The Socialist 11 June 2014 |
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No waiting for Labour - fight the job cuts
Glenn Kelly, Socialist Party member in Unison
While low pay and the pay freeze are a major issue for public sector workers, job cuts are increasingly a threat. 450,000 council jobs have gone in England alone since 2010, a 17% cut in the workforce.
A survey has revealed that 40 councils alone are planning another £700 million of cuts with 18,000 more jobs to go.
What councils can't cut or shut, they are looking to privatise. A staggering £1.5 billion of services has been handed over to the profiteers in the last three months. In Bromley, where I work, the chief executive aims to reduce the 4,000 directly employed workers to 300.
Unison members have been fighting for the leadership to act on their promise to take action on pay and are now being balloted for action. There is the potential for much-needed coordinated action on 10 July.
Members will also demand to know the union's political and industrial strategy to defeat these cuts. But the union's national conference has been barred from debating the strategy on cuts put forward by my branch and others.
Councils sit on £20 billion in reserves and they have access to borrowing at cheap rates so we called for Unison to demand that "councils set a one year balanced budget using reserves and borrowing to guarantee no cuts in jobs and services and then for councils to use this time to launch a joint campaign with the workers and community to demand the return of the £7.6 billion stolen from the councils by the Con-Dems".
Surely Unison members have a right to demand it of Labour councils - given we hand Labour £3 million a year. But this proposal will not only not be debated, it couldn't even be printed on the agenda. Why? Because according to the Unison leadership setting a lawful balanced budget using reserves and borrowing is "illegal".
The Unison leadership was "particularly concerned" that we referred to money having been "stolen" from councils by the Con-Dem government! From where I'm sitting, on the front line, it's daylight robbery.
At the moment Unison's strategy appears to amount to leaving branches to fight the avalanche of cuts alone. This is a strategy that is clearly failing.
In an attempt to address this Bromley branch put up a motion calling on the union to lodge a claim for a guarantee of no redundancies to the national local government employers.
We said, if they refused then we would have a national trade dispute and could have a national strike against cuts. This was ruled out of order as it was calling for 'illegal action'! When I then amended the position to say we should seek legal advice to see if it was possible, even this was ruled out.
The reality is the union leadership has no strategy to defeat the cuts other than to wait for a Labour government. Any hope that a Labour government will bail us out is pure fantasy and they know it.
Last week the Labour shadow minister for Local Government Chris Leslie made clear what's in store for local government if Labour wins the next election when he openly said that "we won't be able to undo the cuts".
That's because a Labour government has pledged to stick to the Tory spending cuts that will see the job slaughter rise to 1.2 million by 2018.
Unison Bureaucracy Unmasked: The Defend the Four Story
In 2007, four trade unionists from different Unison branches were publicly and unjustly accused of racism. Yet all were committed anti-racists and led well-run union branches.
All four are well-known members of the Socialist Party. But this provides only part of the explanation; the bureaucracy was also driven by a desire to make the union safe for its full-time machine, and safe for the Labour Party.
This book tells the story of the ultimately victorious campaign and legal challenge that cleared them of all charges, and which exposed the true nature of Unison's bureaucracy.