|Bernard McAulay thinks rank-and-filers who challenge him are "cancerous"|
Three weeks ago, I described how the 'Sparks' rank-and-file group have elected their own fightback committee, intended to run parallel to the Unite leadership, and force their hand through wildcat mini strikes and direct action. Since then, the committee has organised several set-piece events, including today's demonstrations in Newcastle and the capital. Yet the union has yet to ballot for strike action, and tensions are running high, because Balfour Beatty electricians are just eighty-three days from losing their jobs, or losing their current pay rate.
The message from Unite's national construction officer Bernard McAulay to a "Gail" (likely assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail) reveals just how panicked officials are by the rank-and-file challenge to their position and privileges. In the email, McAulay bemoans the fact that a:
"group of activist [sic] decided to form a Rank and File campaign committee nominating Gerry [sic] Hicks to be there [sic] Chairman, resulting in Gerry [sic] travelling the country addressing meetings attacking not only the Employers but more importantly our Union's leadership and the capability of the Unite Officers."Embarrassingly for him, and indeed the whole Unite bureaucracy, McAulay then fretted that:
"The constant scurrilous attacks on officials by this small fringe group does have an impact on our campaign, as this cancerous group are simply opportunist's [sic] and extremely divisive when making there [sic] contribution at meetings, especially when fellow colleagues and members challenge these individuals, results in these individuals submitting unnecessary and frivolous complaints to the General Secretary, resulting in officers been [sic] investigated and tied up in preparing reports to defend themselves, which is time consuming and a unnecessary waste of an officers [sic] time."Here, laid bare, is the real nature of the relationship between union officials and workers striving to save jobs, pay and conditions in the UK and all around the world. The tops live very comfortably off membership dues, and will do everything to protect their own lavish lifestyles, at the expense of the regular workforce. Hence sell-out after sell-out.
In all likelihood McAulay was planning a ballot, maybe for an isolated one day nationwide strike when it was too late to make a difference. He has form in this regard, having sold-out Vivergo construction workers in Hull earlier this year. In this sense, Sparks is his worst nightmare - an expression of grassroots dissent which he has little to no control over. With public sector union leaders trying to stifle opposition to the government's pensions raid, this confrontation could hardly have come at a more interesting time. McAulay's comments have just poured petrol on the spark of resistance.
- Electricians Against The World - grassroots Sparks blog
- Jib Electrician - Facebook account of Sparks organiser
- LibCom on the electricians' resistance
September 7th demonstration from margaret dickinson on Vimeo.