Dawn Stuart, a young Belfast City Council worker, and Marxist, has been successfully elected to the national leadership, the GEC, of the TGWU. Dawn stood on a programme of union democracy, and for a fighting campaigning union. The success of her campaign is an important breakthrough. After her victory Dawn spoke toSocialist Appeal.
SA:I believe that the turnout in this election was unprecedented. What was the exact outcome of the election in terms of votes, turnout, etc?
DS:There is no breakdown as such, however, the union accepts that there were four times more voting in this election than in previous years. For example, in one count each candidate averaged between three and four thousand votes. In previous elections for Public Services, three to four thousand was the total vote. Our group as a whole gained more than twenty five thousand votes for the left in Ireland.
SA:What do you think this result tells us about the mood of the membership of the T&G?
DS:Workers are rejecting bureaucracy. "We have the authority and it belongs to us," is what the workers are clearly saying. They want a campaigning union also rejecting so-called "partnership" with the employers. The T&G are campaigning for Best Value and PFI at the cost of our members jobs, indeed when I opposed Best Value, I was isolated by Bill Morris at the Local Government Committee meeting. The workers want a democratic, campaigning union.
SA:I understand that the union leadership did not exactly help your election campaign. Could you say something about the campaign?
DS:No facilities as in no rooms, no photocopying, no material. Normally in my position as a local government member I should have had access to a mailing list, but this was refused me. I can appreciate the Data Protection Act, but there was an attempt to block even my own shop stewards. The bureaucrats thought that as an outside runner I would fail miserably. By the time the branches discovered that I was running it was too late for them to nominate me. It wasn't until the end of the campaign that word started to leak out and they fell in behind me. Also through the Socialist Appeal website many members contacted me.
SA: This was a big defeat for the "official" candidate and the apparatus. Why is the membership discontented with the leadership?
DS: The membership is discontented because they feel that they are not being listened to, and that the leadership are doing deals with the employers, not for the betterment of the members but for their own ends.
SA: What is your programme and how do you think the union should be developing? What changes would you like to see?
DS:I intend to bring about a change in our union policies on public sector employment. I am totally against Private and Public Partnership that undermines our public services and our members. I want to see better relations with employers and our union but not at the expense of our members. My view is that "best practice" suits us best. I will be joining my colleagues on the GEC to ensure that the union is controlled by the lay democracy of the members, through the GEC and not by officials elected or otherwise. I will be pushing for the reinstatement of Eugene McGlone and Mike O'Reilly who were democratically elected and undemocratically suspended.
SA:The workers' movement in the North of Ireland faces many difficulties as a result of sectarianism. How do you think this problem can be overcome?
DS:Parallel to all this sectarianism is the class struggle. What is loyalism but loyalty to Britain? That loyalism is created by British imperialism and keeps workers divided.Only the class struggle can defeat sectarianism by uniting the workers in a common struggle against capitalism and British imperialism.
SA:You were elected by a big vote on both sides of the water. What implications do you think this has for the problems of Northern Ireland?
DS:I openly, in my campaign, expressed my Marxism which crossed all regions and boundaries. People should not be afraid to say that they are Marxists. People came out across national boundaries and that breaks down nationalism.
SA:Finally, how do you see the role ofSocialist Appeal?
DS:Socialist Appealwho have in many ways been instrumental in both the unity of the working class and the success of my election. We have much to do. TheSocialist Appealcadre has proved their strategy successfully, now it is time to implement it fully. May I take this opportunity to thank all the workers of Socialist Appeal for their help.