Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/230/9245
A 'Call To Arms' Against Privatisation
BLAIR'S SECOND declaration of war is not against some 'foreign enemy' but as another prime minister once infamously said about the miners, against 'the enemy within'.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party industrial organiser
This thoroughly reactionary government has declared war against public sector workers. Its main weapon, its 'daisy cutter', is the mass privatisation of the vital public services upon which millions of working class people depend.
That is why the Left in the trade unions, including leading union members of the Socialist Party, have organised the anti-privatisation conference on 24 November.
The statement being proposed by the five rank-and-file broad lefts, who are the organising bodies behind the conference, is a call to arms and a recognition that the Left has an historic responsibility to give a lead for action.
The union leaders have completely failed to mobilise and organise the huge anger against privatisation. Anger not only amongst their own members but also amongst those who most depend on these services.
The Socialist Party gives its whole-hearted backing to this conference and will fight to see its programme become the weapon that leads to the defeat of the government and the scourge of privatisation.
A Summary Of The Statement By The Public Sector Union Broad Lefts
THIS CONFERENCE has come at a crucial time for the Left in the unions. The Labour government has made it clear that privatisation is its number one domestic priority, whilst continuing the war in Afghanistan.
Blair's speech to the TUC conference was cancelled but according to his press handout he would have said that he saw 'modernisation' of the public sector as equally important to the abolition of Clause 4 [the socialist clause] from Labour's constitution.
This 'reform' of the public services is driven by an ideological need for capitalism to divest itself of the post-war welfare state and to cut back that part of the economy that goes on 'non-profitable' public services.
These public services make the difference between a civilised existence and one where poverty and deprivation is the norm. This is especially true in periods of mass unemployment and recession, something now facing British workers.
The 5.5 million public-sector workers, 70% of them in unions, are seen as 'the enemy within'. The Labour government want to reduce the power of the public-sector trade unions to speed up the privatisation programme.
The anti-union laws have been used ruthlessly to stop strikes against privatisation in the health service, London Underground and others. The use of such legal action has been an important factor in the limited results of localised action against privatisation.
This is despite the many heroic efforts by local union branches and their members to spread the industrial action beyond those directly affected. The anti-union laws have been enough for the national leaders of the public-sector unions to rule out national action against privatisation.
Workers at local level have been left to fight alone. National and regional trade union officials have rapidly disowned any local leaflets and other propaganda produced by local union branches that implies that industrial action has anything to do with privatisation. Their excuse is that the courts have deemed these as 'political' strikes and are therefore illegal.
Their haste to repudiate their own members in struggle contrasts with their reluctance to give any practical assistance to the same workers when they do take industrial action.
Workers have been forced to oppose the effects of privatisation rather than privatisation itself. This has led to a position where the right-wing union leaders increasingly say behind the scenes that it does not matter who owns the service or industry, as long as their members' conditions are protected.
This is downgrading the fight against privatisation. The recent 'deal' between Blair and some union leaders at the Labour Party conference to do away with 'two-tier workforces' in privatised companies is not worth the paper it's printed on. It will be used to undermine the opposition to privatisation.
We therefore agree that we should campaign for the following policies in all the trade unions represented at the conference:
The bringing back into public ownership of all services and industries privatised by Tory and Labour governments over the past two decades.
That there should be no compensation to the fat cats.
That workers, such as those in Railtrack, who were given shares in lieu of wages should receive full compensation.
That any worker who loses out in their pension entitlements through re-nationalisation should be individually compensated because pensions represent the deferred wages of those workers
That any shareholder should only receive compensation on the basis of proven need.
That all publicly owned services should be fully funded, accountable and democratically controlled.
To assist achieving these demands we agree to the following :
- To mobilise maximum support for all workers in opposition to privatisation and who are taking industrial action in defence of their wages and conditions.
- To demand at that lobby that public-sector trade unions organise national action against privatisation - including a national demonstration in spring 2002.
- To fight within our respective unions for national industrial action in support of members involved in struggles against privatisation.
- To co-ordinate a campaign across the unions for them to organise a one-day, public-sector strike against privatisation.
- To co-ordinate the above, we agree to set up a liaison committee consisting of up to three delegates from each trade union Broad Left plus up to five places for representatives from trades councils and local struggles against privatisation.
To lobby the proposed forthcoming special one-day TUC conference on the public sector.
The committee will have the responsibility of organising the lobby of the TUC, of circulating material on struggles against privatisation and of co-ordinating future rank-and-file conferences against privatisation.
Signed by: Left Unity (PCS), United Left (UNISON), Socialist Teachers Alliance and CDFU (NUT), Communication Workers Broad Left (CWU) and NATFHE Rank and File
Trade Union broad left anti-privatisation conference.
University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1. Saturday 24 November, 11am-4pm.
Registration £5 per delegate to: Glenn Kelly, 37 Linale House, Murray Grove, London N1 7QH. Tel: 020 7251 8449.
In The Socialist 16 November 2001: