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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 July 2007

UNISON conference

Delegates challenge leadership

THE MOST important point about UNISON conference was that the mood of anger and dissatisfaction reflected in the recent elections for the national executive council (NEC) also surfaced at conference. In those elections several prominent right-wingers lost their seats.

A conference delegate

Those NEC elections weren't just a blip, they show the processes developing in the union. Delegates from areas which have never before voted with the left or had militant positions are becoming increasingly militant.

This reflects the dissatisfaction with the union leadership as a whole. They've seen disasters like single status and they've seen the schools remodelling agreement resulting in a demand to take school members out of local government collective bargaining and set them up on their own.

They've seen 'agenda for change' in the NHS not delivering the kind of pay that health workers need. They're beginning to question what kind of leadership we've got.

The national leadership are extremely worried about these developments. That's why they launched the witch hunt against the Socialist Party - for handing out a leaflet which complained about the manipulation of the agenda by the standing orders committee. [See last week's issue.]

On one day, conference rejected in its entirety a standing orders committee report for the day's business. The leadership had to significantly shift ground to capture the mood of conference, in particular debating cross-group and cross-union activity over pay, privatisation, cuts etc.

Some of the decisions taken on policy items were also important. For example against the advice of the NEC an amendment was carried which called for a national demonstration against public-sector privatisation.

The NEC have been setting their face against demonstrations for several years now. They have just, after 18 months' delay, agreed to call a demo in October against New Labour's attacks on the NHS. And they've now been committed by conference to call a further demo against privatisation and in defence of public services.

A resolution on a boycott of Israeli goods was debated. There was substantial support for a boycott, which Socialist Party members are opposed to in the blanket manner that it was proposed.

The support reflects the anger that delegates were feeling about the mistreatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state - the fact that they face daily humiliation, are subject to strip searches when they move about and the bombardment of Palestinian areas.

Throughout the week any criticism of the Labour link got cheers. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to debate that directly.

Conference debated the question of united action over pay and most delegates will have gone back to the branches feeling that the union has been pushed into a better stand.

Up to now united action has been just that, talk.

Now the leadership have been pushed towards action. They know they have to seriously get together the service groups and other public-sector unions to co-ordinate action on pay and in defence of the public sector.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 5 July 2007:

Brown's government for the rich

Blair's toadying surpasses all clichés

National Shop Stewards Network

National Shop Stewards' Network conference: Join the fightback against the bosses' offensive

Campaign for a New Workers Party

Campaign for a New Workers' Party: Giving workers a voice

Lively CNWP meeting in Cardiff

Sign up to the CNWP campaign

What we think

Unite against war, poverty and terrorism

Postal workers strike

Postal workers: we're striking to win

Postal workers' strike gets solid support across the country

Socialist Party news and analysis

Under several feet of flood water - after flood defence budget cut

"A new gilded age of inequality"

Stop subsidising private schools

Surplus cash yet cutbacks continue

International socialist news and analysis

Why the United Nations fails the test of internationalism

Iran: Riots over petrol rationing

Climate change: socialist international planning needed

George Bush - a get out of jail ticket

Pakistan: Union activist has suspension withdrawn following protests

Tales from the council chamber

Tales from the council chamber

'Living in a parallel universe'

Socialist Party workplace news

UNISON delegates challenge leadership

Victory over bullying management

RMT conference: Fighting a thousand cuts

Not so nice Mr Branson

Socialist Party events

Socialism 2007

Socialist Party review

Two plays reviewed by Mark Baker: 'Philistines' and 'The Last Confession'


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