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Trade union leadership challenger says Unison needs to ‘punch harder’

Hugo Pierre has been a campaigner in Camden for 30 years

22 October, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Hugo Pierre is one of four candidates in the frame

TRADE union Unison has not “punched hard enough” against austerity and needs to up its campaigning game, according to its schools convenor in Camden.

Hugo Pierre is making his pitch to be the union’s next national general secretary as elections to find a successor to the retiring Dave Prentis continue. He is one of four candidates on the final ballot paper.

The 61-year-old said his union, with headquarters on the Euston Road, had failed to front a united movement against local government cutbacks.

He said: “The main reason I’ve thrown my hat into the ring is our union needs to change. We have gone through 10 years of austerity but our union hasn’t made a real difference. “We have battled hard in Camden to do what we can to get the best outcome for members. But on a national level, we haven’t punched hard enough. It is a question of leadership.”

Mr Pierre, who has worked in Camden since around the time the Inner London Education Authority was abolished in 1990, has been backed by 31 local branches including Camden following a series of online hustings.

But he faces stiff competition from Christina McAnea, who has been endorsed by the union’s national executive council, Roger McKenzie, Unison’s current assistant general secretary, and Paul Holmes, supported by the union’s United Left grouping.

Mr Pierre said: “We failed when we had a real advantage with the public sector pensions dispute in 2011 against a weak and divided government. We failed to pursue that when we could have almost stopped austerity.”

Mr Pierre said the union had also “failed to get a national plan of action together around local government cuts”, adding: “Camden has got something like half of its government grant, the pandemic is raising the stakes and it’s going to have a real impact on services.”

He said Labour councillors shared the blame for “passing on cuts”. Mr Prentis has been general secretary for 20 years.

But Mr Pierre said: “He was always a full time officer. I’m an activist on the ground. I have members on the ground ringing me up all the time about key issues like government cuts, pay and conditions, stop privatisation.”

The final deadline for votes is November 27.

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