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.

1 comment:

Nimo Warobi said...

I agree, however the decline could be due to the huge cuts in the public sector.

I also think people stopped believing in the union as it lost interest in grassroots issues. As a former rep I believe if you strengthen the grassroots and deal with their issues in the public sector it would go along way in the recruitment drive. The regional reps in my opinion are overstretched and cannot deal with every employer and there was need for more particularly during the cuts leaving people disillusioned.

I say this particularly as work based bullying and harassment escalated and very few of no grievances are upheld even when the facts are right in front of employers. Protections for BAME and disabled people have to fight for their rights. The loss of experienced reps.

It's time Unison rethought the voluntary system and have work based reps and invest even in specialised reps.

I still love UNISON and remain a member but the union itself has to change and be transparent.