Uniting for change

23 September 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 17

The trade union, Unite, has elected its first female general secretary. Sharon Graham replaces Len McClusky, who had been general secretary at Unite since 2011. Unite is the UK's second largest union with more than 1.2 million members, around 290 000 of whom are women. There are 100 000 Unite members in the health and care service, across a wide range of specialisms, and it embraces the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) and Mental Health Nurses Association (MHNA).

Graham has said she intends to prioritise the workplace in her new role, she wants to move away from a focus on internal politics in the Labour party. Unite members have voted for change and a trade union should deliver what it says on the tin—a persistent fight for jobs, pay and conditions. This return to union values, ramping up resources required to defend jobs, may result in more industrial activism, which some suggest is long overdue in the health and social care sectors. Unite may well exercise its strike muscle as well as its collective bargaining abilities to discourage employers who appear to use bullying tactics. The union seems keen to emphasise that it has a bite as well as a bark.

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