Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/763/16606
Unison health conference
Fight to rebuild the NHS!
Socialist Party correspondents
The Unison Health Care conference took place at a time of unprecedented attacks on the NHS, pay and workers' terms and conditions.
"Unison members are in the eye of the storm and we need to make a stand," commented Unison general secretary Dave Prentis.
But what followed showed the abject failure of the Unison leadership to provide any way forward.
Rather than "making a stand" the Unison Service Group Executive (SGE) opposed every single motion and amendment that called for the union to mobilise its strength to fight the cuts.
There was even opposition to the call for a national demonstration in defence of the NHS.
Yet the answer to the lie that NHS workers are not prepared to strike is given, for example, by the magnificent struggle of Unison members in the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust and Thera East Midlands, reported in previous issues of the Socialist.
Len Hockey, from the Waltham Forest Health branch, pointed out that: "26 March 2011 saw 750,000 take part in the biggest ever labour movement demonstration.
"This was followed by the 30 November and the biggest coordinated strike since 1926. We can deliver mass support for action when we act."
The Unison leadership opposed this saying: "let's keep a national demonstration as an aspiration and make sure there is a demand there first."
John Malcolm, from Tees Esk and Wear Valleys Health, effectively answered this capitulation by highlighting the huge demonstrations of over 25,000 in Lewisham and up to 50,000 in Stafford that proved "when a lead is given there can be a response".
Speaking to a composite on pay Socialist Party member Roger Davey called for a ballot for industrial action unless the pay review body increases its 1% pay cap.
Helen Ridett from South Lewisham, Gary Freeman, Brian Loader and other Socialist Party members brought crushing examples of the way in which the cuts were affecting members and the huge potential to organise a struggle.
The SGE's response was: "we only fight if we know we can win, pay is not an issue just now, it's defending jobs and conditions."
But the leadership were also opposed to national action over attacks to terms and conditions. National agreements have been eroded as a result of concession bargaining.
Rather than placate employers, this has only emboldened them to go further in attacking national agreements.
It's clear from the conference that the Unison leadership sees no alternative to cuts. 'Wait for a Labour government' is the largely unspoken strategy of the leadership. Yet Labour has refused to commit to reversing any of the Tory cuts.
Socialist Party members are standing in the current national executive council elections to provide a fighting leadership, a leadership that rejects concession bargaining and fights to mobilise the members and local communities into a mass movement to defend and re-build the NHS as part of a struggle to defeat austerity.
In The Socialist 1 May 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns