The Victorian State Secretary of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union Dr Jess Walsh PhD is attempting to remove senior Rudd Government minister Martin Ferguson from the union of which he is a life member and former Federal President.
VEXNEWS has learned that a series of incendiary letters have been exchanged between the current Victorian secretary and Martin Ferguson relating to his membership.
Concerned sources within the union have expressed grave concerns that Walsh is an “ego out of control. A know-all who can be told nothing because her PhD makes her so much smarter than everyone else. She obviously didn’t study loyalty or decency at University.”
Senior figures in the union told VEXNEWS they have desperately tried for weeks to keep this messy situation out of the press, hoping that Walsh would “pull her head in”.
The attack on Ferguson, a much loved and respected figure within the union often simply called the “Missos”, is seen as symbolic of the arrogant disregard and disrespect for others exhibited under Dr Walsh’s reign.
Following the expulsion of Dick Adams, a former life member, from union membership, Ferguson is understood to have sought to transfer his life membership to that of an ordinary membership. LHMU sources say that Jess Walsh is stubbornly resisting this and has allegedly made a series of hostile allegations against Ferguson in her correspondence with him about the matter.
Walsh is said to have a very specific vision for the union, which includes separating from the ALP, not necessarily disaffiliating but canvassing strong relationships with the Greens Party and other parties too. She regards with contempt the previous Missos approach of using its influence within the ALP to achieve social wage outcomes that could benefit all low-paid members.
She also has made no secret of her view that “manufacturing is dead”, emphasising the services sector in her plans to reverse the rapid decline in membership that occurred under former Victorian union boss and property millionaire Brian Daley.
The Walsh model is based on the SIEU, an American union that she studied while in the United States.
Dr Walsh’s approach has infuriated a number of her interstate state secretary colleagues, many of whom were gob-smacked when they heard of Walsh’s move to effectively expel Ferguson from the union.
Jeff Lawrence, the ACTU national secretary, has also been the target of Walsh’s lashing tongue of discourtesy. He is said to be appalled at the treatment meted out to Ferguson and is annoyed that the pushy young PhD graduate has been “slagging” him off to many union colleagues. Lawrence has previously been a big backer of Walsh.
Walsh has unilaterally tossed out a nationally agreed pay structure for her officials, enabling her to pay her loyal mates more while drastically cutting the wages of organisers. Observers have expressed concern she is creating a highly unusual hierarchical model, calculated to centralise her control while in fact just exploiting the young more junior workers in the union.
She has ruthlessly sacked many staff including the ex-assistant secretary Veronica Ilias, who was quickly snaffled up by the Finance Sector Union who rate her highly.
Some observers regard Dr Walsh’s approach as neo-Maoist, favouring organisational chaos, fear, uncertainty and doubt as tools to “get the union moving”. They say part of that neo-Maoist approach is “trashing everyone and everything that preceded her” even to the point of expelling the union’s most revered figures.
The combative and allegedly self-important PhD graduate is said to have also had a stand-up screaming match with her national secretary and mentor Louise Tarrant in the forecourt of the the national union office in Thomas Street Sydney.
With union elections in 2010, a number of very angry former officials, her interstate colleagues wanting her dead and an arrogant approach that is alienating members, Dr Jess Walsh PhD may soon have to find employment at a higher education institution where she’ll probably feel much more at home.