AnA-Z of trade union leadersAmicus:Co-General Secretaries Derek Simpson and Roger LyonsDescribedas the ‘Punch and Judy’ of the trade union movement, Simpson and Lyons are apair of unlikely bedfellows at the top of the UK’s second largest union – andpersonify the widening gap between the left and right elements of the formerAEEU and MSF unions. DerekSimpson A former communist from Sheffield, Simpson, 57, stormed onto the scenein the summer when – against all the odds – he whipped Blair’s key union ally,Sir Ken Jackson, in a bitter leadership election. A former engineer, Simpson clearly relishes his billing as”Blair’s nemesis” and trumpeted his refusal to meet the PM at a uniondinner at the TUC Conference. This turned out to be pure bravado: Simpson didturn up and even praised Blair’s speech, raising speculation that he has”already sensed where the power is and wants to be aboard”. Simpson(who inherited Jackson’s £100,000 annual package) faces a steep learning curve.RogerLyons Having originally declared that he would stand down as co-generalsecretary of Amicus following the expected election of fellow Blairite,Jackson, Lyons had an abrupt change of heart when Simpson was elected. Byexploiting a loophole, he announced he would continue representing the formerMSF. He has now been in place for 10 years unelected and is scheduled to remainuntil 2007. Lyons’ salary package is alleged to be above the £300,000 mark.Once considered too ‘unpredictable’ to be a Government player, is now seen asthe main hope of keeping Amicus on the straight and narrow. Aslef:Mick RixAslef’sgeneral secretary may only command a membership of some 16,000, but hisforthright hard-left stance has given him national prominence, along with hisclose partnership with Bob Crow. A railway man since the age of 16, Rix –another former alumni of Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party – has emergedas an astute negotiator and analyst and has successfully played train operatingcompanies off against one another in an attempt to increase wages. Has warnedof further action unless drivers’ £35,000 salaries are improved, and is avociferous supporter of the renationalisation. “The public can see that weare mortgaging our future to make the fat cats fatter.” But Rix, 39, hasalso campaigned strongly on behalf of workers’ rights and last year, wasappointed to the TUC General Council. CWU:Billy HayesAfully-fledged member of the ‘Awkward Squad’, Hayes, 49 – a former shop stewardfrom Liverpool – seized control of the CWU postal workers’ union in 2000 afterleading the campaign against a partnership deal agreed between his moderatepredecessor and Royal Mail managers. Seen as a firebrand, Hayes helped to sparkthe strikes in Watford which spread across the country – and threatened massstrikes over pay. But despite his close links with Bob Crow and chums, Hayesaverted strike action by agreeing a timely pay deal (he enjoys a £99,000package) and the number of days lost to strikes since he became leader hasfallen dramatically. Hayes also scored points by ridiculing the very notion ofConsignia and won the campaign to drop this “silly name”. Theseemingly inevitable drift into privatisation is likely to prove a step too farfor Hayes – and his notoriously militant members. FBU:Andy GilchristReveredand reviled in equal measure since the start of the firefighters’ action,Gilchrist was recently branded “criminally irresponsible” by localgovernment minister, Nick Raynsford. Yet for many, he is the acceptable face ofthe new wave of radical unionism. A former Luton Town soccer trialist,Gilchrist has demonstrated his fancy footwork with government and localauthority employers. “If we are the scars on Tony Blair’s back, so beit,” says the man who keeps a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Iron in the Soulin his office. But the real test will be whether he can wrench a substantiallyimproved pay deal for firefighters from an unwilling Government, before losingpublic support.GMB:John EdmondsEdmonds,58, has emerged as one of the leading strategists of the trade union movementand a key spokesman on economic and employment policies. The son of a Londonshop steward, he won a history scholarship to Oxford. In 1965, he joined GMB’sforerunner, the GMWU, as a research assistant and began leading the union in1986. Has pushed for reform of the TUC. Dubbed by some “anunreconstructed” left-winger, he described New Labour as “a marketingdevice” that lacks principles and convictions. Played a central role inthe Government’s heavy defeat over PPP at the last Labour Party conference andhis forthcoming retirement will be viewed with relief in certain quarters.Although