UNISON’s National Executive Council elections open on 17 April. This will give members of the union the opportunity to have their say in the direction UNISON takes over the next two years.
In 2021, members voted for the first left-led NEC, under the banner of the Time for Real Change campaign, which Socialist Alternative supports and urges a full vote for in the elections. Since then, there have already been important steps forward, such as the doubling of strike pay which was the result of a fight led by Time for Real Change.
However we have a long way to go. We have had to wage a struggle against the union’s bureaucracy to implement changes aimed at forging a democratic, accountable and member-led union prepared to lead on bold industrial struggle. With the Tories ramping up their war on trans people and refugees, we need a UNISON that speaks out and organises as part of a united working class movement to fight against Conservative divide and rule policies – against racism, against transphobia, sexism and misogyny and all forms of oppression. We strongly urge support for motions at the forthcoming National Delegate Conference on the fight to defend trans people.
Socialist Alternative members are fighting for a militant, democratic and campaigning UNISON. We need:
- All senior officials to be elected, not appointed
- Coordinated industrial action with our sister unions to fight the cost of living crisis. No more acceptance of below-inflation pay offers!
- A stepping up of the union’s fight against the Tories’ use of section 35 against the Scottish people – to defend democratic rights and oppose Tory racism and transphobia
- UNISON should publicly back and mobilise for protests against the destruction of our climate
- With UNISON member Jeremy Corbyn being barred from standing for Labour in the next general election, and Starmer promising to continue Tory policies, we need an organised discussion across our union and wider movement about the future of working class political organisation. The UNISON reps on Labour NEC who abstained on Corbyn’s suspension must be held to account!
- To aid in the transformation of UNISON we need to continue to build Time for Real Change at all levels of the union, in every region, branch, and workplace
- We argue for the union to adopt a programme of not just nationalisation of the utilities, but also bringing the banks and financial institutions into public ownership, under democratic workers control and management. We need an economy that can be planned in the interests of working class people and the climate – and to do that we need to break with this profit driven system and fight for a socialist future.
We urge you to vote for Time for Real Change candidates in this election, and other left wingers standing for the Reserved Seats. But if you agree with our vision for UNISON we also encourage you to join Socialist Alternative!
Why Socialist Alternative members are standing for UNISON’s NEC
Tom Barker, East Midlands Regional Seat (Male)
I represent mostly low paid workers in a special educational needs school in Leicester. I have the same job as the majority of those I represent: a teaching assistant. This is a role which I have worked in for the past 7 years. Unfortunately, because of this, I don’t know what it is like to work in an education system that is not broken.
Like all public services, education has been under attack for a long time. Cuts and privatisations (or ‘academisations’) carried out under successive capitalist governments – Tory and Labour – have led to declining conditions for staff and students. This has been compounded by the experience of the last three years, with all the extra concerns around covid. Education support workers are underpaid and overworked. We are exhausted, but we are ready to fight.
Currently I am working with members, parents, students and other trade unionists in leading a campaign to defend the residential department at my school, which is under threat of having its funding removed by the Local Authority. Members in my workplace are also now being balloted for industrial action for a £3000 pay rise after we revealed that pay had been held down below that of comparable settings.
We need a leadership that is able to raise members’ aspirations of what is possible when we act together and which is willing to wage an uncompromising fight against the ruling class. That is what I and other Socialist Alternative members, standing under the banner of Time For Real Change, will bring to the NEC.
We need a general strike to bring down the Tories and to prepare the ground for the battle against an incoming Blairite Labour government. To do this, we will need to win UNISON, the largest trade union in the country which organises across multiple sectors, to bold socialist ideas.
Kevin Corran, Health Service Group (Male)
I am standing in the Health Sector (Male Seat), with the aim of broadening the reach of socialist policies in our union.
I work in the NHS as a mental health support worker. The most pressing issues for my colleagues at work is a decent pay rise and a shorter working week. Many of my colleagues work six days a week, to deal with the low pay, but also in response to the chronic short staffing in the NHS. With over 135,000 vacancies in the NHS, all ‘key workers’ are feeling the pressure and stress to keep services functioning.
The cost of living crisis is not going away. Tory politicians can try and spin a message to tell us that the economy is improving, but every trip to the supermarket, every time we open a utility bill, pay the rent or mortgage or buy a tank of fuel, proves they are lying. These ‘bread and butter’ issues cannot be ignored. They are forcing more NHS workers to look at taking strike action over pay.
The Tory government has again offered a below inflation pay offer to the NHS, as they have consistently done for over 10 years, which in real terms is another pay cut. We need a leadership in UNISON that can lead a determined, militant and co-ordinated action on pay for the NHS. It will be by taking strike action that we can win the pay that we deserve. And it will not be the ‘behind closed doors deals’ that are all too frequent in the trade union movement, that win the vital struggles that are needed to deal with the cost of living crisis!
The Tory government are continuing their brutal decade of austerity attacks on working class communities. The ongoing strike wave is the first signs of the working class pushing the trade union movement into action. But we need a union leadership that has the political perspective, conviction and courage to win the victories against this rotten government.
David Jones, Local Government Service Group (Male)
Since 2010, local government pay has lost 25% of its value. This is a result of Tory austerity policies targeting the public sector. But it is also a failure of UNISON to provide a lead to members in defence of pay, jobs and services. We have failed to deliver national industrial action on pay.
This election offers a choice between those, who have had control in UNISON for much of its life, and offer a servicing, individualistic insurance type UNISON. And those who want an organising, campaigning UNISON, which can use its collective weight as the biggest trade union to advance the interest of our members.
Branches across the country, including mine in Wirral, have shown what is possible by a bold approach. We can win notable successes. But to do that we must change the structures of our union. To be a genuinely member-led union, ultimate control must lie with the lay representatives, rather than employed officers. Senior positions such as Assistant General Secretaries should be accountable and elected by the membership. Currently, we are prevented from even discussing which roles are elected, with motions to this years National Delegate Conference once again ruled out of order!
This election is the most important election in the history of UNISON. It will govern the future direction of the union. As a socialist, I am standing as part of the broad Time for Real Change slate, and recognise that collectively we can drive change in UNISON to build a member-led, organising union that delivers results.