Voting for resistance
VOTING IS under way in the election for general secretary of the 1.3 million strong public sector workers' UNISON union. Activists need to work in the coming days and weeks to ensure the biggest possible vote for socialist Roger Bannister, who is challenging the union's current deputy general secretary, Dave Prentis.
Bannister has been touring the country speaking at meetings and doing walkabouts in the last week, and more such activities are planned. A meeting in Hackney, east London, last week heard Bannister argue that a vote for him was a vote for a fighting union.
He reminded people of the massive UNISON-organised minimum wage demonstration in Newcastle last April, and argued that such protests showed how the union could be leading the way in resistance to New Labour's policies. The problem, he argued, was that UNISON's current leadership refuses to challenge New Labour.
He also congratulated local branches which had led their own struggles. Bannister addressed meetings in Coventry and the east Midlands, and visited workplaces in Birmingham. His campaign has provoked attacks in the Tory press. The Daily Mail ran a "red scare" article attacking him on Monday. His opponent, Dave Prentis, represents a continuation of the policies of the current union leadership.
He has talked left at some meetings - attacking New Labour over its refusal to increase the minimum wage, for example, and also calling for much more money for the NHS. But his criticisms have limits. He chose last week to attack the consultant who criticised New Labour's record on health rather than to attack the government itself.