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UNISON conference: Leadership's wishful thinking
UNISON'S ANNUAL conference, taking place in Glasgow so soon after Labour has returned to power, is as you would expect, full of self-congratulation by the union leadership.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party Industrial organiser
Pauline Grant, this year's president, made an opening speech along those lines. For example, she only referred in passing to the battle over pensions, when the union's members in local government voted to take national strike action, along with other unions like the civil service union PCS.
Her only reference to ballots was the re-election of Dave Prentis and the 85% vote to keep the union's political fund.
She gushed support for the government and its commitment to the unions' so-called Warwick agreement. When she listed the commitments in the agreement, many had already been broken.
She didn't mention the attacks on public-sector pensions or New Labour's veto of the European limits to the working week. Much of her speech seemed to be a sales pitch for the union's insurance company, UIA, which she chairs.
One of the first resolutions due to be heard is from the national executive council, welcoming the election of a Labour government. It follows the same sort of wishful thinking as in the president's opening address.
Hopefully these illusions will be blown away by the resolution from Knowsley which exposes the Warwick agreement for what it is.
The local government conference met before the main conference and gave an indication of what to expect. It discussed resolutions on the remodelling agreement. This agreement was supposed to recognise the role of teachers' assistants in schools. In reality it's being used to push many of these people to cover for teachers and get teaching on the cheap.
Glenn Kelly and Roger Bannister both exposed the confidence trick being conducted by the government. Glenn said that the hopes and expectations of UNISON's members on this issue are collapsing.
There's been no united campaign by the union to stop UNISON members being exploited.
"They're asked to undertake a teacher's role without teacher's pay. Last year we voted to withdraw unless the agreement was properly funded. But instead we got a survey."
Roger Bannister said that even if reluctantly UNISON has to live with the agreement, we should vote for national action instead of leaving branches to fight alone. Unfortunately it was clear that most delegates did not think the leadership would lead a national struggle in a million years. They voted instead to do the best they could within the framework of the national agreement.
Onay Kasab from Greenwich exposed the hypocrisy behind the hoopla over the Jamie Oliver school dinners programme.
"Jamie Oliver's new school kitchen has now been privatised. Jamie made a lot of money out of the programme and he even charged the Greenwich school for bringing in his own chef."
Angelika Teweleit from Hackney spoke on the campaign they have against academy schools:
"We had a public meeting of 70 people drawn from the union, the community and the parents. 50% of Hackney kids already have to go to secondary schools outside the borough. The academy will only make things worse."
In The Socialist 23 June 2005: