UK union leader to seek ETUC post

In late March 2002, John Monks, general secretary of the UK's Trades Union Congress, signalled his intention to stand down from his current position and seek election to the post of general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

On 27 March 2002, John Monks, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said that he was considering becoming a candidate for the post of general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) when the present incumbent, Emilio Gabaglio, retires in 2003.

The impending departure of Mr Monks, who is widely seen as the leading moderate and moderniser within the British trade union movement, was interpreted as a blow to Prime Minister Tony Blair. The unexpected announcement follows a number of public clashes between the TUC leadership and the government over policy, not least over the reform of public services (UK0111107F), but Mr Monks stressed that this was not the reason why he was leaving. He told the press that the election of the Labour Party government in 1997 was the best thing that had happened for British workers and unions during his time as TUC leader.

Despite the announcement, Mr Monks could stay in his post for a further 18 months. He said in a statement: 'By 2003, I would have been general secretary of the TUC, a job I love, for 10 years and it would be a great honour to move to the ETUC. There are, of course, other excellent potential candidates who will be similarly considering their position. The election will not be held until May 2003 and I will not make a decision on whether or not to stand until early in 2003. In the meantime, it is business as usual at the TUC.'

It is believed that there is substantial union support elsewhere in Europe for John Monks' bid to become the new leader of the ETUC, reflecting his strong advocacy of UK membership of the euro single currency (UK0201115N) and of the further development of the social dimension of European integration in terms of enhanced workers' rights.

The holder of the post of general secretary of the TUC has traditionally come from within the TUC's head office secretariat. Elections for the position, though possible, are rare. The likely successor to Mr Monks as TUC leader is the current deputy general secretary, Brendan Barber, but the announcement of Mr Monks' departure prompted speculation that some left-led unions might seek an alternative candidate.

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