Sir Ken Jackson believes that new super-union Amicus will change the shape
of employment relations
A new union with a million members opened for business on New Year’s Day.
Two unions have merged – the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union
(AEEU) and the Manufacturing, Science, Finance (MSF) – to create Amicus.
Amicus is the ancient word for friend, supporter, partner and wise
counsellor. We shall be membership based, relying on an industrial structure of
workplace-based activists, with huge conferences and ballots of the members
backing up day-to-day activist democracy.
The new union has a huge mandate of support with members voting by more than
four to one to set up Amicus in a massive ballot.
What will be the implications of our new union for the HR profession?
Most importantly, we shall have the resources to support our workplace
representatives. They will need a new depth of support to give our members
authoritative advice on the many issues thrown up by the global economy.
Accomplished and confident reps are needed in the modern process of
consultation, with managers needing to be coolly challenged on their
understanding of the business by staff who have the company’s future at heart.
Amicus will also have the best trade union education service in the UK and
the best research, pensions, lifelong learning and lobbying facilities
Our assets are valued at more than £100m and our annual income will exceed
£66m. We include over 110 MPs and MEPs as members.
The new union expects to build on more than 200 AEEU and MSF recognition
successes, which in 2001 included companies as diverse as Virgin Atlantic,
Tibbett and Britten, Penguin Books, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Honda.
Amicus’ breadth of appeal is based on the positive competencies we can bring
to the party. We don’t instinctively trade on managers’ petty tyrannies – real
or imagined – but prefer to trade on our practical services.
All of this is available to the employers we deal with. We shall be the
union of partnership both with employers and employees.
Our partnership approach is not a tactical manoeuvre, but a preferred way of
industrial life. It is not a new word for deference either. Partnership will promote
mutual help, respect and deliver better work from people because they feel
One of our biggest challenges will be to boost productivity through skills
development. Our representatives will all be taking advantage of skills and
professional development at every level of business.
We shall do our bit and spend around £4m of our own money to show companies
that our dedication to skills reform is not just rhetoric.
The newly launched union is not the finished article. We are already in
merger talks with other British unions that will make us the biggest union in
Our structures are robust enough to welcome every group into our fold. Every
one of our initial 21 industrial groups will have its own consultation
processes, yet every group will be able to call on the best full-time officers
and general support services available.
As the largest affiliate of the Labour Party, we have immense political
influence in Brussels and Whitehall alike.
With professional and skilled members in both the private sector and public
services, we effectively represent the attitudes of the UK workplace – we are
Britain in microcosm. We are determined that our new strength is placed at the
disposal of this country’s economic reform and future success.
I am looking forward to introducing Britain’s management teams to Amicus –
your new friend.
Sir Ken Jackson is joint general secretary of Amicus