The campaign they tried to hide… and still 10,000 voted for Robbie

March 1st, 2009

Votes for President

Candidates Votes Cast
Jeff Broome 19,962 (Elected)
Robina Segal 10,559


With the votes now counted, we can confirm that Robbie got a very respectable
ten thousand members’ votes for the position of President of Usdaw. That means a
third of the votes for President of the fourth biggest union in the country! 

Robbie was also reelected onto the Executive Council with nearly 500 more
votes than the next person and despite a dramatic increase in the number of
members standing for election in the south.

  With a turnout of 9% and a muted campaign to say the least, it is
hardly surprising that the incumbent President got re-elected, the New
Labourite Jeff Broome, with the entire union machinery backing him. It is
disgraceful that the election was hardly mentioned to the majority of members,
no debates were allowed and the only available official election material for
Robbie being the ballot paper itself. 10,000 leaflets were distributed by
Socialist Party members and others on the left in Usdaw getting an
overwhelmingly supportive response.

  Robbie stood for President following her 40% vote in the General
Secretary election over the summer. She has been standing on a platform of
opposing any job losses in the retail sector and was the only person on the EC
to raise the demand for nationalisation of Woolworths. While she was issuing
press releases and contacting workers about the need to demand the companies
open their books and show us where the money has gone, the Usdaw leaders were
falling over themselves taking part in debates and interviews defending the job
losses and arguing that nothing can be done other than spout praise on Brown’s
government (see John Gorle’s interview with Paxman or Hannett’s statements in
Arena and Network). 

  Robbie’s demands have been focusing on the urgent need for Usdaw to
give retail workers a strategy to fight the barrage of job losses and the
attacks on terms and conditions the bosses are trying to heap on the plate of
workers. Retail is one of the main industries that have recently been in the
firing line, bearing the brunt of the economic crisis the bankers and
speculators got us into.

Robbie pledged to launch a campaign to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour
from 16 to retirement, which got an enthusiastic response from members
struggling to make ends meet on the pittance we get.

  Robbie says: ‘What shop workers need isn’t conciliation with New
Labour and the bosses but a strong democratic fighting leadership. I will
continue the struggle and now with a stronger left network of activists behind
me we are heading for our most successful ADM for a long time. The voice of the
members won’t fall on deaf ears for much longer’



Usdaw Activist Public Meeting,

4th April, Exmouth Arms (near Euston station) 11am-3pm.


No announcement of the result on the website

Again we wonder why there is no mention of the President and EC election
results on Usdaw’s website. Even the press release concerning the President’s
result was not placed on the website. So as a service to Usdaw’s members that
our union does not provide, the Activist publishes the results of the
President and EC elections.


Candidates Votes Cast
Jeff Broome 19,962 (Elected)
Robina Segal 10,559


Executive Council


South Wales and Western

Candidates Votes Cast
Dennis Stinchcombe Elected Unopposed
Barbara Wilson Elected Unopposed


Eastern Division

Candidates Votes Cast
Allan Newanga 1,148
Sharon Newson 942
Sheila Thomas 993
Simon Vincent 1,901 (Elected)
Barbara Woodford 1,622 (Elected)


Midlands Division

Candidates Votes Cast
Maureen Bowman 1,267
Kevin Davies 1,287 (Elected)
Javid Iqbal 442
Barbara McAlister 1,846 (Elected)
Di Mitchell 659
Graham Parkin 1,150
David Stokes 906


North Eastern Division

Candidates Votes Cast
Peter Capper 2,139
Mike Dixon 2,522 (Elected)
Pat Fitsgerald 2,143 (Elected)


Scottish Division

Candidates Votes Cast
Susan Coutts Elected Unopposed
Harry McAlister Elected Unopposed


Southern Division

Candidates Votes Cast
Maria Aldred 623
John Barstow 383
Dennis Hart 1,069 (Elected)
Alan Higgins 391
Margaret Hughes 735
Peter Millward 1,001
Amy Murphy 834
Richard Mustonen-Smith 210
Su Patel 336
Bernadette Phillips 757
Robina Segal 1,502 (Elected)



North Western Division

Candidates Votes Cast
Ann Hickson 4,248 (Elected)
Jan Jervis 2,880 (Elected)
Julie Keenan 1,223
Joan Lyall 1,605
Tony Threlfall 3,832 (Elected)


Fight every job cut

Over the last year and since the launch of the Activist in November
2007, we have consistently pointed out that the policy of developing a
partnership with the bosses would prove disastrous in an economic crisis. Our
argument was that the tactic of acquiescence to the demands of the big retailers
would lull our members into a false sense of security and prevent a united fight

Now when the announcement of redundancies is a daily occurrence, the response
of Usdaw leaders is to issue a press release. These press releases contain
nothing that would encourage our members there is a way of saving their jobs.
Members are ‘left reeling’ or are ‘devastated’ at the news they are joining the
dole queues.

