On 11 May, the Victoria Biscuit Works, a biscuit factory in Tollcross in the east end of Glasgow, was earmarked for closure by its owners Pladis. This is a move which puts the jobs, and livelihoods, of hundreds of workers under threat, and represents a flagrant attack upon the working people of Glasgow by the capitalist class.Continue reading McVitie’s Factory Fights Closure — Demand Nationalisation Now!
In 1926 Britain was shaken by a General Strike. The strike was sabotaged by the trade union leaders, however, who were given left cover by the CPGB and Comintern for this betrayal. The episode provides important lessons about the disastrous policies of Stalinism and reformism in the labour movement.Continue reading Communists, Trade Unions and the Anglo-Russian Committee
Over the past week, the North of Ireland has seen its worst rioting in years, ostensibly over the Northern Ireland Protocol signed by the Westminster government with the EU. The threat of loyalist violence has been in the air for months as tensions have ratcheted up since the Protocol came into effect in January.Continue reading N. Ireland: Sectarian Riots — A Bad End to a Bad Peace
Last Saturday, thousands marched in London from Hyde Park to Parliament Square to protest the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This new legislation would dramatically curtail the right to demonstrate.Continue reading Kill the Bill: Demonstrations continue against Tory Police law
On 2 February, UCEA (the Universities and Colleges Employers Association) made a final pay offer to UCU members in higher education (HE) of an insulting 0% pay rise for the coming year; in other words, a real-terms pay cut.Continue reading UCU members: Reject insulting 0% pay offer! For a united fightback!
As the pandemic worsens many workers have been forced into struggle to ensure that basic safety standards are met. Schools have been a key battleground in the past month in the fight for safe conditions.Continue reading Struggle for School Safety – EIS Must Lead!
The result for the Unison general secretary election has just been announced:
Paul Holmes – 45,220 (33.76%)
Christina McAnea – 63,900 (47.7%)
Roger McKenzie – 14,450 (10.79%)
Hugo Pierre – 10,382 (7.75%)
While McAnea, the right-wing candidate, won the election to replace Dave Prentis, this election in reality shows enormous potential for the left.Continue reading Unison election: Potential for a historic Left victory revealed
Eight months into the global coronavirus pandemic, any pretence of the world settling into a stable “new normal” has been shattered. After a summer of lockdown and a brief period of “re-opening”, the fundamental crisis has not been solved. As the spread of coronavirus accelerates, so does the political, social and economic crisis of capitalism.Continue reading Prolonged Crisis and Class Consciousness: Organise to Fight Back!
UNISON is Britain’s biggest trade union, with 1.3 million members, more than 70 percent of whom are women. It is also one of Europe’s largest unions.Continue reading UNISON election: Left victory would transform the situation
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.