Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/761/16523
Unison health conference: Time to fight back against attacks
A Unison member and health worker
As Unison's health conference begins on 22 April, health workers are facing wholesale privatisation, huge financial cuts and closure of wards, services and even entire hospitals. National pay bargaining is also under threat.
We are living in the most tumultuous period in the history of the NHS. The next two or three years will determine the future of not just the NHS but also the pay and conditions of Unison members.
This is a war between trade unions and communities on the one side, and the government and employers on the other.
The Health and Social Care Act is the culmination of a whole series of government reforms which have the aim of breaking up the NHS and replacing it with a market-based system.
Under the Act, all services will be open to competition, with the inevitable result that whole swathes of the NHS will be handed over to ruthless private sector companies.
The government and employers want to make drastic cuts in labour costs as they prepare to compete with the private sector.
We have had years of little or no pay increases, with no meaningful response from Unison nationally.
Alongside this we have seen the first concerted attempt to decisively break with national terms and conditions with the establishment of a breakaway pay cartel in the South West. 19 NHS Trusts are threatening to abandon Agenda for Change and launch an unprecedented attack on terms and conditions.
This will include cuts in annual leave, increases in the working week, an end to unsocial hour pay, and a host of other measures which would result in the equivalent of a 15% cut in pay.
Unfortunately Unison's position has been to concede some of our benefits in national negotiations in order to defend Agenda for Change. However the tactic of concession bargaining has already failed.
The Foundation Trust network is advocating local pay bargaining, and the South West pay cartel is saying they will adhere to national agreements if that means massive attacks on our members' living standards!
In order to defend and re-establish the NHS, Unison needs to launch a national campaign that links up all the local protests that will develop as services are cut and privatised.
The first step should be a national demonstration, on a Saturday, which would not only increase the confidence of all our members but would give a warning to the government that they face a huge fight if they continue with their attacks.
The policy of cosy social partnerships with management is now dead. We need to mobilise the potential power that our membership possesses in a vigorous campaign.
This must include full support for all local strikes and the calling of national industrial action. We must also demand a 24-hour general strike that would not only reveal the power the trade union movement possesses but could also be the first step in the overthrow of the Con-Dem government.
Finally we need to break from the Labour Party, who when in power did so much to prepare the way for the Health and Social Care Act.
Socialist Party Unison health conference meeting:
7pm Tuesday 23 April at the "Piper in the Square", corner of Cochrane Street and George Street, Glasgow G1 1HL
Members of the Socialist Party are standing, alongside candidates organised in United Left, as part of the Reclaim the Union election slate, in the seats listed in the following article:
Unison elections: Vote for Socialist Party and Reclaim the Union candidates
In The Socialist 17 April 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party workplace feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news