Jerry Hicks For General Secretary

Jerry Hicks Campaign Blog

Cadbury takeover we get a campaign when what we need is a fight!

Posted by jerryhicks4gs on February 15, 2010

Press release: Press release: Press release: Press release: Press release: Immediate: 15/02/2010

Cadbury Takeover: ‘An ineffective Unite campaign without an effective fight’.

When Royal Bank of Scotland, a taxpayer owned bank loans the money to an American company to buy a British chocolate manufacture, jeopardising jobs, we are angry.

Bosses on one the side, with us, the workers on the other. At least that’s what you would think? 

Back in 2007, Cadbury’s announced that they were going to close their Keynsham factory, home of chocolate legends such as ‘Fry’s Chocolate Cream’ ‘Double Decker’ ‘Dairy Milk’ ‘Cream eggs’ and ‘Crunchie’, and switch production in 2010 to a new factory in Poland.

The driving factor was more and more profits – cutting wage costs by moving to where the labour is cheaper.  Keynsham is a small town outside Bath, where once thousands worked and lived. Even now the factory employs some 400 or so people and has for decades been a major local employer; built by Quakers, located in a lovely 228-acre site, and set up with playing fields, sports facilities and social club for staff.

The public outrage when the closure was announced went far beyond the jobs issue: it was seen as a blow to the whole community and the response was similar to the upsurge of anger against pit closures back in 1991. The first demonstration was huge despite it lashing down with rain. The young and old, men and women, posh frocks and hard hats marched together.

It was pouring with rain, and people poured out their anger at the company. A succession of platform speakers – councillors, MPs and union leaders – all declared their support for the campaign, telling us we could count on them and they would not walk away. 

The last speaker was the film maker Ken Loach, who lives nearby. A quiet spoken man not known for histrionics, he got up and said that we might not like what he was going to say, but that people should ignore all of the previous speeches: the only way to save the factory would be to go on strike.

Of course he was right. But there was no strike to my knowledge not a single day was lost in industrial action. Instead the same union officials who now speak of their anger at being duped by Kraft were the same union officials that negotiated the closure and redundancy terms for the Keynsham factory.

In fact there was a national ballot for strike action last year across the Cadbury workforce over pay, but the Keynsham workers were excluded, as it might jeopardise the agreed terms of the closure!

I know who the protagonists are, they are always the employers but the union officials instead of being part of the solution had become part of the problem.

Instead of galvanising opposition to the original closure and instilling a confidence to fight for today’s jobs and for those of tomorrow, they followed the well trodden path of ‘doing a deal’, seeking a pay-off to those who lose their jobs, accepting the town would lose the jobs for generations to come.

Now of course we have had the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft: smaller capital gobbled up by bigger capital. And suddenly the same Unite union officials who happily negotiated the closure of the Keynsham plant to export the jobs to Poland now wanted us to campaign to keep Cadbury “British”! They told us it would be dreadful if Kraft took over, and organised a demonstration in London.I am told that it was supported mainly by Cadbury staff from Bourneville in Birmingham.

While those at Keynsham saw that their factory once doomed might now stay open and so only a few travelled up to join the Unite demonstration. The union’s original decision to negotiate the plant closure had helped to divide the workforce.

 Kraft had shown cynical cunning , promising that if their bid succeeded they would keep the Keynsham factory open.  We now know, of course that this was a lie. As soon as the deal had been nodded through by the Cadbury board, Kraft admitted that Keynsham would close as planned later this year: the Polish factory was “too far advanced” to cancel.

What  a surprise: employers lie!

Of course they do it all the time. Big building firms recently denied that they held any blacklist of banned union members: but then it was proved that they had a list of 3,100 construction workers, many of them Unite members, who they were determined to keep out of employment.

We know the bosses lie. But it seems some of our union leaders have forgotten this: instead they still talk of “partnership” with the bosses. But the real partnership we need, and there is only one, is very different, one between the union, its leaders and its members.

The lack of principled leadership can also be seen in the British Airways dispute, where a staggering 80 percent of Unite members took part in a ballot, well above any general election or local council turnout. 92 percent voted for a strike – only to be overruled by one judge.

Unite’s General Secretary stood outside the High Court feigning anger and shedding crocodile tears. But neither Unite’s leadership nor the TUC have lifted a finger to force the repeal of the anti-union laws in three terms of a Labour government.

These laws, the most vicious in Europe, were brought in by Thatcher, left unchanged by Blair and Brown and sit unchallenged by Unite, the country’s biggest union, and biggest donor to the Labour Party.

Unite members in the health service and in local government services should also beware. Whoever wins the next election will come to office pledged to making savage cuts in public spending. A leadership that won’t fight popular causes in Cadbury or BA won’t have the courage to fight cuts in front line services either.

But after the general election will come a second, very important election, for the General Secretary post in Unite, the country’s biggest and potentially most powerful trade union. The election has to be held before September 23rd 2010, so will almost certainly take place over the summer.

Members voting in the eye of the storm, with the sword of Damocles hanging above them, and quite possibly under a Tory government, will have a choice: do they want their union to be a shield for members, a bulwark for a fightback? Or will they settle for another leader from the full-time apparatus, who will make the union part of the problem rather than a solution?

Ends: Notes for Editors:

Given the size and make up of Unite, it makes the election for the union’s General Secretary the most significant union election for decades.

Jerry Hicks is almost certain to be the only candidate who is not a senior official of the union. This was also the case last time, however he secured support from every region and sector of the union, coming second, within touching distance of incumbent General Secretary Derek Simpson who will not be standing this time round. He is thought by many to be a possible winner.

Jerry Hicks can be contacted on Tel: 078 178 279 12 or email jerryhicks4gs2010@yahoo.co.uk

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