Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/378/4257
UNISON general secretary election:
Vote Roger Bannister
For a union that fights pay and pension cuts
UNISON MEMBERS deserve a better choice in this election than which Labour Party member becomes general secretary". So Socialist Party and UNISON national exec (NEC) member, Roger Bannister explained why he is standing for UNISON general secretary, at the north-west region's election meeting.
Hugh Caffrey Manchester Socialist Party
The New Labour government are relentless in their attacks on the public sector. With privatisation, pay cuts and attacks on pensions coming from the same party that their union still funds to the hilt - UNISON members have had enough.
Pay cuts due to the Single Status 'agreement' are leading to disputes up and down the country; 'Remodelling', or teaching on the cheap, provoked teaching assistants to strike in Brighton late last year. 'Agenda for Change' in the NHS promises more of the same.
Members want to know how to defeat these attacks, stop witch-hunts against Left activists, and develop a strategy to build the Left in the union. They don't want a leadership that continues to stitch up dodgy deals with Blair's New Labour.
Blairite candidate, Dave Prentis, didn't even bother to show up to the meeting but members did get a chance to contrast Roger Bannister - Socialist Party member - and United Left candidate and Labour Party member, Jon Rogers.
Both Prentis and Rogers support the Labour link - continuing to give members' money to a party that attacks public-sector workers.
Roger Bannister, on the other hand, offers a clear programme to fight privatisation, cuts and attacks on pensions. As a beginning, Roger is calling for a one-day, public-sector strike, a call which has been reinforced by the resounding consultative ballot of UNISON local government workers.
Roger highlighted his own record as a leader of local struggles in Knowsley - for example winning the 35-hour week for local government workers. Roger has also consistently defended members, such as Bolton UNISON members, from witch-hunts, both under previous general secretary Bickerstaffe as well as current leader Prentis.
Roger contrasted the present Left leadership of the PCS - of which the Socialist Party is a significant component - with the passive, bureaucratic UNISON executive. UNISON needs a real rank-and-file organisation to help defend workers, pressurise the leadership and the union officials, and win a Left-led national executive.
UNISON's current leadership is too close to New Labour - for public-sector workers that means too close to the bosses. Roger Bannister will, if elected, campaign for an end to UNISON funding of New Labour, and ballot the membership on whether to break the link with this party of privatisation and big business - both Prentis and Rogers support the Labour link.
Workers need a new party that will represent their interests and Roger will campaign for UNISON and other trade unions to form a new workers' party that will defend public services and fight privatisation.
This election is an opportunity for UNISON members to get their union out of New Labour's wallet and into a serious struggle against pension cuts, pay cuts and privatisation.
If you want to get involved in the campaign to elect a fighting, democratic general secretary of UNISON, contact Glenn Kelly (campaign organiser), 37 Linale House, Murray Grove, London N1 7QH.
In The Socialist 29 January 2005: