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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 April 2010

Unison health conference

The first day of Unison health conference rattled through over a day and a half's worth of business in one day.

This was partly down to the guest international speakers having to cancel but primarily it was because contentious motions had been ruled out of order. But there was one from Wakefield and Pontefract, committing Unison health to campaign for the nationalisation of all PFI projects, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need. As the mover explained: "There's no need for expensive compensation when we own the banks anyway".

The executive recommended to accept the resolution with the point on compensation removed claiming "any form of ending PFI other than buying out contracts would be unlawful". But the resolution being carried as amended is still an important commitment.

Dave Prentis in his opening address was clearly in election mode and did his best to put on a left face. But after years of sell outs and witch hunts this won't wash! Prentis claimed that Unison would look to "alliances with other unions such as the PCS". This will be news to those in the PCS who have been trying for years to get Prentis to sign an agreement on joint action and campaign work.

Prentis claimed the Labour Party "can't take Unison members' votes for granted" but it seems Labour can take massive cheques from Unison for granted!

The Labour link is something Unison's current leadership don't want debated but an issue that Socialist Party member Roger Bannister's general secretary election campaign will push to the fore, with a clear call to break the link with Labour and fight for a genuine working class political voice.

In the afternoon conference was subjected to a painfully stage managed question and answer session with health minister Andy Burnham. One delegate gave Burnham a piece of her mind. When her microphone was cut off there was uproar in the conference hall and it had to be turned on again to avoid a riot.

Her attack gave an indication of the real anger that exists amongst health workers that unfortunately has not been given much of an airing at Unison health conference so far.

Greg Maughan

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