[A-List] UK labour movement: fixed
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Thu Mar 28 02:16:45 MST 2002
Quiet fixer in one-horse race to head TUC
John Monks's deputy should get support of moderate unions to succeed as general secretary, writes Christopher Adams
Financial Times: March 28 2002
Brendan Barber, deputy to John Monks and his chosen successor to lead the Trades Union Congress, looks certain to stand for the job unopposed.
Moderate general secretaries at Britain's biggest and most powerful unions indicated that Mr Barber, 51, a union careerist, was well regarded and would have their backing to take over as general secretary.
Rival challengers could emerge before September next year, the likely date for a leadership election if Mr Monks takes over as general secretary of the European Trades Union Confederation.
The job comes up for grabs at a time of rising tension at public sector reforms, with the government facing backbench and union unrest.
Mr Monks's announcement that he was eyeing the Brussels job and was likely to step down sparked speculation about outside runners. Jack Dromey, an official at the Transport and General Workers union, was touted as apossible, though unlikely, successor.
On the left wing of the movement, support could emerge for Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison public sector union especially if union opposition to Tony Blair's public service reforms grows.
Mr Dromey, who failed to unseat Bill Morris at the TGWU a couple of years ago, might be regarded with suspicion by some union members. He is married to Harriet Harman, the solicitor-general, and seen as too close to Mr Blair.
If aleftwing alliance encouraged Mr Prentis to stand, it is far from certain that the Unison leader would be tempted. The TUC role, though high-profile, is as much about managing inter-union warfare as it is dealing with the government. Mr Prentis may consider Unison a more attractive job.
"It's practically a done deal," said one senior union leader. "Brendan is a very safe pair of hands. He won't push the frontiers out."
"Arguably, what the organisation needs is someone new who can revitalise it. But he will manage the politics competently."
History suggests that Mr Barber, who TUC officials indicated was keen to take over, would be unlucky if opposed. In the last 75 years, every TUC general secretary bar one was elected unopposed. Only Norman Willis, Mr Monks's predecessor, was forced to fight and he defeated David Lea, another TUC official, by an overwhelming margin.
Mr Barber is a proponent of the TUC-Labour "social partnership" agenda, which advocates co-operation between employers and unions rather than industrial relations battles.
Quietly spoken and an expert in labour policy and employment law, he is the TUC's behind-the-scenes fixer. Where Mr Monks is the public face on important news and in dealings with the government, Mr Barber has often been instrumental in striking a deal. He is encouraging the big teaching unions to settle their differences and merge.
He helped to arrange a deal on London Underground that ended strikes last year and took part in settling the rail unions' dispute with South West Trains in January.
He joined the TUC more than 25 years ago and became deputy general secretary in 1993. One senior official said the mainstream unions would unite to defeat any challenge from the left. "Barber will be acceptable. We don't want anyone who's too damn militant."
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Mercuria Business School
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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