Camden UNISON is part of Britain’s largest public sector union, which has 1.3 million members.
Camden UNISON is the largest trade union branch in the borough with more than 3,000 members. Most of those still work directly for Camden Council, but there are many others employed on private contracts or in voluntary sector organisations. Camden UNISON is just part of Britain’s biggest public sector union and the second largest across the nation as a whole. UNISON has more than 1.3 million members across its seven service groups, with the single biggest concentration in local government along with hundreds of thousands working in the NHS, further and higher education, and privatised utilities. The union is itself is also a major employer with a workforce of 1,200. Of those 1,200, nearly a third work at the national headquarters, located in Camden.
The national union has existed since 1993 as a result of the merger between the local government union, NALGO, healthworkers’ union, COHSE, and NUPE, which had members in both local councils and the NHS. Constitutionally, the union’s most important decision-making body is the annual national delegate conference, which takes place in the third week of June. Some 3,000 delegates from local branches, regions and the union’s various service groups spend four days debating and voting on UNISON’s policies across a wide range of issues.
The union’s leading official is the general secretary, who is subject to election every five years. The current UNISON general secretary, Dave Prentis, is in his third term of office after winning re-election in spring 2010. He is due to retire from office by early 2013. Between national conferences, UNISON’s 60-member national executive council (NEC) has responsibility for overseeing the carrying-out of conference policies and responding to unfolding industrial and political developments. One of its sub-committees, the Industrial Action Committee, has the ultimate say over whether a strike goes ahead.
The NEC is up for election every two years with the next ballots due to take place in the spring of 2011. The current members for the Greater London region are: Jon Rogers (general seat), Louise Couling and Kim Silver (female seats) and Irene Stacy (reserved seat for low-paid women workers). In addition members of the Camden branch are eligible to vote for NEC members in local government seats. The current office holders are Paul Holmes (general seat), and Lynn Poulton and Julie Robinson (female seats). Each of the seven service groups also has executive bodies, subject to election every two years, and our current London members for local government are Sonya Howard of the Kensington & Chelsea branch and John McLoughlin of Tower Hamlets.
UNISON members have a choice of paying into one of two political funds. A very small amount (less than 25 pence) of the monthly subscription goes into either the General Political Fund, which is not linked to a particular political party, or the Affiliated Political Fund (also known as the Labour Link), which is currently tied exclusively to the Labour Party.
Our union’s major campaign in the past two years has been under the label ‘Million Voices’,which seeks to rally widespread public support for properly funded, directly provided and democratically accountable public services.
UNISON agreed in September 2010 to fight jointly with the largest civil service union, the PCS, against the Con-Dem coalition’s spending cuts and attacks on the public sector workforce.