Since UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis announced his retirement after 20 years in the role, tributes have poured in from our branches, old friends, international comrades, politicians and campaigners. We can’t share them all here, and some have been edited for length, but we’ll make sure Dave sees all your messages in full. Meanwhile, enjoy some of the tributes paid, stories shared and warm wishes to Dave.
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I’ve grown up in UNISON and in all that time, Dave Prentis has been the only general secretary I’ve known, so this really is the end of an era for me. From my days as a young member to working as president of UNISON, I’ve been so proud to work alongside Dave. My presidential year has not been what either of us would have expected. Our members have faced more challenges than ever – fighting the pandemic, and working so hard to keep our communities going. From the start, Dave and the presidential team worked together more closely than ever to make sure we deliver for our members in their time of need. It has forged an even stronger bond. Thanks for your time, your support and your leadership Dave – you can be proud that your legacy is a strong union that is always there for our members.
Josie Bird, UNISON president
"Thank you for a lifetime of work. We wish you a very long, healthy and happy retirement - from all the branch officers, activists and members of Hull and East Riding Health."
Rachel Waters, Hull and East Riding Health UNISON
My message for Dave is: Simply the Best. He was always very supportive to me when I was on the national universities committee, one of the smaller service groups and also when I was on the NEC. He is an amazing negotiator and has earnt the respect of many employers and politicians. I don't think he will ever know how much he meant to my husband and myself during the time I was president. The enormous pressure in being the general secretary of the largest trade union in the UK, and the largest public service union in Europe is something of which he should be justifiably proud. I wish Dave a long, healthy and happy retirement which he so rightly deserves.
Pauline Grant, former UNISON NEC and past president
"I first met Dave 30 years ago ,when I was a new NALGO Branch Secretary. The support I received from him then continued throughout my union career right until my retirement. Dave always had time for the activists and the Branches. Working with him at National Level, I saw first hand his influence within the labour movement and the Labour Party. Best wishes Dave from a grateful UNISON activist."
Mervyn Butler, South Tyneside Local Government UNISON
To be honest, I didn’t think the “boy Dave” would stay around as general secretary. His failure to turn up to meetings on time or buy a round of drinks did not bode well! However, he showed such a positive attitude and such courage in the face of stomach cancer. He simply placed his fate in the hands of the National Health Service. His consistent theme was support for public services and the membership knew that and responded accordingly. No other general secretary commanded such respect and support at annual conference. He had the sense to marry Liz—perhaps his biggest asset. But 20 years! That is staying power—keeping the union on an even keel through sustained attacks on members’ jobs. He hasn’t been the highest-profile general secretary but who wants rent-a-gob? Dave has earned the respect of a generation of public service workers. The boy done good.
Rita Donaghy (Baroness Donaghy) Nalgo/UNISON NEC and former president
I always found Dave to have an open-door approach to any of the activists he would come across. I have very fond memories of Dave during my time on the NEC and my three years on the presidential team. Dave and myself had our differences – and the best way to describe this would be: “he didn’t speak and I didn’t answer!” Just like being married. LOL. I wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement. Dave will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Lucia McKeever, former NEC and past UNISON president
"Largest Trade Union in the UK. Enough said.
Thank You Dave"
Dave Rees, Blaenau Gwent UNISON
During his time as general secretary, Dave has always strived for the members. During the Care UK dispute in Doncaster, a local dispute which became national news, Dave was there on the picket line with them. When our members in Leeds day centres were taking action against closures, Dave was there on the media making the case for them, and when our members and branch officers in South Yorkshire Police just needed a little support with the changes going on in their branch and employer Dave was there. Over the years Dave always made time to attend and support staff and members be it disputes, rallies, lobbies. Dave was there for us.
John Cafferty, regional secretary, Yorkshire and Humberside
I was UNISON national president when Dave took up his current post as general secretary. However, this was not the first time I had worked with Dave. In the 1980s I was elected to the NALGO national electricity committee and in those days Dave was our national officer. However, within a short period of time Dave was promoted further up the chain of then NALGO. I served six months as president working with Dave and I then retired from active national UNISON work. But for 20 years prior to that I was an active lay member working with Dave (and Liz). I was a NALGO NEC member working on the UNISON merger committee with Dave. I was proud to have worked with him on his way to becoming general secretary.
Adrian Dilworth, past UNISON president
"It was lovely having you as part of our branch meetings listening and sharing your views and plans. Hope your move to retiring is a productive one too. All the best Dave."
