General secretary reiterates need for branches to be ‘strike ready’

Christina McAnea also tells NEC meeting that the spectacle of the Tory Party leadership candidates trying to ‘out-tough’ each other is ‘unedifying’

Front of the UNISON group on the TUC demo June 2022

General secretary Christina McAnea reiterated the need for UNISON branches to be “strike ready” when she addressed today’s meeting of the union’s national executive council (NEC).

Rearranged from last week, after being postponed due to the heat emergency, this was the first meeting of the council after June’s national delegate conference (NDC) and was chaired by the new president, Andrea Egan.

Ms McAnea looked back to conference and to the TUC demo in London that came at the end of the union’s week in Brighton (pictured).

It had been a big ask, she said, coming as it did the day after NDC closed. Yet, “as ever, UNISON was the biggest grouping”, she noted.

Since NDC, where she had spoken of “the dying days of an out-of-touch government”, she had been watching the imploding of the Conservative Party, and the race among leadership candidates “to go as far right as possible”.

Of the final two candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, they were “both trying to out-tough each other” with “ludicrous” promises. Describing the spectacle as “unedifying”, Ms McAnea said that she had “called for a general election”.

After outlining the situation across service groups in terms of ongoing disputes and pay campaigns, the general secretary offered “huge congratulations to our UNISON communications team who have just won two TUC comms awards.”

In terms of upcoming work, Ms McAnea reported that there would be a national lobby of Parliament, and a rally in Westminster on 19 October as part of campaigning around the cost of living crisis.

That would also involve coordinated local campaign activity in constituencies across the country on the same day, town hall meetings and rallies, media activity and policy interventions ahead of the autumn budget.

The meeting also heard of the successful legal case that UNISON had taken to see long COVID classed as a disability, and it was stressed that the union should promote this more to branches and activists, to help them tackle employers who are refusing to treat it as such.

The meeting also applauded UNISON’s involvement in the recent Supreme Court case on holiday pay for term-time workers, and offered “congratulations to our superb legal department”.

There was a lengthy discussion of balloting and the use of phone banking in building turnout to ensure votes succeed in passing thresholds.

The council heard that UNISON is looking at ways of making phone banking easier and better, as well as exploring peer-to-peer texting.

The meeting also:

  • agreed a message of solidarity to Barnet workers who are in dispute;
  • heard about the work the union is doing around the government’s Rwanda deportation scheme;
  • agreed to hold a seminar on the cost of living crisis;
  • gave thanks to assistant general secretary Stephanie Thomas, who is retiring later this summer;
  • discussed the problems faced by low mileage rates, hearing that the union is doing lots of work in the background, including targeting some Conservative MPs on the subject, and has also issued new guidance on the subject.