Ed Miliband tells UnionNews importance of party links with unions, following re-election of Len McCluskey (pictured) as general secretary of Unite

Tim Lezard

Len McCluskey_webThe Labour leader Ed Miliband has spoken of the importance of the party’s links with the unions, following the re-election yesterday of Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite.

Unite has confirmed that Len McCluskey (pictured) secured 64% of votes in the 4-week postal ballot, although his challenger – the rank and file activist Jerry Hicks – increased his personal vote.

Speaking during a visit to Stroud yesterday, Ed Miliband told UnionNews: “Unite makes its decision about who its general secretary is.

“I think it was expected that Len McCluskey would win that election.

“It’s very, very important that the Labour Party plays a role co-operating with trade union members and others and I know that’s what Len McCluskey wants to do.”

UnionNews will carry more of the interview with the Labour leader tomorrow. Follow us on Twitter @UnionNewsUK for updates.

Turnout in the Unite election – 15.2% – was around 2% lower than in the 2010 poll which saw Len McCluskey become the first general secretary of the newly-created Unite, which had been formed from the merger of the T & G and Amicus unions.

In campaign meetings, both candidates had criticised the anti-union legislation which prevents workplace ballots being held to elect senior trade union office-holders. They argued that workplace or branch-level voting would substantially increase the turnout in such elections.

Both candidates in the Unite poll have thanked their supporters and campaign staff.

Len McCluskey said: “I’m deeply honoured that members have once again put their faith in me to lead their union.

“We are living in extraordinary times with workers facing unprecedented attacks on their living standards and their rights at work.

“Thanks to this government of millionaires, work is becoming less secure and austerity threatens the social fabric of our great nation.

“Now more than ever working people need a union which will stand up for them. Unite is that union, a modern progressive union fighting for ordinary people and strengthening their voice at work, in parliament and in our communities.”

In a video message to supporters, Jerry Hicks said he had secured “an extremely good vote.”

He says he will continue to campaign inside the union and intends to organise a meeting later this month to discuss creating an alternative network of rank and file activists within Unite.

He told UnionNews: “Every time we stand, we get a bigger vote. It proves there is a thirst for something else inside Unite.

“So we’ll organise a series of regional meetings to see what to do next.”

Unite’s National Executive had called the election two years earlier than planned, in order to avoid clashing with a Westminster general election in late 2014 or early 20o15.

The United Left group – the largest and most powerful faction among the union’s 1.5m members – had argued that it would undermine Unite’s influence over the Labour Party if it were running a high-profile internal election at the same time as a general election campaign was under way across the UK.

Said Len McCluskey: “From construction and the London buses, to the food industry and car manufacturing, Unite members have shown what can be achieved when working people stand together with the backing of a modern union.

“And in the NHS, our membership is growing as workers seek a strong voice to defend what we as a people have built, paid for and value.

“Unified and freed from the distraction of an internal election in 2015, I pledge to focus my energies on the fighting for members and defeating this Tory-led government.”

You can watch our film profile of Len McCluskey here:

In an extended pre-election interview for a UnionNews podcast, Len McCluskey outlines some of his policies and plans for a second term as Unite general secretary.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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