Many questions are being asked in Unison about the failure of the union to be able to organise meaningful strike action over pay in Health and Local Government in 2023. Both those sectors are two of the largest sectoral bargaining units of the British working class and Unison is the largest union in both of them (around 500,000 in Health and 350,000 in Local Government), so the unions failure to get over the threshold in most workplaces is a disaster for its industrial strategy.
The left has a slim majority on the NEC after this years votes, but the executive is having to deal with decades of the union being hollowed out by its ‘service model’ that prioritised cheap dental insurance over class struggle politics. Now in a year where many unions took industrial action UNISON was lagging behind, unable to get its troops onto the battlefield.
Lambeth, one of the two(!) local government branches that got over the 50% threshold for taking action (the other was Knowsley) tried to coordinate a branch-based meeting to discuss the pay strikes and how to ensure we can deliver serious action in our members interests. Sadly interference from regional officers meant that the meeting couldn’t go ahead. The branch is reportedly appealing this and calling on the NEC to take steps to ensure branch democracy can be respected.
Unison is at a crossroads now, can it continue in its new course to become a union that can coordinate serious action over pay or any other issues affecting our members, or will it collapse back into an organisation that prevents action and persecutes militants who are just trying to be good trade unionists.