An interview with Robbie Segal (candidate for Usdaw General Secretary) asking her to comment on the pledges made by John Hannett, her challenger for the general secretary’s post.
Listen to members and reps and act on what you tell us.
Robbie: Our members are demanding that we do something about their pay. Most of us exist on wages little higher than the government’s minimum, so if John listens why does he not launch a campaign for a decent wage. The members want and are demanding he acts on this one issue. This is the most important issue facing the majority of our members but John refuses to campaign on this matter.
Win for our members through strong and effective bargaining with employers.
Robbie: There is one major problem with Usdaw’s bargaining strategy – it‘s in a straightjacket of its own making – and that is Social Partnership. Usdaw can never use its power because it would expose the bankruptcy of partnership to the companies we are trying to organise.
John is very proud of his slogan to Win for our Members but this is based on the servicing model. My strategy is to organise so the members can win for themselves.
Be innovative with new initiatives such as Academy2, the Organising Awards, the Legal Plus helpline and the new Warehouse and Distribution Conference.
Robbie: I wonder how many of these initiatives were delayed as part of the John’s election campaign: Academy2 was discussed 2 years ago and the motion calling for the establishment of a warehouse and distribution conference was passed 14 months ago. Both of these have been only recently implemented. The changes to Legal Plus have clearly been driven by the solicitors because their business was declining. I believe the money spent on the Organising Awards could be put to better use, say by introducing scholarships to develop our activists.
Be the campaigning union with strong campaigns on Freedom From Fear, Parents and Carers, the National Minimum Wage, Lifelong Learning and Pensions.
Robbie: These campaigns have been important in putting the union on the map but our image is so low they never get the wider coverage they deserve. One of the general secretary’s roles must be to promote the union in the media and I believe this is the weak part of the present leadership campaigning strategy
Promote equality especially the need to ensure that employers adopt family friendly policies that mean flexibility is for our members’ benefits and not just employers.
Robbie: What has John done to promote equality in Usdaw? The top of the union is dominated by men. Fifty eight percent of the union are women and many of these are part time. Yet part timers cannot apply for position of officials in the Divisions. I will investigate and implement a method where part timers can apply for officer jobs in Usdaw.
Strongly lobby Government on issues that our members tell us are important – for example the recent impact of the abolition of the 10 pence tax rate.
Robbie: Usdaw has been one of the major backers of New Labour and all its reforms. Usdaw has offered no resistance to the continuous attacks against workers. As the fourth biggest union we should be opposing the attacks on education and the NHS. I would like the union to campaign on wider issues such as an emergency council house building programme to solve the crisis in the housing market.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you like to add about John Hannett’s pledges?
Robbie: Arising from this election, the key point missing from John’s pledges is respect for the members and the union. By the method he has organised this election, he has shown a complete disregard for the democratic traditions of the trade union movement. The election item appeared on the EC agenda as any other business. This never allowed the EC to reflect on such a serious matter. His appeal for nominations, a glossy printed leaflet, was out within days of the meeting, so there was time to have the election as a proper agenda item. Further, he insisted the election be conducted over the summer when we are likely to get a low turnout. Are these the actions of a confident general secretary?