Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/665/11705
Labour Link won't save jobs and services
Like many trade union leaders across the country, the leadership of Unison in the east Midlands have tried to answer the question: "What next after the demo on 26 March?"
In a document recently circulated to branches, they correctly pointed out the need for a good turnout on the demo. Then they add: "The next big thing after 26 March is the council elections on 5 May and we need to give the Lib Dems and Tories a message through the ballot box too".
"Vote Labour", and not a word about further demos, never mind industrial action. It is now over six months since the TUC passed 'composite 10' at the TUC conference that called for a demo to be followed up with "support and coordinated campaigning and joint union industrial action, nationally and locally, in opposition to attacks on jobs, pensions, pay or public services".
Instead, what we have from Unison is an advert for the Labour Party and a promotion of Unison's 'Labour Link'.
But the Labour Link is not going to save jobs and services because the Labour Party opposition to the coalition government is based on a policy of 'cuts yes but not so fast'. Or as Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist puts it: "It's a difference of half a parliamentary term". The Con-Dems want these cuts during this parliamentary term, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband wants to extend into the next parliamentary term.
The campaign to defeat the cuts needs a political answer as well as an industrial one but the unions' leadership have nothing to say about that.
In fact, when the civil service union PCS proposed at the last meeting of the TUC public services liaison committee that the unions should unite in action against the attacks on public sector pensions, Unison officials attacked the PCS for being 'unrealistic'.
They said there was no way they could expect their local government members, who contribute to their pension scheme, to take strike action in defence of civil servants who have a non-contributory scheme.
Unison members in local government face a massive increase in the amount they have to pay into the scheme and a reduction in their pension entitlements.
Civil servants, teachers and health workers were able to protect themselves against the last attacks on their pensions in 2005 by threatening coordinated strike action. Now the 2005 deal, which protected existing members of the scheme from any detriment, is in danger of being ripped up by the government.
Council workers and civil servants are both under attack. It makes sense, as PCS was proposing, for the unions to coordinate their strike ballots and strike action in defence of the pension schemes, as well as defence of their jobs and wages, which are also under attack.
It is high time that the Unison leadership was held to account for its unpreparedness to defend members facing government attacks. Their strategy is again: "Let's wait for a Labour government", something they mouthed throughout the last Tory government.
A political and an industrial strategy are vital. Socialist Party members in Unison call for the ending of the link with the Labour Party. We argue that the union should put itself foursquare behind the demand for a new mass workers' party based on the trade unions.
See www.socialistparty.org.uk for a list of Socialist Party members standing in the current Unison NEC election.
In The Socialist 6 April 2011:
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party youth and students