Analysis Breaking comment

Breaking: elected left goes to Law Lords as Unison right again moves to block democracy

Right-wing machine’s manoeuvres to bar members’ democratic choice continue

The right-dominated Unison machine has again been accused by the elected representatives of the membership of trying to stamp out their democracy.

In a statement released this afternoon via the ‘Time for Real Change’ account that they have used in previous such instances, the left majority on Unison’s national executive described the latest attack on their decisions by unelected officers – and their intention to approach the UK’s leading trade union law expert for a definitive judgment:

UNISON’s new NEC, elected by members in June, has a mandate to bring real change to our union. Change is an exciting process for both members and staff and brings hope for a new chapter in UNISON which delivers real benefits to members. But change also brings with it challenges and we are prepared for these.

Due to early experience of how our union works and a lack of clarity on powers, the Presidential Team felt it necessary to bring six motions to the NEC of 6 October 2021, designed to be helpful and provide that clarity we need. All six motions were passed with substantial majorities by the NEC in line with UNISON’s democratic process.

There is a disagreement currently, however. The General Secretary sought their own external legal advice on the motions from a junior barrister and this was circulated one hour prior to the NEC meeting. The junior barrister expressed the view that four of the motions would be unlawful. That is not the view of the Presidential Team which thereupon took its own legal advice. This confirmed that all six motions are perfectly lawful.

Plainly this controversy must be urgently resolved, and the Presidential Team have directed that a full written legal Opinion be obtained within 7 days from the country’s leading authority on trade union law, Lord Hendy QC. That will resolve this situation, so we can go forward as a united union in line with the NEC’s democratic wishes. The NEC has consistently made clear it values the work of all UNISON staff and this of course remains the case. We will provide further updates as we work through and resolve these issues.

A senior Unison insider noted with some irony that one of the unelected staff involved in the above move was Emilie Oldknow, the former Labour party director who features prominently in the ‘Labour leak’ report on the activities of right-wing party staff, who was appointed to Unison’s staff by then-general secretary Dave Prentis, whose own problems with democracy have previously been reported.

Current general secretary Christine McAnea, who was elected after parts of the left insisted on standing their candidates against the clear left favourite, campaigned on a claim not to be a ‘continuity candidate’ of Prentis’s regime.

Skwawkbox can exclusively reveal that the unelected staff then took the ‘unprecedented’ step of writing to all of the union’s branches, ignoring the position of elected representatives and their legal advice, as if their own word is law:

Recent manoeuvres by the right-wing management against the elected left have included blocking the democratic decision of elected representatives on votes at Labour’s conference, helping David Evans in his own war on Labour members to secure his own position, and ordering delegates to vote for changes to rig Labour’s democracy despite official union policy – decided by Unison’s sovereign conference – to reduce the nominations threshold for would-be Labour leadership candidates.

Another Unison insider said:

We’ve seen these tactics in the Labour party and we’re not going to make the same mistakes Labour did of allowing the right to simply walk all over democracy and the members.

Unison’s new left-wing president Paul Holmes has so far been unable to exercise his authority because the union management suspended him. Despite this, the left has a democratic majority on both the national executive and the union’s Labour Link committee. Vital elections for regional positions on the committee are underway.

The union’s management, through another former Labour official prominent in the leaked report, has blocked attempts by branches to organise in support of Holmes, who also came close to winning the general secretary position, in what his supporters say is a coordinated effort between the union and Kirklees council to remove him permanently.

Unison’s press office was not answering phones this afternoon but has been contacted for comment.

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65 comments

  1. How does UNISON seek to terminate the employment of these salaried un-elected staff, especially the partner Jonathan (It’s Confidential) Ashworth.

    1. Lundiel: The Adam Smith Institute and Streeting are both saying that BoJo is economically illiterate, and no one (with half a brain) would argue with that. But you Lundiel disagree?! A. Smith Inst and WesStreet both say that wage rises not accompanied by increased productivity could stoke inflation. Both also say that shortages cause prices (of labour) to rise. In other words if you want a lorry driver, butcher or a premier league striker you have to pay the rate for the job which is well above what it was 12 months ago. Labour (I mean workers) are taking a much bigger share of the national GDP cake. Previously it has shrunk and Finance (Capital) had a much bigger share which had grown over the last 50 years. That is now changing and the workers share (labour) is growing. This is great and may not be inflationary. If it is it undercuts the gains made by labour due to market forces which are now working in our favour. Don’t comment on stuff you don’t understand. You (like many on these pages) want a simplistic truth (like Jeremy). This is not.

