Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Results of USDAW General Secretary election:

Socialist Party member Robbie Segal shook the entire shopworkers' union USDAW by gaining 40% of the vote for General Secretary in the ballot result announced today. Robbie is a Tesco worker who on shoe-string resources with a tiny band of activists in a David and Goliath battle faced the entire USDAW official machine. The whole right wing union full time bureaucracy was mobilised to crush her, but she still managed to gain over 18,000 votes winning the moral victory by far.
The incumbent, John Hannett, had the entire union behind him – except the members. He appears in the union journal and other union publications every month. Robbie was virtually unknown to most of the members other than those that have known her first-hand as a fighter over the years. As an example, three NEC members were flown into the Central London branch meeting to argue against one Socialist Party member to secure the nomination of all the London branches for Hannett. But Robbie’s programme clearly appealed to the members by calling for an £8 minimum wage for all, no to partnership between the union and the employers- as there is in Tesco, for democracy within the union, and for an alternative to New Labour for ordinary people to have a party that genuinely represents them. Robbie also pledged to reject the £100,000 Hannett took and to continue on her Tesco wage.
The result is in no way a ringing endorsement of the current leadership. The low turnout of 13.2% reflected the fact that Hannett did his very best to subdue the issue, by calling a summer election, calling no debates with Robbie and producing no other material other than the ballot paper and a letter to the branches demanding their support. So Hannett's 7.8% support in USDAW must be seen as a massive vote of no confidence in his performance in the job.
This result, for a clearly socialist candidate in the USDAW General Secretary election is testimony to the changing mood in the unions. USDAW has for many years been the bastion of the right wing with an avid New Labourite leadership. John Hannett pulled all the stops out to use the union bureaucratic machine in his favour for this election. Robbie proved his leadership severely lacking.

Voting returns are:-
Voting papers distributed............348'278 100%
Ballot papers returned..................46'002 13.2%
Hannett.....................................27'320 59.4%
Segal........................................18'673 40.6%

USDAW national public meeting - 'Fighting for a Democratic Usdaw'
to discuss union perspectives, election results and plans for future action
is this Saturday, 20th September 12-3pm, Lucas Arms, 245A Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8QZ. Nearest station, Kings Cross St Pancrass.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Manifesto for Usdaw Democracy

Compiled by Robbie Segal

As part of my candidature for General Secretary, I launched a discussion on democracy in Usdaw. I would like to thank all those who have sent me comments on this document or who have suggested changes to the rules. Many of the comments have been included in this current document.

Many contributions have commented on the unfair nature of the election. They have called for the ending the general secretary’s power to dictate the timing and conduct of the election.

This manifesto to democratise Usdaw will be discussed at the meeting on the 20th September in London. If you want to attend then please contact me at robbie.segal@aol.com

However if you are unable to attend and would still like to participate in the debate then please contact me at either rorobbie.segal@aol.com or on this blog.

General Secretary Election

As you are most probably aware the letter informing the branches that the General Secretary Election had been called was sent out with an endorsement for John Hannett, the current general secretary. Although individual EC members were asked point blank (I believe that this was intimidating and never gave members the chance to reflect on the question} whether they supported the General Secretary. More importantly no written motion was presented to the meeting and therefore to consider this as an EC endorsement of John Hannett is wrong.

I consider the distributing the endorsement of John Hannett on the same circular that informed branches of the election was a major infringement of the democratic traditions of the trade unions.

I will be proposing that the timing of the any future General Secretary elections will be governed by Rule and not on the whim of the incumbent general secretary. Further the conduct of the election will be decided by guidelines that will be presented to the ADM for endorsement.

Rule 11, Section 1:
The General Secretary shall be elected by a national vote of members by way of a statutory postal ballot as prescribed by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidations) Act 1992. All branches shall have the right to make nominations. She/he shall remain in office during the will and pleasure of the members who, through the Annual or Special Delegate Meetings, have power to dismiss or call upon her/him to resign.

Executive Council

The EC meets once a month and the meetings last about 2 hours. This time is not adequate to ensure the role of the EC is fulfilled under rule.

Rule 9, section 10:
The Executive Council shall have full control of the business of the Union, and shall have power to do anything not inconsistent with these Rules or the Acts of Parliament under which the Union is certified as an independent trade Union. In the event of any questions arising on which the Rules are silent or obscure, the Executive Council shall have the power to decide thereon.

Minutes of the Executive Council

The minutes circulated to the branches are considered by many members as a joke.
I will ensure that the branches can understand the workings and decisions of the EC. I will publish an account of the major decisions in Arena.

Rule 11, Section 4:
The General Secretary shall be in attendance at all Delegate Meetings and meetings of the Executive Council, and shall keep a correct account of the minutes of the proceedings.

Add at the end of the paragraph, ‘The General Secretary shall provide for publication in Arena a summary of the decisions of Executive Council meetings.’

A lay members Executive Council

There have been a number of comments on whether the rule book should be clear about whether only lay members should serve on the EC. This arises because there is now a member of the EC from the North East who has been appointed to the position of an Area Organiser in the Eastern Division. He now neither works nor lives in the Division and remains on the EC.

Control of employment issues

This is interpreted as being that it is the provocative of the general secretary to deal with all employment matters. The Union has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on consultants and the Leap Project. The EC have never had a full report or updates on the spending of this money or the recent Leap Project developments.

Rule 11, Section 15:
The General Secretary shall superintend and direct the work of all employees of the Union.

Add at the end of the paragraph, ‘the General Secretary will make a full written report on all employment matters to the Executive Council every three months.’

Serving on outside organisations

Rule 11, Section 3:
The General Secretary and the Deputy General Secretary shall devote their whole time to the work of the Union, and shall not be eligible to be a Parliamentary Candidate to the United Kingdom, European or Scottish Parliaments or a candidate for the election to the Welsh Assembly whilst continuing on office as General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary.

Add New Rule 11, Section 4.
‘The General Secretary and the Deputy General Secretary shall seek permission from the Executive Council to serve on all outside organisations, and any remuneration other than expenses shall be paid to the Union.’

Renumber all subsequent Sections.

The Standing Orders Committee

The SOC is governed by rule and there has been a number of comments concerning the EC’s control of the ADM. First, whether it was appropriate for an EC member who had been appointed to the position of Area Organiser to chair the committee. Second, whether the EC should control the agenda for the ADM and would it be more democratic for the conference to be controlled by a lay Standing Orders Committee.

New technology and information

One of the election claims by John Hannett has been his boast that with Arena is now delivered to every member’s home and that they are better informed about the union. However I have received a number of comments that there is no useful information contained in Arena or Network. It has been suggested that the EC should investigate whether the branch circulars could be distributed via email and all member should be able to request copies.

Women in Usdaw

I have received many messages supporting my complaint that there has been a lack of any improvements in the position of the number of women in positions in Usdaw. There are many capable women in our union, so it has been suggested it must either be the selection process or the fact that the panel is dominated by men is the reason dor the lack of progress.

Robbie Segal.