#Unite under McCluskey putting women member’s issues on back burner, says Gerard #VoteCoyne #ForLen

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web_top_photo_banner_-_gc_rgbGerard Coyne fought his first battle on behalf of working people at the age of 17, when he was stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s supermarket in West Bromwich.

“Bad employers always make good recruiters for trades unions,” he says. “We had one particular manager who decided he didn’t want people talking on the checkouts. So I started organising. When we ended, I had the whole store unionised.”

Thirty-two years on, Coyne, 49, is embarking on a quest to become the most powerful figure in the British trade union movement. If he succeeds, it will have far-reaching implications for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

When we meet in a coffee shop next to King’s Cross station in London for his first newspaper interview since launching a challenge to topple Len McCluskey, 66, from the leadership of the super-union Unite, it is McCluskey who he now casts as the bad boss who does not have the interests of working people sufficiently at heart. The current Unite leader, he says at the outset, spends far too much time playing power politics and trying to “pull strings” at Westminster and not enough on the vital issues that affect his 1.4 million members.

He says he cannot remember an occasion in the past three years on which McCluskey actually appeared on site to back Unite members in an industrial dispute. By contrast, his general secretary’s numerous appearances on the media in support of Corbyn and his predecessor Ed Miliband are all too fresh in the mind. “Of course we want to see the election of a Labour government in 2020, but what I want is to get away from this pulling of the strings of the Labour party.”

It is not that Coyne thinks influence with Labour leaders does not matter. He knows it does. But he says the union will exercise even more if it can give better value for money to members and help them face the challenges of mechanisation and technological advance that are threatening their jobs. That, says Coyne, is the route to increasing Unite’s membership and enhancing its reputation.

“If we can grow and show we are playing a real, constructive role in the lives of working people, Labour would be mad not to listen to us. Every morning we have to wake up and think, what is it I do to grow the movement? Not – what is it I do to grow influence [at Westminster]?”

Mechanisation is a “massive issue”, he says. “We have not really grappled with the technological change that most of the world of work is going to be faced with, around manufacturing, food processing, transport. In the next 20 years we are going to be seeing such change … we need to explain it to our members and upskill them to be ready for it.”

The union also needs to “up its game” in promoting the interests of women in the workplace, doing more to push pay equality and flexible working. “We have to make sure we are relevant to women. At the moment these issues are on the back burner.”

Coyne is Unite’s regional secretary in the West Midlands, with more than 25 years of experience at senior levels in the movement. He is one of six brothers from a family of trade unionists and Labour activists. In 2005, he brokered agreements to get 6,500 Rover workers into new jobs after the company went into receivership.

The fast-changing world of work, he says, not only threatens traditional jobs but also the very future of unions. “We have so many challenges that apply to the whole of the British trade union movement. I fundamentally believe in trade unions absolutely to my core. But if we don’t get this right in this generation I fear for the future of the movement.”

Unite is the Labour party’s biggest donor, pumping millions of pounds a year into its coffers. It loans staff to Corbyn’s office. McCluskey appoints Unite members to Labour’s ruling national executive council. It threw hefty financial and other resources behind Corbyn’s two leadership campaigns this year and last. It has huge voting power at party conference. McCluskey is arguably Corbyn’s most important supporter inside or outside parliament.

Unite’s influence also extends into local Labour politics, where many MPs opposed to Corbyn fear local Unite officials are trying to pack their people on to key committees in constituencies, with the ultimate aim of bringing about mass deselections of the disloyal.

Labour MPs are watching this election more closely than any other for many years. One MP and former shadow cabinet member told the Observer it was “by far the most important union moment in our party’s recent history”. That is because if Coyne wins, he will pull it back from the politics and redirect the focus.

Coyne says: “Our members are suffering a tough time at the moment. Average earnings have gone down 10% since 2007; 1.6 million people are on temporary and agency contracts and zero-hours contracts are at nearly a million, having gone up 20% in the last year alone.”

He won’t be drawn on whether he thinks Unite gives too much money to Labour but he notes that the surge in party membership means it is now far less dependent on union cash. If he prevails, he will insist on greater transparency on how Unite spends money. The donations issue will be addressed anew.

There are concerns, he adds, about the £400,000 given by Unite to help McCluskey buy a £700,000 apartment in London. The union says the deal is an “equity share arrangement” which will deliver profits for members when the flat is sold.

Coyne has age on his side in the battle against McCluskey. “When a union has a policy, as Unite does, which is ‘68 is too late’ (to retire), having a general secretary who stays on until he is 71 sends completely the wrong message. We need to bring people who are younger into well paid, good employment.”

