back to front — merger mania


UNISON says it wants to work closer with the German public service union ver.di. Amicus has entered into closer working with its German counterpart IG-Metal. Are these the first stages towards mammoth EU-wide trade unions in the public services or manufacturing? Or the fulfilling of an EU directive on the trade unions reflecting the industrial structure of the EU?

The number of ex-British trade union general secretaries employed in EU trade union confederations outweighs all other EU nationalities. Today Europe, tomorrow the world?

The TGWU has bizarrely established closer relations with a New York public service union, shipping a number of US trade union organisers over to its London region. The evangelicalism of US recruitment styles will follow shortly.

At home the mergers go apace. Amicus has opened talks with the GPMU, having already taken on Unifi. Rumours of marriage — forced, arranged or willing — between Amicus and the TGWU have also been announced. The GMB, jilted at the altar, looks forlornly for a new partner. The miners, however, have rejected rumours about a proposed merger with the rail and maritime workers.

The TGWU is expected to up its "transport" image, presumably to attract or poach ASLEF members. ASLEF has been riven by leftist antics, resulting in one general secretary being booted out of office by member ballot and another sacked. Factionalism is rampant ,and a once disciplined, proud and effective union has been brought to its knees.

The PCS is facing an unprecedented assault with the government's proposed job cuts in the Civil Service. But of course there are interesting maths and alliances associated therein: 100,000 civil service jobs to go — 50% of PCS's membership. An estimated 270,000 jobs to be created in health, education and other public service areas in which UNISON predominates. Perhaps UNISON will swallow a battered PCS in the name of fraternal relations and solidarity?

By the TUC in September 2005 how many of the 12 trade unions with a membership of over 100,000 will still be in existence?

The bigger the unions become, the faster they move away from their original root be it trade, skill or geography. They may have won Investors in People awards and bore their organisers to death with development reviews and management training, but they cannot deliver class identity, consciousness or a strike.

Trade union density of TUC and non-TUC affiliated unions in Britain reflects about one-third of possible members. In the 1970s, the density was two-thirds — so why do we need to look abroad, when we have work to do at home? Are we so seduced by the calls for international solidarity, the need to fight multinationals and neo-globalism that we forget that the fight begins at home?