Our members know the threats to their living standard. What members are
asking is how is our Union going to stop this job massacre. A press release is
not a strategy. This is a continuation of the partnership strategy but in an
economic downturn has proved catastrophic.

Over the past few months thousands of jobs have been lost in retail. It is
time to start the fight back. Every time we do nothing another boss will look at
this weakness and say I will sack some more employees.

A coordinated response, including lobbies, demonstrations and even factory
sit-ins, is necessary to involve our members and send a warning to the bosses
that we fight every job loss.

Join the Fight to save the Post Office

The New Labour government has announced plans to part privatise the Post
Office. In a recent survey, nine out of every 10 people oppose its

The CWU, the post office workers’ union, has launched a campaign against the
government’s intention to privatise Royal Mail. They are calling for people to
sign their petition opposing privatisation at:

More retail crisis

The  run IcelandicBaugur retail empire is in deep crisis-brands include:
House of Fraser- (62 shops, 6,500 staff),Iceland (667 shops 20,000 staff), Jane
Norman (192 shops, 1,600 staff), Wyevale garden centres (122 shops, 4,100 staff)
& other investments include; Debenhams, Karen Millen, Principles, Oasis,
Warehouse, mapping & Webb, Goldsmiths, French connection. Where is the fight
back from our union?

 The crisis, women, pay and waiting lists

Even Jim Rogers co-founder of Quantum fund with financial guru George Soros,
said “It’s quite simple the UK has nothing to sell” The City of London is
finished, the financial centre of the world is moving east” and the latest
official employment figures show that the number of women in fulltime employment
fell by 53,000 compared with a fall of 36,000 for men. Women are losing jobs at
twice the rate of men because men significantly outnumber women in the workforce 
but meanwhile the average contribution of female earnings to the family budget
is rising at a far faster rate than for men. And lone parents now make up a
quarter of all families-and 90% of lone parents are women. More women than ever
are supporting families on their wages and council tenants face rent rises of an
average 6.2% in next financial year. There are 4.5 million people on the housing
waiting list.

 Will ‘Welfare to work’ get work for unemployed?

The governments answer to the predicted rise in the long term unemployment is
to finance privately run ‘Welfare to work’ programmes but even private industry
are skeptical. The cost of the governments programme to get the long term
unemployed back to work looks set to double and possibly triple as the numbers
out of work for more than 12 months rocket.

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Previous posts…

Vote Robbie Segal for President and the Executive Council

A big thanks to all those that voted for me in the General Secretary election, helping me achieve over 40% of the vote. I’ve been a trade unionist since the age of 19; Tesco union rep for 21 years; and member of Usdaw Executive Council for 9 years. A Living Wage: Let’s launch a campaign to fight for a living minimum wage of £8 per hour for all workers, from 16 years to retirement age and for a decent pension. To win this you have to play a part. For the renegotiation of our national agreements: A guaranteed right to vote on our pay and an end to the systemic bulling at work of those off sick. Let’s re-establish Usdaw as a free, democratic independent campaigning trade union. Fight for Union democracy: The Executive Council simply rubber-stamps the decisions of the general secretary and that’s why meetings only last two hours. A democratically elected lay-member Executive Council should be holding the general secretary to account, with decisions printed in Arena so that you as a member know what’s going on. Women in Usdaw: Let’s campaign for paid parental and carers’ leave; time off for family emergencies; improved support for women’s health and those experiencing domestic violence. Give women a voice in the union - there are no women at the top of Usdaw centrally and not one woman in a senior Divisional post. Part-time women are excluded from working for the union. This must change! Support Distribution workers: The terms and conditions in distribution are being attacked and new sites have worse conditions. I will fight for an end to the attacks on existing contracts and conditions. For a distribution workers’ campaign to improve the conditions in the new sites. Let’s encourage retail and distribution workers to campaign together. New labour: Do you know Usdaw gives New Labour hundreds of thousands of pounds every year? We need a new party to represent working people. For too long our union has been Gordon Brown’s Piggy Bank. Build our Union: Let’s recruit the 2.5 million unorganised retail workers and win real improvements in wages and conditions. End Senior union officials taking “Fat Cat” wages: The Executive Councillor’s job is unpaid so I‘ll continue to earn my wage as a Tesco worker and you can check my expenses. I object to the wage and benefits totalling over £100,000 and the Jaguar car taken by the General Secretary.

Contact me at if you want more information or would like to get involved with the campaign.

Robbie Segal - A Democratic, Fighting, Campaigning President

Thanks, to all of you who voted in the General Secretary election but in particular I would like to thank those of you who voted for our programme and gave us a marvellous 40.6% of the vote. My campaign calls:

  • For a living minimum wage of £8 per hour for all ages in our industry;
  • For the renegotiation of our national agreements to guarantee our right to vote on pay and end the systemic bullying at work of those off sick.
  • An end to employer’s partnership deals.
  • To encourage retail and distribution members to campaign together;
  • To democratise our union;
  • For an end to senior union officials taking “Fat Cat” wages.

