Unite the Union will choose its new general secretary by the end of this summer, as Len McCluskey formally announces retirement.
The Unite general secretary election is now officially underway as Len McCluskey has today announced his retirement to the executive, allowing candidates for the top job to formally kick off their campaigns.
A Unite spokesperson said: “After a full discussion by our executive council, it has been agreed that Unite’s general secretary election is underway. A timetable will be circulated once agreed with the independent scrutineer. The election will be concluded towards the end of August.”
The timetable for the election was decided at a meeting of Unite’s executive committee on Wednesday. Nominations for the contest to replace the longstanding leader Len McCluskey are expected to begin on 6 May, with voting then getting underway in early July. The ballot of the union’s 1.2 million members will close on 23 August and the result will then be announced three days later.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite since 2011, was known as a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and has since been critical of the approach of his successor, Sir Keir Starmer.
The forthcoming leadership contest is therefore expected to focus on the union’s future relationship with the Labour party, although candidates have already stressed that workers’ rights and livelihoods are their top priority.
The candidates to succeed McCluskey are Unite assistant general secretary for politics and legal, Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner, executive office for organising and leverage Sharon Graham and former regional secretary Gerard Coyne.
To qualify, candidates are required to have at least five years of continuous Unite membership and must receive nominations from at least 5% of total number of branches, which is currently 3,467 – so the threshold is 174 branches.
Howard Beckett, a member of Labour’s national ruling body who is close to McCluskey and deeply critical of Keir Starmer, announced today that he will be formally launching his #Beckett4Unite campaign this Sunday (18 April):
Thank you for all the support so far.
— Howard Beckett (@BeckettUnite) April 13, 2021
Fellow candidate Steve Turner officially launched his leadership bid today with a ‘Charter for Change’ which aims to “transform the way the union supports its members and representatives in the waked of the Covid-19 pandemic”
Mr Turner said: “Under my leadership, Unite will be a strong, confident union fighting to secure the job and training guarantees our nation needs to build back fairer and the millions of green jobs we need to build back greener”.
Mr Coyne, a former West Midlands union organiser who previously challenged Mr McCluskey in 2017, said of his campaign: “I will use the union’s resources and energy to empower our workplace reps and support our members through the troubled times to come – not to play political games or waste their hard-earned money.”
He added: “As general secretary, I will stand alongside every member of Unite as they face a future of uncertainty.”
Ms Graham, who would be Unite’s first female leader if elected, said: “Things cannot return to business as usual post-Covid.
“If Unite is to face the massive challenge of fighting for jobs, fighting for wages and defending conditions, it must be built at the workplace as never before. New times demand new ways to defend workers.”