UNISON’s national executive council (NEC) today voted overwhelmingly to nominate Dave Prentis in the upcoming general secretary election.
The decision was made on the opening day of the nomination period (2 September to 9 October) during which branches and other bodies can make a nomination.
Any ballot would be held in November and the result announced in December.
After the decision, Mr Prentis led a major discussion of the implications of the government’s proposed Trade Union Bill, describing it as “a ferocious attack that shifts the balance of power from workers to employers”.
He outlined UNISON’s formal response to the bill and the wide ranging action plan to mobilise the union to campaign against the bill, engage with members and prepare for the future in a strategy to “defeat, disrupt or dilute” the measures proposed. It was agreed that the strategy would be widely circulated.
“This government is trying to inflict a fatal wound on trade unions, and so on UNISON. We need to ensure they cannot succeed. It will take every one of us, working together as one united union,” he said.
The union needed to mount a major political campaign, working closely with the TUC and other civil society groups to mobilise our members to make our opposition visible and defeat the bill, he said. The TUC demonstration in Manchester on 4 October and the mass lobby of Parliament on 2 November will be the first opportunities to show our strength.
But the union also needs to prepare for the implementation of the bill’s provisions around changing how members are able to pay their subscriptions and removing the facility for employers to deduct contributions direct from pay, he made clear.
This would involve the union in a massive campaign to switch over current members’ payment methods. UNISON is already planning to employ some 200 additional “membership organisers” who can support branches and regions in this process.
“We will campaign politically,” said Mr Prentis. “We will support the TUC. We will build alliances. We will look at legal action. And while we do all of that, we will prepare the union to face whatever challenges come.
“It is an unprecedented challenge, but I believe we can lead our members through it together and emerge a stronger union.”
The NEC also heard that:
- Recruitment levels were lower than last year and the number of leavers rising, leading to an overall net loss of members.
The NEC agreed that recruitment needed to be a continuing priority for the union during a period of continuing job losses and proposed changes to the payment of union subscriptions under the Trade Union Bill.
- UNISON had lost the court of appeal case against the government’s changes to the funding of employment tribunals. The NEC agreed to support an appeal to the Supreme Court.
- The NEC sent a message of support to Max Watson, a member of the committee, who is currently being supported by UNISON in an appeal against redundancy.
- The NEC sent messages of support to striking parking attendants in nearby Camden branch; to Northern Power Grid members taking a second day of strike action and to members in Centrica who face up to 6000 job losses.