Our members democratically elect the president whose job it is to defend the interests of our members at a national level. I am asking you once again for your help to build on our success and support me in my election campaign for president of Usdaw. The president is an unpaid position unlike that of the general secretary who continues to take £100,000 plus a year and drives a brand new Jaguar car. A report of my work as president together with an account of any expenses that I receive from the union will be published monthly so that you will be able to judge whether I am doing my job as president properly. I will fight to ensure that your views are at the forefront of all decisions taken by the National Executive of our union. I will insist on recorded voting so that you will see how your elected representatives voted. I will insist that the EC meetings are minuted and that a full report is published monthly in our union journal. I will broaden the “Freedom from Fear” and “Parent and Carers” campaigns and take them into our local communities and I will raise the profile of our union nationally in the press radio and television. Our union will be the voice of you our members and not a timid apologist for New Labour, who take hundreds of thousands of pounds every year from our union. Usdaw should break the link with new Labour and use the money saved to help build a new party that will more represent our interests. Vote: Robina “Robbie” Segal- A Democratic Campaigning Fighting President.

Robbie gets 40% of the vote

Socialist Party member Robbie Segal shook the entire shopworkers’ union USDAW by gaining 40% of the vote for General Secretary in the ballot result announced 15 September 2008. Robbie is a Tesco worker who on shoe-string resources with a tiny band of activists in a David and Goliath battle faced the entire USDAW official machine.The whole right-wing union full-time bureaucracy was mobilised to crush her, but she still managed to gain over 18,000 votes winning the moral victory by far. The incumbent, John Hannett, had the entire union behind him - except the members. He appears in the union journal and other union publications every month. Robbie was virtually unknown to most of the members other than those that have known her first-hand as a fighter over the years. As an example, three NEC members were flown into the Central London branch meeting to argue against one Socialist Party member to secure the nomination of all the London branches for Hannett.

£8 minimum wage for all

But Robbie’s programme clearly appealed to the members by calling for an £8 minimum wage for all, no to partnership between the union and the employers- as there is in Tesco, for democracy within the union, and for an alternative to New Labour for ordinary people to have a party that genuinely represents them.Robbie also pledged to reject the £100,000 Hannett took and to continue on her Tesco wage. The result is in no way an endorsement of the current leadership. The low turnout of 13.2% reflected the fact that Hannett did his very best to subdue the issue, by calling a summer election, calling no debates with Robbie and producing no other material other than the ballot paper and a letter to the branches demanding their support. Hannett’s support cannot be seen as a vote of confidence in his performance in the job. In fact, quite the opposite.

Testimony to changing mood

This result, for a clearly socialist candidate in the USDAW General Secretary election is testimony to the changing mood in the unions. USDAW has for many years been the bastion of the right wing with an avid New Labourite leadership. John Hannett pulled all the stops out to use the union bureaucratic machine in his favour for this election. Robbie’s brave stand, under continual threats from the right wing, has given a voice to the ordinary members. This must be built for the future.


Robbie Segal: 18,673 John Hannett: 27,320 Total number that voted: 46,002 (out of 348,278 members)

Public meeting

USDAW national public meeting to discuss the election results and plan for future action is this Saturday, 20th September, Lucas Arms, 245A Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8QZ. Nearest station, Kings Cross St Pancras.

About Robbie

Robbie Segal is married with three children and two grandchildren, and has been an active trade unionist since the age of 19 when, alongside other trade unionists, she was ‘locked out’ during an industrial dispute with the Express Newspapers. She has continued with her trade union activities in her workplace and through building practical and political support for other workers in struggle. Robbie was an active and vociferous supporter of the Liverpool councillors, the mineworkers and their wives during the bitter 1984/85 miners strike and then again during the P&O seafarers strike. She was a leading light in the campaign against the ‘Poll Tax’ and together with her husband Eric, who was jailed for non-payment of the poll tax, she was expelled from the Labour party. Robbie has worked in Tesco’s for 22 years and has been an active Usdaw shop Steward for 21 years. She has been branch chair and continues to hold the position of branch secretary. She has held many divisional and national positions including chair of the Southern Region women’s committee and is well known for her inspirational speeches at the Annual Delegate Conference. Read more about Robbie on her biography page.

Robbie’s demands included:

A Living Wage: I will launch a campaign to fight for a living minimum wage of £8 per hour for all retail workers, from 16 years to retirement age. I will fight to link pensions to earnings. Yes to National free collective bargaining - No to Partnership: I will re-establish Usdaw as an independent trade union. I will fight to restore our vote on pay and campaign to resist Tesco’s proposed 2% target for absence. Fight for Union democracy: I will return power to the Union’s elected lay-member Executive Council and ensure proper EC minutes are produced as agreed by ADM. For a General Secretary on a worker’s wage: I reject the wage and the benefits totalling over £100,000 that John Hannett, the General Secretary, receives and the General Secretary’s Jaguar car. I will take the wage that I earn as a Tesco worker and all necessary expenses will be open to scrutiny so that any member can check them. The money released will be used to campaign for our members benefit.


Video interview