own personal style of gunslinger politics. Strong unionism has always relied on compromise. Perhaps the time is right for joint general secretaries to once again share this responsibility?
Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire
• Karen Barratt’s letter (21 April) reminds us that trade unions have always sought to maximise cooperation between the providers and the users of our public services. Such cooperation has in recent times been exemplified by joint union/community campaigning in defence of (for example) our rail services, our NHS, our post offices, our libraries and our schools. In the face of the Conservatives’ continuing commitment to austerity, coordinated resistance is now more essential than ever.
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