The Struggle in Unison

Christina McAnea, the right-wing candidate – 63,900 (47.7%)
Paul Holmes,  the official left candidate– 45,220 (33.76%)
Roger McKenzie , the centrist candidate– 14,450 (10.79%)
Hugo Pierre, the Socialist Party candidate – 10,382 (7.75%)

McAnea, the right-wing candidate, won the election to replace Dave Prentis. This election in reality has shown the decline in the strength of the right wing in the union. The right’s vote percentage has been falling steadily at each recent election. Dave Prentis got 77% of the vote in 2005; 67% in 2010; and 49.4% of the vote in 2015. The votes for the left, the ultra left and the centrist not so left wing of the union bureaucracy was over 70,000, compared to 63,900 votes for the right wing – a big increase in numbers and percentage points on previous elections. 

This marks a clear change of the balance of forces since the last election in 2015 when the results were Roger Bannister, the Socialist Party candidate – 16,853 (12.6%), John Burgess, the official left candidate – 15,573 (11.6%), Heather Wakefield, the centrist candidate – 35,433 (26.4%)Dave Prentis, the right-wing candidate – 66,155 (49.4%) showing the decline of the right wing but the even more rapid decline of the centrist and “left” bureaucrats whose vote, like the ultra left Socialist Party’s vote share, has been halved, whilst the left’s vote has tripled.

While this result is very encouraging for the left, the key factor in this election that allowed the right to retain control of the union general secretaryship was the low 9% turnout rather than the split vote. 

While the new right General Secretary offers no new policies, Unison members face continued attacks in local authorities and the NHS with the increased privatisation and austerity under the cover of the covid pandemic, as well as the shambolic outsourcing of PPE vital to the safety of union members in hospitals, care homes, and other workplaces.

The lesson must be learned for the upcoming 2021 NEC elections, where members will have the opportunity to put in place a fighting, national, lay leadership, who can put forward the combative programme that is needed now, renationalising the outsourced sectors and taking up the fight against the Tory public sector pay freeze.

The effects of Tory austerity and privatisation are beginning to be  revealed as the Covid pandemic continues, Tory policy has allowed 100,000 unfilled NHS vacancies to build up and over stretching the remaining staff has led directly to  a current situation where 15% of NHS staff are off work with issues related to COVID and exhausted workers face redundancies, cuts to their terms and conditions as well as fire-and-rehire tactics by employers.

This election has shown that there is the beginning of  a build up of anger and frustration from many members at the retreats and passivity of the union leadership in the face of Tory government attacks. Many members understand that the union must change, it must meet the challenge that accelerated  Tory austerity and privatisation is creating. New layers of working-class union representatives will come forward to meet the challenge, who will lead and win disputes and begin the process of transforming the union to successfully fight the battles that  inevitably lay ahead.


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The Struggle 16th January 20