LETTER : Criticism ignores Unison's skills

From Mr Roger Bannister

Sir: Your editorial about the election of Rodney Bickerstaffe as general scretary of Unison displayed a lack of understanding of developments in the trade union movement. As a socialist and member of Militant Labour, I have come to expect attacks from the newspapers of the capitalist class (you are not that "Independent" after all). But to refer to the range of candidates in the Unison general secretary election as "testimony to the shallowness of the union's gene pool" is an insult to our 1.4 million members.

You apparently mean that no candidate in the election reflected John Monks' "new thinking", by which I presume you include the opposition to strikes, and his policy of putting Tories on TUC platforms. But where is this "new thinking" now? Opposition to the pro-Tory stance was such that the first time a prominent Tory spoke on a TUC platform was the last.

The 1994 TUC Congress met against the background of the signalworkers' strike, and on the eve of the 1995 Congress, John Monks himself threatened the Tories with industrial militancy if they continued attacks on workers. I think it was Captain Blackadder who was forced to ask "Do you visit the planet earth much?", a question which is appropriate to put to your leader writer.

Yours faithfully,

Roger Bannister

National Executive Council

Member, Unison

Kirkby, Merseyside

10 November

The writer was the Campaign for a Fighting, Democratic Unison candidate in the election for Unison general secretary.