Tracy Mile, Greenwich and Bromley UNISON
On behalf of the activists and members of the union’s number one region, I want to thank you for the leadership you have shown over the years and wish you a very happy retirement. You have always supported our members fighting to protect their jobs – whether its hospital domestics in Harlow or PCSOs in Norfolk and Suffolk. It’s been great that you have been able to join us on those occasions when we celebrate what we have achieved, such as our annual One UNISON Branch Awards. Last year you and Liz came to the opening of our new regional office – Higdon House in Bury St Edmunds. As you know the building was named after the heroes of the 25 year-long Burston school strike – Annie and Tom. I remember marching with you in front of the UNISON banner at the Burston Rally in 2016 and I hope you will be able to join us in 2021 to celebrate the power of collective action.
Becky Tye, regional convenor, Eastern
"I remember receiving a telephone call in 2001 from Rodney Bickerstaffe. Completely out of the blue. “I’m retiring,” said Rodney. “It’s time to hand over the torch while it's burning bright.” He told me not to worry. He trusted that UNISON members would make the right choice around his successor. He said Dave Prentis will be the best general secretary this union will have, better than me, and I want you to work with him, give him your full support, and tell others to do the same.
All very typical of Rodney. Generous to the end. But who was this Dave Prentis? I’d heard of him, of course. He was an apparatchik in National Office. A big cheese in Nalgo. But our paths hadn’t crossed. And they didn’t, not for a while. Not until he secured the top job, then Dave came on a visit to Yorkshire, my old boss put out a call, asking for an activity that Dave could support on his visit. I replied: “He can come with me to South Yorkshire Police, they’re after cutting police staff jobs”.
Dave and I jumped in my car heading from Leeds to Sheffield.
The itinerary was a meeting with the branch, followed by negotiations with the chief constable, then an interview with local TV, for the evening’s regional news programme. On reflection, it was a big ask, but Dave took it in his stride, he made the arguments, helped to rally the branch and his appearance on BBC Look North was flawless.
There have been many such occasions over the years when I’ve looked to Dave for help and guidance. When we had the big national pensions dispute, after visiting picket lines in London he hopped on the train to address a midday rally in Wakefield. Always wanting to be seen as a general secretary for the whole union.
And more recently when domestics at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow were threatened with privatisation, Dave made not one, but three visits, taking time out of his busy schedule to listen and talk to members, boosting their confidence, helping them to understand the power of collectivism, and giving them a belief in their union. A dispute they would later go on to win.
Dave has many proven qualities and commands respect at home and across the world from fellow trade unionists to leading politicians. But for me, he is always at his best when in the company of UNISON members. Always on their level and aligned with their interests."
Your dedication to members and staff across the Sectors and Regions has been fantastic. No wonder we are the largest trade union with such inspirational leadership. You will be a hard act to follow. Best wishes and thanks are sent to you.
Chris Jenkinson, regional secretary, East Midlands
I'm nobody of any importance, that's how I felt in work. After joining UNISON and reading about your stand for support workers I realised I had more to give. I now stand as a rep for UNISON within my work and other workplaces. Thank you for empowering us to become more than we thought we were worth.
Katherine Blake, Torfaen UNISON
Dave, Eastern is your home region and you have always supported our members, activists and staff. Your willingness to come and support our members taking action to defend jobs and terms and conditions has been appreciated. Whether it was the November 2011 pension strike or other strikes for fair pay rise you have consistently joined the picket lines at local hospitals. Last year you came to Princess Alexandra Hospital at Harlow to speak at a lunchtime rally of domestic and housekeeping members fighting to prevent their jobs being outsourced out of the NHS. You gave them a real boost on that day which launched our industrial action ballot which resulted in 89% turnout and 98% yes vote! And of course, our region is home to one of your biggest legacies - UNISONDirect. Another example of how you have ensured our union provides the best possible support to our members. On behalf of everyone in the region, I wish you a very happy retirement.
Tim Roberts, regional secretary, Eastern
Dave, sorry to see you go, you have been an asset to UNISON and a very fair leader. You had big shoes to fill and you filled them well. Go and do all the things you must have put off doing for so long, Hope you have a very happy retirement, take care and stay safe x
Sue Cocking, Notts County UNISON
"I’ve been a colleague and friend of Dave’s since before UNISON was created, right up to the present day. I’ve been with him on so many marches whether it be in defence of public services and jobs or the NHS or against attacks on our members pensions, pay disputes, trade union rights, opposing employment tribunal fees, or the war in Iraq.
