Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/367/6024
UNISON general secretary election
For A Fighting Leadership
THE GENERAL secretary election in public sector union UNISON has started. Socialist Party member Roger Bannister is standing as: "A fighting general secretary on a worker's wage". Roger spoke to the socialist this week about why he is standing.
"I'm standing because there's a need for radical change at the top of the union. The existing leadership is far too cautious and reluctant to lead UNISON members into struggle to defend their jobs, pay and conditions of service.
They are far too closely allied to the Labour Party and they often promote the Labour Party above all other considerations within the union.
I think the members should have the opportunity to vote for a fighting leadership that doesn't tie itself to the coat tails of New Labour.
The main issues facing UNISON members at the moment were identified by Tony Blair last week. He said that if he wins the election his next term would be based on further 'modernisation' of public services. 'Modernisation' is a code word in New Labour speak for privatisation.
So we have the trade union leaders talking about a radical third term whilst the prime minister indicates what that third term will be like - more privatisation and more destruction of public services. That's the biggest concern I believe for UNISON members at the moment.
Pay and conditions
Pay and conditions of service are other important issues. In local government the disastrous single status agreement is giving rise now to unofficial strikes up and down the country, as hundreds and thousands of workers face downgrading as a result of job evaluation exercises.
UNISON's health service leadership are recommending Agenda for Change to the members. If that goes through because members believe what their leaders say, that it will be good for them, then what we've seen in local government will be repeated in the health service, as members suffer pay cuts and frozen pay because of the job evaluation exercises.
At the moment, the leadership is doing nothing about these issues. They get headlines in the media about taking low-paid workers' cases to court and winning them equal pay but no headlines about fighting the downgrading of thousands of workers' jobs.
I think it's disappointing that the Left are divided in this election. One of the main reasons the Socialist Party withdrew from the United Left organisation in UNISON was because it was attempting to straddle the divide between anti-Labour Party and pro-Labour Party factions within it.
The fact that it's put John Rogers up as a candidate - one of the most clearly identified pro-Labour Party members in the United Left, shows how correct we were.
On the issue of the Labour Party, he will be saying virtually the same things as the right-wing establishment candidate Dave Prentis.
If members want to register a vote against the Labour Party or want to be balloted about continued affiliation, I'm the only candidate offering that alternative.
I got over 31% in the last election, 71,000 votes. That was an increase on the previous time I fought the election.
We've also seen the election recently of the so-called 'awkward squad'. In other words, trade union members are looking for fighting leaders. All of that is encouraging."
All readers of the socialist and all socialists in UNISON should push for their branch to nominate Roger. Roger is secretary of Knowsley branch, his membership number is: 1318436.
Roger's election programme would be based on:
- A general secretary on a worker's wage.
- Fighting policies to defend jobs and pay.
- End support for New Labour - disaffiliate now and use the political fund to support candidates whose policies are the best for UNISON members.
- End low pay, for a minimum wage of at least £8 per hour.
- Oppose privatisation in all its forms.
- Oppose the BNP and the racist right.
- Election of all UNISON officials.
In The Socialist 23 October 2004:
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party features
International socialist news and analysis