Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/625/9557
Vote Roger Bannister in the Unison general secretary election
For a fighting union leadership!
After the shenanigans of the election campaigns of the last few weeks, another election starts on 17 May - the election of Unison's general secretary. This gives 1.4 million workers the chance to vote for a fighting, militant leadership, and thereby the chance to influence events, which is more than most of them got in the general election.
Roger Bannister, candidate for Unison general secretary
After the "dirty deal" to install the ConDem government, which has pledged to make £6 billion cuts in public services this year and emphasised minimal tax increases for their rich friends, workers, especially public sector workers, have to take stock, to assess the mettle of their leaders.
The union leaders are using the understandable shock and fear at the return of the Tories to avoid facing up to the failings of the last Labour government. A circular to branches from current general secretary Dave Prentis pledges to "fight tooth and nail" to protect members and their jobs. But this rhetoric is in stark contrast to what the leadership did to protect members during the last government.
The Unison right wing have already started re-writing history. A Policy Committee right winger plus a senior official criticised me when I pointed out that even if Labour had won the election we would still have had to fight. They claimed that Unison had been successful in getting public sector pensions protected in the Labour manifesto. But the main statement in the manifesto on public sector pensions was the ominous pledge to make: "tough decisions on public sector pensions to cap the taxpayer's liability, saving £1 billion per annum."
The debates in the general election were artificial. All the main parties lied about the extent of the cuts they would make, about avoiding redundancies, despite the fact that they were already happening, and drew the false distinction between "front line" and "back office" services.
The scale of the proposed cuts will massively increase redundancies and accelerate privatisation. But workers are angry and prepared to fight and the example of the Greek workers is not going unnoticed.
The legal rulings against striking workers at BA and elsewhere over the last few months pose major obstacles that will have to be defied at some stage. It is true that the pressure of workers from below could eventually push the trade union leaders beyond their rhetoric. But what most of them won't do is lead now, prepare workers to struggle now and build unity across unions now. This runs the risk of dissipated, disunited action, lacking overall impact, or even no action at all.
National action is needed to defend Unison members' jobs, pay and pensions and we need a general secretary who will lead such a struggle.
In The Socialist 19 May 2010:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news