In all these Dave has been in the forefront of these struggles giving leadership and speaking for our members and on behalf of the union he was instrumental in creating and is quite rightly so proud of.
Under his leadership we’ve grown into the biggest and most successful trade union in the UK with equality and defence of public services and our members delivering those services at its heart.
Dave has also been a passionate internationalist through his work in the Public Services International and I’ve been privileged to be with him on UNISON delegations to PSI conferences in Austria and Durban. I was a UNISON speaker on Palestine in Durban and will never forget Dave, who was chairing the conference, kindly cutting me off when I’d spoken beyond the allotted time. Thanks Dave!
For the last five years I’ve been on the TUC general council with Dave and seen at first hand how he has consistently and passionately spoken up for UNISON and for our members.
On a personal note I have valued the friendship shown by Dave towards me and my family and the support he has given to me over nearly 30 years. I want to thank him for the role he’s played in creating a union that trade unionists from all over the world want to come and learn from."
Chris Tansley, NEC member and former president
One of the things I remember about Dave is that he was always very approachable. He isn’t one of those general secretaries with the ‘God complex’ that a few of them have. On delegations, he was just one of the delegation and didn’t expect any preferential treatment from the delegation leader. He always supported me when we had difficult discussions with either government or shadow government members during my years as chair of the Labour Link committee. I wish Dave a happy retirement, whatever he chooses to do next, and thank him for his kind consideration during my presidential year.
Nancy Coull, past president, UNISON
"I have worked with Dave for many years over which we have become friends as well as colleagues, facing many difficult issues for our members and communities. I have been on many Labour Party conference delegations but the one that will never leave my memory was when Dave was moving our motion and the Chair cut him off—the whole delegation were on their feet in disgust, and next thing, Jack Dromey was running down the aisle to make a point of order about how disgraceful it was, the chair was never forgiven—you don’t cut our general secretary off.
My year as president brought us closer, but as you can imagine, as two strong-willed people from Yorkshire we never always agreed, but we would find a compromise. I made a remark in my end of term speech that told Dave it had “been a pleasure working with him” – well, he said afterwards, he would remind me of that going forward.
We have marched together on all the big rallies and the very first one after the Tories gained power in London when UNISON, as always, had the biggest numbers. He told me afterwards that Tony Woodley from Unite had said all he could see was a sea of purple and green— it made us so proud of the members and staff of our union.
Dave has worked tirelessly for this union, promoting our values wherever he has been, I am proud of our general secretary and the achievements we have made, now the biggest union in the UK .
Dave has gained the respect of many and whilst I know he leaves us soon he will always be my friend .
A great person, a great leader, a great friend and a true giant of the trade union and labour movement. And another great person that hails from Yorkshire!"
Wendy Nichols, past president, regional convenor, Yorkshire and Humberside
Dave with Rotherham branch in Yorkshire
Thank you for your continued support, Dave. As a Black Member of UNISON, it is always pleasing to attend the Black Members conferences and either bump into you on the train travelling with all the other Black members and having a chat with us. Your address at the conferences are always refreshing and inspirational, filling us with hope that things can only get better. Do enjoy your retirement, it's well deserved and thank you for all you have done for UNISON Members as a whole.
Pat Isaacs, UCLH UNISON
Dave is always at his best when amongst our members. Whether on a picket line, walking the wards, giving out awards or dancing with the UNISON samba band, our members always are top of Dave’s priorities. Thanks, Dave, for always being there when we’ve needed you. Have a long and happy retirement .
Joanne Kaye, regional secretary, South West region
The most humble and down to earth leader of our time! With the skills to fight for what's right, whilst always putting the members first. Thank you for all you have done and thank you for coming to visit and inspire us in Moray, you are always welcome here. You leave big boots to fill! Best wishes for your future.
Karen Donaldson, Moray UNISON
"A strange phenomenon at the turn of the new millennium, and Dave’s first term, was UNISON putting on and promoting large-scale music events alongside national demonstrations in support of causes such as challenging low pay and racism.