He accepts he is the underdog because McCluskey has the union machine at his disposal but says he would not have entered the race if he had not thought he could win. “There have been some elections recently where being the underdog has not been a bad place to be. There is an opportunity for change, for a fresh start, for members to get their union back.”

Guardian, Saturday 17th December 2016

#Corbyn appoints white, female anti-Semite Islingtonite to link with ethnic & community groups! #JC4PM?

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Jeremy Corbyn Hires Ex-Sinn Fein Staffer As His “Stakeholder Engagement Manager”

A former aide to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has been given a key post in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership team, Labour sources have confirmed.

Allies of the Labour leader defended the decision to hire Jayne Fisher as “Stakeholder Engagement Manager”, despite unease among the party’s backbench MPs.

Fisher, who ran Sinn Fein’s Westminster office, will take up her new post in the New Year- with responsibility for overseeing Corbyn’s contacts with all ethnic and community groups.

Corbyn privately confirmed the appointment at his regular Wednesday meeting with the party’s backbench Parliamentary Committee, HuffPost UK has been told. He said Fisher was “a very good” hire.

A Labour spokesman refused to comment on “staffing matters”, but a party source told HuffPost that Fisher was a long-standing member of Labour in Islington South, having joined the party at 18.

She helped establish the Labour Women’s conference in the 80s and 90s and was involved with the Labour Party Irish Society from when it was established in 1998.

MPs were concerned not just about Fisher’s links to Sinn Fein, but also the Republican party’s stance on Israel, given her new role will involve rebuilding relationships with Britain’s Jewish community in the wake of Labour’s anti-semitism controversy.

At a London rally for Gaza in 2014, during the height of Israel’s military conflict with Hamas, Fisher delivered a personal statement from Adams in which he demanded the “expulsion” of Ireland’s Israeli ambassador.

Corbyn allies said that Fisher played a role in the cross-party “Friends of the Good Friday Agreement” which included figures such as Kevin McNamara, the former Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.

She then worked for Sinn Fein Parliamentary Group when the party wanted a presence in Westminster during the peace process. 

“The primary purpose was to do political outreach in Westminster and the wider community,” the source said.

“Jayne is held in high regard and respected by Labour MPs who have an interest in Northern Ireland. She has a good relationship with several Labour MPs who have been critical of Jeremy’s leadership including Conor McGinn and Vernon Coaker.”

Corbyn, who has a large Irish population in his north London constituency, has himself long supported Sinn Fein.

During his first Labour leadership campaign in 2015, he was photographed in the Commons with Adams and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, as well as Fisher.

The Labour leader insists that he was only ever interested in promoting the peace process, and points out that the Major government was talking secretly to the Republicans when he was doing so publicly.

But he has also come under attack for inviting Adams and others to Parliament in 1984 soon after the IRA’s Brighton bombing nearly killed Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet.

In 1987, soon after the shooting of eight IRA men in Loughall in Northern Ireland, said he was ‘happy to commemorate all those who died fighting for an independent Ireland’.

After his promotion to Corbyn’s top team, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell apologised “from the bottom of my heart” for suggesting in 2003 that the IRA should be honoured for the bombings which brought the British government “to the negotiating table”.

As a backbencher, he had said: “It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table.

“The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”

In 1986, at the height of the IRA’s terror campaign in Britain, McDonnell called for the “ballot, the bullet and the bomb” to unite Ireland.

Fisher appeared to have deleted thousands of tweets in recent days, as word of her appointment began to leak.

Huffington Politics, Thursday 14th December 2016

#VoteCoyne wants #Unite to put members front & centre, not just be a chorus for #Labour under #Corbyn

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web_top_photo_banner_-_gc_rgb“I know the value of a strong union. My father was an activist in the Fire Brigades Union and my mother was a school caretaker and a GMB member. I joined my first union at 17 when I was a shop worker at Sainsbury’s and I’ve worked at Unite for 28 years. I fight for a better deal for members every day.

Now more than ever, people need someone in their corner to stand up for them at work. The erosion of employment rights under this government, the proliferation of zero-hours contracts and the increase in temporary employment have left workers open to exploitation.

According to the ONS, the number of UK workers on zero hours contracts went up by 20% in the past year to 903,000. TUC figures show that between 2007 and 2015 real wages fell by 10.4% and average weekly earnings in real terms are still £22 below the 2007 peak of £497.