      1. PC
        Unions and regulation are the difference for bad employers
        Higher wages for those at the bottom are never inflationary, they drive the multiplier effect, poor people are good spenders
        More bangs for your buck
        Bubbles are caused by funny money, QE leads to speculation which produces nothing worth having
        Spivs and Thieves with their snouts in the trough
        Sell Sell Sell

      2. You know nothing about me, yet you take every opportunity to insult me. Wage rises can cause an increase in productivity when coupled with restructuring. I don’t think anyone was talking about wage rises as a wholly independent occurrence, if they were, it would be the first time in history. You then go on to say “This is great and may not be inflationary.” That tells me the article you are plagiarising is making conditional statements and you have latched on to what you want. Labour’s rising market share is a result of Brexit and as long as the government controls inflation it’s not something to worry about. The government seem to understand this even if you don’t which is why they’ve started using taxation again after decades of low taxation. It’s the new normal, get used to it.
        Now fuck off.

      3. lundiel – Not all of us share your confidence that the Tory’s know what they are doing with the economy.

      4. No. You, plain Citizen, Streeting and the Adam Smith Institute along with Starmer’s new Labour support a neoliberal freemarket economy.

      5. Gaslighting again.
        If you have something to say, say it. You and citizen opposed my comment, in which I made no economic judgement other than noting Streeting agrees with s neoliberal freemarket think tank. Citizen then attacked me and my economic judgement, I commented back and you stuck your oar in. See, no confusion at all.
        If you don’t have confidence in the Tories economic policy, tell us what they should be doing and why pay rises shouldn’t happen.

      6. lundiel – FFS get a grip and stop behaving like a child. You run around calling people liars and then as soon as you are challenged about your own opinions you play the victim and start accusing people of gaslighting.

      7. Just answer the question and leave the histrionics out of it. Or better still just go away you last word freak.

      8. At last. Well, I’m in full agreement with that but other sectors apart from the rentier economy are going to have to raise wages, for instance lorry drivers and care workers, it’s the market reaction. He (Sunak) either has to agree to wage rises or let immigrants back in and whether the government can manage inflation remains to be seen but I see tax rises as a tool for managing inflation.
        However, the Adam Smith Institute wasn’t suggesting this, nor was PC and you jumped in on their side.

      9. Plain citizen My company relied on skilled well trained and certificated engineers.Their reaches a point were its not possible to increase productivity.but expand the business is effectively the only solution for increased profit.From what I see of modern day practice is to degrade and cut wages of the workforce whilst increasing the salarys of directors and employing more so called managers \supervisors.Your views seemed to be almost Dickensian.By the way since when did Labour mps go hand in glove with the right wing think tank the smith institution..Well paid skilled workers are the heart of the more profitable companys not directors or other idiots running round asking advice on how to compete by increasing yearly their slice of the pie…..

  2. The RW are fighting hard and fighting dirty across the whole of the Labour movement

    Are they motivated by the left’s failure to resist or by their reckless hatred of democracy and organised labour? Probably a bit of both.

    What, if anything, can we do to support Paul Holmes in this matter and weaken the pact between Unison’s RW and Kirkless Council?

    1. ITs such a shame that so many good argued opinions on here have been spiked by mr Hall centrist Dad Steve H gaslighting in the paid employment of the knight of the realm…Propaganda sent by HQ via the Israeli spook to chief spoiler Steve H doesnt add anything of balance to the opinions only deflection politics..HQ are watching you and squawkbox they will smash any dissent because thats what fascists do..We cannot exist in a “broad church” together one has to go.Stop funding the Labour fascists party.and they will disappear.

      1. Joseph – Don’t be ridiculous.
        “ITs such a shame that so many good argued opinions on here have been spiked by………SteveH”

        These opinions can’t be that well argued or very good if a few facts can destroy them.

        (ps – who is this ‘Hall’ guy that you keep obsessing about)

  3. The Chairman of Unison’s Labour Link, is Ferguson, the guy who so disrespected Anna Dyer, while she was speaking at the Podium.

    He was Conference Chairperson, of the moment.

    He also got to his feet, to give Smeeth a standing ovation, for her speech.

    Obviously, not a Socialist.

  4. Unison insider said:

    “We’ve seen these tactics in the Labour party and we’re not going to make the same mistakes Labour did of allowing the right to simply walk all over democracy and the members.”

    Whether it be right wingers in Unison or the Labour Party, it’s clear beyond dispute that Starmer and Evans are intent.on destroying democracy, not to protect Jews in the Party as they claim but to protect Zionists, be they be Jewish or not, as shown in SB’s previous post.

  5. Apologies for this comment is off topic, but the previous article had no comments section and I regard this piece by Chomsky as going to the heart of the convulsions in the Labour party. I think you will agree.

    Noam Chomsky wrote this…
    “Fifty years ago, the distinguished Israel statesman Abba Eban wrote that “One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all. Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism.”
    As the examples he gives make crystal clear (e.g., the committed Zionist I.F. Stone), by “anti-Zionism” he means criticism of the policies of the government of Israel and some sympathy for Palestinians.
    That principle has become a last-ditch defense of apologists for Israel crimes under the occupation. Any critic, any proponent of Palestinian rights, can be tarred as an anti-Semite. This weapon has recently been wielded to great effect against Jeremy Corbyn in a campaign of vulgar deceit and slander that is shocking even beyond the disgraceful norm.
    It would not be surprising if DiEM25 is soon subjected to the same treatment as its success increases and its outreach grows. Be prepared”. https://diem25.org/noam-chomsky-the-weaponisation-false-anti-semitism-charges-against-radical-progressive-movements/

    1. Here’s a positive story.
      I hear that Barbados has declared itself to be a republic and has left the “Commonwealth”.

      1. I would like to say well done and congratulations to the Republic of Barbados for ditching MRS lizzie windsor as head of star and for leaving the “commonwealth” too!

      2. goldbach – Are you sure about them leaving the Commonwealth. My understanding is that becoming a republic doesn’t necessarily mean they also leave the Commonwealth.

      3. It is correct to say that being a republic doesn’t automatically mean not being a member of the “commonwealth”. However, the report I saw said that they have also left the “commonwealth”.

      4. Steve H….The whole idea of “Republic” means to dump the baggage of unelected archaic Royalty \titles etc and come together with the people.Dont tell me youve even dumped your long held beliefs in democracy as well has being a stooge for your “knight of the realm”

      5. Joseph – Perhaps you should brush up on how the Commonwealth is organised and constituted.
        Queen Elizabeth s the head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 33 other members are republics and 5 others have different monarchs.
        Member states have no legal obligations to one another, but are connected through their use of the English language and historical ties. Their stated shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter[

      6. Steve H I explained the idea of Republic and like in Ireland they eventually dumped the commonwealth along with the idea of servility.Its progression at least we now know that youve had a dose of conversation therapy via the establishment right wing.and are a dyed in the wool Surf nowadays.You might have to have a rethinking on your Caribbean bolt hole in the aptly named for you the “Windys”

  6. At yesterday’s meeting of the Unison National Executive Council (NEC), the left majority – organised around the #TimeforRealChange banner – attempted to break the bureaucratic logjam that has been plaguing them since they democratically won their positions earlier this year.
    Ever since losing control of the NEC and its committees, the union’s right wing has engaged in a non-stop campaign of sabotage. Making up the rules as they go along, full-time officials have consistently blocked any attempt by the left to transform Unison into a fighting union that can defend its members.

    https://www.socialist.net/civil-war-in-unison-mobilise-the-membership-fight-to-transform-the-union.htm

    1. SteveH
      Thanks for posting this link. It’s really interesting to read what’s going on in Unison.

    2. Thanks for that SteveH, a very enjoyable analysis, including this bit

      “The right wing is prepared to block the legitimate business of the union to represent its members, and prevent it from functioning, all in order to sabotage the left majority and safeguard their privileges. For them, it is a case of rule or ruin.

      “The parallels with the Corbyn movement are very clear. In 2016, for example, the Labour right wing tried every trick in the book to prevent Corbyn from getting reelected as Labour leader. They even turned to the courts to try and keep him off the ballot.

      “The Unison right wing – with many links to their counterparts in the Labour Party – are clearly prepared to go to similar lengths.

      “In this civil war inside the Labour Party, the left leadership made a grave error in attempting to compromise with the right wing.

      “As part of this, Corbyn’s office prevented rank-and-file party members from going on the offensive against the right – blocking moves to introduce open selection, all in the hope of securing ‘unity’.

      “In the end, this proved to be a fatal mistake. The right wing were able to continue their sabotage, leading to Labour’s electoral defeats in 2017 and 2019 – and, in turn, to the downfall of the Corbyn movement.”

      So, SteveH, any ideas on how to affect the mobilisation of members that is so obviously needed?

  7. Oldknow… what’s in it for her? She seems to have a penchant for sabotaging. Why? Some sort of Ideological extremism, or is she simply… paid?

    1. Ben – The surprising thing here is why Unison thought it appropriate to appoint her to such a senior position following her exposure in the ‘leaked dossier’. Did they carry out due diligence checks and did they first carry out an investigation that exonerated her.

      1. lundiel – Oh for goodness sake calm down and get a grip of yourself.

      2. lundiel – When you’ve calmed down a bit perhaps you could explain what I’ve said that has got you in such a tiz-woz.

      3. She’s never been found guilty of anything or accused of anything. She is ‘the victim’ in so far as someone leaked messages from a private Whatsapp group. Surely you know this. Are you taking the Micky or something? Everyone knows what happened and “due diligence” doesn’t come into it. What’s with the calm down nonsense. Do you think you’re Michael Winner?
        I told you on the other thread, I’m fed up with your Gaslighting. Seriously, get help.

      4. lundiel – Are you trying to claim that Unison were right to ignore the revelations about her conduct whilst she was working at Labour HQ.

      5. ….lundiel – Oh for goodness sake calm down and get a grip of yourself…

        Follow your own advice and knock off the patronising.

      6. LVLA – Are you auditioning for the job as her knight in shining armour?

      7. …Are you auditioning for the job as her knight in shining armour?..

        No, just pointing out the obvious. Nobody likes being patronised. Not even you.

    2. See, you’re doing it again. Of course they shouldn’t have employed her, they shouldn’t have employed lots of people, it’s called crony capitalism. The Labour party is also crippled by it. People like Streeting who’ve been groomed since collage for high position, backed by the lobby.
      Please just go away.

      1. lundiel – As I’ve said elsewhere you seem to be a little confused about what you have and haven’t said. As for telling me to go away it is entirely up to you whether you choose to respond to me or not. The choice is yours.

  8. A legal opinion is just that – an opinion. Although Lord Hendy is prominent in the field of Trade Union/ Industrial law any advice he gives will not be binding – it will just be his (expert) legal opinion.
    The NEC is the governing body of the Union. The NEC can choose to ignore legal advice or get a “second opinion” as it is doing now but irrespective of this the NEC should instruct staff not the other way about. The NEC is in effect the employer and is answerable only to the membership at Annual Conference and the fulltime official are answerable to the NEC via the Gen Sec all year round.
    It is clear that the fulltime officials are calling the tune here and its up to the NEC to assert its authority and make them toe the line. It seems to me the new NEC members are inexperienced and the fulltime officials are exploiting this. My advice to all NEC members is read the rule book from cover to cover and learn as much of it as you can off by heart. This is your best protection against unscrupulous officials giving you inaccurate or misleading information.
    Additionally any member of a Union can make a complaint to the Certification Officer and I would be surprised if a few members don’t do this in this case. I would suggest that individual NEC members consider lodging a complaint too. The Certification Officer can issue binding instructions to a Trade Union which would put paid to their shenanigans and this in the circumstances may be the best way forward.

    1. Smartboy
      Is this something the TUC should manage, if its that bare faced then they could step in and read the riot act to the offenders
      Would be of benefit if you need to sack the fuckers by making it part of the discipline and dismissal process

    2. The TUC can’t interfere in the internal workings of a Union, so no Doug they can’t read the riot act to Unison fulltime officials.
      As employees, all Unison staff except the Gen Sec are subject to the disciplinary process if they are guilty of misconduct and can be sacked for gross misconduct. The NEC can’t sack the Gen Sec because he is elected by a ballot of the entire membership and is therefore answerable only to the membership. However the Gen Sec can be instructed by the NEC to instigate the disciplinary process against other staff. I think you are right and disciplinary action should be taken against them. Without prejudicing the outcome of any disciplinary action it seems clear that they are acting against the interests of the members and bringing the union into disrepute.
      As I said earlier I think the main problem here is that the NEC are all newly elected and the fulltime officials are using their lack of experience against them.

