Jeremy Corbyn’s march towards a shock victory in the Labour leadership race took another leap forward today when he won the backing of the Unison trade union.
Unison leaders decided to nominate the veteran left-wing backbencher, who is running on an anti-austerity ticket. They named Yvette Cooper as the union’s second choice, boosting her prospects of emerging as the “stop Corbyn” candidate as bookmakers William Hill made him the favourite for the first time, at 11-8. He started the contest as a 200-1 outsider.
Unison’s decision was a double blow to Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, who had hopes of winning Unison after his long campaign against “NHS privatisation.” The union has thousands of members working in the NHS.
Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, said: "Jeremy Corbyn's message has resonated with public sector workers who have suffered years of pay freezes, redundancies with too many having to work more for less.
"They have been penalised for too long by a government that keeps on taking more and more from them. Their choice shows a clear need for change towards a fairer society where work is fairly rewarded, and where those living and working in poverty supported. Today's decision is a recommendation and our members are of course free to cast their vote as to who they think should lead the Labour Party.”
The decision was taken by Unison's National Labour Link Committee, which has 23 elected members.
Unison has 1.3m members, 28,000 of whom are members of the Labour Party, and around 15,000 registered to vote in the leadership contest as affiliated members. Under Labour’s new rules, unions no longer command a third of the votes in the Labour election but union members vote individually. They do not have to follow their leaders’ recommendation.
Mr Corbyn has already received the backing of leaders of the biggest trade union, Unite. But leaders of the GMB decided to make no recommendation on who their members should vote for. A GMB spokesman said: "Following consultations there was no clear consensus for a recommendation for any one candidate for leader and therefore GMB will be making no recommendation in that election. Given the extensive debates and candidates' hustings GMB members will cast their votes for a candidate of their choice for leader in the normal way."
Thanking Unison, Mr Corbyn said: "Unison members are in the frontline of the impact of the Government's austerity agenda. They are the people that provide the services our society relies on. They should be valued and hear. As leader of the Labour Party I would promote high-quality, modern, public services - against outsourcing, privatisation and low pay. We are building a movement for a modern, kinder Britain, and I look forward to working with Unison members to achieve that."Reuse content