Who will be the leaders of Britain's major unions in 1993?

NEW Year changes in the trade-union movement will definitely see the

early retirement of civil servants' leader Mr Leslie Christie and

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possibly an announcement that TUC general secretary Mr Norman Willis

will follow suit.

Meanwhile, NUM president Mr Arthur Scargill -- as if he did not

already have enough on his plate -- seems set to defy the law requiring

him to stand for his first postal election, unless he too is

contemplating going early.

Leslie Christie, younger brother of STUC general secretary Campbell,

has decided to relinquish the general secretaryship of the National

Union of Civil and Public Servants he has held since NUCPS was formed in

1987 by the merger of the Society of Civil and Public Servants and the

smaller Civil Service Union.

Apparently disillusioned after fruitless attempts to conclude the

eminently logical merger of NUCPS with the Civil and Public Services

Association and the prospect of facing a prolonged period of pressure as

the Government promotes devolved pay bargaining and widespread

contracting out, the 53-year-old left-wing Glaswegian has decided to opt

out of the struggle.

Subject to the inevitable ballot, the reins, and the NUCPS seat on the

TUC general council that goes with them, will probably be handed over to

the former CSU general secretary, Yorkshireman Mr John Sheldon. One year

Mr Christie's junior, he will lead NUCPS into the difficult skirmishes

ahead with the lack of the oft-proposed but twice-rejected merger with

the CPSA serving to exacerbate the many problems.

Many within the TUC's Congress House HQ are awaiting Mr Willis's 60th

birthday on January 21 with anticipation. Since he let it be known that

he intends stepping down before his retirement date in five years, they

now hope that he will be more specific.

Gathering speculation that he might announce his intention to retire

after the 1993 September Congress, although maybe retaining the

presidency of the European Trades Union Confederation for a year or two,

will need to be addressed in order to remove the air of uncertainty that

pervades Congress House.

The heir-apparent is his deputy, Mr John Monks, although there is a

school of thought that NUPE general secretary Mr Rodney Bickerstaffe

might be in the running. He has become decidely less militant and more

statesmanlike during and since his recent one-year stint as TUC chairman

and is currently due to be number two to Nalgo's Mr Alan Jinkinson at

the new Unison ''super union'' being created in July from the

amalgamation of Nalgo, NUPE, and the health union Cohse.

Miners' president Arthur Scargill appears to be courting controversy

by seemingly dodging laws that were specifically tailored to ensure that

his future is submitted to a secret postal ballot of NUM members.

Although elected NUM president for ''life'' in 1981 in a landslide 70%

majority in a pit-head ballot, Mr Scargill evaded early Tory legislative

attempts to force him to face re-election by renouncing his casting vote

on the NUM executive.

In 1987 he outmanoeuvred impending legislation insisting on postal

ballots by opting for an early election under the old pit-head balloting

system -- which saw him returned by a much tighter 54% majority over

moderate North Yorkshire NUM miners' agent John Walsh.

He was thus restored to office for a five-year period taking him 11

days beyond his 55th birthday on January 11, 1993, which, under NUM

rules, would have allowed him to stay on until retirement at 60 without

further recourse to the ballot-box. That would have been the case but

for late amendments to the 1988 Employment Act enacted specifically to

ensure that the NUM president would have to face a full postal ballot by

January 22, 1993.

For reasons best known to himself, Mr Scargill has not started the

election process even though the high profile which the current coal

industry crisis has given him should surely see him romp home, probably


Anti-Scargill forces within the NUM, including the leadership of the

Scottish area, had hoped to come up with a credible candidate in the

form of Derbyshire miners' treasurer John Burrows (John Walsh being

precluded on age grounds). Reluctant to put his name forward in the

first place, Mr Burrows has said only that he is considering requests to

stand, and as Mr Scargill has not called for nominations, a legal

challenge may be the only way to force an election.

Whether Mr Burrows, or any other NUM member, would be prepared to

mount such a legal challenge, especially at a time when the bulk of the

mining industry is under threat of closure, remains to be seen.

Earlier this year the NUM's annual conference, with the full support

of the president, endorsed a policy of ''refusing to co-operate with

laws which are designed to render ineffective the rule books and

constitutions of trade unions, together with the democratic rights of


Mr Scargill seems to be stepping down that confrontation path -- but

why? Has he calculated that there is political capital to be gained from

being seen to be dragged into an election against his union's rule book

or does he fear the vagaries of a postal ballot in which only 20 to 25%

of members tend to participate compared with the almost 100% turnout in

pithead ballots?

Perhaps Scargill has secret plans to bow out within two years, in

which case he could probably avoid a ballot without breaching the law.

With NUM members plummeting to about 30,000, the bulk of whom would be

displaced if the present drastic pit closure programme goes ahead, who

could blame him?

Quitting is not his style, however, and I would not be surprised if

the whole episode was designed to pile pressure on prospective

challengers to stay their hands and leave the field clear for King

Arthur to return unopposed.