Monday, April 22, 2013

The choice before UNISON members

As I've mentioned before, I am seeking re-election to UNISON's National Executive Council, alongside a wide and diverse range of socialist comrades.
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With four exceptions (who have been elected unopposed) we candidates of the left face opponents who, in many cases, would seek to describe themselves as being on the left (or perhaps "the Centre-left"). And, in a sense, they are.

Most UNISON activists are on the left politically when you consider where the centre of political gravity has shifted to over the past generation.

None of the candidates in the NEC elections support austerity or the Coalition Government!

The choice before UNISON members is not a choice about Government policy - but a choice about trade union practice. The choice is about what we want and expect our trade union to do.

Our opponents are, generally, those who can be relied upon, when push comes to shove, to support the leadership of the Union more or less uncritically. The left of which I am a part, however, is a critical, questioning and challenging left, which is - I think - what UNISON needs.

In the two years since the last NEC elections, the most important event was, without doubt, the strike of 30 November 2011. This showed the strengths and weaknesses of UNISON more clearly than any other event in the twenty year existence of the Union.

Our strength was demonstrated in the three month period beginning some ten weeks before the strike, when the General Secretary announced the strike plan to the TUC. We saw the extent of mobilisation which was possible with determined leadership and unity. We also saw rapid growth.

From mid December 2011 however, we saw the grave weakness of UNISON, as we slowly abandoned that strength to strike a series of more or less unsatisfactory deals sector by sector. The dispiriting impact of this clumsy failure has impeded our attempts, up to now, to break the pay freeze.

The choice in these NEC elections is a choice between those who think that we did fine in the pensions dispute and are willing to put a gloss on the conduct of our leadership at the time, and those of us prepared to tell the awkward truth - that we should have fought harder and could have done better.

The more of the candidates of the genuine left who are elected to the UNISON NEC, the stronger will be the critical challenge in future, and the better our Union will perform to defend our interests.

If you are a UNISON activist, please do all you can to maximise the vote for the candidates standing to reclaim our union.


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