As we approach close of nominations (25 September) in the election for a new general secretary for the big public services union Unison, Paul Holmes’ campaign is picking up momentum. He has reached the threshold to make it onto the ballot paper, with far more than the 25 branch nominations required.
He has also been nominated by the Local Government Service Group, the largest service group in the Union. This is the first time a rank and file candidate has got the nomination of the Service Group. The two unelected Assistant General Secretaries, Roger McKenzie and Christina McAnea, have both got the required nominations.
The Socialist Party’s Hugo Pierre has announced the support of thirteen branches and may not make it to the threshold.
Paul Holmes’ campaign has been holding virtual meetings based on Regions and Service Groups of the union. His campaign provides the possibility for activists to link up and build an organisation which goes beyond the narrow confines of Unison Action, which has thus far been only a precarious electoral alliance.
Paul’s campaign has the best programme, far to the left of the bureaucracy candidates. Hugo Pierre is a respectworthy rank-and-file activist, but the Socialist Party are running a sectarian campaign with little rank and file perspective.
The programme produced by the Holmes campaign in August will need to be developed as part of the campaign. The Service Group meetings could feed in proposals for demands and industrial strategy in each sector.
His nomination letter calls for:
• General Secretary on a worker’s wage.
• Unified pay claims across sectors with a minimum wage of £15 per hour
• An anti-austerity campaign for decent jobs and pay, proper training and affordable homes for all
• Fight racism, sexism, and all discrimination
• A green agenda for Unison, including an audit of the use of company cars by the union and the promotion of green travel
• A racism audit of Unison, taking inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement, and so the allegations at the heart of the Labour Leaks scandal can be dealt with
• A leadership school with real investment so we can bring on a new generation of leaders
• Selling Unison’s two “prestige” office buildings in central London and re-investing the proceeds into branches and organising, and a new more functional HQ in the Midlands with good transport links
• 50% of members’ subscriptions income going to the branches
• A fully-funded, massive plan of action, driven by the branches, to improve collective bargaining rights in the community/private sectors. This will replace the current system where our members in these sectors are often hard to service by branches who themselves are under pressure with not enough resources
• A clear dividing line between elected officials and employed staff. This can best be implemented by an elected lay General Secretary and the election of Assistant General Secretaries and Regional Secretaries.
Paul Holmes is currently suspended from his employer and the union, reportedly for different allegations. Several activists have been suspended from Kirklees branch and as yet they have not received the charges from Unison. We know Unison has suspended key activists and shut down branches in a witch-hunt against militants or left-wingers.
We know even in Labour Councils, employers victimise trade unionists through disciplinary processes. We are not privy to details of either investigation, and all allegations should be investigated fully and fairly.