Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/492/2544
UNISON local government conference
Leadership get a roasting from angry delegates
UNISON local government conference erupted in rebellion against the leadership as soon as it opened. Delegates voted against accepting the idea that they couldn't debate the new pensions agreement which had been reached two days before the conference began.
The leadership tried to argue that as the deal was to be put to a ballot, with a recommendation to accept, there was nothing more the conference could do. But the deal is a lot worse than other public-sector workers have managed to get.
This "advice" that the deal cannot be debated has been rejected twice in two days but it hasn't stopped the leadership still trying to argue that it cannot be debated.
But it was the pay debate which really angered delegates. The government offer of 2% has been rejected twice in consultative ballots.
Socialist Party members played a key role in the debate. Onay Kasab, from the Greenwich branch accused the pay negotiators of selling out the membership. "When does a bad offer become a good one? Answer - when the leadership say it is!" he declared.
Roger Bannister moved an amendment calling on the union to go straight to a ballot for industrial action: "Another consultative ballot would lead to further confusion. The offer has been rejected twice since April. The members don't want a ballot about a ballot for an offer they've already kicked out."
Glenn Kelly told the conference that his Tory council in Bromley had put aside 3% for the pay increase. But at the insistence of Gordon Brown they had reduced this to 2%, saving £700,000 in the process.
Both Mark Evans from Carmarthenshire and Marc Glasscoe from Lincoln, pointed out that any delay gives the employer the upper hand. "Weakness invites aggression," said Marc Glasscoe.
The amendment moved by Roger Bannister was finally carried by a card vote. Then the leadership called for a vote against their own resolution, as amended. They called for support for a motion from Tower Hamlets, which called for a consultative ballot. The leadership won this vote.
In the second big debate, on pensions, Onay Kasab said that if the pensions strike in 2005 was the biggest since the 1926 general strike, as UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis had claimed, then what has happened since was the biggest sell-out since 1926.
The third major debate of the two-day conference was on the issue of school staff. The leadership is proposing to remove 250,000 school staff from local government pay and conditions negotiations.
Again, Socialist Party members led the charge against this. Glenn Kelly, Jim Thompson, Roger Bannister and April Ashley spoke against these proposals. They all spelt out the lessons from the splitting off of staff in further education colleges. Most of these workers have ended up worse off than when they were part of the council workforce.
The main UNISON conference, when local government workers will be joined by delegates from health and other groups, also promises to have some heated debates.
In The Socialist 21 June 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
War and terrorism
Socialist students and ISR
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news