Analysis Exclusive

Exclusive: Graham claims credit for strike pay uplift that was in place months before she became Unite GS

No response from union to questions about claim

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has published a tweet in which she claimed credit for an increase in strike pay that predated her taking up the role by several months.

Ms Graham claimed that she ‘upped the daily strike rates to £70 when I became general secretary:

But in fact, as can be seen in the union’s public minutes of its executive meetings, the increase to £70 was agreed by the Unite executive in early March 2021 – more than five months before Graham won the general secretary election, while Len McCluskey was still in his role:

The change was a temporary one in response to the burgeoning of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics by employers exploiting the pandemic. Skwawkbox understands that the change was subsequently extended, in September and December, through to the end of 2022, but this is at odds with Graham’s statement that she ‘upped’ it when she ‘became general secretary’ and was only possible because of the creation and growth of the strike fund under McCluskey. No minutes appear to have been published showing the change being made permanent.

Graham’s predecessor Len McCluskey has since tweeted about the increase and the fact that it was put in place during his tenure:

Skwawkbox contacted Unite for comment, asking:

Ms Graham has claimed that she increased strike pay from £50 to £70 when she became general secretary. The change was brought in under McCluskey months before she became GS and her contribution was to ask for the existing measure to be extended for 2022.

Will Ms Graham publicly correct the record and withdraw her claim? Critics say this isn’t the first such attempt to take credit for things others did. Is it intentional?

During the general secretary election in 2021, Ms Graham was accused of a number of false or exaggerated claims in her campaign, for example:

  • claiming to have grown the union by 250,000 new members, when her organising department – with a budget of around £12m a year – had lost 92,000 members since 2018
  • claiming to have ‘championed women’ in senior positions when all but one of Unite’s regional senior organisers at the time were men, all appointed by Sharon Graham
  • claiming credit for settling the British Airways dispute when the campaign was led by BA stewards and senior Unite national officers
  • claiming to be the ‘workplace’ candidate but having little workplace experience
  • claiming to have won the fight against construction blacklists, which was led and won by a rival
  • taking credit for leveraging campaigns but refusing any proposed leveraging campaigns in Ireland

At the time of writing, more than 24 hours after the requested response deadline, Unite has not replied to Skwawkbox’s media enquiry. Previous enquiries on serious issues such as recorded bullying and misogyny allegations against Ms Graham’s husband, despite which he was given a senior role in her team without approval by the executive and allegedly tried to have evidence against him destroyed, triggered a string of smears that did not address the questions raised.

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