The President of the biggest union in the UK, Unison, has been expelled from the Labour party.
Andrea Egan, elected as Unison’s president in June 2022 by the union’s national executive council (NEC), said: “I’ve given over a decade to the Labour Party. It’s devastating.”
“As the President of Unison, my message to our 1.3 million members has always been around unity. Now, what message can I give to members when they’ve kicked me out?”
In a letter sent to Egan on 15 November by the Labour party disputes team, the NEC Panel stated that Egan’s membership termination is a result of her having shared two articles from Socialist Appeal – a Marxist group within the party – on social media.
On July 20 2021, the Labour Party NEC voted to proscribe Socialist Appeal. A Labour spokesperson said: “These organisations are not compatible with Labour’s rules or our aims and values.”
The first occasion on which Egan shared a Socialist Appeal article was 16 July, prior to the organisation’s official ban by the Labour party . The article related to the Socialist Appeal’s potential proscription. Egan shared it with the comment, “who’s next.”
The second article shared by Egan related directly to Unison and to Egan’s election to the union’s NEC, titled: Unison: Left activists begin the struggle to transform the union.
“The Labour party and trade unions offer a place for working people to be united through,” said Egan. “This move does nothing to support that.”
“We need unity. There’s only one enemy at the moment, and that’s the Tory government. We should be unified in our fight against them.”
Before she became president in June 2022, Egan was branch secretary of Unison’s Bolton local government branch, having worked in local government for over 30 years. Egan led the union’s first industrial action against academisation of two Bolton secondary schools in 2008.
Unlike Unison’s general secretary, the President isn’t voted in by members, but by the union’s NEC for a term of one year. The President chairs meetings of the NEC, and is the most senior honorary official of the union.
The termination means Egan can no longer attend Party meetings, or exercise any other rights associated with membership of the Party.
Egan’s membership termination comes amidst concerns around factionalism, after a string of prospective left-wing Labour candidates, including Maurice McLeod and Emma Dent Coad, have been blocked from standing for parliamentary selection by the party bureaucracy.
Egan’s expulsion comes after a summer wracked with tension between the trade union movement and the Labour party, following Keir Starmer’s refusal to commit to raising public sector pay in line with inflation and ban on shadow ministers visiting picket lines.
Egan is hoping to appeal the decision, with the support of her union. “If the Labour party is so serious about fighting for working class people, why is it fighting working class people?”
The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.
Polly Smythe is Novara Media’s labour movement correspondent.