Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1069/30101

From The Socialist newspaper, 15 January 2020

Labour leadership race: Reverse Unison's undemocratic nomination of Blairite Starmer

Unison pay strike, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson

Unison pay strike, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Public service union Unison, the largest trade union in the UK, announced it was nominating Keir Starmer for Labour leader on 8 January. There is widespread outrage in the union's ranks.

We say the union's ruling body, the national executive committee (NEC), must be recalled to review the decision. Hugo Pierre, a member of the Socialist Party and the Unison NEC, spoke to the Socialist (in a personal capacity).

How has Unison endorsed Starmer, an opponent of Corbyn's anti-austerity platform?

I think you have to contrast the decision making that took place in 2015 and 2016, where the union decided to back Jeremy Corbyn. There was a month-long process of consultation throughout the union.

At one point, 20,000 members took part in deciding who Unison should support. Corbyn, with his anti-austerity programme, really hit a nerve with ordinary Unison members, and therefore became the Unison nominee.

This time round, the decision wasn't taken by 20,000 members, but purely by the members on the national Labour link committee.

There's a maximum of 24 members that could be involved, 12 from the NEC and 12 from the regions.

It seems that four committee members did propose there should be a wide consultation. There's a consultation mechanism already in place; they wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. But they were voted down.

So those few people could decide exactly who they wanted between them. If that had happened in 2015, probably right-winger Andy Burnham would have been nominated, to the mass disquiet of loads of members around the country. And the decision this time is causing a major uproar in our union.

The candidates haven't even fully developed what their programme is. I don't know how the decision for Keir Starmer was taken by the Labour link committee - on what points of principle. And I think on the NEC we won't find out.

We weren't consulted by any of the 12 people we send from the NEC onto the Labour link committee. Even we've been blocked out on the NEC!

This decision affects the whole membership of Unison, and the wider trade union movement. Why was it not put before the NEC?

Unison has a different relationship with the Labour Party than most other unions which are affiliated to it: not every Unison member is affiliated. Because of that, there is a delegation of decisions around policy and leadership to the Labour link committee.

But notwithstanding any criticisms of that, any decisions should still be democratic. By that I mean not just the people showing up in the room and putting their hands up, but making sure it's accountable to the hundreds of thousands of Unison members who pay, through their subscriptions, affiliation fees to the Labour Party.

This decision hasn't done that. It flies in the face of democracy. It should be reversed, and a proper, accountable decision made. We have got time.

This is a union of 1.4 million members. I would say that for candidates to win our vote, they should be coming to us. We should be able to ask them questions. We should be able to understand what direction they want to take the Labour Party in before we make a decision.

What would be relevant to the ordinary Unison member is what the individual's stance is on things like council cuts, on things like defending the NHS, because healthcare and local government are the two main areas Unison organises.

Also, I think many members would want to know whether they were going to repeal the anti-trade union legislation, which is used to restrict our ability to fight. Where they stand on issues like low pay, which is endemic in our union. On issues like job cuts.

In 2015 and 2016, it was widely agreed - even the general secretary [right-winger Dave Prentis] reluctantly agreed - that Jeremy Corbyn had actively backed most, if not all, of our union policies.

What should the union do now?

I think the national executive committee should hold an emergency meeting. We should ask the candidates to come in. I think the whole executive needs to hear from them. Then our 12 NEC Labour link members should cast their vote based on what we've decided as affiliated members on the NEC.

The regional Labour link representatives should also hold widespread consultation among the affiliated members in their regions, so the regions are giving a steer to the reps they send to the Labour link committee on who to vote for. At least we can be confident then that a decision's been made that we can get around.

Some of us still may not agree with the decision, and then we have to campaign politically. But that's a different scenario to what we've been presented now; what I believe is an entirely undemocratic vote.

You're a local government union rep in Camden, Keir Starmer's constituency. What's your view of how he's helped council workers fight the cuts?

It's almost as if Jeremy Corbyn hadn't been the leader. I think one of the main reasons Jeremy didn't win in 2019 is because working-class areas have had services decimated by Labour councils.

At the moment there's a proposal for the council to cut four nurseries in the borough. But that's been the music of the past ten years.

And to my recollection, since Keir Starmer became an MP in 2015, he's not come to back any of the campaigns against cuts to services. He's not once said to the council, look, we need to change direction, we shouldn't be making cuts.

If councillors refused to make cuts, they could lead mass opposition to what the Tories have been doing, and campaign to win the needed money back. This is a question for everybody standing for Labour leadership - whether it's Keir Starmer or Rebecca Long-Bailey.

