Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

Posted on 19 May 2011 at 15:47 GMT

Unison leaders failing to adopt the demands of health workers

A Unison nurse

Around 100 nursing stewards attended Unison's first nursing and midwifery professional seminar in York on 11-12 May. Unfortunately delegates' participation was restricted to questions to the main speakers and there was no room for any real debate.

Karen Jennings, one of Unison's newly appointed assistant general secretaries, was the first speaker and gave an overview of the threats to the NHS as a result of the government's proposals.

Although she was critical of Labour's record on the NHS she also repeated the old mantras of more nurses, shorter waiting lists and new hospitals built during Labour's last term in office.

According to Karen Jennings Labour remains the only show in town. We should also stop giving Clegg and the Lib Dems such a hard time as the Tories are the real enemy.

Whilst the Tories are our enemy it would be wrong to let the Lib Dems off the hook and ignore their role in the Con-Dem coalition. Yet it appears that some Unison leaders are looking to the Lib Dems as future partners for Labour.

This shows how they lack any idea of an alternative to the cuts. They also fear Labour being exposed as service and job cutters if they win a majority at the next general election.

The session on pensions highlighted the threat facing all public sector workers following the Hutton report. One delegate asked when Unison would be balloting for industrial action in defence of pensions following general secretary Dave Prentis' pledge.

Karen Jennings had earlier stated that Unison would be meeting with the cabinet to discuss the principals of negotiations for each sector and that consultation would then need to take place over a ballot, which is a 17 week process.

She also warned of needing to ensure a high turnout in any ballot. She did not consider the evidence of the huge demo on 26 March and the results of a recent Unison nursing survey.

There 72% said they would be in favour of taking industrial action in defence of their pensions. Also previous campaigns on pensions have seen a massive rise in recruitment of members to the union.

She also ruled out the idea of Unison taking action on 30 June.

The idea that there is no alternative to Labour was reinforced throughout the conference with one of the guest speakers commenting adversely on the RMT's Bob Crow and his "new workers' party".

This shows that Unison's leadership remains tied to the Labour Party despite the experience of the last government and is unwilling to lead a fightback against the Con-Dem coalition.

Workers cannot afford to wait five years for the election of another pro-big business Labour government and needs their own political voice now. The event was a welcome initiative and gave the opportunity for nurses and midwives to come together to share their experiences.

The most inspirational speaker was from the New South Wales Nurses Association. She gave an account of their campaign to improve patient/staff ratios with one nurse to four patients being the key demand.

This was a model of how to organise, with nurses taking control of the wards, closing beds apart from emergency use and engaging with the public for support.

They organised a rally of 6,000 nurses and won a ballot on industrial action.

Although not all of their demands were won they did get a backdated pay rise of 9.7% and a commitment to move towards their demands on staffing ratios.

If this sort of campaign can win in Australia there is no reason why Unison couldn't use the same methods of organisation to mobilise in defence of the NHS.

Hopefully this will be an annual event and delegates in future will be allowed to participate more fully, determine the agenda and develop a fighting programme for nurses and all NHS staff.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 2011-05-19 15:47:13 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

Related links:


triangleThe fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

triangleUnison attacks Barts deal after failing to ballot their members for strike action

triangleSurrey County Council staff on collision course over pay freeze

triangleEscalate summer strike wave into coordinated action to defeat the pay cap

triangleTories weak: time for the TUC to act


triangleNHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts

triangleTories wreck our NHS

triangleOne in four teenage girls depressed - crisis made worse by cuts

triangleStrike to save our NHS!


triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

triangleThe end of the Tories?

triangleSalford Unison condemns pay cuts


triangleNasty party out the Tories

triangleBerlin hospital strike


triangleCarlisle NHS campaigners hand in petition to MP

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Justice for Tube cleaners demo



Salford Unison condemns pay cuts


Royal Mail

CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike



Carlisle NHS campaigners hand in petition to MP



Don't wreck our rec! Campaigning to save green space in Standish



No more fire deaths - ensure safety now!



Cardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg


John McDonnell

Manchester rally discussed unionisation and nationalisation



Join the Orgreave Halloween rally



Workplace news in brief


Democratic rights

Who's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights


Northern Ireland

Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs



Too much to cross the Mersey


Royal Mail

Set for national strike action



Supporting the general strike in Catalonia

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

triangle18 Oct Tower Hamlets Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - is Corbyn the answer?

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice