Tuesday, May 15, 2007

UNISON and GMB set the Leadership agenda

It was good to see today’s Morning Star reporting the outcome of yesterday’s groundbreaking joint meeting of UNISON and GMB which set out the trade union agenda for the forthcoming Labour Party elections.

Following the meeting Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, and Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB, issued the following joint statement“The two unions, who between us represent almost 35% of the trade union vote in the electoral college, have agreed to co-ordinate the activities of both our unions around the election.“Both unions will also make nominations/ recommendations to our Labour Party affiliated members who will have a vote in this election."Both unions will now draw up a list of issues that we will use to assess candidates covering privatisation, equal pay, employment rights, the NHS, public service workers pay and pensions.“Both unions will push for a new direction to enable the Labour Party to reconnect with the electorate to ensure that it can win a fourth successive general election victory.”

Looking at the trade union issues identified by the General Secretary it is clear that Gordon Brown is not a candidate to be supported. He is pro-privatisation, has failed to lift a finger to fund filling the gender pay gap, has refused to back the Trade Union Freedom Bill, is all for pressing ahead with so-called “reform” of the health service and is the guiding force between the 2% pay norm which threatens the living standards of all our members! His only challenger – John McDonnell – supports the position of the trade unions on all these questions.

This is an issue which matters to all trade unionists – particularly in the public services, because the policies of the Government of the day – which this contest can influence – largely determine the terms and conditions of our employment. We also aspire to influence for the wide range of progressive policy objectives agreed, by the representatives of all our members, at our Annual Conference.

If we want to pursue our agenda with vigour and determination we need to ensure that there is a contest for the one position with real power – the Leader of the Party. Today’s Guardian calls on Labour MPs to nominate John McDonnell to ensure that grassroots Labour Party and trade union members have a choice of who to vote for.

If the trade unions are serious about our policy agenda – and I believe we are – then we have to say the same thing to MPs over the next 48 hours.

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