The process to choose the next Unison union general secretary has begun—and left candidate Paul Holmes says his campaign is “going better than expected”.
Candidates have to receive at least 25 nominations from union branches to make it on to the ballot paper—and Paul has received four in the first few days since nominations opened.
And endorsements have been flooding in.
Labour MP John McDonnell and Glen Williams, chair of the union’s local government service group executive, have both supported Paul.
Paul—a union activist for over 40 years—told Socialist Worker that the election is an important opportunity to shake things up inside the union.
“This is the sixth general secretary election there’s been in Unison and all five previous ones have been won by employees of the union.
“It’s time a lay member really has a chance to do it—someone who has been at the coal face.”
Also standing are three people employed by the union on a full-time basis—Christina McAnea, Margaret Greer and Roger McKenzie.
Paul is vowing to take a worker’s wage of £32,000 a year rather than the £138,000 a year that comes with the job.
He will fight for a £15 an hour minimum wage for all workers, begin a national anti-austerity campaign and push to implement a green agenda for Unison.
Paul’s manifesto also includes pledges to support Black Lives Matter, to sell Unison’s London headquarters and to improve collective bargaining arrangements across the union. He said the fast-moving political climate means the union needs a leadership that will respond swiftly to the coronavirus crisis.
“Things are changing a lot faster at the moment than they have done for a long time,” he said. “Four weeks ago, any conversation about the NHS would have been about health provision or who’s dying.
“But suddenly, the pay rise demand became a dynamite situation from nowhere.”
As a socialist and Labour member, Paul said the election—and the Tory crisis—is a good opportunity to transform Unison into a fighting union.
“The government is stumbling from one crisis to the next,” he said. “All our members want to know is ‘What’s the plan?’ And I don’t think that question is answered by the government.
“In Unison we need to act as big as we are. I don’t always get the impression we’re Britain’s biggest trade union with 1.3 million members.”
“We need to have a far higher public profile and lead the fight rather than waiting to see where the fight is. We need to act like a national union.”
Paul said there is “a job for everyone” who wants to help support his bid and that harnessing members’ enthusiasm for a fighting union is critical to a successful campaign.
Everyone who wants to see trade union leaders take on the Tories’ deadly Covid-19 blunders and brutal austerity should throw their support behind Paul.