Sunday, 16 June 2013

UNISON National Executive Council Elections 2013 - Health Results

We lost.

That’s the short of it. None of the socialist candidates for Health seats on the NEC were elected. This is a blow, but to be expected given the level of activism UNISON encourages of its membership, how the union is run and the low horizons and expectations this creates, and the level of participation by members in the unions limited democratic structures. I’d like to thank everyone who put in the hard work leafleting hospitals and other NHS services to get the vote out. We did alright, and there valid reasons beyond our control for the result. There is also a lot we can improve on to make sure we stand a chance of winning next time. More on that in another post. Now for some analysis of the result.


The turn out and number of votes cast is pretty interesting and tells us a lot about the level of participation UNISON encourages from its membership, and how disconnected they are from its leadership structures and the limited democratic accountability that allows.

According to the union’s figures, in the Health Service Group (the section of the NEC which can be elected by members working in the NHS) there are 437,086 eligible voters.

Of these, 20,883 voted.

That is 4.77% of the membership in UNISON’s health sector voted in their leadership elections.
This means 416,203 people did not cast a ballot.
Given the enormous attacks on the NHS, the reality of massive job losses, wholesale privatisation, 3 year pay freeze, down banding, and a thousand other issues, the low level of participation is shocking, but not actually surprising.

UNISON’s do nothing approach to fighting privatisation and cuts, its weak to non-existent opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill, the leaderships sell out and abandonment of the pensions dispute in 2011, its practice of operating largely as a service union limiting its activity to dispensing advice, insurance and offering representation, has left a membership atomised and depoliticised and either uninterested in who runs the union, or resigned to being unable to change it.

Coupled with regional officials who are happy to witch hunt, bully and generally make life hell for any activist members, whether they’re in the organised socialist movement or not, and this turn out is to be expected. This is the reality of a union where there is no credible organised opposition, and indicates that union members won’t spontaneously respond to attacks with resistance when their organisations do not facilitate this, and actively obstruct it in many cases.

Where there is no organised movement of the members able to offer a credible alternative strategy and methods of operating independently of the union's structures, apathy and demoralisation have free reign. NHS workers have been receiving a kicking for years from both Labour and Tory governments but the left’s failure to construct an organised opposition within and without the union in the last decade thanks to vicious witchhunts by the leadership and sectarian shortsightedness by socialist organisations means this is the situation we’re faced with. There are solutions to this, but I'll leave the detail for another post.

Branch nominations

Low participation is reflected in the number of nominations received by candidates from branches. UNISON has a little over 300 Health branches across the country. Having checked the list of nominations for each candidate the figures for total number of branches nominating candidates is as follows.

Socialist candidates’ nominations: 22 branches.
Right-wing candidates’ nominations: 47 branches.

So out of over 300 branches, only 69 branches –  little more than 20% - nominated candidates for election to the health leadership. It is bad enough that turn out is 4.7% among the membership, but when branch leaderships which make up the structure of the union and are ostensibly engaged in it, don’t bother to nominate a candidate in almost 80% of branches, that points to a much deeper malaise in the union’s democratic structures.

It points to branch leaderships either finding no one who represents their views standing in elections (a possibility), being uninterested in who runs the union (unlikely), disengaged on issues of national elections (a possibility), unwilling to risk antagonising the unions officialdom by backing left candidates (a strong possibility), or to those branches being little more than a shells, with membership but little or no activity. Whichever it is, its a damning result of the present culture within the union, and the overall strategy of the leadership which has produced such a disengaged and inactive membership. Unfortunately a disengaged and inactive membership is just what some officials seem to want as it makes it easier to justify their own inactivity in the face of the destruction of the NHS, and allows them to get away with sell outs and backroom deals which damage the living standards of their members and facilitate the government destroying the NHS.

A lot of work is going to have to go into changing this culture and transforming the situation inside the NHS from passivity into revolt.

Results for Health Service Group

Eligible voters: 437,086
Votes cast: 20,883

Female Seat
Christine Sullivan 10421
Ann Moses             9991
Suzy Franklin         6873
Helen Ridett          5797

Male Seat
Eric Roberts        12727
Mark Boothroyd 6948

General Seat
James Anthony   10929
Gary Freeman     8606

1 comment:

  1. It makes me wonder if there's any point in continuing in Unison. In Lewisham the local health branch obstructed the campaign to save the local hospital. Colluded with management to denounce the campaign. Witchunted union activists who supported the campaign. They have overseen the marginalisation and collapse of union density there.
    IMO there's not much point in flogging the dead horse of Unison regeneration. I would build an alternative instead - Unite?