the GMB recently took out newspaper ads, contrasting the £50,000salary of the chairman of the Local Government Association, with the £5,000earned by school cooks, Edmonds picks up £86,000.PCS:Mark SerwotkaAformer Sheffield benefits agency worker, Serwotka, who describes his politicalviews as far left and is backed by the Trotskyite Socialist Alliance, came fromnowhere to win a postal ballot to lead the main civil service union in 2000 – amove said to have left the PM ‘aghast’. Like many of the new-wave radical unionleaders, he succeeded because he was perceived as an outsider who promised torepresent staff at the sharp end of government policies, rather than engagingin what he calls “cosy fireside chats” with ministers. Serwotkabelieves it doesn’t matter which party is in power: both have to be treated asemployers. Unlike many of his peers, however, Serwotka has put his own moneywhere his mouth is. Considering the £60,000 salary he inherited from hispredecessor excessive, he asked for a pay cut. On being turned down byofficials anxious to protect their own differentials, he began donating £1,000a month into the union’s main strike fund. RMT:Bob Crow, RMTThebullet-headed union leader most frequently styled Public Enemy No. 1 has madeno secret of his willingness to take militant action. “Subtle negotiationshave never been part of his working methods,” says a TUC document whichlinks Crow to 30 strikes in 10 years and warns that he dreams of a return tothe “class wars” of the 1970s. But Crow, who reportedly keeps a bustof Lenin and Soviet railway pennants in his office (he was a communist for 14years) is a Millwall supporter and a wholehearted subscriber to the fans’chant: ‘No-one likes us. We don’t care’. No longer a member of ArthurScargill’s Socialist Alliance, he is politically agnostic, but at the heart ofthe new nexus of leftwing union leaders. As quick-witted as he is contemptuousof the political establishment, Crow, 41, was renowned for whipping up theunion behind strikes on South West Trains and Arriva long before he filled thevacancy left by Jimmy Knapp’s death. Born to a family with a strong uniontradition, Crow has been an activist since he was a teenager and – as a youngLondon Underground representative for the National Union of Railwayment – sawaction in the 1984-5 miners’ strike (a service record held in some reverence byyounger followers).T&G:Bill MorrisJamaican-bornMorris was a prime mover in the campaign to establish a partnership approachbetween unions and government and now appears to have become a fully-fledged memberof the establishment, with a £97,000 package to match. A member of the New DealTask Force, he has previously sat on the Prince of Wales’ Business Trust andthe Commission for Racial Equality and currently sits on the board of the Bankof England. His relationship with the Chancellor is so close that it has beendescribed as “a joke” in union circles. But divisions between theBrownite Morris and other Blairite union moderates – notably former AEEU leaderSir Ken Jackson – have emerged over the euro, which Morris strongly opposes. Asupporter of modernisation in the public sector and PPP, he took particularexception to Blair’s ‘wreckers’ speech last spring. “There are plenty ofwreckers,” he says, “but they’re not in the union movement.”Unison:Dave PrentisDescribedas ‘the elder statesman of the Awkward Squad’, Prentis, 53, overcame stomachcancer to succeed Rodney Bickerstaffe as leader of Britain’s biggest unionafter a lengthy career working for local government staff in Nalgo.”Iwas told to go away and put my house in order,” he says. “It was likebeing hit by a sledgehammer.” But after chemotherapy, a 12-hour operation,and six months in hospital, he is “ready for the fray”. Friendssay this brand of understated determination is typical of the man. Quietlyspoken, with a masters degree in industrial relations from Warwick, he isadmired for his ability to deliver a logical argument “withoutshouting”. Althougha member of the Labour Party, he claims never to have adopted “a NewLabour agenda”. Downing Street special advisers have encouraged attemptsby Matthew Taylor, the Blairite head of the Institute for Public PolicyResearch, to get close to Prentis. But attempts to influence aconviction-driven leader, with a £10m fund at his disposal, are likely to fail.A fervent critic of “creeping privatisation”, he is not afraid to hitthe Government where it hurts. “Is she a wrecker?” asked aUnison-funded ad depicting a home help assisting an elderly woman. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. An A-Z of trade union leadersOn 7 Jan 2003 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.