Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/476/2127
UNISON national executive elections
Build genuine opposition on the left
ONE OF the most important elections for a long time is due to take place in UNISON. The whole of the national executive council (NEC) is up for re-election.
The election is taking place at a time of almost unprecedented attacks on the public sector by New Labour, through privatisation and job and service cuts. UNISON is by far the biggest union in the public sector and therefore has a responsibility to lead the fight against these attacks.
Yet the leadership of UNISON has acted in a cowardly fashion in the face of the attacks. Their many members in local government and the NHS have looked to the union to defend their wages and conditions, yet they have seen retreat after retreat by the union leadership in the face of this onslaught.
In the NHS the union has refused to give any national lead over the attacks on jobs and services, despite the many local demonstrations against them.
In local government the attack on pensions has not been met with a determined strategy to defeat it. Instead the leadership, whilst in words are saying that they are still fighting for a better deal, in practice will probably say to the special delegate conference on 6 March: "This is the best deal you're going to get".
This is despite the fact that, unlike the rest of the public sector, there is less protection for anyone under 47 who is a member of the existing pension scheme. Under the current scheme, members can retire at 60 with full pension rights if they qualify. This right is being removed under the new scheme. As a result, anyone who leaves at 60 will lose up to one third of their pension.
One of the biggest attacks on workers' rights is in local government. The single status grading and job evaluation agreement is in complete crisis. Many council workers are losing thousands of pounds as a result of it. Strikes have taken place in council after council when the workers find out they are losers under single status small print.
But the national UNISON leadership, who promoted the scheme in the face of opposition from the left, (particularly Socialist Party members in the union) are more concerned with the threat from 'no win no fee' lawyers. They are taking the unions and the employers to court as an indirect result of the single status deal.
What links all these issues is the close relationship the union leaders have with the Labour Party and the Labour government. Socialist Party members who are standing in these elections say: "It's time to break the link with the Labour Party. Why pay a penny to those who attack us day after day?"
The leadership's bankruptcy in the face of these attacks cannot just be accepted, that is why Socialist Party members will be standing for election to the NEC. Along with the other lefts elected, they will constitute a genuine left opposition to the present leadership.
The following Socialist Party members are standing:
Jean Thorpe (East Midlands seat), Raph Parkinson (national additional member's seat), Len Hockey (national health service group seat), Glenn Kelly (national local government male seat), Roger Bannister (North West seat), Dave Auger (West Midlands seat). Other lefts will be standing and we will have a complete list closer to the election date.
In The Socialist 1 March 2007:
Socialist Party news and analysis
War and terrorism
Socialist Party congress
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis