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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 September 2004

TUC conference

Delegates Give Thumbs Down To Blair

HAVING ANNOUNCED the sacking of over 100,000 civil servants in the public sector, Tony Blair went to the TUC Congress to try and persuade delegates that he had not lost touch with the concerns of hard-working families. Delegates speaking to the socialist were not impressed with what he had to say.

Glenn Kelly"IN HIS speech, Blair said it was time to come home, recognising he'd been on a seven-year holiday from dealing with the difficulties facing working people in Britain. He at last recognised that there were people who were sick and disabled who needed help and are struggling. But behind that we know his government is planning cuts in incapacity benefit.

"Blair said he recognised people were struggling to survive on the minimum wage but it was this government that introduced the minimum wage at such a pitifully low level. This is a government that has sat back while poverty has destroyed the lives of millions."

Glenn Kelly, branch secretary Bromley UNISON

"BLAIR SAID nothing today that would make any worker in the Department of Work and Pensions feel better. He said he cared about families living in poverty but we have got members employed by this government who have families and get paid less than 10,600 a year. His speech will leave many of our members disappointed and let down by Labour - even more than they feel let down at present.

"If that's the start of his election campaign, then he should get nought out of 10."

Jane Acheson, PCS DWP group executive

"Blair's speech was hopeless. He said nothing real about how his promises on the public sector can be delivered without a civil service."

Marion Lloyd, PCS national executive

"I THOUGHT the speech was totally predictable and I don't think it offered anything to ordinary workers whether they work in the fire service or elsewhere in the public sector. And it didn't offer any reassurances to the 100,000-plus civil servants that have been threatened with job losses.

"Listening to Blair it's always sweets and nice things tomorrow but nothing for today. I think the message from the FBU in Northern Ireland would be 'don't trust phoney Tony'. After all, his own chancellor won't even trust Tony Blair. So why should ordinary working people?

"There were lots of threats in his speech. To me, his comments about flexibility and family friendly policies reads as ultimately meaning modernisation and downgrading and casualisation."

Jim Barbour, Fire Brigade Northern Ireland and national executive

"WE WERE waiting to hear what he would say about the civil service job cuts but he pointedly refused to acknowledge the impact of the job cuts on public services.

So we remain committed to getting the support of our members in the coming ballot for a one-day strike to register a protest to these plans and to re-establish national negotiating rights which have been effectively withdrawn from us since the early 1980s."

Chris Baugh, PCS deputy general secretary

"The people the government are seeking to axe are not bowler-hatted Sir Humphreys or faceless bureaucrats, they provide vital services that touch everybody's lives".

"Collecting the taxes to pay for hospitals and schools, stopping drugs from flowing into the country and making sure people get their winter fuel payments doesn't happen by magic"

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary

Privatisation Madness

SPEAKING IN the debate at the TUC on protecting public services, PCS President Janice Godrich warned delegates not to be taken in by promises from government ministers who ditch promises almost as quickly as they can open up their ministerial red boxes.

She showed how the government's handling of private contracts had got completely out of control and showed how the government was now being asked to allow the offshoring of public-sector work.

The Department of National Savings had been privatised to Siemens in 1997 and Siemens now want to offshore 250 jobs to India, laying off 400 temporary workers. Siemens now say that the contract was not delivering them enough profits. It's now up to government ministers who have the final say in whether or not this blatant, profit-driven offshoring will be allowed.

Solidarity Must Mean More Than Just Words

HUNDREDS PACKED into a fringe meeting organised by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) on the eve of the conference debate on the civil service jobs losses.

Twelve union general secretaries and even TUC general secretary Brendan Barber came onto the platform to offer their support to the PCS and other civil service unions in their fight against the job cuts.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, set the scene for the forthcoming battle against he job cuts when he said: "This government plan to close 550 Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) offices and ten processing centres. Blair said nothing today to contradict that. A government is macho posturing with the Tories who can cut more jobs. Like the miners demanded in 1984 we want the solidarity in action from other unions."

Billy Hayes, CWU General SecretaryBilly Hayes, CWU general secretary, also drew out the parallel with the savage job cuts endured by the miners when he said: "The announcement by Brown in Parliament reminded me of when Heseltine announced his pit closures programme in 1992."

Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the TGWU's comments that: "We offer total support and solidarity from the TGWU - all the way", were echoed by all of the other union leaders who spoke at the rally.

Other union general secretaries, including Kevin Curran of the GMB - who had initially not seen any problem with Gordon Brown's announcement of 40,000 civil service jobs losses in his budget - and Dave Prentis of UNISON, all added their backing.

Prentis even went as far as to say that the unions needed to learn the lessons of the past and ensure that they weren't picked off one by one but "all stood together".

Whilst civil servants attending the rally would have welcomed these statements many will wait and see how far this materialises into concrete action. They contrasted with the comments many union leaders made, welcoming the "positive" aspects of Blair's speech.

Andy Gilchrist of the FBU told the rally that the firefighters had already donated 10,000 to the PCS, an example other unions should be encouraged to follow.

But, Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, whilst offering support put it in a more qualified way: "We oppose compulsory redundancy but PCS should not act without the other civil service unions."

Nevertheless, the rally has put pressure on other civil service unions. The general secretary of Prospect, Paul Noon, was told by his delegates that the union's position of waiting to hold a ballot until any compulsory redundancy was announced was untenable. The delegates told him that the union had to act more in line with the PCS.

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In The Socialist 18 September 2004:

Turn Anger Into Action

TUC Delegates Give Thumbs Down To Blair

Pay Us A Living Wage

Behind New Labour's Power Struggle

International socialist news and analysis

Bush Sinks Deeper In Iraq Quagmire

How The US Went To War

Nigerian Workers Must Fight Anti-Union Law

Anger, Bitterness And Increasing Opposition in Germany

Socialist Party campaigns

Big Macs Can Seriously Damage Your Health

The Prostitution Debate

Asleft: Rebuilding The Union

Swansea IT Workers Determined To Win


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