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Unison local government conference
Fighting mood from delegates
Unison local government conference on 14 and 15 June showed growing anger at leadership sell-outs and Tory attacks.
Local authority workers organised by the public sector union met against the background of a returned Conservative government, and promises of increased attacks on workers. The Tory victory led delegates to ask the question: what is the best way to fight back?
A number of motions addressed the issue of pay, and the recent unsatisfactory pay deal delivered by the leadership. Several speakers attacked the deal, getting big ovations from delegates. Dissatisfaction with the leadership was demonstrated by the tepid reception for an address by general secretary Dave Prentis.
The union now faces a very challenging period. As well as the issues of low pay and privatisation, there are also increasing attacks on trade union rights in local government.
These include withdrawing the right to pay union membership fees directly from wages - commonly called 'check-off' or 'deduction of contributions at source' (Docas).
Facility time - paid time to carry out trade union duties during work hours - is also under attack. Socialist Party member Glenn Kelly was unable to attend conference because of attacks on facility time by his employer.
Speaking from the platform, Nottingham Unison's Sara Huntingford said: "Glenn Kelly has been effectively barred from this conference by his employers, and this conference is lessened by his absence." This received big applause from delegates.
Despite the challenges faced by the union, and the difficult experience of activists, it was still a fighting mood. Many speakers stressed the need for a fighting lead from the union to face up to the employers.
Over 80 copies of the Socialist were sold at conference, and over 60 attended a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition fringe meeting.
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