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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 February 2010

Nominate Roger Bannister: Unison's leadership battle

Swansea Unison workers protest against cuts and privatisation in Wales, photo Swansea Socialist Party

Swansea Unison workers protest - Unison members need a leadership capable of fighting to defend jobs and services. Photo Swansea Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Roger Bannister, who is seeking nominations to stand in the Unison general secretary election, commented on the latest round of job cuts announced by councils across the country.
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Up here in Knowsley the Labour council are preparing to slash our jobs in the new financial year. In a pre-emptive strike they have unilaterally ripped up a long standing agreement for redeployment of those whose jobs have changed or gone.

People were put in a redeployment pool for five months. Only after that, if they still didn't have a job, they would be given three months notice of redundancy. This meant that redundancies were very rare.

The council now say - the three months statutory notice and that's it. It's clear that they are preparing the ground for a new wave of redundancies from April. We are organising a strike ballot at the moment, along with the Unite union branch, in opposition to this.

In a further development, we are organising a strike ballot over the defence of our 35-hour week agreement. We won this after strike action in 2001.

Under this agreement, workers working 37 hours have had their hours reduced to 36 and should have had them reduced to 35 by 2008. But it didn't happen. Now the council say that those on 35 hours will be forced to go up to 36 hours.

These attacks by Knowsley council reflect what is happening around the country on jobs and pay. Nationally the local government employers have offered a zero pay increase this year. Last year it was 1.5% which was in effect a pay cut.

The councils, year on year, have faced a 3% cut in grants under New Labour. According to one of our managers: 'They have trimmed the meat, now they're cutting the bone'.

Where is the current Unison general secretary Dave Prentis? What does he say about all this? He should be organising a national mobilisation of our members against these cuts in our jobs and pay and against the expected attack on public sector pensions, whoever wins the general election.

Prentis said at Unison conference last year that if the Labour manifesto did not contain key elements of Unison policy then Unison would further cut its financial support for the Labour Party. Brave words then but silence now.

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If elected I will begin the process of ending the union's link with the Labour Party and, along with other unions, would call for the development of a new workers' party."

  • Nominations close on 1 April.
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