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A new leader for Unison

By our Unison correspondent

Ballots are open for Unison members to vote for a new General Secretary for their union between 28th October until 27th November, with the result due to be announced on 11th January next year. The outgoing General Secretary, Dave Prentis, has been in the role for 20 years, so the election will see a new head of Britain’s largest trade union for the first time since 2000.

Prentis has increasingly come to be identified with the right wing block in the labour movement, both within the TUC and in the affiliated trade unions’ role within the Labour Party. Unison was the first major union to announce support for Keir Starmer to replace Jeremy Corbyn and it subsequently employed some of the former Labour staff named in the leaked report on the party’s handling of anti-semitism claims.

The left will hope to change the situation in Unison but, not for the first time, is split between three competing candidates, while the Unison right have united around a single candidate.

Assistant General Secretary, Christina McAnea, originally from Scotland, has received nominations from 212 branches, 9 regions, 5 service groups and, after a controversial last minute change to the voting procedure, from Unison’s NEC. Her nominations are almost twice as many as the combined nominations of her three rivals for the post. She is widely seen as the candidate most favoured by the outgoing General Secretary and will be hard to beat.

The left in Unison managed to find three different candidates to stand for the post, but, in a trade union composed 80% of women members, they are standing three men.

Roger McKenzie, from West Midlands, is also an Assistant General Secretary and is the most senior black official in the union. He is seen as the candidate of the softer wing of the Unison left. He won nominations from 113 branches, 1 region and 1 service group. He has also received the support of Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott.

Paul Holmes, from Yorkshire, is supported by much of the organised left within the union, grouped around Unison Action Broad Left. He won nominations from 102 branches, 2 regions and 1 service group. It may be significant that he has won support from the local government service group, the largest section in the union. He has also been endorsed by John McDonnell.

Hugo Pierre, from London, is standing as a Socialist Party member. Without the name recognition of Roger Bannister, who regularly stood for General Secretary, Pierre’s candidacy is unlikely to achieve much except take votes from other left wingers in a stronger position to challenge the dominant right wing in the union. He won 31 branch nominations.

All three of the more leftist candidates have spoken of the desirability for one ‘change’ candidate to contest the election against Christina McAnea. But, as Briefing goes to press, no agreement among the left has been possible and so McAnea remains favourite to win the ‘first past the post’ election to lead Unison’s 1.3 million members.

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