Socialists in the Unison union were feeling encouraged this week after left candidate Paul Holmes delivered a strong result in the general secretary election.
Although right wing candidate Christina McAnea won the election with 63,900 votes, Paul came in second place with 45,220 votes.
Assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie managed 14,450 votes and Hugo Pierre had 10,382 votes.
“As an ordinary, lay member of the union, to come a clear second in the ballot was an achievement, particularly getting at least three times the vote of those candidates coming third and fourth,” said Paul.
“The number of new activists that got involved in our campaign was incredible, as was the breadth of talent displayed”.
It’s the best left wing vote in a Unison general secretary election for 20 years and shows the appetite for change throughout the union.
Paul argued for a real fight over wages, a robust defence against attacks on jobs and conditions, and for a union genuinely controlled by members.
His big vote should be a spur to make the most of the potential for workers’ resistance. People responded to the idea of a positive lead from the top.
Workers in the public sector know they are facing a punishing time ahead.
Years of austerity had left local government, education and the NHS stretched thin before the pandemic—and now they are at breaking point.
“The NHS has 100,000 vacancies and 15 percent of staff are off work for Covid-related reasons,” said Paul. “We have seen the fiasco in schools. The vaccine programme is complicated by government incompetence.”
And bosses are attempting shady new tactics to get workers to accept worse terms and conditions.
Paul added, “Employers like British Gas and Tower Hamlets council are increasingly looking to ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.”
Unison national executive committee elections are coming soon. Union members are organising to win more left representation on the key decision-making body.
McAnea was the candidate heavily pushed by the Unison top brass. She’s seen as the “continuity candidate” to Dave Prentis’s two decade-long reign that saw almost no national fightback against the Tories’ attacks.
Paul called on Unison members to back NEC candidates “who want real change”.
“The need for our union to organise, ‘shout from the rooftops’ and ‘up its game’ has never been greater,” he said.