Unison leader pledges local talks

More local-level negotiating and an extension of legal services to members
are planned for Unison, the union’s newly-elected general secretary has told
Personnel Today.

Dave Prentis, who was elected head of the UK’s biggest union last week, says
his aim is to improve the service provided to members by moving resources from
the centre to the local branches which have the most contact with them.

He wants to see more talks at local, rather than national level and will
introduce a free 24-hour helpline so members have access to advice whenever
they need it.

He said he would concentrate on developing legal services, which has become
a large part of the union’s work.

Last year Unison won £38m for members in compensation claims for accidents.
This was an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year.

"We are putting tremendous resources into training staff to give
advice. In addition we are talking to legal companies which work with us to see
what else we can offer," he said.

On best value he said there is no evidence that contracting out services to
the private sector improves the service and where councils want to gain from
economies of scale they should work with each other.

Prentis, a former deputy general secretary, received 125,584 votes.
Left-winger Roger Bannister received 71,021, while third candidate Malkiat
Bilku received 27,785. Prentis will take up the post when current general
secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe retires at the end of the year.


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