Saturday, May 27, 2017
How the UNISON NEC election results demonstrate the need for change in our trade union
Having occasionally got into hot water for criticising employees of my own trade union, I think it only right to commend those UNISON staff who are ensuring that anyone who requests the detailed breakdown of the voting in the elections to our National Executive gets them immediately.
That’s not to say that they make encouraging reading generally (albeit I may not be unhappy about their political ramifications in our trade union).
The first thing to be unhappy about is what the results tell us about our membership. The total number of ballot papers issued in the seats for which all full members can vote was 1,188,980. This means that our full membership at the cut-off date for this election had fallen by a further 67,000 from the figure declared to the Certification Officer on 31 December 2015.
This suggests an acceleration in the membership decline which UNISON has been experiencing since 2010 – about which supporters of the current leadership are in an embarrassingly obvious state of denial. It does our members no good to deny reality – and the reality is that UNISON is in decline. It is not a catastrophic decline, such as would threaten the vital material interests of those who depend upon the assets of our trade union, but it is a decline nonetheless.
Our declining trade union is experiencing declining member engagement from our reduced number of members. In the seats for which all members may vote the turnout is a miserable 4.62%. This is a fall from 5.5% two years ago. The downward trajectory in turnout in UNISON elections in recent years is a further indication that our trade union is failing our members.
This underlines the need for change in our trade union. Since the results of the election mean that the Union’s complacent leadership can no longer be confident of commanding the unquestioning obedience of a majority such change becomes a possibility.
With both our membership and membership participation in decline I would say that change is a necessity. I hope that denizens of the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road are paying attention.