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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 February 2010

Unison general secretary election: Fighting leadership needed!

Nominate Roger Bannister

Unison Local Government strike 16-17 July in London, photo Paul Mattsson

Unison Local Government strike 16-17 July in London, photo Paul Mattsson

Whoever wins the general election, members of Britain's largest public sector union Unison, like all other public service workers, are in for a hard time. All three capitalist parties have declared their intention to make the working class pay for the financial crisis through attacks on jobs, pay, pensions and public services.

Roger Bannister, photo Paul Mattsson

Roger Bannister, photo Paul Mattsson

Roger Bannister, with over 33 years of trade union experience and activity, is standing for general secretary of Unison. If elected he will lead Unison members, along with other public sector workers to fight against these attacks.

The union's leadership has to date failed to use the union's full strength to maximum effect. In fact it has signed disastrous deals, such as the Single Status Agreement, instead of fighting for decent pay. Now thousands of Unison members, mainly women, face pay cuts in the name of equal pay!

Read Roger Bannister's blog at

Roger has an outstanding record of supporting workers in struggle. In 2001 he led a strike of 1,500 council workers, successfully defending the 35-hour week, in Knowsley, where he is Unison branch secretary.

Dave Prentis, the incumbent, announced his intention to stand for re-election last month. Under current rules he could continue without election up to his retirement, so his decision to stand has been greeted as "brave" by his right-wing sycophants on the national executive committee (NEC).

Shrewder judges should take this view with a large pinch of salt however, given that the union usually approves the election procedures in October, and makes a nomination in December. This delay until January in announcing his intention more likely reflects a period of uncertainty and argument within the right-wing camp between pro- and anti-Prentis forces, the latter being further divided into pro and anti-election cliques.

Roger is a NEC member for Unison's North West region. He has fought several general secretary campaigns in Unison, and its precursor union Nalgo, getting over 41,000 votes (see box) last time. He regularly tops the poll in North West NEC ballots, proving that Unison members in the region do not endorse the policies of its right-wing dominated regional structures.

A clear call to disaffiliate Unison from the Labour Party will be a key feature of Roger's election manifesto. Unison's 'Labour Link' organisation operates like a union within the union, and has a great deal of influence, despite the fact that only one third of the members support it. What is worse is that to hold office in it you have to be a member of the Labour Party, so the majority of Unison members are disenfranchised, and it is run by a tiny clique.

More importantly, the millions of pounds of members' money that the union gives to the Labour Party have not modified Labour's anti-public service, anti-trade union policies. Unison members have been forced to strike to defend their pensions, pay and jobs under a Labour government. Local government workers now face a 0% pay rise!

It is time the union was led by someone who can represent the vast majority of Unison members, not someone who is beholden to ties with the Labour Party.

Derek James

Roger Bannister's record

Result in 2005

Dave Prentis 184,769 (76%).
Roger Bannister 41,406 (17%).
Jon Rogers (United Left) candidate 18,306 (7.48%).

Turnout 16.6% (membership entitled to vote 1,476,488).

Result in 2000

Roger Bannister (CFDU candidate) 71,021 (31.65%).
Dave Prentis 125,584 (55.9%).
Malkiat Bilku (a London hospital striker) 27,785 (12.3%).

Turnout 16.5%.

In 1995 Roger won 58,052 votes (18.2%) on a higher turnout of 22%.

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In The Socialist 10 February 2010:

Fight university cuts

Unison general secretary election

Fighting leadership needed in Unison - Nominate Roger Bannister for general secretary

Greenwich Unison backs victimised branch secretary

Socialist Party news and analysis

Preying on the living and dead

Waltham Forest: Campaigners score a victory

Fiddling MPs: Jail the whole lot of them!

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Socialist Women: Fighting for equality through socialism

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Civil service strike ballot: Vote 'yes' for action

Boycotting the 2010 SATS in schools

Coventry youth workers' strike

Metaldyne workers strike

Stoke: Axiom workers in overtime ban

Saving jobs and services in Worcestershire

Workplace news in brief

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

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TUSC: Wellingborough socialists make a stand

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International socialist news and analysis

Northern Ireland: An agreement to cement division

Sri Lanka President Rajapakse removes his rival, Fonseka

Tamil Solidarity -: Successful northern conference

Unison witchhunt

Trotskyism on trial

War and occupation

Armed forces: Release Lance-Corporal Joe Glenton

Trade union rights for service personnel


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