Tuesday, November 17, 2015
UNISON has been failing for the past five years - it is time for a change
Much is made, by supporters of incumbent UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, of his experience and track record as reasons he should be supported. Their arguments are generally fairly light on evidence however.
How should we judge the effectiveness of trade union leadership? How should we measure it? One obvious measure, frequently employed within the movement is to look at our success in recruiting and retaining members. An official source for membership data is provided by the annual returns made to the Certification Officer.
In the latest published annual return, for 2014, we report 1,254,250 members “contributing to the General Fund” (i.e. paying subscriptions). This compares with 1,327,500 five years before in 2009. That is a decline of 73,250 (5.5%) over the third term of our current General Secretary.
Of course this disappointing decline is proportionately much less than the catastrophic collapse in public sector employment over the same period – but there are two ways to view that. On the one hand it is a testament to the vigour of our recruitment efforts – but on the other hand it is a painful reminder of our failure to protect jobs.
Employment in our largest sector, local government, has declined from 2,905,000 in the second quarter of 2010 to 2,270,000 five years later (the latest available figures). That loss of 635,000 jobs arguably represents one of the most catastrophic failures in the history of UK trade unionism, contributing not only to the misery of unemployment but to the intolerable pressure upon the remaining workforce.
It’s not just the local government workforce which has plummeted by more than 20% during the third term of our current General Secretary – as our pay claim for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland makes clear, the pay of remaining local government workers has also fallen by 20% in real terms since 2009.
UNISON’s record, over the most recent term of our incumbent General Secretary, is of a declining organisation failing to protect jobs or earnings in its largest sector. It is surely clear that, if our Union is to live up to its potential to protect the interests of our members and potential members, it is time for a change. That is why I have voted for John Burgess.