In the first act of the UK’s new engineering super union, its two leaders this week branded William Hague and the Conservative party ‘anti-worker’.
Speaking at the announcement of an overwhelming vote by members in favour of the AEEU and MSF merger, AEEU general secretary Sir Ken Jackson and MSF general secretary Roger Lyons pledged the new union’s support to the Labour party in the run-up to the general election, and criticised Hague’s employment rights policies.
‘We will be drawing our members’ attention to the issue of employment rights. Working people have to know that Hague’s party is anti-worker,’ said Lyons.
Of those taking part in the merger ballot, 84.3% of AEEU members and 79.8% of MSF members voted for the merger to create a new ‘super union’ with assets of more than £100m and a £1m recruitment war chest.
But the turnout was just 29.2% (AEEU) and 30.6% (MSF).
David Yeandle, deputy director of employment affairs at the EEF, said the size of the majority was no surprise given the huge publicity campaign the unions had run. ‘The only slight surprise is that the turnout is not as high as might have been anticipated, although union ballots traditionally have relatively low turnouts.’
The MSF said the vote turnout was the biggest in its history.
The merger will create the UK’s second biggest union of over a million members (the largest is Unison) and the largest affiliated to the Labour party with 110 MPs. Members now have a 40-day period when they can complain about the way the ballot was run, after which the new union will be officially launched.
Jackson said the union will focus on increasing its membership in its first year. ‘I would be quite happy to have a 50% increase in members over the next year. Our first priority is to build on what we’ve got and punch our weight both politically and industrially.’
But he denied that declining union membership and job cuts in manufacturing had forced the two unions to merge.
‘It has not been forced upon us, none of us need to merge, we’re growing, and we’re very solvent. It’s something we want, and it’s something that will benefit our members and the country.’
Members of the union, which has yet to be named, will benefit from increased resources and savings from greater economies of scale being ploughed back into union campaigns, he added.
A spokesman for the Conservative party denied it was anti-worker. ‘We care about everyone in this country and want them all to do well, and not be held back by the trade unions.’
Meanwhile, the government is thought to be about to bow to pressure from employers and not grant mothers the right to return to part-time work after taking maternity leave.