A strong union is our best defence

Final national executive council meeting of the year looks to the future

UNISON in large letters with public sector workers

Strengthening and building our union is the best defence for our members and our public services after the devastating election defeat, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis told the national executive council’s December meeting.

The scale of the defeat was “devastating for our union, devastating for our members and devastating for our public services,” he said. “But the answers to why we lost are complex and deserve proper consideration rather than just our own views.

“What we need to focus on now is how we strengthen the union to face the challenges we know we will now face.

“We did it in 2010 when we knew we faced austerity – that’s when we introduced fighting fund organisers and changed the way our industrial action fund worked.

“We will need to streamline to the issues where we will have to defend our members. We have to focus on what matters to our members. And above all else, we need to keep them with us.”

A re-invigorated Conservative government was likely to mean renewed attacks on trade unions, attacks on individual rights, and a continued risk of a no-deal Brexit, he warned. And the trade deals that will now be negotiated will risk opening up “all of our public services, not just the NHS” to competitive tender alongside international private companies.

So “today is not for sitting around theorising or casting blame – we need to be strong, as a party and as a union”.

The NEC also heard that the union’s recent Go for Growth campaign in November had been successful. Eleven regions and every service group but one was now in growth and UNISON is now both the biggest and the fastest growing, union.

“There’s one thing the Tories will hate most and that’s a successful, strong, growing union,” assistant general secretary Liz Snape said.

The NEC also heard that:

  • The Labour Link committee will meet to agree any nomination to the Labour Party leader and deputy positions.
  • The union is planning nationwide legal action and an organising campaign around term-time working in schools. The Services to Members committee has waived the four-week rule to encourage recruitment and legal action around this campaign.

They agreed:

  • The union’s budget for 2020
  • The draft union objectives for 2020
  • procedures for the 2020 service group executive elections
  • to send messages of support to all members taking strike action and congratulations to those who have successfully taken action in the recent period
  • to send a message of support to the RMT lobby.