Guest post: reader Tony Horsfield on #GerardCoyne’s #Unite tactics


The article below originally came in as a comment on a previous article on Gerard Coyne’s blinkered and damaging ‘vision’ for Unite if he becomes General Secretary in the forthcoming election and the ‘Owen Smith’-like tactics his team plans to use to try to win it. It was so well-put that I asked to post it as an article and the author, Tony Horsfield, kindly agreed. I’m sure you’ll consider it as excellent and well-expressed as I do and will share widely.

Coyne’s “campaign” is playing out pretty much as I expected. A smear-fest based on the highly scientific assumption that McCluskey’s vote will remain the same as in 2013. There’s a distinct lack of surpise about this development, given that Coyne is not offering anything more to Unite members than the (all too likely mis-) managed decline of his own union. That’s his position, full stop. As this blog has stressed, Coyne’s pitch is insular and lacks anything that might come within a continent or so of actual passion about the issues facing Unite members and how to address them.

You certainly don’t begin to address a thirty year long squeeze on real wages, rampant employer bullying and an increasingly well established culture of hyper-exploitation by leaving Labour politics in the hands of Watson and McNichol. The pro-Coyne strategy paper makes smearing noises about McCluskey and the “mis-use” of Unite funds. However, I find it disturbing that Coyne and his supporters/masters believe that paying substantial affliation fees to the Labour Party while not taking any active interest what policies the party pursues – and how these are instrinscially linked to the issue of who leads the party – is in someway a sensible and proper use of members’ subscriptions. This is advocating what is nothing less than a wilful misuse of Unite funds. I hope I’m not alone in not regarding this to be a slightly mediocre selling point.

Even non-affliated unions such as PCS and RMT maintain parliamentary groups to pursue legislative changes: it is gross stupidity for any would be General Secretary to seek to in anyway undermine the politcal clout of his or her union. Every aspect of employment is framed by legislation from rights in relation to pay through to rights when facing redundancy. The Coalition Government weakened union/workers consultation right over redundancy and, of course, put fees in place for taking a case to an Employment Tribunal, so pay rights and all others have been heavily undermined.

The only way to address these blatant attacks on workers’ rights is through leglislation; that is through politics, and for Unite this requires taking an active interest in what the Labour Party does and who’s doing it – not just forking over the cash and clinging to the fantasy of not being done over not quite so hard when the pigs are scrambling for take off and a Blairite Labour party somehow manages to stagger back into government.

More reason than ever to vote #Len4Unite.

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