Progress infiltrating Unison to tilt union balance away from deselection

A couple of days ago, the SKWAWKBOX revealed the ongoing efforts by Labour’s right-wing ‘party within a party’ Progress to infiltrate Unison, a hitherto pro-Corbyn union – and the sudden u-turn of the union’s General Secretary, who in 2012 wanted Progress to be ‘proscribed’ (banned from the Labour party) and has recently been appointing Progress members and supporters to key positions within Unison.

This move was considered dangerous by senior figures in Unison and the Labour party. Here’s why.

As the Financial Times (FT) revealed today, anti-Corbyn unions Community (ironically a subsidiary of pro-Corbyn Unite) and USDAW, along with the Co-operative Party that has 26 MPs who sit jointly as ‘Labour and Co-operative’, are organising a drive to create ‘branches’ in each constituency in an effort to block the deselection of MPs who have done little but destabilise and undermine the Labour party since Corbyn’s election in 2015.

Here’s how the FT summarises the mechanism they’re hoping to exploit:


The FT is wrong about Corbyn deselecting anyone – it’s a democratic matter for local members – but the essential point still stands.

We’ve already seen that the Labour right is prepared to exploit/ignore every rule, and resort to any anti-democratic measure, in order to re-seize control of the party. Clearly they have no compunction about exploiting an obscure rule to allow a single union member to block the democratic choice of many hundreds of CLP (constituency Labour party) members.

But what they have at the moment is not enough. With the larger, better-resourced unions such as Unite and highly-motivated unions like the FBU (Fire Brigades Union) solidly pro-Corbyn, the likelihood – as the FT article acknowledges – is that those unions will also mobilise branches in order to counter the votes of USDAW/Community/Co-op branches.

Hence the importance of Unison, the country’s second-largest union (after Unite). Unison’s 1.3 million members and extensive resources and structures might be enough to give the saboteurs a fighting chance of blocking the deselection of at least some MPs whose members would much prefer to see replaced by better, genuinely progressive candidates.

Similar moves may well be underfoot in other unions and the SKWAWKBOX will publish information on any as it becomes available.

If you’re a Unison member, it’s essential that you get informed, get angry and act to prevent this debilitating infiltration.

If you’re a member of another Labour-affiliated union (a list is shown below), find out whether your union already has a branch affiliated to your CLP and get involved, so you can participate in and influence any selection votes – get your workmates and union colleagues involved, too.

And if your union does not have a local branch, find out what you need to do to start one.

Labour’s members and the country need Labour to be a genuine alternative and a real Labour party. They’re depending on you and me to make sure it remains one.

Labour-affiliated unions:

ASLEF – Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers (railways – drivers, operational supervisors and staff)

BECTU – Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union – broadcasting, film, video, theatre, cinema and related sectors

BFAWU – Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union – food industry

COMMUNITY – industries in and around steel, metal and textile communities

CWU – Communication Workers Union – post and telecommunications

FBU – Fire Brigades Union – firefighters and other workers within fire and rescue services

GMB – for general workers in public and private sectors

MU – Musicians Union – performers, writers and teachers in the music industry

NUM – National Union of Mineworkers

TSSA – Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association – railways, London Underground, travel, haulage, shipping

UCATT – Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians – construction and building workers

UNISON – the public service union for all those providing services to the public whether employed in the public, private or voluntary sectors

Unite – for general workers in the public and private sectors

USDAW – Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers – retail, distributive and related industries


    1. No. It’s what Momentum is accused of being by the actual party within a party. Like someone farting in a lift and pointing at someone else for it.

  1. We can see from this post how important it is for Corbyn supporters to struggle within their unions against the machnations of Progress and the Labour right.

    Corbyn supporters who are not in full time employment, but who would like to be a member of a union, can join Unite as ‘community members’, a category of membership designed for marginalised sectors of society: unemployed, pensioners, home workers and carers and the underemployed. If you work less than 16 hours a week you can also become a Unite Community member at the reduced rate of £2 a month.

    http://www.unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/communitymembership/unemployed, retre

    Membership of Unite means members can get delegated from their local Unite Community branch to their local constituency Labour party General Committee, the key body that selects MPs. It is a great way for marginalised groups to escape lonely, impotent atomisation and act TOGETHER with others to make the Labour party more progressive.

    New members of Unite Community will also meet lots of activists who are clued up about the issues facing marginalised groupings.

    As Jeremy says, on our own we are limited in what we can do, but TOGETHER we can achieve a lot.

  2. UNISON have a long history of flattering to deceive. Daytime TV ads (that could easily pass as stylish charity promotions) are stuffed with dubious, hard-sell assurances, promising the earth in return for your few quid a month. A misguided money-motivation fuels these things.

    Having personally been in contact with many UNISON reps and whistleblowers for a good few years, I can advise that you’re likely to be dropped like a stone if you jeopardise this union’s favoured position by blowing the whistle on senior managers working for your employer and then expecting UNISON to back you up.

    Wirral and Herefordshire councils are two cases in point of which I have many sordid details, but there are many more in public sector education and the NHS.

    Having seen and been a victim of the Prentis modus operandi, I suspect the UNISON Gen Sec’s ‘support’ of Corbyn was not in reality genuine and well-intentioned move… and that the JC “brand” would be ultimately damaged.

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