A real fightback against cuts

A Unison member

The consequences of the economic crisis for working class people is shown in the daily reality of life, more of us are struggling to make ends meet.

But the crisis of British capitalism is also a crisis of leadership of the working class.

On the political front there is no mass party of the working class, hence the Socialist Party’s campaign for a new workers’ party.

But there is also a crisis of leadership in many of the trade unions, including my union Unison.

In Wales, Unison and the other major unions capitulated before a struggle by agreeing a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with the local government employers.

The unions agreed concessions on terms and conditions if jobs were protected. But no promises were given by the employers.

Since its implementation, terms and conditions have been eroded in most local authorities, often under the guise of implementing the Single Status regrading scheme.

With a couple of exceptions, including Carmarthenshire county Unison branch, all the unions and their branches agreed to surrender before any battle was fought.

The Welsh Assembly back-loaded the cuts it was passing on from the Con-Dem government, because of the Welsh Assembly elections this May.

Now a Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) press report released in October 2012 reveals a bleak future for public services in Wales, where nearly a third of the workforce work in the public sector.

The report states that local government spending per person has fallen by 8.4% in real terms since its peak in 2009-2010.

Councillor Aaron Shotton, WLGA deputy leader and spokesperson for finance and resources, said: “The cuts and the pressures on local government finances are only just beginning, and the long-term financial future of local government in Wales is challenging…”

This report and the bleak future it predicts pose a choice to the full-time and lay officials in Unison and other unions.

Do they stand up and organise a fightback against austerity or do they continue to capitulate and wait for a Labour government? If these leaders are not prepared to lead the fightback they should step aside for someone that will.

All too often, right-wing lay officials and full-time officers blame their members.

In Neath Port Talbot local government Unison branch a lay official has reported that the branch proposed to the council a 2% temporary pay cut to supposedly protect against worse cuts. This was because “a member suggested it and because members would not fight”.

This is an abrogation of leadership. This weakness only encourages the employer to make further cuts, as this branch and its members are finding to their cost.

Some project that Welsh council spending could be reduced by as much as 18%. This could result in local authorities having to deliver spending cuts of up to 52% in unprotected services (WLGA press release).

Unison and other trade union members have got to get active and hold your leadership to account. Demand that they mobilise members, together with other trade unions, to defeat the cuts.