The ghost of Kathy Jackson will continue to loom large over multiple branches of the Health Services Union as warring factions square off to seize control of the edifice that has cast a pall over the labour movement.

Last month, Federal Court Justice Alan Flick sacked the disgraced leaders of Health Services Union’s East Branch and ordered that administrator Michael Moore demerge its three constituent branches and hold fresh elections.

But just two weeks on, Jackson-backed candidates are starting to again organise inside the union, raising the spectre of her’s and former secretary Michael Williamson’s continued embroilment in union affairs and by extension the ALP.

Nominations for the three polls — for the NSW Branch, the Victorian no. 1 branch and the Victorian no. 3 branch — could open as early as later this month.

At the HSU NSW division, which has seen its 35,000-strong membership decline by 20%, a three-way pitched battle has already begun between Jackson loyalists, Williamson supporters and a ginger group led by dumped ex-assistant secretary (and Chris Hayes’ brother) Gerard Hayes.

On Jackson’s side, likely candidates include Prince of Wales hospital and Randwick sub-branch stalwarts Katrina Hart and Julia Batty.

“I think Kathy will be supporting us … I mean, she’ll be helping us,” Hart told Crikey this morning. She rounded on Hayes, claiming he was too close to Williamson.

“Let me tell you something about Gerard,” Hart said. “Gerard was behind Williamson through and through right before he spent three hours with [NSW Police investigation] Strike Force Carnarvon for the very first time. And then when he left the police station he ran straight to Sussex Street and straight to Unions NSW and then announced he was going against Williamson, because he knew Williamson was going to be gone.”

“It actually happened and I will stake that on my children’s lives,” she said.

The campaign would be an attack-free zone: “We’re just going to run a clean campaign, we’re not going slur people, we’re not going to start the rumours up … if they start on me, good luck to them … If he starts on the slurring game, he’s not going to get a retaliation out of me, I think there’s enough out there … people will do it for me anyway. I’m not into dirty politics.”

Hart said Hayes — who is apparently trying to access Williamson’s former internal election slush fund despite court orders appearing to prohibit it — was guilty of pilfering the Jackson camp’s “clean-sweep” agenda.

“He’s going to keep going with the transparency thing … but it’s what we [Jackson’s group] has been doing for the past nine months.”

Batty said she had been busy removing advertising plastered around her hospital over the weekend by Hayes’ group, who has teamed with former industrial officer Andrew Lillicrap under the catchy tagline Your Union, Your Say. Team Williamson is said to be orbiting around veteran trio Bob Hull, Mike O’Donnell and Kerrie Seymour.

South of the Murray, the Jackson clan is solidifying again at the Victorian No.1 branch, where Jackson proxy Jamie Martorana (who did not return calls), is alleged to be organising a fresh tilt alongside organiser Fleur Behrens at Jackson’s former No. 3 comprising health professionals. During the bitter 2009 election battle, Martorana was cruelly portrayed as a leather-clad gimp, in one of the most shocking shit sheets ever witnessed in Victorian politics. One of his two opponents on that occasion — Darebin councillor Diana Asmar — is believed not to be eligible to run owing to her lack of health-sector employment.

At No.3  — which Jackson will be forced to rejoin when the administrator completes the complex task of stripping out assets and debt from the merged entities — rank-and-file candidates are beginning to pick up the pieces after membership dipped from 5500 members to about 3500. In the last few days this interesting website has cropped up, unassociated with any preexisting faction, run by cleanskin radiographer Craig McGregor, a  “longtime HSU member & a politically interested father of two.” Jackson could also run herself.

In all three contests, Crikey understands dissidents will attempt to run “one ticket” in opposition to Jackson’s clique in order to avoid splitting the vote. The issue of positions is complicated by potential changes to the structure enforced by the administrator in which the traditional secretary-president nexus could be disrupted.

A ballot could be as early as six weeks away under the court’s directive, which requires the demerger, the separate branches’ re-application to Fair Work Australia and the election to be held within 120 days. Under HSU guidelines, an election should take 74 days.

If Jackson, who could not be contacted this morning, can retain control of the HSU in Victoria, it is expected that the she will move swiftly to re-affiliated to Labor’s Victorian branch to again claim her slice of state conference delegates and begin dealing over state preselections in the lead up to 2014.

Acting HSU national president Chris Brown told Crikey he was staying at “arm’s length from this. What we’ve done through the court case is basically create the vacuum to give the cleanskin groups the opportunity to come through if they want to … I’d be very disappointed if it ends up with the old guard, either Jackson’s or Williamson’s team taking control again and then we got more of the same.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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