UNISON election: Roger McKenzie will provide strong labour movement leadership

By Andrew Berry

The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is demoralising and difficult. Not just because one of the most decent and principled anti-racists in British politics is having his legacy trashed, or because the struggle against antisemitism is being cheapened by factional Labour politics. But because it represents a serious attempt to marginalise the left as a whole, and undo the advances we have made toward winning the argument for social and economic justice in the last five years. And we cannot take that lying down.

The Labour Party is important. But to those debating whether to stay in the Party or not – I would remind them what the Labour Party is for. It was founded as the voice of organised working class people in Parliament, as the voice of trade unions.

Whoever the leader of the party is, and whatever the composition of the party is, that doesn’t change. Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, has demonstrated what an effective voice can do – see his demand that Jeremy’s suspension is lifted. Let’s for a minute imagine that instead of being absent from the field and silent once more, UNISON – the UK’s biggest union – had a voice that was equally as loud: a voice that stands up for members and against injustice.

Roger’s statement on Jeremy’s suspension is much needed and stands as a stark contrast to the silence of UNISON and current General Secretary Dave Prentis – and so I would urge people who have committed so much time to the Labour Party to recognise that our workplaces and our unions are a place to build socialism all year round, not only at the ballot box.

With no general election for years, our workplaces are also the only effective place we have to stand up to this Tory government. We have to address and expose the injustices exposed by the pandemic, the catastrophic failures of dodgy private contractors and stripped-down public services, and the attempts to make workers pay – with their jobs, their conditions, and their health – for the crisis.

Roger McKenzie is the candidate that will provide strong labour movement leadership, of the kind that can empower workers and organise communities, as well as using the influence of unions in the Labour Party to fight for socialist, trade unionist candidates who reflect the diversity of our movement.

In UNISON, Britain’s biggest public service union, with over a million members, we have a chance this month to realise that vision – a vision that our union would be at the forefront of the fight for a better society.

Roger McKenzie is a lifelong socialist, backed by Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Jon Trickett, Kate Osamor and many labour left wing legends.

Roger is a lifelong trade unionist who gets things done, from winning his first strike against a racist boss as a teenager to helping thousands of health workers win a 17% pay rise as UNISON’s assistant general secretary.

His election would decisively change the balance of power towards the left and enable us to start the fightback against the Tories’ Covid crisis in earnest. He is the change candidate with a chance of winning. It would be the biggest shakeup the labour movement has seen in years, unleashing the power of public service workers.

This is a difficult time for socialists, and it is often difficult to feel hopeful. But it is also an urgent time for the millions of us facing hardship and recession across the country, and so not a time for the left to give up hope.

Roger seeks to change that – as he made clear last week. No longer would UNISON be absent from the narrative (see here), refusing to sign the joint union and Labour letter. Instead UNISON would be at the helm, leading the charge for better, safer workplaces and a better society.

Put simply: join a union and fight to change your workplace. And if you’re a public service worker in UNISON and a socialist, vote Roger McKenzie this month.

The UNISON General Secretary Ballot is open now and ends on 27th November.

Andrew Berry is a member of Islington North CLP and UNISON.

Image: UNISON trade union head office. Source: FlickrUNISON. Author: secretlondon123, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.