Striking health workers reading the Socialist on the picket line. Photo: John GIllman
Striking health workers reading the Socialist on the picket line. Photo: John GIllman

Socialist Party members in Unison

The elections to Unison’s Service Group Executives (SGEs) are an opportunity to vote for a fighting lay leadership in big parts of the public sector, including the NHS, councils, schools and community.

Unison has a vital role in these areas and should be providing a lead to its members and all workers in these sectors. There’s never been so important a time for this, as our members have struggled against the relentless Tory cost-of-living squeeze that has devastated workers’ living standards, at the same time as vicious Tory cuts have escalated, slashing jobs and services.

But the last two years have shown that workers are prepared to fight. The strike wave has seen the highest level of action for over 30 years. And Unison members have shown their determination to struggle for the pay rises that we need when they have been given the opportunity. Our members in parts of the NHS, such as the ambulance service, and in individual councils, have taken action. But the Unison leadership at national level hasn’t been up to the task.

There wasn’t a serious national campaign to win industrial action ballots on pay in both the NHS and local government, so that our members could join other public sector workers on the picket lines. But Unison members are no different to those of other unions. We need a leadership which can match the determination of our reps and members.

And this also means having a political strategy that supports Unison members and the whole of the working class. A general election is looming and we all want to see the back of the Tories, who have wrecked our NHS, local government, schools and the rest of public services.

But Starmer’s New Labour is not the real political alternative that we need. He has refused to support our strikes, his election manifesto is full of retreats and U-turns, he’s backed up Sunak over Gaza, and his Labour councils have passed on brutal Tory cuts.

Socialist Party members have long fought for Unison and the rest of the unions to build a political vehicle for workers on a socialist programme that ends privatisation and instead transforms our public services, and the living standards of workers. Standing candidates in elections is a step towards that; there is nothing that stops our members, in an individual capacity, standing and supporting anti-austerity, anti-war candidates.

The Socialist Party is part of the fight to transform Unison into a fighting left union. In the 2021 NEC elections, the right wing was pushed back after decades of dominating the union. But to strengthen the position of the left and thereby give the leadership needed by members, a fighting programme is needed and a real strategy for action.

Keeping Socialist Party members on the Health, Local Government and Community SGEs is essential for this.

The following Socialist Party members are standing for election in the Unison service group elections:

Helen Couchman

Local Government:
Mathew John, Angie Waller

Steve Bell, Adrian O’Malley