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Unison activists meet to discuss their union's elections
Unison activists met in Manchester today to discuss developments in their union and the upcoming NEC elections. Also on the agenda was a debate around a single left candidate for the next General Secretary election. The meeting was called under the banner 'Reclaim the Union'.
Overall the meeting was positive. The first half heard speaker after speaker from regions report that a united left NEC slate had been agreed by consensus.
Unfortunately this method was not followed in the discussion on the General Secretary election.
The issue of a single left General Secretary candidate has been a contentious issue among the left in Unison. Socialist Party members believe that this year's elections are particularly important given the massive attacks faced by workers in local government and the NHS and the inept response by the leadership of the union.
A genuinely unified slate of candidates standing on a left, fighting programme would be an important step forward in the struggle to provide a fighting leadership of the union.
In the past three General Secretary elections Socialist Party member Roger Bannister has been the leading left candidate, consistently receiving the most votes of the challengers to Dave Prentis. This was despite the fact that others on the left chose to run a candidate against Roger on all three occasions. For example, at the last General Secretary election in 2010 Roger Bannister received 42,651 votes to Paul Holmes's 28,114.
There have also been divisions between others on the left, most noticeably the split of United Left last year.
In this context the existence of 'Reclaim the Union' as a banner that different left forces within the union could unite around at election time has been a positive development. Reclaim the Union has fielded a united slate of left candidates at National Executive and Service Group Executive elections since 2009.
A crucial ingredient in Reclaim the Union's success in bringing together an often fractured left has been the consensus method of reaching decisions. Rather than one faction or the other using weight of numbers to decide differences in a particular meeting, decisions have been reached only after all interested parties have reached agreement.
Unfortunately at today's meeting comrades grouped around the SWP and Max Watson have chosen to move away from the consensus method.
The Socialist Party has always made clear that decisions within Reclaim the Union can only be reached through consensus. Decisions taken on the basis of which faction could mobilise the most people on a particular day is not the way forward for building a cohesive left force in the union.
At the start of the meeting we made it clear we did not accept a non-consensus method and for that reason we did not participate in the vote that took place regarding a General Secretary election candidate. In the vote Karen Reissmann beat Paul Holmes, the vast majority of her votes coming from SWP members.
Karen Reissmann therefore cannot be considered as the candidate of Reclaim the Union.
Based on profile in the union and past votes we believe that Roger Bannister is still the best left challenger to the bureaucracy in the future General Secretary election.
Socialist Party members in Unison
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 17 January 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.