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Time for change after left wins elections for Unison’s national executive

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Issue 2759
Tower Hamlets strikers last year. Action is central to reviving the unions
Tower Hamlets strikers last year. Action is central to reviving the unions (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The left has swept to control the national executive committee (NEC) of Unison for the first time since the union was created in 1993.

It’s a very big shift at the top of Britain’s biggest union with 1.3 million members.

There were 37 candidates elected who were part of the Time For Real Change slate. It was formed after the powerful challenge by Paul Holmes for general secretary earlier this year.

Socialist Worker supported this slate

In addition, four members of the Socialist Party won. The other 27 members of the executive are Labour right wingers, or supporters of new general secretary Christina McAnea or people who have a mix of views.

McAnea, in congratulating all the successful candidates on Twitter, added, “Sorry to lose some good people and commiserations to others.”


One of those elected to the NEC told Socialist Worker, “This result is a reflection of the frustration felt by many Unison members.

“We have faced a decade of austerity, job cuts, and wage curbs. Tory governments have boosted racism while doing nothing about climate change.

“But Unison has been too slow to resist and has put obstacles in the way of action. There were possibilities of continued major action in 2011 and 2014 but it was choked off.”

The right won’t just give up. In past years NEC members have immediately been notified of their first meeting to elect positions. This has not yet happened.

The Time for Real Change group said in a statement, “This majority for change on the Unison NEC must now enable a positive transformation of our union.

“We are determined to change Unison into a force that can protect and improve your terms and conditions at work.”

But that will take more than just better resolutions and circulars from the top.

The NEC member said, “There has to be a real shift in terms of telling members that we have to fight and that the union will encourage and support you if you fight.

“The union has to take up issues such as NHS pay, women’s rights, disabled people’s rights and more. We need action, not words.

“That’s a challenge. The turnout for the NEC elections was 5 percent.

“We have to look outwards and build the fightback at the base, that’s what really matters.”

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