With media and even social media overloaded with Brexit inanity, it would be easy to miss the fact that the UK’s largest trade union UNISON – which has over a million members, has just started the process of electing a new National Executive Council (NEC).
Why should you care? As well as representing over a million people in the workplace, Unison has two representatives on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee and can wield considerable influence over Labour affairs and policies.
While Unite, which has similar scale and influence, is solidly behind Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and its head Len McCluskey is a strong supporter, Unison’s leadership has been more equivocal.
In 2012, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis called for right-wing pressure group Progress to be ‘proscribed’ – outlawed under Labour’s rules – and in the 2016 Labour leadership election, Unison nominated Jeremy Corbyn.
However, shortly after Corbyn won that leadership election, Unison and Progress began to build closer ties, with Prentis appointing a former Progress NEC member to a key position and other members of the organisation taking positions of influence in the union. Since then, right-wing former Labour staff have also moved in.
In spite of concerns over the conduct of the general secretary election in 2015, Prentis is in post until 2020 – although there have been rumours he may call an election earlier. But Unison’s NEC makes decisions on behalf of members and is a key body in ensuring that the power of the union is used without equivocation on behalf of the Labour movement. Unison members have an opportunity right now to elect members to the NEC who will push the organisation in that direction.
If you are a member of Unison, it’s vital that you vote in these elections for your voice to be heard in the Unison’s own activities and in its influence in the Labour Party – to ensure that your union makes the decisions you as a member want. As one Unison source told the SKWAWKBOX:
Unison is the largest trade union and the NEC is a powerful committee. Voting papers are being sent out from today and members will receive a booklet of all the candidates.
We need serious national leadership for joined-up strike action against this government and employers. Theresa May is not going without being pushed! We should be using our influence in the TUC for a huge national demonstration to kick this government out!
Not only that, but no more of our members money should go to support MPs or Councillors attacking Jeremy Corbyn and we must support any councillors making a stand against cuts and call on Labour Councils to stand up against the cuts now.
Unison hasn’t been strong enough in that regard – and we must take a high-profile lead alongside other trade unions in fighting racism and fascism. The right is on the rise and we stand for an anti-austerity message of jobs, homes and services – not racism.
For the sake of Unison members and the wider Labour movement, members and activists must have full, transparent and democratic control over their union.
If you’re a Unison member, you have a vote and a chance to make your voices heard by voting for the following list of candidates:
If you don’t have a vote, then talk to anyone you know that works providing public services such as the NHS, local government, housing associations, nurseries, education or any other branch – or send them this article – and if they’re a Unison member ask them to vote to help defend our vital public services.
Voting closes at 5pm on Friday 17 May. If you haven’t received your ballot paper by 29 April, you should call UNISONdirect on 0800 0857 857. Members with hearing difficulties can use textphone 0800 0 967 968. More details of the candidates and their policy position can be seen at: https://unisonnecelections.weebly.com.
Results are expected to be announced in the week of Unison’s annual conference in June.
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