Dave Prentis to step down after 19 years leading Unison

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis. Photo: REX/Geoff Pugh
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis. Photo: REX/Geoff Pugh

Dave Prentis, the leader of the UK’s largest trade union, Unison, is to step down at the end of year.

The Leeds-born 71 year old was elected general secretary of Unison in 2001, succeeding Rodney Bickerstaffe, having been deputy general secretary from the union’s formation in 1993.

Unison was the result of the amalgamation of Nalgo – of which Prentis had been deputy general secretary – Nupe and the Confederation of Health Service Employees.

He announced today: “I’ve been so proud to serve as Unison general secretary for 20 years. It’s been the honour and privilege of my life to be able to represent our incredible public service workers from across our four nations, and never more so than in the last few difficult months.

“I have always been driven by a belief in fairness and justice for all our members, especially in the past five months when they and our public services have risen to the many challenges posed by the pandemic.

“As the health crisis turns to an economic crisis, I will be here to continue to lead Unison until the end of this year.

“There’s much still to do – holding the government to account for its handling of the pandemic, ensuring proper funding for our public services and a decent pay rise for all their hardworking employees.”

Prentis will retire on 31 December when his term of office ends. A timetable for electing his successor will be agreed by the union’s national executive by the end of the month.

Labour leader Keir Starmer praised the union boss for his leadership.

He said: “I want to thank you for your many years of outstanding leadership and for admirably representing our heroic frontline workers during the coronavirus crisis.

“I know you will always contribute to our movement and that we will continue to campaign together.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds and shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth were among others in the Labour party who praised Prentis’s contribution. Ashworth described him as a “giant of the Labour movement”, adding he is “one of the finest and most effective trade union general secretaries we’ve ever seen.”

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