UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 26 March 2012

UNISON: leading and organising change

"This year public service workers in the UK face the greatest challenge yet to their jobs and economic security" said UNISON President Eleanor Smith opening the union's 2012 Leadership Seminar in London.
Dave Prentis in a keynote address pointed out that 80% of the planned cuts were still to be implemented. The rise in union membership late in 2011 was due to a sustained upsurge in activism not merely the 30 November day of action. The union must adapt to new areas of public service delivery and re-invigorate our activist base.

Guest speaker Arnie Graf, a US Community Organiser, stated that “organising is organising, with the sole reason to gain more power. The ability to act, more capacity to act in the public arena. We do not have enough power to stop attacks on working people."

The afternoon session consisted of a panel debate chaired by Liz Snape, Assistant General Secretary (AGS).

Kevin Maguire Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror stated that the current Tory party is more ideological than in Thatcher era. A remarkable 76 individuals have donated more than £250k to the Tories under Cameron's leadership. He reminded that as recently as 2008 the Tories had been committed to match Labour's public spending programme.

Angela Eagle MP stated that unions have an important role to play in working out a strategy to achieve a more equal society and a progressive vision for the 21st Century.

Frances O'Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary, called on unions to be “smarter and even more focused on what we do." We must know our enemy and know their strategy so we can resist it. As well attacking pay, pensions and public services, the Con Dem's are driving forward a flexible labour market and attacking union rights. The neo-liberal ideology that the free market is supreme and rising inequality is inevitable must be challenged. TUC polls confirmed massive support from young people for the union stance on pensions and there is a massive opportunity to organise the next generation.

Roger McKenzie, AGS spoke of the “fierce urgency of now" and the importance of rebuilding our activist base while grappling with the immediate challenges posed by austerity.