  9. An elected Right Wing GS
    An elected Left Wing NEC.
    Unelected Right Wing Officers.
    Imagine if this was a Labour Council and the officers we trying to restrict the power of the Labour Group of elected councillors?
    Right Wing Dirty Tricks and desperation as they can’t win on ideas but resort to underhand procedural methods like the Labour Right?
    Apparently is a rally for the brilliant Paul Holmes this Friday 9.00am.
    He has been suspended from the Council for 2 years without a reason given.
    Very strange, very strange indeed.
    Hope he wins, will make a great Unison grassroots President though would have been a great GS.

    1. Bazza I often as a councillor came into conflict with unelected officers of the council.I turned up at a court hearing and objected to the eviction of a elderly sick and disabled tennent of the council who was in arrears.The officers argued in court that I couldn’t object because in a legal position I was The Council and I was basically objecting to myself.luckily I had secured the arrears from a RAF society for veterans to make up the arrears that the officers had ignored and I secured a victory in Epsom court when the magistrate declared in my and my constituents favour.ON a number of times I had to show whos boss on the council to rogue officers unused to dealing with the culture of Labour councillors in Surrey.Sounds to me like a bad case of tail wagging the dog.

  10. To Lundiel, admirer of BoJo economics (BoJonomics?) It is great that you have come out as a Bojo fan and you like the increase in NIC (a tax rise) to stop inflation by reducing the purchasing power of ordinary working people. Are you in the right party? What article are you saying I’m plagiarising? Every comment in economics is conditional because their are so many moving parts to an economic system. Some things are more certain than others such as the £20 pw UC reduction is probably pretty stupid because poorest people ie those on benefits, tend (a conditional statement) to spend every penny of additional income which is good for them and the wider economy.

    1. Silly little man. Everybody knows Johnson has no interest in economics.
      I completely agree about UC, bet the Adam Smith Institute doesn’t.
      Labour has said they don’t want wages to rise, they want to be the new low tax party. Being as they’re all Europhiles, I’m not surprised. They’ll find it hard to adjust to life without immigrant Labour.
      Funny you should ask me if I’m in the right party, I’m not in one. However, what brings you here if not to troll.

  11. Just a reminder that Steve H Hall centrist Dad and probably other aliases.as a nasty habit of “drinking whilst in charge of a keyboard” .today has been a classic example..

    1. Joseph – Your response is pathetic.
      You really should stop digging, you’re embarrassing yourself.

  12. That caines dirt cheap in the windys Steve H.Do you mix it with ice or coca cola or just swig it straight out of the bottle.I bet some of the garbage coming through the printe from HQ even makes you laugh or spill your drinks comrade?I am off out to the market now to buy fresh meat and veg so carry on with your drinking and smoking habbit and try to get a grip and a stiff lip man.

    1. Joseph – Why do you do this to yourself, I feel sorry for you.
      Enjoy your trip to market. We’re going to have a swim before going to bed. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.

  13. Well I am back from the market and was suprised you would swim at night 🌙when its feeding time for many animals and fish weather sea or swimming pool,snakes get in the pool and much more deadly animals and insects.Still youre just a “novice” and that applys to more than the tropical island you live on….IF its a pool remember to keep the CL and PH values up .But then again it might be a bromide pool….sorry thats for treatment of some very excitable people?….maybe who knows Bromide treatment for Steve H?

  14. The sabotage of Law and- indeed – common sense appears
    endemic in the LP. From a link in LabourList I learned that a
    Disabled York Councillor had been forbidden to take part in
    a debate involving Disabled parking because as a Blue Badge
    holder she had an interest in it!

    There is a long twitter response to this with the best comment
    from “Secret Barrister” to the effect that Councillors who do
    NOT hold a Blue Badge also have an interest and therefore
    should not attend either ..

    Time to resurrect the “Jobsworth” award?

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