Saturday, January 15, 2005

Guardian gets things wrong

Far left aim to take over firefighters
Kevin Maguire Thursday January 13th, 2005 The Guardian
A far-left political party is aiming to oust the leadership of the firefighters' union as the first step to taking control of Labour affiliates.
Respect, dominated by the Trotskyist Socialist Workers party, is to run candidates in union elections in a bid to shift them further to the left.
The strife-ridden FBU, divided since the strikes, is regarded as a potential springboard by the grouping, which is also targeting the Unison leader, Dave Prentis, this spring.
The FBU's general secretary, Andy Gilchrist, is to complain to the head of the civil service union PCS, Mark Serwotka, about evidence of "interference" in the firefighters' ballot by prominent figures in the Whitehall union.
The offensive has alarmed the anti-Blair "awkward squad" of union leaders, amid claims that candidates hide their political records.
Respect is standing the far-left London activist Matt Wrack against the Labour leftwinger John McGhee, for assistant general secretary, and intends to oppose the re-election of Mr Gilchrist.
The far left already controls the FBU's London committee; minutes of its meetings show activists in other unions, particularly the PCS, assisting FBU activists.
Mr Gilchrist has lodged a formal protest with Mr Serwotka (himself facing re-election later this year with the likely backing of Respect).
"It's simply not acceptable for a union official to interfere in the internal election of another union. I'm going to tell [him] that I'm very disappointed and our members are angered at this; he needs to tell his officer to keep his mouth shut and his nose out of our election," Mr Gilchrist said.

Diary Marina Hyde
Thursday January 13th, 2005 The Guardian
It seems odd, in the union run with such dazzling competence by Andy Gilchrist, to hear rumbles of discontent, but there are suggestions that fire brigades top brass may need to reacquaint themselves with the rule book. This we ek, the FBU begins electing a new assistant general secretary, the frontrunners being John McGhee (a pro-leadership loyalist) and Matt Wrack (a "reclaim our union" challenger). Now, rule 19a(1) of the FBU's rule book warns that written canvassing for a candidate constitutes a disciplinary offence, which prompts some members to inquire how it is that almost every circular, press release, and issue of the union's in-house magazine manages to name and picture John, alongside his slogan "putting members first". And he has such helpful friends. Outgoing AGS Mike Fordham tells Fire magazine that "John is an official who puts members first", for instance, while anonymous flyers canvassing for him have been sent to every fire station in the country. There's so much more, but for reasons of space we'll conclude with Andy Gilchrist's dispatch of an eve-of-election circular to all officials, which, though ostensibly regarding an internal matter, thoroughly lambasts Mr Wrack. FBU top brass decline to furnish us with a definition of the phrase "spirit of the law", so we'll be keeping an eye on this one as things progress.

Corrections and clarifications
Saturday January 15, 2005 The Guardian
In our report on the election for assistant general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (Far left aim to take over firefighters, page 6, January 13) we said in error that one of the candidates, Matt Wrack, was standing for the leftwing political coalition, Respect. He is not and neither is he a member of that organisation. We may also have given the impression that minutes of the union's London committee showed that members of other unions were assisting FBU activists. That was not the intention. The sentence intended to demonstrate that the minutes of meetings of leftwing organisations, outside the union, contained such information.


Blogger badmatthew said...

And a letter from Mark Serwotka:
No divisions
Friday January 14, 2005
The Guardian
Your article (Far left aim to take over firefighters, January 13) creates a misleading impression of divisions between PCS and the FBU. I have spoken to Andy Gilchrist at the FBU and made it clear that I too strongly believe it is unacceptable for a union to involve itself in another's internal affairs. PCS has not done so. The so-called "prominent figures" in my union are neither full-time officials nor senior elected officials, but one or two of the 8,000 local PCS reps acting in a personal capacity.
The government may be happy to see divisions at a time when it is instigating drastic cuts in jobs and pensions in both the civil service and the fire service, but it is not a trap that we will fall into.
Mark Serwotka
General secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union

17 January 2005 at 17:35  

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