30 years of UNISON

Founded on July 1, 1993, UNISON is turning 30!

The union was formed when three public sector trade unions, the National and Local Government Officers Association (NALGO), the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and the Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE) merged.

UNISON’s first general secretary was Alan Jinkinson, who we sadly lost in late 2022. Alan became deputy general secretary of NALGO in 1981, and succeeded John Daly as general secretary in 1990, helping to oversee the merger in 1993. In 1996, Rodney Bickerstaffe took over as UNISON’s general secretary after serving as associate general secretary.  Rodney’s background was in NUPE, having joined the staff in 1966 in Yorkshire, he rose through the ranks to be divisional officer of the northern division. He then became national officer responsible for members working in local government, universities, and the water industry.

In 2001, Dave Prentis, now Baron Prentis of Leeds, was elected as the union’s general secretary. Dave originally joined NALGO in 1975, and in 1990 he became its deputy general secretary. He was UNISON’s deputy general secretary from its formation in July 1993. During Dave’s twenty year tenure as UNISON general secretary, he was also a member of the TUC General Council, TUC executive committee and the Trade Union Labour Party Liaison Committee. He was elected President of the TUC for the year 2008.

In 2021, Christina McAnea succeeded Dave to become UNISON’s first female general secretary. Christina has worked at UNISON since its founding in 1993. She previously worked at NALGO, initially as women’s officer.

Palden Dorje, North Northants Branch Secretary has also been with UNISON since its inception 30 years ago. She has shared her union journey as well as a great photo!

“I joined NALGO in 1992 when I started my career at Northants County Council. I was recruited by Wilky, one of long standing activists who only retired from his role about 18 months ago. Obviously, NALGO then merged, and we became UNISON.

“I have been a member and activist throughout that period although I have changed employers during that time having worked for the Environment Agency, East Northants Council and now North Northants Council. I re-instated the East Northants Branch at ENC in 2005 as it had become dormant, so with the support of Keith Libetta, the Regional Organiser at the time, we set about rebuilding the branch and recruiting activists.

“The branch went on to win a couple of awards and membership grew to almost 50% of the workforce! We merged with four other branches in 2021 due to the formation of North Northants unitary council and I now find myself as Branch Secretary.”

If you’re celebrating UNISON’s 30th birthday or would like to share your own union journey, please email: eastmidlandsmedia@unison.co.uk