The number of agency workers is set to reach 1 million by 2020, according to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, and 1.66 million people are now employed on a temporary basis.

We are living in an age of chronic insecurity. But just as the economy and the needs of our members are changing rapidly, unions must change too. We need to be more flexible, more responsive and more transparent in the work we do.

Many members don’t know the name of their general secretary, but they know exactly how much of their wages they part with in union subs and they want to see real value for money for that cash.

All too often members feel the leadership of their union is too remote and out of touch and they get angry and disillusioned when they read about allegations of inappropriate uses of union money. That has to change.

Unite members worry about buying clothes for their children or whether they can afford a summer holiday. They care about pay and conditions at work and their job security – not who is up or down in the Westminster game of snakes and ladders.

Members tell me they want the union to be overhauled so that the voices of the whole membership is heard and policy-making is broadened for the benefit of all members. They want a trade union that listens and makes changes in partnership with its members, for the good of everyone.

We now have an opportunity to make those changes. Last week, Len McCluskey triggered a leadership election by announcing his intention to resign as general secretary. I will be a candidate in that election and will be seeking nominations early next year.

Under my leadership, Unite would be a more flexible, responsive and transparent union for all our members. Whether they work on production lines or building sites, drive buses or staff call centres, most of them face a daily battle to makes ends meet.

Often, they are people who don’t feel “political”, even if they are affected by political events. I believe they want a general secretary who spends less time trying to run the Labour party and more time looking after their interests.

We need to tell them exactly how their money is spent and ensure we are transparent about where their monthly subscription fee goes – and we need to ask them what their priorities are.

The challenge facing Unite is the same as that facing every other union; to secure better pay and more secure employment for members.

I have been a regional secretary for 15 years and I have been part of the union movement all my working life.

I was born and raised in the Black Country in the industrial heartland of the west Midlands where I still live. I grew up in a family of six, and I was taught from a young age that the union movement exists to ensure working people are treated with fairness, decency and respect.

That is as true today as it was then. I passionately believe Unite members would be better off under a Labour government and I will continue to work with anyone to bring that about. But I also understand that most of those members want their union officials to concentrate on negotiating pay deals rather than playing at politics. I want to run Unite and serve all our members. Not play power politics.

Our members want someone who listens to them, understands their concerns and fights on their behalf. That’s why I will run for the leadership of our great union and fight for a better, more secure future for our members.”

Guardian, Tuesday 13th December 2016

#Unite General Secretary should not be puppet master of #Corbyn, the #Labour Party’s leader #VoteCoyne!

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Jeremy Corbyn’s most powerful union ally, Len McCluskey, has been bitterly attacked by the man seeking to end his six-year reign in charge of Britain’s biggest union, Unite.

In his first newspaper interview since announcing that he will challenge McCluskey in an election, with huge potential repercussions for Corbyn and for Labour, Gerard Coyne accuses the Unite general secretary of meddling too much in Westminster politics, and of neglecting the crucial issues facing working people.

“I just don’t think that ever again the general secretary should be the puppet master of the leader of the Labour party,” Coyne – Unite’s regional secretary in the West Midlands – told the Observer. “There is an opportunity for change, for a fresh start, for members to get their union back.”

The battle for control of Unite is being seen at Westminster as a proxy war for control of the entire Labour party. Many Labour MPs see Coyne’s challenge as a chance to break the alliance between Corbyn and the leftwing Unite leadership and restore it to the centre ground.

In July, McCluskey accused MPs who plotted to oust Corbyn of “being seduced by sinister forces”. At its annual conference, Unite then called for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs in a move which many saw as the start of a purge of moderates by the hard left.

Labour MPs have since said that Unite activists have been organising in their constituencies in an effort to boost memberships and tip the balance in favour of deselections in future ballots.

Coyne says he, as much as anyone, wants a Labour government and that he fully endorses the commitment in Unite’s rulebook to back the party. But he claims McCluskey has made politics too much of a priority at the expense of fighting everyday battles on behalf of Unite’s 1.4 million members.

“The last time that I can remember the general secretary making a public appearance on an industrial matter was the last British Airways dispute.

“That was four years ago,” says Coyne. “Every other appearance on the media that I can recall was in relation to the current leader of the Labour party, or in relation to Ed Miliband.”

The 66-year-old McCluskey, a former Liverpool docker who has been general secretary since 2011, threw the super-union’s full support and financial resources behind Corbyn in the leadership elections last year. He has continued to be one of Corbyn’s staunchest and most consistent defenders.

