The leader of the UK’s largest union, Unison, is to stand down at the end of the year after 20 years as general secretary.
Dave Prentis took up the leadership of the 1.3 million-member public sector union on 1 January 2001 and was re-elected in 2005, 2010 and 2015.
From the more moderate end of the trade union spectrum, Mr Prentis spoke out in favour of a second referendum on EU membership, and in 2017 warned against “complacency” which had seen Labour lose touch with traditional supporters under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Announcing his decision to step down when his term of office comes to an end in December, Mr Prentis said: “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.
“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.”
In a message to Prentis, Starmer 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 justice secretary David Lammy said: “Dave Prentis has contributed so much throughout his career to the rights and interests of workers… An inspiration to trade unionists across the country, he will be sorely missed.”
.@DavePrentis, 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.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer)July 13, 2020
And shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth described him as “one of the finest and most effective trade union general secretaries we’ve ever seen - Always fighting for low paid public sector workers and securing meaningful victories for Unison’s members. A giant of the Labour movement who will be missed”.
Mr Prentis joined the Nalgo union in 1975, and rose to become its deputy general secretary in 1990. He was Unison’s deputy general secretary from its formation in a 1993 merger of NALGO, NUPE and CoHSE and took over as general secretary from Rodney Bickerstaff in 2001.
A timetable for electing his successor will be agreed by the union’s National Executive Committee by the end of this month.