Britain: Unison (public sector union) NEC elections

Left-right balance unchanged with gains for the Socialist Party

The Socialist Party doubled the size of its group on UNISON’s National Executive Council from three to six members in the recent elections. The Socialist Party stood in 8 seats and won 6. Roger Bannister, (North West), Glenn Kelly (Local Government) and Jean Thorpe, (East Midlands), will be joined by April Ashley, (Black Members), Vicky Perrin, (Yorkshire & Humberside), and Hannah Walter, (Northern). Glenn increased both his vote and his majority in the election; Roger increased his majority receiving more than twice the votes of his opponent, achieving the highest votes of any candidate in the Regional Seats; Jean was elected unopposed last time, but this year topped the poll in the Region’s Female Seats section.

Our newcomers also had strong showings, with all three of them topping their respective polls.

Unfortunately, despite good votes, two other Party members, Roger Davey, (Health) and Hugo Pierre, (Black Members), were not successful.

These results clearly demonstrate what little support there is amongst ordinary members for UNISON’s right wing’s witch-hunt of Socialist Party members and other lefts in the union.

Fudged position on Labour Party results in left losses

The Socialist Party fought these elections as part of “Reclaim the Union”, an alliance with the United Left group, and other lefts. However the Socialist Party gains were not reflected across the alliance, which saw a loss of seven positions, and a gain of three. The main reason for this is that the Socialist Party members made clear calls to disaffiliate from the Labour Party, an issue that was fudged by the Alliance as a whole in order to placate Labour Party members within it, and under the influence of the Socialist Workers Party, who still refuse to break with Labour.

Some of the losses for the left surprised many, including Karen Reissmann, (Health), who won her seat recently in a by-election that coincided with her campaign against victimisation, including dismissal, by the employer.

Right wing attempt to “steal” seat

One left loss actually follows an election victory for John McDermott in Yorkshire and Humberside. John was victimised and sacked by his employer, and despite becoming an agency worker, and subsequently obtaining permanent employment in the NHS, he was surprised to learn that the Returning Officer had been informed by UNISON’s bureaucracy that he had withdrawn from the election! This is now likely to lead to a legal challenge.

Once again these elections demonstrate that when ordinary UNISON members move, they are no respecters of place. A number of senior right wingers lost their positions including Annette Mansell-Green, (West Midlands), a TUC General Purposes Committee member and chair of the disciplinary panel currently overseeing the Defend the Four hearings and who recently astounded many on the NEC by informing them that UNISON had “world class negotiators”, and Norma Stephenson, (Northern), a former UNISON President who recently objected because left NEC members had written to the General Secretary expressing concern following reports of BNP influence in her Region!

Future

The left must now seriously examine why they failed to make gains on a general basis in these elections. As the recession deepens, and a General Election approaches with the possibility of left challenges to Labour, UNISON members facing job losses and pay cuts are in a weaker position with a leadership reluctant to fight, and wedded to the Labour Party. Socialist Party members on the NEC will set to the task of promoting the interests of ordinary rank and file members on the NEC, challenging the culture of timidity, challenging the massively expensive and useless Labour Link, and fighting the right wing’s vicious witch-hunt of the left.

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