Socialist Alternative

"Pickets at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital during the second 4 hour pay strike" by Roger Blackwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

UNISON National Delegate Conference: Senior officials in our union must be elected!

From 14 to 17 June, UNISON’s National Delegate Conference is taking place in Brighton. Socialist Alternative members in UNISON – an over-one million-strong public sector union, will be participating from the conference floor stressing the need to build a fighting, democratic and militant member-led union to fight the cost of living crisis. 

Come to the Socialist Alternative open meeting! 

7pm Thursday 16 June, Lecture Room at Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, BN1 1AF

Socialist Alternative welcomes the commitment shown by the NEC in trying to give UNISON members, through their elected Conference delegates, the opportunity to decide whether senior officers of the union should be elected. 

UNISON members are struggling like never before. Capitalism is a system in decline and the consequences are falling on the working class and poor.

This is shown in many ways, including the disproportionate impact of the pandemic, the destruction of the natural environment and of course, the cost-of-living crisis.

And who do members rely on to lead the campaigns, disputes and negotiations that should offer us some hope? Yes, we do have some elected leaders, but NEC and SGE members have their own day jobs to do, just like us.

With the exception of the General Secretary, those who are engaged daily in representing us at a national level are not elected by us. 

Our pay negotiations are carried out by people who not only earn significantly more than the average UNISON member, but who we have no power to hold to account.

Day to day decisions on the direction of staff or financial resources, which have huge implications on whether branches are sufficiently supported are taken by senior officers, who do not have to answer to the members of those branches.

This needs to change. Those making decisions that impact on the very fabric of our lives, should be accountable to us. 

Therefore, it is truly shocking that the Standing Orders Committee has ruled out of order motions put forward by the NEC – and some branches – to debate whether such senior officers should be elected. 

We cannot stand for this. This is a member-led union and we should be allowed to debate the issues that matter to us. Nothing matters more than union democracy because without that, it is not our union. And as UNISON members we insist that this is our union! 

So we call upon delegates to make their views known on this denial of democracy. And whatever happens this week, we call on members and activists to continue to push for the election of senior officers.

Because, one day, when they are elected, we might just see officers think twice before making a decision to abandon disputes, or deny support, if they know that those they are letting down, have the power to replace them.