The first such gig was held in Newcastle in 1999, to mark the introduction of the minimum wage and the launch of UNISON’s demand for a living wage.Two years later in Manchester, a concert was arranged to highlight UNISON’s innovative campaign for a living wage which at the time aimed to raise the UK minimum wage to a mere £5 per hour! Colleagues have fond memories of Dave celebrating joyously among the 20,000 Arena audience, having recently bounced back from serious illness, and the next day he spoke at a large outdoor rally. The following year UNISON, in conjunction with the TUC’s Unite Against Racism campaign, organised a line-up of bands against racism. The weekend included a march against the rise of the far right in the North West and was summed up by Dave’s comments at the well-attended rally “we must defend our way of life – a way of life which is enriched by a culturally and racially diverse society.”
Fast forward to the coalition government and trade unionists were marching again in Manchester at very frequent intervals. The March 2011 TUC national march in London had been a game changer in terms of union protest in Britain with many blown away by the sheer scale and visual effect of UNISON’s massive presence. Demonstrations would never be the same again with continental-style large balloons, banners, ponchos and tabards. With the governing Conservative Party holding its national conference in Manchester alternative years led to the trade union movement holding major rallies on each occasion. Dave spoke at many of them. In September 2013 the theme of the TUC national demonstration was Save Our NHS and Dave spoke out against the growing involvement of private companies in the NHS. The following year in September 2014 Dave was back in Manchester as the main speaker at UNISON North West’s anti-austerity rally at Castlefield Bowl which was held in conditions of heavy rain. In 2015, 85,000 were in Manchester attending a national TUC march opposing the Trade Union Bill and UNISON’s slogan was No to Austerity, Yes to Worker’s Rights, with Dave speaking on a mobile stage at an early point of the march as thousands walked past. Over 20 years, so many demonstrations, always with big UNISON mobilisations—and without fail Dave Prentis leading from the front."
Kevan Nelson, regional secretary, North West
Your dedication to members and staff across the Sectors and Regions has been fantastic. No wonder we are the largest trade union with such inspirational leadership. You will be a hard act to follow. Best wishes and thanks are sent to you.
Teeside University UNISON
As convenor for UNISON Scotland I have been hugely impressed by Dave’s energy and drive to engage with our members and support them in celebration and in struggle. He has, over the years in my role as convenor, been a good friend to UNISON Scotland and has on many a wet and wintery day stood on picket lines and spoke from the heart on rallies in support of members issues on pensions, pay and conditions and public service cuts. In Scotland our campaign to remove the public sector pay cap, Scrap the Cap, was fully supported by Dave - he attended the rally we held on 8 October 2017 and we successfully removed the 1% pay cap. Dave spoke passionately in support of public services and the members who deliver them to our rally of over 5,000 members at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. Dave has given so much to UNISON over many years and we in UNISON Scotland wish him a long and healthy retirement.
Lilian Macer, regional convenor, UNISON Scotland
"As regional convenor I’ve always been very appreciative of the huge amount of work that Dave has done to enhance the involvement and the status of regions within UNISON as a whole. His commitment towards ensuring that regional convenor teams have the necessary support and training to undertake their role has been outstanding, and his personal involvement with the wider regional convenor group to ensure they are adequately briefed about all key developments and obtaining their views on important issues has helped significantly in ensuring they have a significant voice.
I would also like to thank Dave for his unfailing support for south east branches undertaking industrial action in defence of jobs, services and terms and conditions. In particular, his regular attendance at rallies and marches at the time of the long-running action undertaken by the Southampton District branch against savage cuts and externalisations proposed by the then Tory council was greatly appreciated by branch officers and the wider membership and is still commented upon by a number of those involved. On a personal note, I’d like to thank Dave for his personal support and friendship to me – particularly at moments of family crisis. I wish him well for the future and a long and happy retirement."
Mark Chiverton, regional convenor, South East
Hi David , although we have never met officially I would like to add my sincere thanks to you on all you have achieved with our Union, for me and others to be able to hold our heads high within the workplace and know we have the backing of a peoples trade union and supportive and decent "bloke" and fantastic General Secretary, good fortune in the next challenge.
Roly Willows, Health and Safety Representative, South East region
"Dave has been a really supportive general secretary to the staff and members of Cymru/Wales. Whenever there has been a request for Dave to attend the region to support colleagues and members, he has always did his best to attend. Below are just a few of the many events he has attended recently:
- Launch of our 2017 manifesto, the Hayes, Cardiff,
- Mental health seminar, Pierhead building, Cardiff Bay,
- Robin Hood Tax event at the Senedd,
- UNISON regional awards, Cardiff, Black members conference, Llandudno,
- A general visit to north Wales to support members.
