The results of the Unison union national executive elections show the enthusiasm for a more active fightback.
Overall the left groupings have gained around five seats. Left candidates won three out of four of the directly elected seats for each of the health and local government service groups.
All those executive members previously elected as United Left supporters have been re-elected, including Socialist Worker supporter John McDermott.
In the national local government seats, Paul Holmes won. He defeated the union’s vice president Carole Maleham, which reopens the question of who will be next year’s Unison president.
Paul is branch secretary of Kirklees branch of Unison. This is the branch which took the initiative last year to call for a special conference over pensions.
It was an unprecedented achievement that got the support of 93 branches, representing 37 percent of the membership.
Paul’s success in no small way highlights the feeling that the union should not have confined the pension strikes to the single (very successful) one day action on 28 March last year.
The man most clearly identified as the leadership’s critic on this issue has defeated the leadership’s candidate.
In the south west, the United Left candidate in the female election came within a few hundred votes of winning.
It is virtually certain that if Tony Staunton had been able to stand for the male seat (he was barred through a process that is still being contested), would have won.
The turnouts were uniformly low – sliding down to an extraordinary 2.5 percent for the young members seat.
In the constituency where the entirety of the union voted (the “additional members” seats) the turnout was 6.5 percent, although since nearly one in seven ballot papers was spoilt the effective turnout was just 5.6 percent.
It is clear that many Unison members want to see a much more combative strategy over pay, pensions, fighting the health cuts, single status and other issues.
The left must rapidly build on what has been achieved to energise members around these demands.
Tony Staunton and Yunus Bakhsh
The Unison local government and national conferences, which begin next weekend, will be a chance to press the cases of Tony Staunton and Yunus Bakhsh.
Both of these leading activists face serious threats from management and the union. And both Yunus and Tony are innocent of the charges they face.
They need the full solidarity of Unison activists. Tony faces a union disciplinary hearing on 9 July. The Friends of Tony Staunton group are organising a lobby to wish him good luck. Meet 8.30am at the Holiday Inn, Armada Way, Plymouth, and bring your banner.
Contact the Defend Yunus Bakhsh Campaign c/o 46c Lawe Road, South Shields, Tyne & Wear NE33 2EN. Phone 07958 171 205.
Send messages of support to Yunus at email@example.com
For Tony Staunton send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org