Unison battle heats up

Submitted by AWL on 23 November, 2021 - 5:08 Author: Katy Dollar
Unison demonstrators

On 2 November the left narrowly won the Labour Link National Committee elections in the public services union Unison. With union President Paul Holmes suspended, we expected a dead heat in votes between left and right at the first Labour Link Committee meeting on 16 November.

In fact, the right narrowly won all contested votes, because the Labour Party had expelled (for links to Socialist Appeal) Lilly Boulby, who was elected to the Labour Link Committee from the union’s National Executive (NEC).

The right won Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee, and the casting vote where votes are tied. They will now hold these positions for two years, unless a two-thirds majority removes them. The left have a majority on the Unison NEC and should be able to replace Lily with another left NEC member. Paul should be no longer suspended by the next Labour Link committee meeting. So the left should soon have a one-vote majority unless there is further disciplinary action taken by Labour or Unison to the benefit of the right and its masters, Unison’s unelected officials.

The right in Unison is crowdfunding. A gofundme has been set up in the name A Voice For Members which at the time of writing has raised £2772. The fundraising initiative states: “Unison democracy is under attack. We are raising funds for our campaign to save our democracy and give Unison members a voice. #fightbackforUnison.”

Public donors include initiator and former Unison president Maureen Le Marinel; Wendy Nichols, who lost her Unison NEC seat but still sits on the Labour NEC from Unison; and Keith Vaz.

Also on 16 Nov, Unison’s Industrial Action Committee (a subgroup of the NEC) met. Unison’s left NEC have made their first big achievement in transforming the union. Strike pay in Unison will be raised from £25 to £50 and will be paid from day one of action instead of day four. The Action Committee also agreed to review the Industrial Action Handbook which lays out procedure for industrial action, in order to prevent current blocks and delays on balloting members for strike action. The improvement in strike pay will make action in small disputes, especially those involving low paid members, easier to achieve and easier to win.

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