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Posted on 24 June 2011 at 17:15 GMT

Unison conference Socialist Party meeting spells out action needed

Socialist Party fringe meeting at June 2011 Unison conference, photo Greg Maughan

Socialist Party fringe meeting at June 2011 Unison conference, photo Greg Maughan

Following discussion on the floor of Unison's conference about how to fight the attacks on workers' jobs, pay, terms and conditions - particularly on public sector pensions - the conference Socialist Party fringe meeting on Wednesday 22 June was packed with over 70 delegates.

Delegates and visitors at the meeting from the conference and the Manchester region responded enthusiastically to the ideas raised by the main speakers.

The vivid discussion which followed was in stark contrast to the conference, where the union leadership were doing everything they could to dampen the mood and deflect the fighting spirit amongst Unison members.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis's commitment to organise a ballot for strike action in the autumn was welcomed, but there was frustration that no dates have yet been proposed and the details of the union's industrial strategy have not been fully discussed during the conference.

Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe noted that Prentis had 'welcomed' the strike action being taken on 30 June by the PCS, NUT and other unions, and to applause, added: "if so, why did he not make a call for Unison members to join it!".

The Socialist Party meeting played host to a discussion on these vital issues, with Unison NEC member Roger Bannister outlining (in a personal capacity) what Socialist Party members across the trade union movement have been campaigning for - ie a coordinated one-day public sector strike.

John McInally, national vice-president of the PCS spoke (in a personal capacity) about the build up to the historic strike action on 30 June, which needs to be the beginning of a sustained industrial campaign to defeat this government of millionaires and beat back their attack on working class people.

He explained that workers are the victims not the cause of the economic crisis and outlined the PCS's campaign for an alternative, exposing the lie that there is no choice but to cut jobs and services.

Throughout the week, Socialist Party bulletins and copies of the Socialist were well received, with 192 copies of the Socialist being sold, around 2,000 donated to the party's Fighting Fund and a number of Unison members from the conference and visitors from Manchester joining the Socialist Party.

These responses, along with discussions that party members had with other delegates about our strategy and programme showed there is a significant layer of activists in Unison who are looking for ideas to arm themselves for the fight of their lives.

Peter Taaffe outlined our socialist alternative, explaining how working class people can organise, not just to stop the cuts, but to fundamentally change society.

The organising and running of society needs to be taken out of the hands of the billionaires and banksters, he argued. The response to Socialist Party members both at this fringe meeting and during the conference, shows the potential for socialist ideas to become an even more significant current in the union over the course of the struggle we now face.

Greg Maughan

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 June 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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