England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

UNISON: Intensification of internal struggles

By Socialist Alternative members in UNISON

The tensions between the left group, Time For Real Change (TFRC), and the General Secretary and bureaucracy have been intensifying, as the UNISON establishment comes under pressure from major political developments and movements.

These political developments – including the mass campaigns calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, the cost
of living crisis, a likely General Election this year, culture wars attacks on the trans community, and local campaigns against cuts and privatisation in public services – all have exposed the right-wing elements
in UNISON, who have tried to row back from the more progressive union policies in an attempt to placate the Labour Party leadership.

This pressure is exposing the true nature of the UNISON right wing and its differences with rank-and-file activists and the membership. The genocidal attacks on Gaza have repulsed and angered the majority of UNISON members, but the left-led NEC have had to push and cajole the right-wing leadership to release statements condemning the attacks and calling for a ceasefire. The General Secretary has not spoken at one of the mass demonstrations and rallies in support of a ceasefire, even when she has been asked to. It has been the Presidential Team, which is made up of TFRC supporters, that have put forward speakers.

Who controls our union?

The tensions are rooted in different political perspectives on how a trade union should operate. On one side we have a right-wing leadership and unelected officers that want the union to focus on servicing individual union members, similar to an insurance policy. TFRC supporters, on the other hand, are committed to changing the union, so every level of its structure is democratic, based on a fighting approach, and focused on militant action to defend and advance the interests of the membership.

The attacks on Gaza have mobilised millions of people across the country, with the ruling class left exposed as their support for the Israeli state attacks have shown their true character. The Labour Party has proved once again that they are on the side of big business, imperialism and the warmongers.

The left in UNISON know that a Starmer- led Labour government will not solve any of the pressing issues for working-class communities. We need to have all senior officers elected, so that the members define our union. A left-wing General Secretary could help continue the change in UNISON into a member-led organisation, committed to our policies and rooted in working-class communities.

Socialist Alternative supports all steps to democratise our unions and put rank-and-file members in control. This needs to be combined with a militant leadership and a clear strategy to win real victories, as part of the struggle to transform our unions into fighting organisations of the working class. That is what our members are fighting for as part of TFRC, in our branches and on the National Executive Council.

Visit www.socialistalternativeinunison.com for more updates and information!

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