Super-union Unite’s joint general secretary Derek Simpson fails to show at press launch

The joint general secretary of the new ‘super-union’ failed to turn up at his own press launch, causing speculation over the internal politics of the two associations it takes over.

Derek Simpson, former general secretary of Amicus, did not show at the official opening of Unite, the UK’s two-million members-strong combination of Amicus and the Transport and General Workers (T&G) union.

Instead, Tony Woodley, former T&G head and the other joint general secretary of Unite, began the conference alone, assuring the audience there was nothing to deduce from Simpson’s absence and blaming traffic conditions for his no-show.

Woodley wasted no time in switching attention away from Simpson to the new giant union itself.

“Unite will fight back and deliver for working men and women,” he said. “Even in today’s climate, industrial muscle is needed to fight for more pay and better conditions.

“We will stem the decline of the trade union membership. Workers need a union more than ever before – the ‘casualisation’ of our whole country means contract and temporary workers need our help, as do young members.”

The results of a Unite poll into young workers was also announced today, suggesting that more than half of 1,000 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed feel insecure at work and have anxieties about their future.

Woodley added: “Young workers are fearful for their jobs, and are not treated fairly. Alienation and exploitation cannot be left unchecked – we aim to recruit more young workers as members.”

The union will dominate several sectors including transport, finance, manufacturing, aviation, food and farming, and public services. It will have an annual income of £150m – £15m of which will be spent on organising.

Woodley said: “We will try and organise new workers to see them fighting back with us. One hundred organisers are set up around the country – that’s more than the rest of the British and Irish trade unions put together.

Thomas Cook is just one of the new recognition agreements we’ve made already, where more than 1,000 employees at the airline’s UK bases will be covered by Unite.”

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