Johanna Baxter is the local government negotiator with Unison, the only one of three unions which had planned to go on strike next week who will still do so after an improved pay offer to workers.
She is the chair of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), the ruling body of the party, and a member of the pro-Starmer faction in the party called Labour to Win.
Because of her closeness with Starmer – she has pinned a picture of her with the Labour leader to the top of her Twitter profile – she is facing questions over whether the decision to remain on strike was motivated by her personal politics.
It is the honour of my life to have been elected as Chair of @UKLabour’s National Executive Committee at our AGM this eve.
I will spend my year doing absolutely everything I can to secure a Labour Gvt that delivers real change for the ppl of this country. 🌹 #Lab22 pic.twitter.com/emVwYzO70q
— Johanna Baxter (@JohannaBaxter) September 27, 2022
In 2021, Baxter (below) was the Labour candidate for Renfrewshire North and West in the Scottish Parliament elections.
An SNP source said: “The fact that [Unison’s] chief negotiator, Ms Baxter, is the chair of Labour NEC and a prominent member of the Starmerite wing of their party might raise questions about whose interests she is working in.
“Her members are unlikely to be pleased if they believe their pay packet is taking a hit to score political points in an upcoming by-election.”
Unite and GMB called off strike action on Friday morning after the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) made an improved pay offer the day before.
Unison rejected the offer, which Cosla says amounts to an increase of £2006 per year for the lowest paid workers.
All three unions are affiliates of the Labour Party, which means they fund the party and have a say in its decision making and internal elections.
GMB has called the new offer a significant improvement, though questioned why it had taken months for Cosla to produce a better deal.
Unite encouraged its members to accept the offer.
Baxter is also a member of Labour To Win, an internal campaign group which is seen as being on the right of the party and staunchly supportive of Starmer’s leadership.
Her profile on the group’s website describes Baxter as “independently minded”, adding: “Johanna is a life-long trade union activist and is currently head of local government for Unison Scotland.
“She fights every day for better terms and conditions for thousands of workers in both the private and public sectors.
“She knows how crucial it is that Labour wins power so that they have a government that will stand up for them too.”
Labour and Unison were approached for comment.