On a personal basis I want to say that Dave has been supportive of staff like me upon taking office as the general secretary since 2001, and has been keen to ensure that the senior leadership of the union is reflective of membership. Through identifying talent within the union, many staff like myself have been able to achieve their full potential. He will be much missed."
Karen Loughlin, regional secretary, Cymru/Wales
As regional convenor for Northern I have always found Dave’s support and encouragement invaluable.
As a region we will always remember that Dave ensured that the Durham Miners Gala, the biggest trade union and labour movement event in Europe was able to continue due directly to UNISON financial support when it was struggling. Dave understood the significance of such a political event and it has been a privilege to march through Durham alongside Dave and the regional banner and to hear him speaking on behalf of UNISON.
Nicky Ramanandi, regional convenor, Northern
Your fiery speeches, full of passion, inspiration and motivation, during the Conferences will continue to serve as a beacon light for launching future struggles for many years to follow.
Iqbal Syed, Northern region
"On 23 October 2020, our regional council paid tribute to Dave with a Belfast Crystal plaque, produced in one of our most disadvantaged communities, reading 'for his outstanding service to our members and his unwavering support for our peace process'.
Dave has stood with us though some difficult and turbulent times. He understood that we were union-building in the midst of a conflict. He understood the toll that took on our members. He understands that building the peace is even harder for them.
Dave backed us in critical and powerful industrial disputes against privatisation, from the 90s, right through to our historic NHS pay strike in 2019/20. In the Compass dispute he didn't blink when we asked him to buy shares, brought the members - mums and grans - to the Compass shareholder AGM at Pall Mall, replaced the General Manager (Ireland) and won the strike. With his support, over several years, we won our all our services back in-house and changed equality law along the way. From the outset Dave has been enthusiastic about our organising ideas. He has encouraged and supported us in them. In return our members and activists have backed him. We have many stories of solidarity and support from a general secretary who is an inspirational leader and knows the members' names. Ours has been a straight-talking relationship. Dave has responded to it and he has always understood that the many factors which make our part of UNISON different from the rest of the union are a positive not a negative.
Dave and our members together have played a part in hope that:
''...once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme
Patricia McKeown, regional secretary, and Gabrielle Carton, regional convenor, Northern Ireland
Dear Dave, thank you very much for bringing so much joy and dedication to our members, through your hard work and selfless service during your leadership. On behalf of our branch we wish you a wonderful future with lots of time to enjoy with your family and friends.
Ekundayo Badmus, Waltham Forest UNISON
This photo shows Dave and myself signing UNISON's Ethical Care Charter in 2016, along with Cllr Beth Furneaux our then Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, and Anita Timperon, the then Cumbria County UNISON Branch Secretary.
The Trade Union Labour Link is best demonstrated by actions such as these - both sides jointly committing to policies that benefit both Local Government workers and service users.
UNISON has been a force to be reckoned with, and listened to during Dave's 20 years as General Secretary. I wish him well in retirement.
Stewart Young, Branch Secretary, Cumbria County
I have been involved with Dave as our general secretary from the beginning, when I was a steward right through to the current time, in my role as Cymru/Wales regional convenor. Dave was elected as general secretary of a union still getting to grips with a merger of three unions. He helped develop UNISON into the largest trade union in the UK, and well respected in the trade union movement across the world. He has helped steer our union through the most difficult of times. He has always supported us in Cymru/Wales, attending events and campaigns whenever possible, and supporting individual branches on their campaigning or development. Dave came down to support our branch when we were the first in Wales to open a community office in the High Street. Dave has shown his 100% commitment to UNISON and the trade union movement, and whatever Dave is going to do in his retirement, we wish him all the best.
Peter Crews, regional convenor, Cymru/Wales
I would like to send best wishes and good luck on new challenges as you embark on your retirement from UNISON. As a homecare activist, thank you Dave for your continued support as general secretary on fighting and campaigning all the many causes homecare workers have endured over many years, including the achievement of equal pay claims which changed the lives of not only homecare workers in local government but many low paid women workers. I hope your future provides you with as many exciting challenges as your past.
Sue Brealey, regional convenor, West Midlands
"Dave has routinely attended our annual new stewards seminar, where he has inspired hundreds of very new activists to become passionate, enthusiastic and competent ambassadors and advocates for UNISON in hundreds of workplaces across the region.
He always makes time for London, attending branch events when he can and always attending regional events.
