Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Monday, June 08, 2015

Four things that the UNISON NEC election results tell us

First, that we had 1.24 million full members at the point that the extract for the ballot was taken from the membership system. This corresponds pretty closely to the 1.25 million members in our last submission to the Certification Officer. Our membership is holding up in spite of a tsunami of public sector job losses.

Secondly, that our members are not heavily engaged in our democracy. The turnout in the election for the Black Members’ seats (for which the constituency is the whole union) was a paltry 5.5%. In the Regions the turnout varied between 4.8% in Wales and 6.6% in the South West (where incumbent Mike Hines defeated his opponent Berny Parkes by just three votes after a recount). In the Service Group constituencies turnout varied from 4.7% in Health to 8.5% in Higher Education.

Thirdly, incumbency is an asset in trade union elections. 45 of the members of the previous NEC were on the ballot paper to return to office and faced a contest – of these 38 were re-elected (myself included). However, incumbents are not invulnerable to a campaigning challenge – and two of the defeated incumbents were Chairs of Strategic Committees of the NEC.

Fourthly, there are more left-wingers on the newly elected NEC. This offers an opportunity for a more inclusive approach to leadership at a national level if the Presidential team and the General Secretary (whom we shall elect (or re-elect?) later this year) wish to reach out. If you want to know whether this opportunity will be taken, well, check back here soon I suppose.

In the mean time, congratulations to all those who were elected and commiserations to those who tried and failed. The trade union movement in general – and UNISON in particular – face an unprecedented challenge from the most rightwing Government since the universal franchise. The 65 members of the UNISON NEC which will take office on 19 June are, for good or ill, the leadership we now have.

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