#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

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