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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 September 2015

Nominate a fighting socialist for Unison general secretary

Interview with Unison general secretary candidate Roger Bannister

Rank and file socialist Roger Bannister is standing for general secretary of Unison, Britain's largest public sector union. Roger is secretary of Unison's Knowsley branch in Merseyside and has been on Unison's leading national executive committee since the union was formed. The Socialist interviewed Roger about his campaign.

Why are you running for general secretary of Unison?

Unison is in the doldrums. Members are getting hammered with job losses, job insecurity and cuts in services and Unison are doing very little about it.

That is one of the main reasons I am running for general secretary. The second largest union in Britain is punching well below its weight and we need to turn this around.

Some of our members wonder why they pay subscriptions to a union that achieves very little for them.

What should the response of Unison and the trade union movement be to the new anti-trade union laws?

The anti-trade union laws as proposed by the Tory government are the biggest threat the trade union movement has faced so far.

These proposals are way below the standards of international labour organisations. They involve attacks on facility time and attacks on a union's ability to collect subscriptions by deducting them directly from salaries.

The bill won't be defeated purely by demonstrations although they are important. These proposals are such a threat that the trade union movement should be prepared to organise industrial action against them, ideally co-ordinated by the Trade Union Congress itself.

It's important that a union as big as Unison takes a lead on this, otherwise our members will suffer accordingly.

Pay is a big issue for all Unison members, what would you do as general secretary to tackle it?

Pay is a major issue for all members and one of the main reasons they join and remain in trade unions. Recently, Unison has simply not been delivering the goods as far as pay is concerned. Most of our members are in the public sector and have been hit by government pay freezes.

Local government workers have suffered badly in the current pay settlement. We held a special conference to try and change this but the decisions taken there have not been implemented by the leadership of Unison. Other important section's like health workers and further education are in a similar situation.

We have to break away from this ritualised approach to one day strike action and then settling. If we don't get what we want after one day action we should use the sustained action called for in the ballot. And demonstrate the power of the union is sufficient to break down the resolve of the employers and deliver the goods.

Unison are affiliated to the Labour Party, what do you think of this and the leadership bid of Jeremy Corbyn?

I have opposed affiliation ever since the Labour Party shifted to the right and recently this approach has been called into question since the success of Jeremy Corbyn.

I believe that not a penny of Unison money should go to politicians that attack Unison and its members. I don't mind money going to left MPs like Jeremy Corbyn but I object to it going to people like Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham.

I sincerely hope Jeremy Corbyn is successful but he will have his work cut out to make the Labour Party a party worthy of that name.

His support among Labour councillors is quite small and he will have to deal with those entrenched right wingers who see no further than continuing to make Tory cuts.

As someone who works for a Labour council that is going over the heads of the trade union movement, making cuts and attacking Unison members, I still think that there is a question mark over Unison's relationship with the Labour Party.

What would a socialist like yourself do as general secretary and if elected, would you only take a worker's wage?

Socialism is a society based on the needs and aspirations of working people and not on the greed of a handful of rich people. Trade unions have an important role to play in this process.

A general secretary who is a socialist has to work out how to use unions to the maximum advantage of members and workers. I would be much closer to the rank and file of the union than the leadership now.

Many union leaders, in smart offices in London, behave more like captains of industry than workers' leaders. This has to be changed. That is why I would take only the average wage of a worker.

I think being a general secretary on a workers wage is the most important part of my campaign pledges. I have been an active trade unionist for 30 years and I've never gained a penny out of it and if elected I still won't. That's not what I'm in it for.

If you agree with Roger that Unison needs a fighting strategy to beat the cuts and win for members, we urge your branch to nominate Socialist Party member Roger Bannister. Nominations are now open. They close at 5pm on 9 October. Join the campaign at

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In The Socialist 9 September 2015:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Huge support for Corbyn: now build austerity fightback

Solidarity with refugees - Defend the right to asylum

125,000 renters abused by idle parasite landlords

Heartless Tories chop funds for life-extending cancer drugs

Tories allow bosses to keep exploiting workers at below the minimum wage

Them & Us

Bromyard Community Hospital victory

International socialist news and analysis

Cuba at a crossroads

International news in brief

Socialist Party features

How students can fight debt, cuts and sell-offs

Children suffer as the cuts deepen

Workplace news and analysis

Lobby the trade union leaders this Sunday!

Nominate a fighting socialist for Unison general secretary

Most important TUC Congress for decades

Pizza express tips victory

Buses fightback works in Sheffield

Great support for bus strike

Workplace news in brief

Fight against blacklisting in Liverpool

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Film Review: Stonewall

Why I joined the Socialist Party

"NHS saved my life"


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