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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 June 2010

Unison local government conference: Delegates face huge struggles

The Unison local government conference on 13 and 14 June has been dominated by delegates reporting on the cuts already being made by councils across the country. They warned of the devastating cuts and more privatisation that the Con-Dem government are planning.

Jane James

Jean Thorpe, a delegate from Nottingham City branch and a national executive (NEC) member, described the impossible workload of social workers and the job cuts they were now facing. She said these attacks have to be fought locally but that needs to be part of national action.

Jean explained that Unison members in her workplace had told management that unless a particular post was reinstated, they would hand back their cases to management. Unison members won that battle but she explained that they would be a lot stronger if there was national action. That got a lot of applause from delegates.

April Ashley, a delegate from Southwark and an NEC member, called for a national trade union demo against the cuts. She called on Labour councils not to impose the Con-Dem cuts but to fight back and follow the example of Liverpool city council in the 1980s. That council led a mass movement which extracted concessions from the Thatcher government, which meant it could build houses and create jobs.

But the national strategy at the conference to oppose the cuts was very weak. The national leadership made a presentation explaining how to fight the cuts. They recommended that union reps should use the local media and get to know the local journalists. They should explain the cuts to members and the wider community.

They recommended that Unison reps negotiate with councils to try to lessen the cuts. But the major theme was that the density of union membership is so low in many workplaces, how can you have a fight? But as Jean Thorpe and others pointed out, if there's a fightback people will join the union.

There were calls for local areas to have more control of strike ballots and there were complaints about delays. For example Unison members in Tower Hamlets college are working with the UCU against cuts. But by the time the Unison leadership had authorised a strike ballot it was too late to strike with the UCU.

The government is intent not just on devastating cuts but in handing huge swathes of council services to the private sector, leaving very few jobs left in the councils. And another pensions battle looms.

But the strategy of the Unison leadership is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. They talk about trying to get Unison membership up, and draw cartoons about the effect of cuts in services, when they should be organising the biggest battle ever.

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In The Socialist 16 June 2010:

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'Bloodbath budget' day protests and meetings


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Comprehensive education under attack

Opposing 'Dickensian' academy schools in Waltham Forest


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Unison local government conference: Delegates face huge struggles

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Save the Big House


Socialist Party editorial

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Socialist Party news and analysis

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Anti-racism

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International socialist news and analysis

Greece: A test bed for 'austerity' and resistance

Spain: Millions of public sector workers strike over brutal cuts

Portugal: Mobilisation against austerity reaches new level

Socialist Party Scotland launched at packed and inspiring meeting


 

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Related links:

Unison:

triangleTaking the anti-austerity message to the chancellor's back yard

triangleVictimised recycling strikers uncowed as Hull strike wave builds

triangleNHS pay: Reject the Tories' divide and rule offer

triangleLeicester: Blairites block Labour Party democracy

triangleLeaked pay deal: fight for a genuine pay rise

Local government:

triangleChild poverty to hit 5m by 2021 - strikes can stop the cuts

triangleZero new homes 'affordable' in Blairite Manchester

triangleBristol anti-cuts campaigners debate alternatives to the cuts

triangleLocal government workers' reps reject 2% pay offer

Council:

triangleBromley library workers win strike campaign

triangleCoventry TUSC: Council cuts - how can we fight back?

triangleLewisham & Southwark Socialist Party: What would a socialist council look like?

Cuts:

triangleBristol South Socialist Party: How can councils protect public services?

triangleWorkers' victory over anti-union Scottish council

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