It's time for The Big Vote. Look out for your pack, take your pick, pop it in the post.

The big vote: General secretary election 2020

On this page you can find out everything you need to know about the big vote to elect the next general secretary of UNISON.

What’s it all about?

The general secretary election is your chance to vote to elect the most senior person in the union. Being a member, or retired member, of UNISON entitles you to a vote if you were a member on 28 July 2020.

Who is the general secretary?

The general secretary is the leader of our union and represents you and the other 1.3 million members of UNISON in meetings with politicians across the UK, in discussions with employers and when working with other trade unions. They speak up for you and are the public face of your union, in the press, on TV and on social media

Dave Prentis, the union’s current general secretary retires at the end of 2020 after 20 years in the job. The law – and UNISON’s rule book – says we have to elect our general secretary every five years.

Why should I vote?

This is your chance to have a say in who leads the union and who represents all our members.  The election only comes around every five years so use your vote and make sure your voice is heard.

How do I vote?

The ballot opens on 28 October so please look out for your ballot paper, which will be sent by post to your home address.

This pack contains everything you need to cast your vote – a ballot paper, information from the candidates and a pre-paid envelope to post your completed ballot back (no stamp needed). So, look out for your pack, pick your preferred candidate and pop your ballot paper in the post.

The ballot is being run on our behalf by an independent organisation called Civica Election Services (CES).

Make sure you post your completed ballot in plenty of time to CES by 5pm on November 27. It will be freepost, so don’t worry about a stamp.

Your election pack will include the ballot paper, and the pre-paid return envelope. There will also be information about the candidates who are standing to be general secretary.

If anything is missing from your election pack, or you lose your ballot paper please call our ballot helpline free on 0800 0 857 857 or on textphone 0800 0 967 968. The helpline opens on 10 November and closes on 20 November.

Who are the candidates in this election?

The following have been confirmed as candidates in the election to choose a new general secretary for UNISON. Their names are listed below in the order they will appear on the ballot paper and in the election address booklet.

Paul Holmes

Nominated by one service group executive, two regional councils and 99 branches.

Christina McAnea

Nominated by the national executive council (NEC), five service group executives, nine regional councils and 210 branches.

Roger McKenzie

Nominated by one service group executive, one regional council and 104 branches.

Hugo Pierre

Nominated by 31 branches.

More about the election timings and procedures

A Q&A on the election for Activists


General secretary election 2020

  • Can I vote online?

    No. This is a postal ballot because that’s how the law says we must do it.

  • What do I do if I’ve lost my ballot paper?

    If you’ve lost your ballot paper, or if you didn’t get one in the post, you can call our ballot helpline free on 0800 0 857 857. The helpline opens on 10 November and closes on 20 November, which is the last date you can request a replacement ballot paper.

  • What happens if I’ve moved house and you’ve got my old address?

    You should call our ballot helpline on 0800 0 857 857 which is open 10-20 November.

  • When do I need to post my ballot paper to make sure it is counted?

    Completed ballot papers need to be returned by 5pm on Friday 27 November, so make sure you post it in good time to be back by then.

  • How do I find out more about what the candidates stand for?

    Look out for your ballot pack. This contains an election statement from each candidate.

  • What happens if we are back in full lockdown? Will I still be able to vote?

    The election will continue and the closing date will remain the same. If you are going in to work as a key public service worker, then you can post your ballot paper on your way to or from work.  If you are working from home and are going out for fresh air every day, you can use that opportunity to pop your ballot paper into the post box.

  • Why are we having this election now in the middle of a pandemic?

    Dave Prentis, the union’s current general secretary, is retiring at the end of 2020 after 20 years in the job. The law – and UNISON’s rule book – says we have to elect our general secretary every five years (regardless of COVID) so it’s happening now.

  • Who gets a vote in this election?

    Full and retired members of UNISON are eligible to vote in this election as long as they were members on 28 July 2020. Honorary members are not eligible to vote.