Christina McAnea has today (Monday) been elected as the new general secretary of UNISON (@unisontheunion) – the first woman to head the UK’s largest union.
Christina replaces Dave Prentis, who is retiring after 20 years as general secretary. She takes up her post on 22 January.
Commenting on her election to the top job in UNISON, Christina McAnea said:
“I’m so grateful to everyone who voted for me and for the trust placed in me. I become general secretary at the most challenging time in recent history – both for our country and our public services.
“Health, care, council, police, energy, school, college and university staff have worked throughout the pandemic, and it’s their skill and dedication that will see us out the other side.
“Their union will continue to speak up for them and do all it can to protect them in the difficult months ahead. Despite the risks, the immense pressures and their sheer exhaustion, the dedication and commitment of our key workers knows no end. I will not let this government, nor any future one, forget that.
“Supporting public service workers through the pandemic, securing an early pay rise for NHS staff and ensuring the government backs down on its plans for an ill-judged pay freeze will be my immediate priorities. Pushing for the funding and the political will to create a quality, affordable national care service, where staff are respected and paid fairly, comes close behind.”
Outgoing general secretary Dave Prentis said:
“This is a historic day for our union, and I am delighted that Christina – a close friend and colleague for over 30 years – has today been elected as general secretary of our great union. As an experienced and respected negotiator and passionate campaigner, I can think of no better person to pass the baton to and take our union forward.
“I am so proud that our union of over a million women now has its very first woman leader. Christina will be a fantastic general secretary, as she presides over a growing union. I know she will continue to stand up for public service workers everywhere, holding employers and the government to account in pursuit of the strong, well-funded services the UK’s communities both need and deserve.”
Currently one of UNISON’s five assistant general secretaries, Christina has worked at UNISON since its formation in 1993, having previously joined local government union NALGO as women’s officer in the late 1980s.
Christina grew up in Drumchapel, a big council housing estate in Glasgow. She left school at 16 and worked in the civil service, the NHS and retail before going to university at the age of 22.
Having achieved a degree in English and history, Christina first worked as a housing officer for Glasgow City Council, before moving to the GMB, where she advised workers taking cases against their employers to industrial tribunals.
In her time at UNISON, Christina has become the union’s most senior negotiator, with a wide-ranging public services brief covering health, education, social care, local government and equalities.
She has held senior positions across the union, negotiating on behalf of members working in police forces, schools, universities and colleges, and the NHS.
While head of health at the union, Christina played a key negotiating role in the national dispute over pensions, when up to two million public sector workers took part in a day of action in late 2011. Three years later, she was the lead negotiator in the first national health strike in England in 25 years.
Christina is a member of the ACAS Council, sits on the government’s Covid-19 social care stakeholder group and was the driving force behind the creation last year of the future social care coalition, a cross-party alliance of more than 80 organisations and individuals.
Christina is married, has two adult children and lives in South London.