Young representatives of Unite the union have today (Tuesday 1 March) hit back at allegations that they acted improperly at last weekend’s conference of the youth wing of the Labour party.
They are backed fully by their general secretary, Len McCluskey, who has denounced the conduct of those seeking to exploit Young Labour members in order to destabilise the party leadership. He called upon them to cease their activities and act responsibly towards the young members, repeating the union’s call for a full, independent inquiry into the operations and elections of the youth wing.
In a strongly worded statement agreed by the representatives of the union, the young members make clear that at the Scarborough conference:
Best practice of the union and the labour movement was observed at all times to ensure that all decisions were taken collectively, openly and with transparency;
They followed the process observed at the full Labour party conference and by other unions at the youth conference;
This process resulted in the unanimous agreement to back a particular candidate, James Elliot;
One member of the delegation, without prior indication he would do so, and in breach of the union’s rules, then broke with the collectively agreed position to cast his votes for another candidate
That allegations of bad behaviour by Unite delegates are utterly false.
Supporting his young members, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “On behalf of Unite I want to put on record how proud I am of our young members, and the professional way that they have conducted themselves during the Young Labour elections and conference.
“The dignity displayed when subjected to vicious lies and an organised assault on their integrity is tremendous. They put to shame those in our party whose conduct has been nothing short of disgraceful and confirm once again that some in our midst will stop at nothing, including destroying the reputation and hopes of our party’s young activists, in their quest to undermine the Labour leadership.
“Before they take to social media or anonymous comments to the media, MPs and others should consider fully the misery that they are causing young people wholly innocent of any crime, and the message that they are sending to the wider world about how this party treats its young people.
“Unite will conduct its own inquiry into whether union rules were broken but we remain firmly of the view that the case for a full, independent inquiry into the practices of Young Labour and the weekend’s election grows stronger by the minute. The party general secretary must now act to restore faith and trust in Young Labour.”
The full statement of the Unite young members who were elected as the union’s delegates to the Scarborough conference states:
We were proud to be elected by our democratic youth structures to represent our union at Young Labour Conference 2016.
On the morning of the first day of conference the delegation met and unanimously voted to have the Union's votes cast collectively as a trade union bloc.
Delegates unanimously agreed that they would hand the Unite ballot that they had been allocated by party staff, each representing the votes of 50,000 dues paying members of Unite, to be cast into the ballot box by the delegation leader once they had put the cross by James Elliot.
There were no objections to this practice and indeed it is standard practice for trade unions using their votes at labour party conferences.
We were each mandated to cast these votes for James Elliot by Unite's National Young Members' Committee which had overwhelmingly voted to endorse him as youth representative on the National Executive Committee of the Labour party.
However, one delegate went back on his word and left the venue with the Unite ballot paper that he had been allocated by the Labour party staff and refused to allow the delegation leader to see it and ensure that Unite's mandate was fulfilled.
We are saddened that the votes of paying members of Unite have been taken from them and they have been denied a voice in the Young Labour elections.
Throughout the conference all of us behaved in a civil and respectful manner to all of our fellow Labour party comrades and we are proud of how we represented our union.
Certainly no Unite staff member or delegate ever did anything to intimidate any one of our delegates.
Allegations of the removal of a delegate's hotel facilities are completely unfounded and in no way did any Unite delegate or member of staff intimidate or harass any conference participant.
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Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.