A man who sits alone
By Hugh Kay
IT will be a historical tragedy if it turns out that expulsion from the T.U.C. is the only way to break the Communist stranglehold on the , Electrical Trades Union. But this outcome can easily be avoided if only the rank-and-file of the union will adopt the measures available to them.
crats is witnessing, with considerable calm, the victimisation of a man who has sacrified a good deal for his fellow trade unionists. The Communists are out to tear John Byrne apart with hooks. And how many of the 99 per cent non-Communist rank-and-filers are ready to lift a finger for him?
I am not concorned with the fact that he is a Catholic, It would be all the same, as fax as,I am concerned. if he were a Seventh Day Adventist from the land of the Eskimos.
All aver the country, the E.T.U. Communists and their sympathisers arc demanding his resigrnaton. The largely Communist Executive has removed every weapon from his armoury. He is paralysed as an administrator, and he sits alone at a canteen table in his own headquarters. The conclusion of the High Court action was a Pyrrhic Victory indeed.
And hardly a peep from the masses of Christian or good humanist E.T.U. members whose battles Byrne has fought for years,
What could they do? Here are a few suggestions.
meetings of non-Cotnrmunist
men all over the country at the weekend to roar the angry disapproval of the union as a whole in the face of last week's events. It did not happen. It ought to happen at once.
2. While the general secretary is certainly subject to the Executive. it is not at all clear that the Executive can interfere with his power to control and engage staff.
The rules provide that he must obey the Executive AND carry out his prescribed duties, The two obligations would seem to be distinct. One of the prescribed duties is the control of staff; and control is normally taken to include engagement and dismissal. There is surely ground for a challenge here.
3 The rules also provide that, if at least ten per cent of the branches within three months of an Executive decision register disagreement with it, then the Executive must either refer the disputed matter to the next annual policy conference, or else make it the subject of a ballot vote of the whole union.
The 1961 policy conference has just taken place, so the Executive could decide to relegate the issue to the 1962 conference—a year hence. And it is doubtful whether the rank-and-file could legally force
The agony of John Byrne . .
it general ballot vote here and nos as an alternative,
But at least the branches could make it overwhelmingly clear that they want a ballot vote at once, and that, if the Execut:ve denies this .to them, it will be flying in the face of the vast majority ot the members. Every E.T.U. member, therefore. who cares anything for right thinking, shiehld sw:ng his branch machinery into action forthwith.
4. It is Clear that everything turas on the elections for the Executive which take place in September. Now is the chance to clear the Communists right out of the Executive and replace them with men Who
put the union first.
If the rank-and-tile choose to do this, they can succeed as easily as falling off a log. But no one can do it for them. Never has the personal responsibility resting on each separate member of a erode union been so clear and inescapable.
If the Communists eecaptore the E.T.U. Executive in September. the majority of the mombers will have denied themselves the 'plight to look the world in the face apaiin.
Meanwhiie, every member must do all in his power to supply evidence to the T.U.C. enquiry into FT. If. affairs. now re-opened by the General Council.
If the worst does happen. and a new organisation has to come into being to replace the ET.U., the rank-and-file's resoonsiblity ssill he greater than ever. For the question is: who would "capture" the new ,body-and capture it before it even got off the ground? Only the rank -a.nxifile ca n a nswe r that.