Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/564/6822
Fighting council cuts
Greenwich Unison in south London has won the first round of a campaign to stop Greenwich council's plans to 'reconfigure' the child protection service. Incredibly, at a time when councils are under increasing scrutiny following several high-profile cases, the council had proposed major cuts to the service and to workers' pay.
Onay Kasab, secretary Greenwich Unison, personal capacity
The Unison branch responded by launching a major campaign led by local shop stewards. Regular meetings of the membership took place and a weekly bulletin was produced.
The union's publicity work ensured front page coverage in the local press. We prepared a detailed report, showing that the changes would leave greater numbers of children at risk. Every councillor was sent the report.
But most importantly, Unison members voted in favour of a ballot for industrial action should the council go ahead.
The council were obviously rattled. The council leader wrote to the local press criticising me for failing to show enough sensitivity on the issue and for scaremongering. We countered this by sending the full council report to the press. Clearly the council would prefer that social workers kept quiet about attacks on the service.
Then the chief executive summoned me to a meeting to express her concern about the Unison campaign. The branch stuck to its guns and the facts, ensuring that union members continued to be fully informed.
The council eventually responded by saying that the proposals would be put on hold while they reconsidered the position. This is an excellent but temporary victory. The council will attack again but the union branch is even better prepared. New stewards have been recruited and new members have joined.
The social work stewards and members have set a great example and provided inspiration for other workers across the council. All workers in Greenwich are facing an attack on pay and conditions and at least 27 workers face compulsory redundancy.
This example is not matched by the union's full-time bureaucracy who are doing everything to dampen down militancy and force workers to accept the effects of the recession. This is why this year's Unison national executive elections are so important, where Socialist Party members are standing on a joint 'reclaim the union' slate. Unison branches at present have the opportunity to nominate candidates from the slate.
Socialist Party members will be to the forefront in campaigning in these elections to replace the New Labour apologists with representatives who put their members' public services and the wider working class first.
In The Socialist 28 January 2009:
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Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
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International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news
Socialist Party reviews