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Dave Prentis Tributes Saying a fond fairwell.

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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UNISON people

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

Seamus Heaney

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

Labour movement

Dave, you have been a wonderful comrade to the TUC and the wider movement.

For the past two decades you have led UNISON brilliantly, organising your union into a formidable force for over 1.3 million members.

During your 47 years of service with UNISON and Nalgo, you have been a passionate advocate of public services and public sector workers. Never more so than during the current pandemic, when you have demanded respect and a pay rise for our key workers with great dignity and determination.

Whether it’s the campaign for fair pay and pensions or our fight against racism and sexism, UNISON has always led from the front. And in 2017, you led UNISON to a famous victory, when the Supreme Court ruled that fees for employment tribunals were unlawful. A landmark achievement for all working people.

During your long career, you have always put your members first. With the help of the wonderful NHS, you overcame personal adversity to build UNISON into one of the biggest and best unions on the planet. And you should be immensely proud of that legacy.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary 2003-2012:

Dave has done a tremendous job steering UNISON through the last two decades of turbulence and providing a passionate voice on behalf of public service workers and the devotion they dedicate to serving their communities. The TUC and the global trade union movement also owe him a debt of gratitude for his leadership. All good luck for a well-deserved retirement.

John Monks, TUC general secretary 1993-2003:

For more than 20 years Dave has been a big and popular figure in the trade union world, not just nationally but internationally too. He has consolidated UNISON which has grown in membership and is now one of the world’s great unions. He has been steadfast in his support for the TUC and the Labour Party and deserves a long and healthy retirement after a job well done.

Politicians

Gordon Brown, Labour leader and Prime Minister 2007-2010:

Dave with former prime minister, Gordon Brown
When Dave made his final speech to the TUC as UNISON general secretary, few of us did not have a tear in our eyes: his words were inspirational reflecting his decades of public service and achievements that are second to none. Dave: you have the respect and thanks of everyone. You survived a terrible illness to give years more of your life to the trade union movement nationally and internationally. Everyone I know enjoyed working with you as much as I did, and I wish you well in everything you do in the future.
Dave and Keir Starmer outside the UNISON office

Keir Starmer, Labour Leader:

"Dave is a stalwart of the trade union movement and I’m privileged to call him my friend. Having fought tirelessly over his career for justice, equality and worker’s rights, he will be sorely missed at UNISON, across the trade union movement and by the entire Labour family.

Dave has provided the leadership needed to stand up and relentlessly campaign for public sector workers during an extremely challenging period. Workers across the country owe Dave an enormous debt of gratitude for his service and I hope he will look back at his great career with enormous pride at his achievements and at the real difference he has made to working families across the country. Dave is the very best of the Labour movement and on behalf of the Labour Party, we all wish Dave and his family the very best for the future."

Yvette Cooper, MP:

The work Dave Prentis has done on everything from equal pay to housing has transformed the lives of millions of working people. He’s dealt with tough issues through difficult times, but you know he never loses his strong moral sense of what’s right, or his mischievous sense of humour that keeps us all going. Fierce in fighting for UNISON members, calm in the face of chaos, and always a good friend, Dave Prentis is a true star of the labour movement.
Dave with Yvette Cooper MP, and UNISON members, celebrating the NHS's 65th birthday.

Daniel Zeichner , MP and Shadow Environment Minister:

I’m only an MP because of UNISON, and Dave Prentis. I’ve won three times, and each time, Dave has come and helped me on eve of poll. Not only is he a lucky talisman, but it’s so good to knock on the doors of people who are UNISON members and say: this is my friend Dave, he’s the general secretary of your union. So I owe a huge debt of gratitude, for the support, but also for how much I learned from Dave over many years working with him in the political team. When Labour was in government there were often disagreements, but Dave was always principled and firm, clear that although the union was linked to Labour, UNISON members always came first. But he also knew that Labour would always be the better option for our members—and the experience since 2010 has shown how right he was. So thank you Dave—have a break, and look forward to seeing you on eve of poll next time!

