Alan Ritchie denies claims that the construction union will join proposed T&G–Amicus merger

Construction union UCATT has dismissed speculation that it is set to merge with other organisations to create a super-union.

Amicus and the T&G union are believed to be considering a merger and UCATT is widely tipped to join up as well. But UCATT has rejected the claims, saying the union has no intention of handing over its independence.

Alan Ritchie, UCATT general secretary, said: “We are an industry-specific union, and the construction industry is unique. We have our own problems, so we don’t want to lose our formal identity. The time may come when other unions are brought in with us, but we have no intention of merging with anyone at the moment.”

However, Ritchie said that UCATT’s stance did not rule out co-operation with other bodies. He said: “Keeping our own identity does not mean to say that we cannot work with others. I am looking forward to attending the TUC and harnessing the knowledge of other groups. I am also working with trade union contacts to develop our links with the Labour party.”

A T&G source also denied claims that his organisation would merge with UCATT.

He said: “As far as I am aware, there isn’t any truth in the speculation. I haven’t heard anything about UCATT becoming more involved with us.”

We are an industry-specific union, and our industry is unique

Alan Ritchie, UCATT general secretary

Speculation surrounding the future of UCATT grew this week when the boards of Amicus and the T&G held separate talks on working in collaboration. It was expected that the executive councils of both unions would vote on whether to begin day-to-day collaboration that could lead to a full merger.

If a merger did occur it would create Britain’s biggest union with almost 2 million members. UCATT, which has 110,000 members, and the GMB would then come under pressure to join up as well in order to increase their power and financial strength.

Ritchie’s objections might not prove to be an insurmountable problem. The T&G has in the past absorbed other unions, such as the farm workers’ union, while allowing them to retain their industry identity.

If any merger goes ahead, it would raise questions over the future of the TUC, the umbrella organisation of the union movement. The TUC has been criticised in the past for curbing left-wing unions. A super-union under the left-wing leadership of Amicus and the T&G might be able to outflank it by demanding more direct involvement in Whitehall decision-making.