CSP’s Lesley Mercer says role is perfect opportunity to stand up for the health service
Lesley was elected at this morning’s meeting of the TUC’s governing body – the General Council – and takes over from Paul Kenny, the General Secretary of the GMB.
Lesley has been involved with the trade union movement for more than 30 years. After studying politics at Nottingham University, she spent two years travelling and working in a variety of temporary jobs in hotels, catering and office work.
Her first union post came in 1977 as an assistant research officer for the Merchant & Navy Airline Officers Association – now Nautilus International. She then became executive assistant and then negotiations officer with the Society of Civil & Public Servants which, after several mergers, has now become the Public and Commercial Services Union.
Lesley joined the CSP in 1995 as a senior negotiating officer and then assistant director, before becoming the director of its trade union function in 2005.
Within the health sector, Lesley sits on the steering group of the NHS Social Partnership Forum and is responsible for the CSP’s relationships with other health unions. Lesley has also been an independent lay chair for the NHS complaints process, a role that has provided her with a valuable insight into the health service as seen through the eyes of patients and their relatives.
Lesley has been on the TUC General Council for twelve years, and on the TUC Executive for the past five. A former employment tribunal panel member, she now sits on the government’s Central Arbitration Committee.
A firm advocate of equality and fair play, Lesley believes that the union movement plays a unique role in both supporting union members at work and in standing up for wider social justice. A visit earlier this year to Colombia – the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a trade unionist – provided Lesley with a harrowing reminder of just how important even the smallest acts of international solidarity are to those living under extreme forms of oppression.
Commenting on her election as TUC President, Lesley Mercer said: “I am proud to be the first President to come from a combined trade union and professional body, four-fifths of whose members are women. One of the TUC’s key strengths is the sheer breadth of the different occupations reflected in its membership and I’m keen to use my year to press home this advantage.
“My year as President is also the perfect opportunity to stand up for the NHS as something that belongs to the people and must always be there free of charge when needed.
“I’m looking forward to working with the TUC’s first ever female general secretary, when Frances O’Grady takes over from Brendan Barber at the end of the year. Even 15 years ago, the idea of having a woman at the top of the union movement would have seemed remote. But with women now making up more than half of all union members, this is an entirely logical development.”
Lesley lives with her partner Graham in East London. A keen cyclist, she commutes by bike into central London whenever she can.
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