Jo Stevens, MP and Shadow Culture Secretary:

For decades Dave has been a powerful voice for our public sector workers and particularly for women. A progressive, forward-looking leader, who secured the future of UNISON, always putting members’ interests at the heart of everything he has done. He has epitomised the phrase “deeds not words.” As a skilled negotiator he has powerfully influenced and persuaded on behalf of trade unions inside the Labour Party, with a principled and clear sense of purpose, bringing unity to our movement. But above all, Dave is an absolutely top bloke and friend who has been a wise mentor and given huge personal support to me both as a trade union lawyer and as a Labour MP.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London:

Dave, I am so pleased to have this opportunity to wish you well on your well-deserved retirement. As a redoubtable advocate for public services, millions of workers have had no better defender of their rights than you. And throughout some of the most turbulent times - economically and politically - in recent memory, you have consistently been on the right side of the argument. Your wise counsel will be a loss, not just to the labour movement, but to our entire public discourse. On a personal level I will always be grateful for your staunch support for me, and along with my colleagues in City Hall and within the GLA UNISON branch, we will always be thankful for your friendship and hard work over so many years.

Lord Blunkett, former Education Secretary:

Taking over from Rodney Bickerstaffe was not going to be easy but then again, being general secretary of the union I am so proud to be a member of, was never going to be easy! Quietly, competently and understated, Dave has done the job on behalf of members in an exemplary fashion. There could not have been a bigger rollercoaster both in terms of the challenges to public service from austerity, Covid-19 and for four and a half years, the politics of Labour! Well done on surviving it all, including having survived thanks to the health service from your own health challenges all those years ago—I always said you still had guts!

Alan Johnson, former Health Secretary:

General secretaries of major trade unions are not noted for their modesty and lack of ego but Dave Prentis is the exception. There was however nothing modest about his negotiating capabilities. He was as tough as old boots, as I found out as Health Secretary when he and I finalised a three-year pay deal. Dave wasn’t so much proud of his union as of its members and his greatest pleasure was to be amongst them. A man of integrity and intellect, I regard him as the greatest trade union leader of his era.

Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary:

Dave was a first class trade union leader during the Labour government. His approach was always creative and constructive, even when the challenges were difficult, and throughout he kept his eye firmly upon the driving need to make social progress in the interests of both his members and the wider society.

Harriet Harman MP:

Dave has been a huge figure in the trade union and labour movement. For decades, he gave trade unionism a good name with the public. Both a clear leader but also self-effacing, Dave was able inspire with rhetoric but also to listen. Not surprisingly, given the large percentage of women in UNISON’s membership, I knew I could always count on Dave when it came to demands for support for greater maternity or paternity leave and pay or more childcare. He stood up for his members in the NHS and so was a huge champion of that most cherished of our public services. He made the army of low-paid council workers and care workers visible. It was not just Dave’s trade union and political qualities which I will always be grateful for, but also his personal qualities. In all the difficult times Labour had in years of government and of opposition, not once did Dave behave unreasonably or wield his power unfairly. He always played a positive and progressive role. Thankyou Dave for your decades of commitment and dedication to your members and to the Labour Party.

Bambos Charalambous MP:

Dave, you have been a rock for me throughout my career in local government and now as an MP. Having a strong, decent and reliable leader of our wonderful union meant that I was always supported as a UNISON member. You are a leading light in our movement and you should be so proud that you will be leaving the union in such a strong position. You’ve been a great personal friend to me. It’s not every day that a working-class lad from a migrant background makes it to the halls of Westminster. It’s thanks to you, and all the support you gave me through many political battles, that I’ve made it this far. That’s what true leadership is – always helping people make the most of their potential - and you’ve been a true leader throughout your time as general secretary.

I remember very well the moment when I heard that Dave Prentis was announcing he was standing down as general secretary of UNISON. “He can't do that,” I said to Yvette. “What on earth will trade unionism and the Labour Party do without him?” Sure, Dave deserves a break after years of industrial, political - and personal - struggle. But when the finest, bravest, most principled and independently loyal trade unionist of his generation leaves the stage, it's right we stop and think not just of all that he has achieved over decades, but also what a great, gaping hole he now leaves. There are great candidates to succeed him - Dave will have seen to that. But this is a significant loss - one we will all feel acutely in the months and years to come.

