Unison: We need to show Starmer’s Labour we’re prepared to fight

April Ashley, Unison NEC member, Black members’ rep, personal capacity

At the Unison National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting taking place on the day the general election was called, general secretary Christina McAnea told us that “a vote for parties other than Labour is a vote for the Tories”, and that the choice was between Labour and the Tories.

Just a week later, she had to come out and defend Diane Abbott as an inspiration, trailblazer, and “celebrated by Unison members” when she had been seemingly barred from standing for Labour in the general election.

It now seems Keir Starmer has backed down and Abbott will be standing for Labour in Hackney and Stoke Newington. This followed outrage in the local community with hundreds of people demonstrating outside Hackney Town Hall, crying “we stand with Diane”.

Starmer clearly fears any opposition to his leadership and to show big business that their profits are safe with the Labour Party.

At the NEC meeting, Christina said ‘we want a Labour government to deliver’ and believes, correctly, that Unison can influence and put pressure on a Labour government.

She, incorrectly, told us that the ‘New Deal for Working People’ had not been watered down and that Unison wouldn’t accept a watering down. She blamed stories of Labour backtracking on “Conservative-supporting media spinning stories about the New Deal just before the 2 May elections.” However, two days later, the watered-down plan was published.

The NEC meeting also discussed the crisis in local government funding, and how Unison will need to put pressure on an incoming Labour government to fully fund local government. The Birmingham council funding crisis alone could lead to hundreds of job losses and the decimation of services.

The meeting also heard about the very poor local government pay offer, which the National Joint Council (the body which brings together local government trade unions to negotiate with employers nationally) is recommending members to reject.

It is clear that Unison will need to do more than just talk to the Labour Party. We have to show that members are willing to take action, including coordinated industrial action, on local government funding and pay in order for a new Labour government to meet our demands. We must not take our foot of the pedal. We need to prepare now for industrial action on pay and funding cuts.