In a blow to Andy Burnham, who had hoped to win the union’s support, the Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, said Corbyn’s message was resonating with public sector workers whose wages had been frozen.
Unison has recommended Yvette Cooper as its second choice.
The endorsement by Unison will help to cement Corbyn’s position as the current – and surprise – frontrunner in the leadership contest. The Daily Mirror reported on Tuesday that Corbyn, who is already supported by Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, has opened up a 20-point lead in the leadership contest after a YouGov/Times poll last week gave him a 17-point lead.
Prentis said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s message has resonated with public sector workers who have suffered years of pay freezes, redundancies with too many having to work more for less.
“They have been penalised for too long by a government that keeps on taking more and more from them. Their choice shows a clear need for change towards a fairer society where work is fairly rewarded, and where those living and working in poverty are supported.
“Today’s decision is a recommendation and our members are of course free to cast their vote as to who they think should lead the Labour party.”
Corbyn said: “I want to thank Unison for its nomination today. Unison members are in the frontline of the impact of the government’s austerity agenda. They are the people that provide the services our society relies on. They should be valued and heard.
“As leader of the Labour party I would promote high-quality, modern, public services – against outsourcing, privatisation and low pay. We are building a movement for a modern, kinder Britain, and I look forward to working with Unison members to achieve that.”
The trade unions have less impact under the new leadership rules than they had in previous elections. Under the old system, in place at the time of Ed Miliband’s election in 2010, trade union members had one-third of the votes in the electoral college system, and would
send out ballot papers to their members. The Unite union plastered pictures of Miliband on envelopes that contained ballot papers.
Union members who opt in to the union’s political fund, or who are signed as as a registered union supporter, have one vote, which carries the same weight as any other member. The main trade unions have been signing up supporters ahead of the leadership election.
This article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 29th July 2015 16.20 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010