Unison Broad Left meeting
On 23 and 24 September Unison's South East region held their 'strategy weekend' for 2016 in Woking, Surrey, involving around 70 activists. There was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation knowing we were gathering at the same time the Labour leadership election result was to be announced.
There was also interest in the Unison Broad Left meeting to be held at the close of the weekend. Leaflets informing people of the location of the meeting and details of confirmed speakers - Glen Williams from Unison's North West region and Daniel from Youth Fight for Jobs - provoked much discussion. There was a rumour that news of this meeting had made some local managers and bureaucrats very unhappy!
At the official meeting Unison President Eric Roberts spoke and was received largely with disbelief and anger, with many leaving before he was finished. One of those who left was overheard saying: "That is the worst speech I have heard in many years."
Eric openly attacked the left saying that the demand for a 24-hour general strike and 'Tories out' is a "mantra and not a strategy".
He went on to claim that there has been no mention of a general strike in the trade union movement, appearing to be totally unaware of the motion passed at the 2012 TUC congress calling for exactly that.
But if he had forgotten this due to it being such a long time ago, the same demand has been raised consistently since then including TUC congress 2016 only a matter of days before!
Those that attended the Broad Left meeting heard a rousing speech from Glen Williams putting forward demands and a clear strategy for what is needed. Glen clearly set out what is wrong with our union, singling out specifics like the general secretary election debacle.
We committed to standing candidates for seats and positions that are opening up and a national website is to be created. A local newsletter will be created for local news and activities in the South East Region.
A collection at the meeting raised over £70, covering the costs for the room and providing a base to cover costs into the future. Throughout the weekend 20 copies of the Socialist were sold giving an optimistic and exciting end to an otherwise disappointing and frustrating weekend.