Ed Balls, former MP

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party:

"The retirement of Dave Prentis as the general secretary of UNISON is the end of an era. My first recollection of hearing Dave speak was at UNISON national delegate conference at Bournemouth in 2002. I was our branch young members’ officer and a homecarer.

Dave has been an outstanding leader of our union for the past 20 years, showing solidarity and support to members right across the union, on picket lines, giving speeches at major events and conferences, never afraid to say it as it is.

Dave has always pushed the issues that make a real difference to members from fighting for equal pay and women’s rights to fighting anti trade union laws.

Personally to me, Dave has been a massive supporter, encouraging me and many others to stand in our lay union structures. I got elected to our NEC and Dave was a big encouragement as l first started out. When l first stood to become an MP it was Dave and UNISON supporting me and encouraging me to push myself forward, then when l was to stand for deputy leader of the Labour Party l was over the moon to get Dave and UNISON’s backing. Thankyou for all you have done for members like me. You realised my potential and supported me to get where l am today."

Abena Oppong Asare, MP for Erith and Thamesmead:

Dave out canvassing with Abena Oppong-Asare, MP
I want to pay tribute to Dave Prentis and commend him for all the work he has put in to supporting workers over the past 20 years. He has been a strong voice in the fight for worker's rights, fairness and just treatment of all UNISON members. His work has made a huge difference to the lives of many members who have sought support over the years, but it has also had a huge impact on wider society. Dave has always fought for greater funding for our public services and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has held the government to account over their shortfalls in protecting the public. I know just how much Dave cares about supporting workers and making sure underrepresented voices are heard as he has helped me personally as a member in need of support. It was an honour to campaign alongside Dave in my own general election campaign and I wish him the best of luck.

Eleanor Smith MP and past UNISON president:

"Dave is a general secretary unlike any other; he is a compassionate and loyal person who has dedicated his whole life to always putting UNISON and its members first.

Dave understood the struggles of the lower-paid women in the union — a union of over one million women members.

Under his leadership, the union has increased its membership particularly among women and Black members.

I was proud to be the first Black woman president of UNISON, under his leadership in 2011-2012.

Dave showed me guidance and support throughout my year and his kindness and encouragement continued when I was running for parliament in 2017.

Dave will leave a lasting legacy of a stronger union. A union which is a force to be reckoned with; a union which has compassionate and social values at the heart of its structures —that is down to Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON."

Dave with MPs Ed Milliband and Eleanor Smith

Campaigners

Nick Lowles, director, Hope Not Hate:

"Dave Prentis has been a stalwart champion in the fight against racism and fascism. While others gave lip service to this issue, or consumed themselves in simple posturing, Dave took a real interest in the subject, understood the complexities and, more importantly, was driven by what worked. Under his leadership and direction, UNISON played a central and pivotal role in defeating the BNP.

His commitment to this issue reflected a sense of solidarity, fairness and equality that drove his wider politics.

The demise of the BNP has not damped Dave’s commitment to the anti-fascist cause, working with UNISON members to challenge racism and an anti-immigrant scapegoating and also in continuing to back our work to address the underlying causes that led to support for the far right. As a result, the HOPE not Hate Charitable Trust was proud to ask Dave to become one of its patrons."

Ged Grebby, Show Racism the Red Card

"Dave Prentis and UNISON have been instrumental in the development of Show Racism the Red Card from a small North East-based charity, to the leading anti-racism education charity in the UK.

Dave has always made himself available to speak at Show Racism the Red Card and he entered our Hall of Fame as a key supporter many years ago. Without him and his leadership we would certainly not be the organisation we are today. One highlight that comes to mind is the 10th Anniversary of Show Racism the Red Card. Dave was instrumental in helping us secure Number 10 Downing Street, with then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in attendance.

Dave will leave big shoes to fill at UNISON, but we know he will remain a key supporter of our work in the future."

Dave Anderson, chair, Marras, friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala:

"In the Saturday that conference started in 2001 we had an NEC meeting. Dave attended that but then had to leave to start his treatment for cancer.