The Unite leader triggered the leadership contest by resigning well before the end of his five-year term in 2018 in what was seen as an attempt to ensure that he stays in charge for the 2020 general election.

Launching his re-election bid last week, McCluskey called for restrictions on immigration. “While we must reject any form of racism, and help refugees fleeing war, we must also listen to the concerns of working people,” he said – a sentiment echoed by Coyne who said the main lesson of the 23 June referendum was that people wanted to restore controls at UK borders.

Coyne also suggests the union under McCluskey has neglected the cause of women in the workplace, and not done enough to promote equal and flexible working. Asked if McCluskey was too old to seek another term, he said: “The simple answer to that is yes.”

Candidates for general secretary must gather nominations from at least 50 workplaces or branches by 22 February. Voting will take place between late March and mid-April.

McCluskey is a former flatmate of Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, but the pair have fallen out badly since McCluskey criticised New Labour for wielding “power without principles”.

Watson replied: “Trashing our own record is not the way to enhance our brand.”

Guardian, Saturday 17th December 2016

#Unite candidate Gerard #VoteCoyne, “have to focus on how to grow unions, not influence in Westminster”

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web_top_photo_banner_-_gc_rgbGerard Coyne fought his first battle on behalf of working people at the age of 17, when he was stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s supermarket in West Bromwich.

“Bad employers always make good recruiters for trades unions,” he says. “We had one particular manager who decided he didn’t want people talking on the checkouts. So I started organising. When we ended, I had the whole store unionised.”

Thirty-two years on, Coyne, 49, is embarking on a quest to become the most powerful figure in the British trade union movement. If he succeeds, it will have far-reaching implications for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

When we meet in a coffee shop next to King’s Cross station in London for his first newspaper interview since launching a challenge to topple Len McCluskey, 66, from the leadership of the super-union Unite, it is McCluskey who he now casts as the bad boss who does not have the interests of working people sufficiently at heart. The current Unite leader, he says at the outset, spends far too much time playing power politics and trying to “pull strings” at Westminster and not enough on the vital issues that affect his 1.4 million members.

He says he cannot remember an occasion in the past three years on which McCluskey actually appeared on site to back Unite members in an industrial dispute. By contrast, his general secretary’s numerous appearances on the media in support of Corbyn and his predecessor Ed Miliband are all too fresh in the mind. “Of course we want to see the election of a Labour government in 2020, but what I want is to get away from this pulling of the strings of the Labour party.”

It is not that Coyne thinks influence with Labour leaders does not matter. He knows it does. But he says the union will exercise even more if it can give better value for money to members and help them face the challenges of mechanisation and technological advance that are threatening their jobs. That, says Coyne, is the route to increasing Unite’s membership and enhancing its reputation.

“If we can grow and show we are playing a real, constructive role in the lives of working people, Labour would be mad not to listen to us. Every morning we have to wake up and think, what is it I do to grow the movement? Not – what is it I do to grow influence [at Westminster]?”

Mechanisation is a “massive issue”, he says. “We have not really grappled with the technological change that most of the world of work is going to be faced with, around manufacturing, food processing, transport. In the next 20 years we are going to be seeing such change … we need to explain it to our members and upskill them to be ready for it.”

The union also needs to “up its game” in promoting the interests of women in the workplace, doing more to push pay equality and flexible working. “We have to make sure we are relevant to women. At the moment these issues are on the back burner.”

Coyne is Unite’s regional secretary in the West Midlands, with more than 25 years of experience at senior levels in the movement. He is one of six brothers from a family of trade unionists and Labour activists. In 2005, he brokered agreements to get 6,500 Rover workers into new jobs after the company went into receivership.

The fast-changing world of work, he says, not only threatens traditional jobs but also the very future of unions. “We have so many challenges that apply to the whole of the British trade union movement. I fundamentally believe in trade unions absolutely to my core. But if we don’t get this right in this generation I fear for the future of the movement.”

Unite is the Labour party’s biggest donor, pumping millions of pounds a year into its coffers. It loans staff to Corbyn’s office. McCluskey appoints Unite members to Labour’s ruling national executive council. It threw hefty financial and other resources behind Corbyn’s two leadership campaigns this year and last. It has huge voting power at party conference. McCluskey is arguably Corbyn’s most important supporter inside or outside parliament.

Unite’s influence also extends into local Labour politics, where many MPs opposed to Corbyn fear local Unite officials are trying to pack their people on to key committees in constituencies, with the ultimate aim of bringing about mass deselections of the disloyal.

Labour MPs are watching this election more closely than any other for many years. One MP and former shadow cabinet member told the Observer it was “by far the most important union moment in our party’s recent history”. That is because if Coyne wins, he will pull it back from the politics and redirect the focus.

Coyne says: “Our members are suffering a tough time at the moment. Average earnings have gone down 10% since 2007; 1.6 million people are on temporary and agency contracts and zero-hours contracts are at nearly a million, having gone up 20% in the last year alone.”

He won’t be drawn on whether he thinks Unite gives too much money to Labour but he notes that the surge in party membership means it is now far less dependent on union cash. If he prevails, he will insist on greater transparency on how Unite spends money. The donations issue will be addressed anew.

There are concerns, he adds, about the £400,000 given by Unite to help McCluskey buy a £700,000 apartment in London. The union says the deal is an “equity share arrangement” which will deliver profits for members when the flat is sold.

Coyne has age on his side in the battle against McCluskey. “When a union has a policy, as Unite does, which is ‘68 is too late’ (to retire), having a general secretary who stays on until he is 71 sends completely the wrong message. We need to bring people who are younger into well paid, good employment.”

He accepts he is the underdog because McCluskey has the union machine at his disposal but says he would not have entered the race if he had not thought he could win. “There have been some elections recently where being the underdog has not been a bad place to be. There is an opportunity for change, for a fresh start, for members to get their union back.”

Guardian, Saturday 17th December 2016

#Labour MPs’ charity single shows #Corbyn supporters #Christmas is about their constituents not #Corbyn

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Do Retail Workers Know It’s Christmas? Labour MPs record protest charity single

Corbyn supporters have recorded an execrable paean in praise of Corbyn for Christmas that will provide funds for the Trussell Trust, but that charity fund raising is not the point of their risible ditty.  A dreadful song that makes them look like members of the Cult of Corbyn.  A cult they strenuously deny exists.

Labour MPs, on the other hand, have recorded the above charity song to draw attention to the plight of many of their constituents who work in retail:

“It’s Christmas time, and there’s plenty of reasons to be afraid if you’re a retail worker, according to a musical protest by Labour MPs.

MPs including Dan Jarvis, Angela Rayner and Mary Creagh have recorded a Christmas single to the tune of the 1980s Band Aid hit Do They Know It’s Christmas, accusing companies of cutting workers’ perks after the introduction of the “national living wage”.

Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh, who directed the chorus, said she wanted find a catchy way of drawing attention to the issue, which she said had seen firms cut overtime pay rates, free lunches and bonuses after the introduction of the national living wage which requires employers to pay staff over 25 at least £7.20 an hour.

“We know that they have plenty/ But still they give us less and less/ Stand up against the greed this Christmas time,” the MPs sing. The chorus of “Feed the World” is now “Keep the perks, don’t be Scrooge this Christmas time.”

The song is a trademark of the Band Aid Trust, which will receive all the profits from the single.

Several political songs are aiming to reach the charts this Christmas, with the chancellor Philip Hammond agreeing to waive VAT on sales of a Christmas single in memory of late Labour MP Jo Cox.

The special recording of the Rolling Stones’ hit You Can’t Always Get What You Want features cross-party MPs and musicians including Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, Cockney Rebel’s Steve Harley, KT Tunstall and David Gray. Money raised from the single will go to the Jo Cox Foundation which supports a range of charities, including the Royal Voluntary Service and the White Helmets.

A Jeremy Corbyn-themed Christmas song called JC4PM has also been recorded by Robb Johnson and the Corbynistas, with has a video featuring actor Maxine Peake.”

#Corbyn Concert & #ChristmasJumperDay In #Labour Diary But #IstanbulConvention Debate Isn’t!!!

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“More than 60 MPs have written to Theresa May asking that the government immediately ratify the Istanbul convention, an international agreement aimed at ending violence against women …”

“In a parallel move on Thursday, the Scottish National party MP Eilidh Whiteford launched a private member’s bill calling on the government to ratify the convention.

Whiteford said: “We’ve been waiting over four and a half years for the UK government to ratify the Istanbul convention. It is no longer a valid excuse to say there is not enough parliamentary time to take forward the necessary changes to domestic legislation.”

Her bill (set to be debated in Parliament on Friday 16th December) is intended to set out a clear timetable to bring forward the required legislation …”

MPs ask May to ratify international accord on violence against women

czi9vffxcaaa5j8Women are travelling across the country to seek help for domestic violence – it is time Parliament acted