And I worry that we won't put pressure on Keir Starmer. I wasn't there, but I've seen some of the photos that were in the press. When Keir got the nomination, he was invited into Unison HQ and wined and dined.

We've got a serious job to do as a union. It's not wining and dining politicians, it's putting them on the spot. Where do you stand as far as our members' jobs, terms and conditions, and the service we provide go?

We shouldn't be providing a free lunch for anybody. We should be drawing up a list of our demands, and making sure that those are their demands.

I'm appealing to ordinary Unison members, and those with positions as well. We've got to look at a way of making sure our union is more democratic - and to push back on what has happened around this nomination.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 15 January 2020:


What we think

Labour Party leadership contest: Fight for a mass anti-austerity, workers' party with a socialist programme

Labour leadership race: Reverse Unison's undemocratic nomination of Blairite Starmer


News

Low Pay, Long Hours. Bosses rip us off. Organise the fightback now!

Build for strikes to save NHS

No free ride for the airline bosses - nationalise Flybe now!

Them & Us


Workplace news

Hackney school bus workers win pay increase following strikes

PCS: Time to rebuild the left

Northern Ireland: Thousands of nurses continue to strike for better pay

Westex Carpet strike reaches two month mark

London bus drivers ballot to strike

Union lawyer arrested on security guards' picket line


Campaigns

We need socialists in London's City Hall

Stop gentrification in Newham: "We are here, you have consulted us and we're not going anywhere!"

Massive Scottish independence demo marks new stage in struggle

Young people who voted for Corbyn's manifesto will now ask... How can we win those ideas?

London: Protesters return to oppose Middle East war

Cladding scandal: Government steps up defence of landlords

Nottingham: Youth protest against Barclays 64 million fossil-fuel investments

Socialist Party national committee meeting


International socialist news and analysis

Renewed protests shake Iranian leaders

France: Strike wave over pensions - Macron government in retreat


Readers' opinion

Sustainable food production and the need for socialism

TV Review: Apocalypse Cow

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 15 January 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Unison:

triangleUnison national executive members challenge validity of nomination for Keir Starmer for leader of the Labour Party

triangleCouncil concedes to striking winter gritters' demands

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleHelp fund the fightback: sponsor my marathon

triangleCarmarthenshire union demands no-cuts budget

Labour leadership:

triangleLabour Party leadership contest: Fight for a mass anti-austerity, workers' party with a socialist programme

triangleLabour leadership election

triangleAttacks show elite fear a Corbyn election win

triangleTories in tatters: Corbyn must seize the time

Labour:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleYoung people who voted for Corbyn's manifesto will now ask... How can we win those ideas?

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Blairite:

triangleTony Blair launches manifesto to sabotage a Corbyn government

triangleNo retreats: Corbyn must stand firm against Blairites

Union:

triangleUnion lawyer arrested on security guards' picket line

Cuts:

triangleIgnore the hype - austerity goes on: organise to resist

Labour Party:

triangleNottingham Socialist Party: The Labour Party - can it be won for socialism?

Jeremy Corbyn:

triangleTories out! Corbyn in with anti-austerity and socialist policies

Dave Prentis:

triangleCentral task is to force general election and elect Corbyn-led Labour government on socialist policies

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

15/1/20

Unison

Reverse Unison's undemocratic nomination of Blairite Starmer

15/1/20

NHS

Build for strikes to save NHS

15/1/20

Labour leadership

Labour Party leadership contest: Fight for a mass anti-austerity, workers' party with a socialist programme

15/1/20

Nationalisation

No free ride for the airline bosses - nationalise Flybe now!

15/1/20

Them & Us

Them & Us

15/1/20

Minimum wage

Low Pay, Long Hours. Bosses rip us off. Organise the fightback now!

8/1/20

Austerity

Ignore the hype - austerity goes on: organise to resist

8/1/20

Capitalism

Capitalism must go - fight for socialism

8/1/20

Minimum wage

Tory minimum wage hike not enough

8/1/20

Labour leadership

Labour leadership election

8/1/20

Brexit

Trouble ahead for Johnson: Brexit is far from 'done'

8/1/20

Middle East

Suleimani's assassination - Middle East thrown into turmoil

8/1/20

Shell

Shell pays 0 corporation tax, and plans huge hike in fossil output

8/1/20

Children

Children need intensive care? We don't care!

8/1/20

Rail

Northern Rail franchise in question: nationalise the railways!

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999