Prior to the meeting I went to see him as we had become firm friends since he, I and Dave Godson led the first UNISON policy committee back in 1993.

I presented him with my personal miners’ oil lamp that I had from my days as a coal miner—as a sign of solidarity and to keep him safe in the months ahead. He was blown away and embarrassed me in front of the whole NEC.

A year later we were celebrating Liz’s birthday at their house. Mid-evening he stopped the party and called me forward. I was convinced he was going to return my lamp, but I had told him from the outset it was his to keep. However it wasn’t my lamp he gave me; it was the one that the NUM had presented NALGO in the wake of the 84/85 strike where they had given sterling support. I was delighted by this great gesture.

In 2009, as MP for Blaydon, I went to see the new Speaker, John Bercow, and I informed him that I was going to loan him the NALGO lamp to help him in his duties as the leading commoner in our nation. And, boy, did he need it!!

When he retired the lamp came back to me and it is a treasured possession from a very happy time working with one of the best trade union leaders of all time."

Will Straw, executive director, Britain Stronger In Europe campaign:

No trade union did more than UNISON during the 2016 referendum campaign. UNISON's support was so important in getting out the Remain vote, dispelling myths about funding for the NHS, and shining a media spotlight on the issues that mattered to UNISON's members.

Paul O’Brien and Mo Baines, Association for Public Service Excellence:

"The last couple of decades have seen a huge amount of change take place in local government, much of which has impacted hugely on its workforce, over that period there has always been a strong voice advocating on their behalf, Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON. In APSE we have campaigned on many fronts over the period on issues that closely align with the values at the heart of UNISON, under Dave’s leadership. We have worked together to make a difference, recognising that our communities and the excellent local government workforce are intertwined, sharing a belief that services delivered directly by local people at the heart of the local area are the most effective.

Thank you for your service to the local government family and for your defence of the services that communities will always rely upon."

International

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation:

Dave Prentis has been a major figure in the trade union movement for many years, globally as well as nationally. And while UNISON will need a successor who will have a big (if quietly spoken) role to fill, it’s selfishly good news for me that he will be staying on as president of Public Services International for another two years. His calming and softly humorous personal presence as the leader of PSI has been an added bonus to the contribution that UNISON under his leadership made as one of the largest unions in the world. Managing that giant has been a giant task, but he always had time and energy to devote to making the case globally for the public sector and it's dedicated, if underpaid, workforce.
UNISON’s loss will be compensated by the extra contribution he will be able to make to PSI and the rest of the global trade union movement.

Randi Weingarten, president and Lorretta Johnson, secretary-treasurer, American Federation of Teachers:

"UNISON’s announcement of your pending retirement was met with mixed emotions in the halls of the AFT. No-one has been a more stellar leader in fighting for the rights of working men and women in public service and healthcare than you.

From Derby, to the halls of the ILO, the clarity of your strategic direction has yielded important protections for those whom you lead. The news has given us a chance to reflect over our years of standing together, working together and fighting together for our members who deserve justice and fairness for the steadfast service they give their communities every day."

Francoise Geng, CGT-FRANCE Health and Social Action Federation, vice president, EPSU:

The European trade union commitment has led me to meet many comrades from all countries. Some have marked me more than others. Having worked with Dave for a few years was instructive for me, for him defending the interests of workers was the number one priority.

He has always calmly and firmly defended the mandate he carried and even though our approaches may have differed on certain points, his listening skills remained deeply respectful and fraternal.

Dave undoubtedly made a positive impact on the functioning of EPSU through his seriousness and his deep commitment to European and international trade unionism.

You have been admirably able to defend the causes of your union organization, especially during the tumultuous period leading up to Brexit and you have never wavered on the demands for progress for your union members.

Thank you for the quality of our common work within the presidential team, I have learned a lot from you.

You can be proud of the work accomplished in the service of the workers of your union organization, of those of EPSU and PSI, you had no frontiers to advance social gains.

Nomatemba Tambo, South African High Commissioner:

"UNISON and its predecessor unions have a proud record in the fight against apartheid, in support of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and democratic, non-racist and non-sexist South Africa including its support for the successor to AAM, ACTSA.

Dave has ensured that UNISON not only maintains but builds on this proud history and record. He has shown a great commitment to anti-racism, to promoting rights and dignity, to equality and the importance not just nationally but internationally of good public services.

I know Dave will have many memories and that high amongst these will be meeting Nelson Mandela. Dave was also a friend of the great anti-apartheid activist Denis Goldberg - both Mandela and Denis were awarded honorary life membership by UNISON.

Dave will shortly be moving on to a new chapter in his life. I know he won’t forget us in South Africa and Southern Africa, our struggles and achievements and we will not forget his commitment, internationalism and solidarity. Dave, after a lifetime of service you deserve a good break but I very much hope and look forward to you continuing to put your and UNISON’s values into action. I also hope when we can all travel you will visit South Africa again and renew friendships and solidarity."

Thomas Kattnig, younion, Die Daseinsgewerkshaft, Austria:

Dear Dave,

We met for the first time in 2004 at an EPSU executive committee meeting. I was immediately struck by your determined manner and your friendly and uncomplicated way of approaching young colleagues. Years later, I had the chance to contribute, together with others, to overcoming the PSI crisis at your side. Your determination, coupled with all the qualities that make a great trade unionist leader, such as your inimitable “British” composure, your subtle sense of humour, your leadership quality and expertise were crucial in restoring PSI to its former strength under your presidency. All these qualities make you an exceptional leader and a unique person. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your personal support and your friendship you have shown me over the years. Stay healthy and connected to me and all of us, in friendship and solidarity. “He who enjoys doing and enjoys what he has done is happy.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Mark Hancock, national president, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE):

The announcement that UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis was retiring at the end of 2020 was bittersweet news. UNISON is CUPE’s sister union in the UK and over the past two decades, we have witnessed his leadership with admiration. We have had the honour to engage in meaningful solidarity together at global level and are certain he leaves a legacy of movement-building and a commitment to workers’ rights that mark a lasting contribution to a more just and equitable world. On behalf of CUPE’s 700,000 members, I want to express our gratitude for his solidarity, contribution and commitment to the global trade union movement and best wishes in his future endeavours.

Larry Brown, national president, National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada:

"Dave has been one of a very small club, a leader of a multi-million member union. In that role he led the union successfully through some difficult and challenging periods.

He has also served, so capably, as one of the leaders of a 20 million-plus international union organisation, which is mostly where I saw him in action.

To say that Dave has been an excellent president of PSI is a serious understatement. He has handled that role with commitment, a wide grasp of international issues, and respect for all. Mostly. There was one period during Dave’s tenure when we all saw the flashes of steel as he had to steer the ship through some tricky tides.

With all that, Dave has always been pleasant and approachable, with a lovely sense of humour and a complete absence of arrogance or self-importance.

It is sometimes said that ‘they don’t make ‘em like that anymore’. I hope that’s wrong. We need many more leaders like Dave Prentis. He has, put simply, made the world a better place."

FP-CGIL, Italy:

A long history of friendship, starting in the defence of Palestine, common projects, against austerity for public sector workers and reciprocal support. We have come a long way together. Thankyou Dave, and a warm and sincere wish for your new life.

Assaf Adiv, executive director, MAAN Workers Association:

I would like to thank UNISON’s general secretary Dave Prentis for the deep understanding and interest the union manifested towards our work in the past decade. As you leave your office as general secretary, we convey our deep gratitude to you for more than a decade of fruitful co-operation. This trust in us was not obvious. MAAN presented a course, which opted for a challenging path to organise Palestinian workers employed by Israeli companies inside the state of Israel and in the settlements located in the occupied West Bank. We had to forge our way in difficult conditions of fierce opposition by employers and no organising culture among Palestinian workers. We cannot exaggerate the meaning of UNISON’s support – morally and financially – in this challenging effort. When we look at UNISON, especially under your leadership, and in light of the turmoil Britain has been going through, we greatly value your deeply considered positions. You are leaving an admired legacy and we are so proud we had the opportunity to be your partner.

Valter Sanches, general secretary, IndustriALL Global Union:

Dear Dave, as I have just learned that you are standing down as general secretary of UNISON, I wish to commend you on your 20 years of successful and committed hard work on behalf of the working class.

I appreciate very much the work UNISON has carried out, under your leadership, as a progressive force pushing for fundamental labour rights and solidarity at the national and international level.

Furthermore your outward looking and modern union approach has given rise to a new partnership between our organisations that is working in innovative ways. We highly value our collaboration around socially responsible public procurement in electronics, TGSL and other sectors, and we hope to continue strengthening our joint activities in support of supply chain workers.

Tobias Baudin, president, Kommunal:

"As president of Kommunal, I would like to thank you, Dave. It has been a pleasure to follow the impressive journey that UNISON has taken under your leadership. There is no wonder so many of us look at UNISON for inspiration and knowledge. You were among the first to develop smart strategies in order to attract new members, making trade union membership more attractive and more valuable for workers in the UK. And what you are doing seems to work. A little bird whispered in my ear that about 120,000 people have joined UNISON so far this year. What a success!

Your strength during the Corona pandemic has been impressive to say the least. We still find ourselves in the middle of this horrible crisis where members of our unions are standing on the front line; trying to stop the spread of the virus is not the nice task, but it brings comfort to know that we are in this together. So, thank you, Dave for your strong commitment and hard work. The trade union movement owes you big time! Not only in the UK but all over Europe. And not only in Europe, within our global federation PSI important steps have been taken in the right direction because of your engagement. Together, we will keep moving towards better working conditions for trade union members across the globe."

Kevin Callinan, general secretary, Forsa:

I have known Dave for more than 20 years through our work together in the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and Public Services International (PSI). He has shown extraordinary leadership and has put international solidarity at the core of all of his efforts.

Of course Fórsa and its predecessor unions prior to our amalgamation in 2018 have always enjoyed cordial and productive relations with UNISON.

Since UNISON was formed we have seen it grow and go from strength to strength often pioneering new ways of representing and speaking up for the members.

When I was appointed as Fórsa’s general secretary last year, the first person who I thought of speaking to about renewing our own organisation and developing a strong and powerful new union was Dave Prentis. In keeping with the character of the man he was extremely generous with his time and insights.

I wish Dave a well-deserved and hard-earned retirement and every happiness for the future.

Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary, Public Services International (PSI):

"I met Dave for the first time in 2005 when I became international secretary of my union in Italy, Funzione Pubblica CGIL.

My colleagues in the department described him as the powerful leader of a big and strong union such as UNISON, with a great influence in the British political arena. He was not the tall, big man with resounding voice that I had imagined, but his pale and skinny complexion, his almost timid aspect were lending him a charismatic allure and the authority of a true popular leader.

Our unions established a close relationship in the fight against the marketisation of public services within the EU and the austerity policies that were hitting workers in the public and private sector as well.

In his capacity as PSI president, I had the honour to work with Dave for the past eight years. My election as PSI general secretary arrived at the end of a difficult and contentious phase and I owe Dave’s sound mind the success in overcoming the internal division of the organisation and the support in strengthening PSI global activism and reputation.

In two moments I found his contribution to PSI absolutely strategic. One is the immediate response of UNISON to PSI’s call for a contribution to a capacity-building project of Western African health sector unions facing the Ebola outbreak—a project that turned out to be an extraordinary experience for PSI affiliates in these hard times when we are all confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second is the active involvement of UNISON, and Dave personally, in the fight against free trade agreements, particularly the TTIP, aiming at opening public services to the free market. An involvement that was crucial not only to lobby the European institutions, but brought Dave and I to Washington to lobby the US parliament as well. All this, while he continued to fight at home to defend UNISON members from the brutal attacks of Tory governments, showing what it means being a leader of the working class, an internationalist, a trade unionist.

I should express my thankfulness to Dave, but I am not going to do it now as I will continue to count on him to lead PSI until the next congress. And now that he will be free from the enormous responsibility of being UNISON general secretary, he will have plenty of time to work two more years for PSI and the international trade union movement. Dave, the fight must go on!"