Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/389/4403
UNISON Health Conference
Drive poverty pay out of the NHS
THIS IS the first time since the Agenda for Change (AfC) special conference last October that delegates from UNISON health branches will have the opportunity to discuss the problems that the pay and regrading reorganisation scheme AfC has brought. We will also discuss the key issues of pensions and New Labour's continued privatisation of the NHS.
Brain Loader, UNISON steward, NHS Logistics
On pensions, an emergency resolution from Oxfordshire Health branch seeks for UNISON to collaborate closely with other government trade unions. It calls for collaboration in issuing campaign material defending pensions and balloting together for simultaneous industrial action if the government still intends to raise health workers' retirement age above 60.
Privatisation of NHS services
The Wakefield and Pontefract Hospitals motion identifies the latest gifts to big businesses. These are - market testing of the Decontamination Service and NHS Logistics and private-sector control of Diagnostics Treatment Centres.
The motion calls for the conference to register a vote of no-confidence in the Secretary of State for Health and the rest of the government over the NHS. The motion congratulates branches who have bought staff back in-house and supports and encourages branches taking similar action in the future.
It looks like the UNISON bureaucracy will seek to minimise the criticism of New Labour during the conference. This is clear in the composite on NHS 'arms-length' bodies, where the only deletion from the motions and amendments is the call for UNISON to organise campaigns and action to prevent the privatisation of NHS services by New Labour.
Clearly the bureaucracy will be arguing that it's better for NHS workers to be under New Labour than a Vampire-Howard Tory government.
Last autumn, New Labour promised to help in the implementation of AfC by giving £30 million to pay for 'back fill' for UNISON stewards involved in the negotiations. This has now been whittled down to £20 million. Also the majority of the money is aimed at funding the additional cost of unsocial hours, which will not be resolved until 2006. It will not cover the hospital work of over-stretched UNISON stewards.
Wakefield and Pontefract have submitted a motion to launch the 2006 pay claim. This incorporates a national minimum wage of £7.00 for all NHS workers, including those employed by private contractors. Under AfC the minimum rate is £5.89, which many contracted-out staff still do not receive.
The motion tackles the two-tier workforce developing in the NHS, by calling for UNISON to campaign and organise national industrial action, including strike action, to drive poverty pay out of the NHS.
End the link with Labour
Many of our problems in the health service come directly from attacks by the Labour government. Yet our union finances the Labour Party with £2 million a year of our subs! Why should we "feed the hand that bites us"? We call for a members' ballot on whether or not we continue to be affiliated to the Labour Party.
UNISON, as the biggest union, should launch a campaign for a new, mass workers' party which will represent our interests and not the interests of big business.
Socialist Party conference meeting: Break with Labour, Save Our Pensions.
Tuesday lunchtime 26 April, at the Harry Tate pub 35-37 Union Street, near The Pavilions.
In The Socialist 21 April 2005: