“A giant of the labour movement”: MPs pay tribute to UNISON’s Dave Prentis

Elliot Chappell

Labour MPs have paid tribute to UNISON leader Dave Prentis – who today announced that he would be stepping down from his role as general secretary – calling him a “giant of the labour movement”.

Several of the party’s MPs have reacted on social media to the announcement from the trade union boss this morning, including Labour leader Keir Starmer who thanked him for his “many years of outstanding leadership”.

Angela Rayner also expressed her gratitude to the longstanding trade union leader – she said on Twitter that “Dave has led our union for many years and has been an outstanding general secretary”.

The deputy Labour leader, UNISON member and former union rep described how Prentis was “always encouraging activists like me in the early days in the union, always so supportive”. She added “thanks for everything Dave”.

In response to the news released in a message to UNISON staff members today, Jon Ashworth tweeted that Prentis is “one of the finest and most effective trade union general secretaries we’ve ever seen”.

The Shadow Health Secretary added that the union leader was “always fighting for low paid public sector workers and securing meaningful victories for UNISON’s members”. He described him as a “giant of the labour movement”.

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy wished Prentis “all the best in his final months at UNISON as well as in retirement”, adding that he had “contributed so much throughout his career to the rights and interests of worker”.

Labour’s Carolyn Harris also took to social media to praise Prentis’ record, saying that he “lives and breathes what it means to stand up for the rights of working people across our country”.

The deputy leader of Welsh Labour added: “I have no doubt retirement won’t stop him, either. Thank you for everything you have done — I wish you a long and happy retirement.”

Shadow minister for Northern Ireland Karin Smyth wrote that Prentis’ “defence of employee rights across our country has benefited so many communities”, saying that he had made a “huge contribution” to trade unions and Labour.

Shadow health minister Alex Norris tweeted that “the unwavering commitment Dave Prentis has given the trade union the labour movement has been exceptional”. He also thanked him for the support he’s “given me personally”.

Ilford North MP and UNISON member Wes Streeting responded to the general secretary’s retirement by saying that “Dave will leave a huge legacy for our union – now the largest in the UK and the fastest-growing in Europe”.

Neath MP Christina Rees said: “Thank you Dave Prentis for everything you have done for working people across our country. I hope you have a happy, well-deserved retirement. You will be sadly missed — although I am sure you will not be a stranger!”

Prentis told members today that he had decided to step down at the end of his current term, which draws to a close on December 31st this year. The union will meet this week to discuss a timetable for the election of his successor.

Prentis has held the top job in the union for the past 19 years, first becoming general secretary in 2001. He was re-elected in 2005 with 77% of the vote, and again in 2015 taking 49% of the overall vote share.

UNISON endorsed both Starmer and Rayner in the leader and deputy leadership elections earlier this year. Prentis wrote for LabourList following the contest, saying that they have the “ingredients for a winning team”.

UNISON is one of the biggest trade unions in the UK, with its members working in the public sector, for private contractors providing public services and for utility companies. It has over 1.3 million members.

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