Roy Rogers asks where all the Scots have gone in a union with a

traditionally strong Clydeside presence

THE battle for control of Britain's largest manufacturing union, the

Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, is being waged on both

sides of the Border.

Two Geordies are slugging it out to decide who should fill the

presidency left vacant by Bill Jordan's move to Brussels to become the

first British general secretary of the International Confederation of

Free Trades Unions.

A Lancastrian and possibly another Geordie are contesting the AEEU

general secretaryship left empty by the recent early retirement on

health grounds of Paul Gallagher.

Under the terms of the amalgamation between the AEU and the EETPU,

only members of the engineering section (the old AEU) will elect the

president with the electrician members (formerly EETPU members) electing

the general secretary. When both posts come up for re-election in five

years time they will be decided by a ballot of the entire membership.

A third key engineering union post traditionally held by Scots, the

general secretaryship of the AEEU-dominated Confederation of

Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, has already gone to Tynesider Alan

Robson, who last year succeeded the late Alec Ferry.

So where are the Scots in a union and an industry in which Scots have

played a major role, providing such leaders as the late Sir John Boyd

and the recently retired Sir Gavin Laird?

It was no coincidence that in the Star Trek television series the

chief engineer on the Enterprise was ''Scottie'', more a reflection of

the days when Scottish-built ships, locomotives and heavy plant were

much in evidence the world over.

Scottish AEEU executive councillor Jimmy Airlie would probably have

stood a good chance in the presidential race but cannily declined to

stand, feeling that it was time to make way for a younger man. And he

may well have struck a chord with the membership, for 44-year-old

Tyneside district secretary Davey Hall, with left-wing support, easily

topped the first ballot and must be in with a very strong chance of

defeating right-wing North-east executive councillor Jackie Crystal,

aged 60, in next month's run off.

Victory for Hall, a long-established Labour Party member and a

supporter of Tony Blair, would suggest that the engineering section

members at least are tired of the old political infighting and are keen

to skip a generation in order to shake their almost moribund union back

to life.

The electrical section, the old EETPU, looks less ready for change,

however, with acting secretary 58-year-old Ken Jackson seemingly set to

win the general secretaryship whether or not he is challenged by

executive member Barry Davies from Newcastle. Nominations close on

October 7.

The impending early retirements of Scottish AEEU executive councillors

Pat O'Hanlon, this November, and Jimmy Airlie, a year later, mean that

AEEU members will soon get an opportunity to decide who should fill one

of the top trade union posts in Scotland.

Like eight or more other top AEEU officials, including Sir Gavin

Laird, O'Hanlon and Airlie are taking early retirement offers made in a

desperate bid to kick-start the AEEU out of the ossification which set

in with the amalgamation three years ago.

They will be replaced by one unified executive councillor elected by

all 50,000 or so Scottish AEEU members -- a process that will be

repeated elsewhere thoughout the UK as other executive seats fall

vacant. Balloting, probably on a single transferable vote basis although

that has yet to be finalised, is likely to be next spring with the

victor ready to take office when Jim Airlie goes in just over a year's


Potential candidates are already jockeying for position and it looks

like being at least a four-horse race with political, geographical and

craft issues serving to complicate matters.

The traditional left which has tended to dominate the engineering

section in recent years has lined up behind Paisley, Dumbarton and

Greenock district secretary John Quigley, while the right has selected

Edinburgh district organiser Doug Rooney as its champion.

Electrical section candidates are expected to include moderate

national organiser Danny Carrigan, who although a Glaswegian may be

handicapped by being London-based. A former Clyde shipyard shop steward,

Carrigan stood against Paul Gallagher for the EETPU general

secretaryship four years ago.

Hard-left Edinburgh Scottish Power worker Willie Black is also

expected to toss his hat into the ring.

With all four likely Scottish candidates aged 47 or thereabouts the

winner could be in a prime position to challenge for the AEEU presidency

and/or general secretaryship when they are thrown open to the entire


Only then will it become clear whether Scots engineers can regain some

of their lost influence or whether we should perhaps expect any new

series of Star Trek to feature ''Geordie'' as chief engineer of the