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The election of an experienced trade union official as the chief executive of the Stable Lads’ Association (SLA) has been welcomed by the racing industry.

Jim Cornelius, 57, who for more than 30 years was an official with the National Union for Public Employees, beat two candidates who have worked in racing for years — George McGrath and Don Stacey — and, as such, his election marks a break from the past for the SLA.

In December, Bill Adams, who had led the organisation for 20 years, retired with immediate effect after the SLA was criticised by the Stable and Stud Staff Steering Group (SSSSG) for its failure to modernise and effectively represent its members.

Baroness Ann Mallalieu, who chairs the SSSSG, told H&H she was delighted SLA members had supported Mr Cornelius.
“It’s a change from the past and it shows the SLA is very forward looking,” she said. “Coming from a non-racing background, Jim will need a lot of help, but I think he’ll be able to meet the challenge.”

Mr Cornelius said there was a lot of work to be done to modernise the SLA, adding: “I look forward to working with the national committee to turn the organisation around.”

The defeated candidates pledged their support for Mr Cornelius and said they would work alongside him.
Turnout for the election was low, with only 187 SLA members — from a membership of about 1,500 — voting. But Baroness Mallalieu said this was not due to voter apathy.

“Turnout has always been something of a problem,” she admitted, “but I don’t think it’s representative of a lack of interest. The people who work within racing are incredibly busy and usually more interested in the wellbeing of their horses rather than the conditions that affect themselves and their working practices. That just shows how dedicated they are.”

The post of chief executive pays around £40,000 and Mr Cornelius will take up his position full-time on
3 September, although Baroness Mallalieu said he was welcome at all SSSSG meetings until then.