We've been struggling to remember if there has ever been a dispute in London where Dave didn't attend a picket line and speak to the members on strike, regardless of the early time in the morning or the weather!
He was pivotal in UNISON's support for Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London, which has meant that the region’s relationship with the Mayor and his office continues to be exceptionally strong.
Every time we have a national dispute Dave ensures he attends a workplace in London where he pickets the employer and provides support and encouragement to the strikers - especially LAS and Guys and Tommy's.
We've had very important legal wins with Dave's support - the initial term-time only win was in Greenwich and of course the very recent win on travel time for carers in Haringay.
Finally - because we are London, every national demonstration has meant great involvement from the region, our lay activists and staff. We've always been so proud to have Dave lead our section and you can guarantee that we all wait (in torrential rain on occasion) for Dave to speak. There's no rhetoric or posturing - he always speaks from the heart and gives voice to our members. And only after Dave has spoken do we leave!!"
Yvonne Green, regional convenor and Maggi Ferncombe, regional secretary, Greater London
Dave, what can I say, a few years back I can remember standing next to you in the service station on our way to Conference at Bournemouth and I pinched some of your chips whilst in the queue! You gave me a shout out too at Conference, I was over the moon. Also, when I was just out of hospital, a colleague at Women's conference got you to leave me a voice mail message to wish me well, it's the little things that make a difference. Thank you for working so tirelessly to make a positive change to our members lives in more than one way. You are amazing - thank you to your wife too for obviously giving you great support.
Maggie Judd, Reigate & Banstead UNISON
"The first thing I would say about working with Dave is that he has a very pleasant disposition and always has a smile. I have never seen him lose his temper even when he disagrees with people. He is a really nice guy who gets on with everyone which is important , particularly so during the merger process that led to the foundation of UNISON. Although convinced that the new union was the right way to go for the future of trade unionism, there were obvious questions about how it would work. UNISON’s NEC brought together people of many different backgrounds, from a wide variety of occupations and Dave’s contribution was instrumental in making it the strong union it is today.
He worked closely with me when I chaired the political fund committee. It had to be very carefully run, particularly in the early years of the new union. Dave played a really big role in commissioning research and high-profile political advertising.
One other successful area of Dave’s work was the high-profile legal cases that supported the union’s work on tackling low pay and equality issues.
Following on from Alan Jinkinson and Rodney Bickerstaffe, he provided solid and stable leadership that enabled the union to grow and attract more members. His media presence was always thoughtful, well-researched and a credit to the union."
Pat Ingram, past president
Thank you, Dave, for all the support and inspirational words you have given to so many people in your time as General Secretary at UNISON, but especially to all the Support Staff in Derby in their fight against the City Council. You came to speak to us on several occasions and encouraged us to keep on fighting the injustices being forced upon us. Best Wishes for your well earned retirement.
Davina Needham, Derby County UNISON
Dave – having worked with you both as a lay member and member of staff, I have always been struck by your calm and reasoned manner, and the way you have skilfully and successfully, charted a path for the union through troubled waters such as the Trade Union Act. You leave us at the end of your term at the tiller in a stronger position than when you first took over, and that is an excellent legacy to pass on. Thanks for everything, wishing you a long, healthy and happy retirement.
Steve Torrance, regional secretary, South East
Thank you Dave for leading us, fighting for us, guiding us, listening to our voices and working with our branch members over all the years, on behalf of us all at Oxfordshire County UNISON branch ...Thank you ever so much
Janie Wease (Slaymaker), Oxfordshire County UNISON
"A Big Thank You Dave! The South West region would like to wish you the very best for your retirement and want to say thanks for all your hard work and support you have given to the region.
You were there for us during the 48-hour strike when some of our lowest-paid members took strike action against contractor Sodexo, you led the fight against the South West pay cartel and more recently gave a powerful speech to striking Sirona members on their picket line.
All UNISON members in the region are extremely grateful for your leadership over the years and we look forward to seeing you again at Tolpuddle, where you always take time to speak to members and give them a boost.
Lastly, please don’t forget Dave we were always your favourite region as you always told us!!
South West regional convenor team
A quiet man with steely resolve. A steady hand on the tiller over a considerable time has resulted in a strong, diverse, inclusive campaigning union. I am proud to be a retired member and welcome you to our ranks.
Rosie Braine, Berkshire Health and Community UNISON
"This is about the support Dave provided in in the 2018/19 Birmingham careworkers’ dispute when our members took over 75 days of strike action.
The dispute involved 200 low paid low paid women care workers at Labour-run Birmingham City Council who were facing pay cuts of up to £11,000 a year. It was by far the most challenging thing I’ve faced in 20 years working for the union and Dave’s support was first class.
In late 2018 one of our striking members tragically committed suicide. I had to call Dave to tell him the news. I said this would mark a real change in tone of the dispute as the members were all really close. Dave said to me: “as far as I’m concerned this is the most important issue in the union and you need to do whatever it takes to win.”
I told Dave that we had just started a hard-hitting doorstep leaflet campaign in the wards of the Labour cabinet members and we would need to step this up, but there would most likely be complaints from the cabinet. Dave said: “I said do whatever it takes to win.”
A few months later, regional organiser Mark New and I had a meeting with Dave. Our members’ doorstep leafleting campaign had ruffled some feathers with the Birmingham Labour cabinet and they had made complaints. But when Dave saw the latest offer from the council he threw the document down on the table in disgust and said “This offer is nowhere good enough, Ravi, you need to keep up with the leafleting.” Dave’s commitment to our members to our members getting proper justice was unwavering.
Later that evening I found out the leader of the council had railroaded the Labour group into agreeing to impose a terrible set of proposals on our members. It felt like we might be coming to the end of the dispute. I phoned the branch leadership, who were as dejected as I was. We agreed to meet the following day.
Just before the meeting I called Dave and his response was brilliant. He said to me “This is bad, but it is not over. We’ve carried on disputes after things have been imposed, and I’m clear it is not time to end this dispute. Tell the branch we are carrying on, and we need to carry on with the doorstep campaigning.” That short conversation gave me back my mojo and I was able to meet with the branch and get their heads back in the game.
A few months later we had a comprehensive win when the council withdrew all of their proposals. This was a total victory for our members, and Dave provided first class support to me as regional secretary, and I will never forget that support."
Ravi Subramanian, regional secretary, West Midlands
Hi David. Just a short note to say goodbye. It was a pleasure working with you. Unison Scottish Water Branch wishes you all the best for the future. Good luck!
Roseanne Holmes, branch secretary, Scottish Water UNISON
To Dave, who made the most challenging job in Trade Unionism in the UK look easy. I was privileged to serve on UNISON's NEC and proud to work alongside a General Secretary who worked hard for our members always with honesty and integrity. HAPPY RETIREMENT.
Stephen Kennedy, Northern Ireland
"In 2016 on my appointment as regional secretary I was made aware of a dispute between UNISON teaching assistants and Durham Council. Over 1,600 teaching assistants, predominantly women, were threatened with dismiss and re-engage at Durham Council after having been in dispute regarding moving to term-time working. The original proposals saw some staff lose up to 23% of their wages.
This was a significant dispute to pick up as a new regional secretary, and Dave’s support as general secretary was invaluable.
We balloted for strike action and over 80% of members voted to take industrial action. In a very cold November, Dave came to what can only be described as one of the most vibrant strike rallies I have ever attended. Over 1,500 TAs were packed into Redhills in Durham and Dave gave a fantastic speech and offered the union’s full support to the striking TAs.
This support sent a message to the council that UNISON would not allow them to cut wages, and the threat of dismiss and re-engage was withdrawn and a really good deal was negotiated.
International solidarity work has always been important to the Northern Region and particularly supporting capacity-building for women.
As regional conveyor I went to Sierra Leone and delivered workshops with the Labour women’s organisation and their lead, Gladys Branche, came to the UK. Dave went out of his way to meet Gladys and offer UNISON’s support and solidarity. This commitment to international solidarity work and to supporting women into activity has run through his whole time as general secretary.
On a personal note, Dave has been a tremendous support to me – I went through a very difficult time when I was bullied and threatened and Dave’s support to me was the main reason I felt able to not only stand up against the bully but also to continue in a senior lay role in the union.
When our deputy regional convenor Kenny Bell sadly passed away Dave was in the region and came up with the idea of a legacy organising award which to this day is awarded annually in the region.
Dave has acted as an inspiration to many lay people in the Northern region, has always found the time to come and support our campaigns, attend our regional conferences, and to provide leadership which I believe is why the northern region of UNISON has such a strong lay leadership and partnership working model."
Clare Williams, regional secretary, Northern region
It was nice to have met you. You are the most humble person l have ever met.
Margaret Mandizha-Walker, Leicester County UNISON