THE UK’s biggest union, Unite, has elected a new leader reported to have said that “there is no such thing as an irresponsible strike”.
Len McCluskey, currently assistant general secretary, was elected on a 16 per cent turnout, winning 101,000 votes – nearly double that of his nearest rival.
The vote, to be announced formally on Wednesday, is a resounding victory for the union’s left, with Les Bayliss, the main moderate candidate who had argued against the BA strikes, coming in third place with 46,000 votes. Jerry Hicks, endorsed by the Socialist Worker, came second with 52,000 votes.
McCluskey’s victory could open the door to the adoption of a more militant strategy by Unite, a merged body of five formerly independent unions with a total of 1.4m members. McCluskey will also be a more powerful figure than the union’s previous leaders because he is its first single general secretary. The role was formerly shared by rivals Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson.
In response to McCluskey’s election, Tory party chairman Baroness Warsi said: “Labour’s reliance on Unite’s bank balance means that Len McCluskey can hold the party to ransom and win extreme, left-wing policy concessions.”
Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader with the help of Unite members in September, but in response, a spokesman for Ed Miliband said: “That is absurd. The election of the Unite leader has no bearing on Ed whatsoever.”
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MCCLUSKEY on British Airways
"BA management’s real agenda is destroying trade unionism among its employees.”
MCCLUSKEY on the Labour Party
“We must return Labour to its roots as a radical reformist party.”
MCCLUSKEY on the City
“The government is making ordinary people pay for the bankers’ crash with savage cuts.”
MCCLUSKEY on other unions
“Under my leadership, Unite will secure further mergers with sister trade unions.”
MCCLUSKEY on the economic crisis
“My political principles are clear. Capitalism has failed, as the present crisis shows.”