I have today received my certificate and badge as an honorary life member of UNISON. Diligent readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Blogger) may recollect my having been awarded this honour at the close of last year's National Delegate Conference. There is, of course, however, many a slip twixt cup and lip, so it has taken a few months for the matter to be finalised.
I won't repeat the thanks I gave in June when originally notified of the decision of UNISON's lay leadership to grant my honorary life membership, although I remain very grateful to my comrades on the UNISON NEC, and also to the UNISON officials who helped to make this happen.
Bearing in mind that I have been living with prostate cancer since 2018, and with advanced cancer since 2020, it is handy to have been able to get the honorary life membership in whilst I still have some life in which to enjoy it!
According to the certificate this honour has been awarded in recognition of “outstanding service to the union”. As an extremely modest person, I could not have put it better myself. There will, however, be some who might take a different view, given that I devoted years to being troublesome at every level of the organisation.
Given that the whole purpose of a trade union is to organise and mobilise those of us who have, individually, less power so that our collective strength can answer those who have power over us, troublemakers are inevitably the sort of people most likely to provide “outstanding service to the union”.
I expressed here recently my regret that UNISON in local government is not yet part of the strike wave which represents a reasonable response to the refusal of the Tory Government to consider pay rises which will protect the standard of living of our members.
It will take some time (some years) to transform UNISON into the fighting trade union which can take its rightful place at the leadership of a combative working-class movement. However, over the past 18 months, a majority of members of the UNISON NEC have been starting the work which needs to be done to achieve this objective (in the teeth of virulent opposition from the supporters of UNISON's Ancien Regime).
Since my honorary life membership will (obviously) only last as long as my life, I won't be in UNISON to see the better future for the trade union for which so many, myself included, fought for so long. That future is far from being assured, and if UNISON is to become the organisation needed by our members, and the wider working-class, then activists need to mobilise now to nominate and campaign for candidates in the forthcoming UNISON NEC elections standing under the banner of "Time For Real Change”.
The internal struggle for democracy and accountable leadership within our trade unions is not a diversion from the struggle to respond to the cost of living crisis, it is an essential part of that struggle.
Take it from an honorary life member…