The fightback starts here – but there’s still a lot to do

National executive welcomes general election results and prepares for work ahead

The general election result “is the start of our fightback, but there’s a lot’s more to do,” general secretary Dave Prentis declared in his report to the union’s national executive council today.

And he pledged: “As the public service union, we’ll continue on the road we’re going down now.”

Mr Prentis said the election result – which saw Labour turn round a 20-point deficit in early opinion polls and gain seats to deny the Conservatives a majority – had dispelled three political myths.

These were that:

  • “young people are not interested in politics”;
  • “the people have have accepted austerity”;
  • “you can never win if you pitch to the left”.

He also told the meeting that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to UNISON to specifically thank the union for its work in delivering the election result.

The union’s communications strategy focused on talking to members and framing the election as being about public services, he said.

UNISON’s Public Services Champions campaign was already running when the election was called and featured adverts across 400 billboard sites, newspapers and on targeted social media.

And it was UNISON that was to the fore when the political conversation in response to terrorist attacks in Manchester and London turned to cuts in policing.

And when it came to getting the vote out on the issues, UNISON sent personalised emails to 250,000 Labour Link members and 750,000 members of the union overall.

The second one included a link that allowed members to email candidates in their constituency and ask them about public services and other key issues.

Earlier in the campaign, the union’s general political fund worked on expanding the electorate, Mr Prentis said, including producing 150,000 cards urging members to register to vote.

And “no other union did more than us to get the youth vote out,” he told the meeting, citing personalised emails to 41,000 young members and18,000 student members.

The NEC congratulated the UNISON members and employees elected to the new parliament, including former union president Eleanor Smith who won the Wolverhampton South West seat once held by Enoch Powell.

Other union members who have become MPs are: Preet Gill in Edgbaston; Karen Lee in Lincoln, Danielle Rowley in Midlothian; Tan Dhesi in Slough, Bambos Charalambous in Enfield Southgate and Mike Amesbury in Weaver Vale.

Mike Hill in Hartlepool and Alex Norris in Nottingham are both UNISON officers elected to Parliament, while retired officer Liz Twist succeeded former union president Dave Anderson as MP for Blaydon.

Mr Prentis also reported that, as well as writing to the union to thank it for its work in the election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn had made a point of thanking public service workers for the work they did in the aftermath of the Manchester and London attacks.

“Now we need people in government who recognise that work,” said the general secretary.

UNISON Northern Ireland statement on general election result and Conservative-DUP talks

The meeting also received a report on the latest recruitment figures, days after a TUC report that union membership overall has fallen.

But UNISON is bucking that trend, the NEC heard. So far this year, the union has recruited more than 66,000 new members for a net increase in membership of just over 3,000.

But the executive was not complacent, after hearing that despite the year-to-date figures, the last full month, May, saw a net reduction in members.

In its final meeting before next week’s national delegate conference in Brighton, the NEC also:

  • received updates on pay and other bargaining issues from across the union’s seven service groups;
  • noted the financial statements for 2016, which will go to conference for approval;
  • received a report on the draft order of business for conference;
  • agreed its policy on amendments, motions and rule amendments it had previously deferred and composite motions submitted to NDC;
  • agreed an update to the union’s complaints policy.