In this “post-lockdown” economy most of the developed world is facing the worst labour shortages since the late 1990s. Workers are facing rapidly rising inflation and huge increases in the cost of living beginning to bite into workers’ pay; along with a continuation of over eighteen months of exhausting pandemic working conditions, some outright dangerous. In the face of these crises, workers are increasingly moving to challenge their bosses and are becoming galvanised, at least at a workplace level, to demand increased wages and better working conditions.
While an official announcement has yet to be made, multiple sources have now confirmed that Sharon Graham has won the election to become the general secretary of Unite the Union. Socialist Alternative members send our congratulations to Sharon, for whose candidacy we mobilised support.
We are at a crossroads because the outcome of this election will have a profound effect on the union and its ability to organise. A victory for right-wing candidate Gerard Coyne, which is possible given how close he came in the last election and the huge support he is getting from the right-wing of the Labour Party and the establishment, would represent a massive defeat for the union. Coyne is determined to smash the left within the union, taking to The Sun during the last general secretary election to attack Len McCluskey over his support for Jeremy Corbyn.
In May, Hovis workers in Belfast won an 8% pay increase over two years through a determined, all-out strike that lasted for 11 days. The actions of this workforce are an inspiration to others in the sector and beyond, as employers across the private and public sectors are trying to use the economic crisis sparked by Covid to attack wages, terms and conditions, or as an excuse for miserly pay-offers.