England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Building a fighting, democratic UNISON

By David Jones, member of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) for Local Government (writing in a personal capacity) 

This summer I was elected for the first time to UNISON’s NEC and Local Government Service Group Executive. As a Socialist and long-standing trade unionist, it is a privileged position to be in, but a privilege that comes with a great degree of responsibility.

I was elected standing on a Time for Real Change (TFRC) platform committed to increasing union democracy with a campaigning organising agenda. TFRC have started to make a real difference; I look forward to assisting the continuation and deepening of these positive developments.

A positive change that TFRC has implemented is the doubling of strike pay to £50, payable from day one of industrial action, giving confidence to challenge injustices in the workplace. While national ballots (council and schools workers) have struggled with meeting Tory thresholds, we are seeing an increasing number of significant localised disputes.

September saw Camden Traffic Wardens win a significant victory after 59 days of all out strikes. Workers at Ash Field Academy in Leicester renewed their strike mandate after six months of action, by a magnificent 89% (after winning significant concessions).

In Scotland, support staff in Further Education colleges have taken action to secure fair pay. Pickets have been vibrant and colourful (with the obligatory dogs). FE workers are some of the lowest paid in education, and this action is significant for the whole sector. And in Wirral, 500 clinical support workers became the first such workers in Britain to take strike action on pay. This dispute is important as the workers themselves are key participants in the negotiations.

There is still much to be done for UNISON to become genuinely member led, with resistance from those who prefer the servicing insurance type of trade unionism. However as the above shows, there are reasons to be confident as we move forward.


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