Reply to a letter by John Hannett asking Usdaw staff to support him for General Secretary

July 5th, 2008

June 2008

Dear John

General Secretary Election

The campaign team who support Robbie Segal for General Secretary were passed your letter to Usdaw staff asking them to support you in the General Secretary Election. But do you deserve their support?

The Robbie Segal team has been asked to reply on some of the staff’s behalf. We would like to make some points on your letter and if as you say in the letter you are a ‘listening General Secretary’ let’s hope you reflect on some of the comments and please be free to contact us if you want to be part the debate on the future of the Union.
All the quotes in this reply are in your original letter.

You start by expressing that you were ‘pleased to receive the Executive Council’s endorsement.’ We saw no resolution to that affect in the May minutes of the EC. The members want to know: does this allow you the right to circulate the EC’s endorsement on the same circular that advises the branches of the timetable for the election? It is certainly an unfair advantage you got there. Surely none of the Union’s resources can be used in support of a candidate. John, was this not an inappropriate use of the Union’s resources? What would you do if someone else did this?

The next point you make is that you are only standing for the GS position ‘because of legislation introduced by the Conservative Government.’ Are you telling us that you don’t agree with the legislation? Surely not! Hold on, have we not had a ‘New Labour’ Government for 11 years – and why did they not repeal these anti trade union laws? You were on the Labour Party NEC, so why is it still on the statue book? Did you ask them to repeal the laws? Now be honest with us, it is now as much New Labour’s legislation as the Tories. What you think, John?

In the next paragraph, you ask for ‘a clear mandate to take the Union forward.’ When you were elected to your present post there was only a 14% turnout and you got about 6% of the total membership voting for you. Well, that was not much of a mandate. If you are so keen on getting a ‘clear mandate’ then why are you holding the election over the summer when most of the members are on their holidays? Its looks like you are going to get a low turnout, John. So it won’t be much of a mandate again. But we are sure you can live with the low turn-out that if you win.

So now let’s consider your statement, ‘whilst other unions are reducing staffing levels I am pleased to advise the Executive Council in May of my intention to build on the increased resources that have already been put in by increasing the staffing levels in the Divisions.

So what is your record on the number of officials in the Divisions?

According to the 2003 Annual Report, there were 331,972 industrial members and they were serviced by 118 officers. In the last Annual Report 2007, there were 356,046 industrial members and they were serviced by 114 officials. John, there is less staff now, so ‘whilst other unions are reducing staffing’ it looks like you have done the same. You have reduced the number of Full Time Officials while their work load has increased. Do you think they are happy about their extra work? If you do then you have not been listening.

So it’s your ‘intention’ to increase the number of Officials but what happens if the EC does not agree with your strategy? Do you think the Rule Book allows you to override the EC’s rights? Interesting! Would you like to debate these points with us, John!

One of things a ‘listening General Secretary’ should know is most of the members who attend the branches think the EC minutes are a joke. The ADM delegates even instructed the EC to produce more comprehensive minutes. Now is that you listening John?

Now let’s deal with the scaremongering. We will quote the section in full. ‘There is a small minority who wish to take the Union in a different direction and this threat should not be treated lightly and could undermine all we have achieved collectively. Therefore we must guard against complacency.

So who is this small minority? Are they the ones who disagree with you?

You ask the staff to contact you but what happens if they don’t? Bang goes their chance of promotion. Why do they feel like this if you are such a ‘listening General Secretary’. We believe this statement is a form of intimidation and should not be allowed in the trade union movement and certainly not during elections.

So after considering the points in your letter, we have come to the conclusion that the Usdaw staff should support Robbie Segal for General Secretary.

For more information on Robbie’s policies or to join the debate on the future of Usdaw then visit or email

Yours sincerely

Robbie Segal’s supporters


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