One year ago, on 12 December, the Tory Party won a shock landslide victory in the 2019 general election. Promising to ‘Get Brexit Done’, Boris Johnson and the Tories secured 43.6% of the vote, providing them with an 80 seat majority in Parliament.Continue reading One Year after the Election: Boris’ Government of Crisis
On November 26, nearly 250 million workers participated in a strike in urban and rural areas all over India. The strike, called by the ten central trade unions, was the fifth in the six years since Modi ascended to power.Continue reading 250 million workers strike in India
Ballot papers are being delivered for the Unison general secretary election. This vote is probably the most important election in the trade union movement for decades. At stake is the future direction of the biggest union in the country – and perhaps most importantly, the key union in the NHS and local government.
For many years, the Unison leadership have sought to solve the problems that members face through a strategy of conciliation with the Tories. The problem with that strategy, however, is that it has led to a continuous erosion of terms and conditions, privatisation, wage freezes, job losses and a decimation of services.
Unison has an enormous potential weight, both industrially and politically. And it plays a decisive role in the public sector.
The union’s members have been fighting a rearguard action for more than ten years now. There have been important local struggles – most recently with the Tower Hamlets dispute. But too often, branches have been left to their own devices.
The practice of the leadership has consistently been to sell the members short.
No more ‘business as usual’
Unison organises hundreds of thousands of members in offices, schools, care homes, hospitals, and council depots. Many of these workers – including an army of homecare workers who support the most vulnerable people in society – are still at work. Unison members have faced the brunt of the pandemic, and have received huge public support for doing so.
Public support for the NHS and for other frontline workers has never been higher. Meanwhile, the Tories have seldom been weaker. They are seen as arrogant, incompetent, and uncaring.
Unison members now face an important choice. Do we continue to try and present a ‘dented shield’, despite so much evidence that this strategy does not work? Or do we fight for a trade union that will stand up for our members, listen to our concerns, and act upon them?
There have probably never been so many threats looming: NHS privatisation; austerity; and the risks in schools, where reckless Tory policy is forcing children, teachers, and support staff into unsafe conditions.
All these threats will impact dramatically on our members. One thing is for certain: ‘business as usual’ is the last thing we need.
It has been very noticeable that all of the Unison general secretary candidates accept that the union needs to change. But what sort of change do we need?
Two of the candidates – Christine McAnea and Roger McKenzie – come from the Unison bureaucracy. On the other hand, there are two lay candidates who both say that they will not accept the full wage that goes with the job.
Paul Holmes is an experienced rank-and-file activist, who is a member of the NEC and a local branch secretary.
The fourth candidate is Hugo Pierre, a member of the Socialist Party. He has been strongly criticised for standing on a blatantly sectarian basis, after participating in the Broad Left hustings to select a single left candidate and losing to Paul Holmes.
Socialist Appeal has argued for many years for the democratisation of the Union. In our opinion, Unison gives lip service to being a ‘lay member led union’. In reality, the structures of the union are not open to the active involvement of the majority of the membership.
We have argued that the role of the leadership should be to support the struggles of the branches; to take a lead at a national level in campaigning and uniting the struggles; and to fight for socialist policies in the labour movement.
We have also argued that trade union leaders and MPs should only take the wages of a skilled worker. The Unison general secretary job, however, attracts a salary of £138,000 per year.
We also stand against opportunism and sectarianism, and against any ‘prestige politics’ in the workers movement.
We are confident that our readers will consider the arguments above and in previous articles about the issues in this election, and about the future direction of the union.
On this basis, we hope that Unison members will vote for the only candidate that can deliver genuine change in the union: Paul Holmes – the members’ candidate.
In line with Unison’s campaigning rules, this article has not been authorised by Paul Holmes and represents the opinion of the Socialist Appeal editorial board.
From Socialist Appeal
On Monday the 7th and Tuesday the 8th of September, over 200 cleaning workers in Glasgow staged a walkout and gathered for a rally outside the city chambers in George Square. This was in response to Glasgow City Council’s decision to extend their hours. Additionally, workers received letters on the 12th of September stating that 21 hours of pay would be deducted from their wages as a result of the wildcat action.Continue reading Glasgow City cleaning workers walk out
Trade union representative at IKEA Glasgow Richie Venton is fighting for his job and workers’ conditions after being sacked by the firm for advising union members.Continue reading Reinstate Richie Venton! Defend Trade Union Organising at IKEA!
There is growing anger among postal workers regarding the lack of safety and infection control provisions within Royal Mail. In some places, postal workers have already staged walkouts, showing the bosses that they won’t be sacrificed for profit.Continue reading Royal Mail Putting Profit before Health: Posties Fight Back
A deal has been reached in the Scottish further education lecturers’ campaign for pay rises, after months of negotiations and several days of strike action. The EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) recommended for its members to accept the latest offer from Colleges Scotland, the organisation representing Scottish colleges in the dispute. Results from the ballot show that 88% of members accepted the offer.
By Alex Johnson, IMT Edinburgh
Recent figures show unemployment to be at 4.5%, the lowest seen since the 1970s. When we take a moment to examine this figure more closely, however, we find that it isn’t the cause for celebration the Tories would have us believe.
By Marios Kalomenopoulos, IMT Edinburgh
The political situation in Scotland has been rather quiet, recently, however this superficial stability hides important changes that are developing below the surface. The unions response to the proposed budget from the SNP government is one such expression.
By Tam Burke, IMT Edinburgh, Prospect, Personal Capacity
Compared with Catalonia, South Africa or the USA, political life in Scotland for most of last year hardly set the heather on fire. Then in November came the Battle for BiFab when the workers made headlines with their successful fight for the wages they were due. A dispute last November between their employer, Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab), and its customer, Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL), over what payment was still due, threatened the closure of the three yards, Burtisland and Methyl in Fife and Arnish, Isle of Lewis. BiFab said they’d no money coming in to pay wages, so 1400 workers would be laid off. There was no likelihood of the yards reopening. “A hammer blow to BiFab workers and communities in Fife and the Isle of Lewis” declared Gary Smith, GMB Union organiser. SHL said it’d paid BiFab on time in line with the contract. BiFab sought a Notice of Administration, giving just ten short days to find a solution before the yards fell silent. Shocked politicians at every level and of all parties condemned, denounced, exclaimed, wailed, complained and proclaimed that somehow it must not happen, but without any mitigation of the catastrophe.