[A-List] UK labour militancy
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Mon Jul 22 01:27:09 MDT 2002
Labour out of touch, says new union chief
The Herald, 22 July 2002
THE newly-elected general secretary of Amicus, the second biggest union in the UK, accused the Labour leadership yesterday of losing touch with its party membership.
Derek Simpson, the former Communist whose election defeat of Sir Ken Jackson sent shock waves through the Labour movement, criticised the government but distanced himself from the militant trade union leaders campaigning to undermine it.
Speaking on the Breakfast with Frost programme, he said: "The leadership of our union are divorced from the rank-and-file members, they do not represent the rank-and-file view and that has been represented in this ballot.
"The incredible turnover of an established figure like Sir Ken Jackson (the former joint general secretary of Amicus) by 'the man from nowhere' as I have been described really is the reflection of the rank-and-file members.
"I believe the Labour party has the same problem as our union; it's divorced from its roots."
Tony Blair is taking stock of the changing dynamic between the government and the unions in the wake of Sir Ken's departure, but Mr Simpson signalled his willingness to work with No 10.
He said: "Nothing in my election material suggested any change whatsoever and let me make it clear - I'm a member of the Labour party and a supporter of the Labour government.
"I intend to applaud it for the things it does positively, but I also intend to see that it understands the needs of our members."
Ministers and Labour MPs have taken advantage of the public crisis between the government and the unions to make the case for the unions' position to become part of the process of government policy-making.
The recently reorganised trade union group in the Commons intends to play a more pro-active role, improving relations between ministers and backbenchers and the unions at every level.
John Monks, the TUC general secretary, told the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs' rally in Dorset yesterday that trade unions wanted to work with the government, but he made it clear that "there were deep concerns" about issues including employment rights".
Today, while firemen from all over the United Kingdom gather in Glasgow to protest at fire service pay, negotiations to settle the dispute between public service workers and their employers in England and Wales will continue.
Public sector workers in Scotland have already settled their pay negotiations.
Derek Simpson is little known on the Labour and trades union circuit, he is popular in and around his Sheffield base, and on the union's periphery.
Even Sir Ken's defeated allies, bruised and beaten, admit that "he isn't a nasty person, he's not abrasive though he is quite hard".
Dick Caborn, the sports minister from Sheffield who has known Mr Simpson for 40 years, describes him as "intelligent, thoughtful, independent, and nobody's fool".
Mr Simpson, a former member of the Communist party, described as "absolutely not a Trot" was influenced by the apprenticeship strikes of the 1960s.
He joined the Labour party 10 years ago and his friends predict he will "do nothing to harm the party".
More information about the A-List