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

Monday, 23 April 2012

Now more than ever the NHS needs our union

#uHealth2012 The first morning of UNISON National Health Care Service Group Conference kicked off with debates on organising, equality and diversity. 

The Scottish Health Committee moved motion 1 which calls on the union to learn the lessons from the success of November 30th pension strike by adopting an organising strategy in developing the union. The motion calls for the shifting of resources from servicing to organising. Branches are being urged to develop local organising plans and ensure effective campaigning becomes an integral part of the branches activity.

Despite an attempt by some sectarian elements to highjack the debate to attack the leadership for its handling of the pension dispute, the debate was positive and stressed the importance of building the union at the workplace.

There is a clear link between motion 1 and the second motion up for debate. Motion 2 moved by the National Nursing Sector, argued for the need to work with local community groups. The motion congratulates the union for producing an excellent practical guide “Working with local communities to fight cuts and privatisation”. Due to the unique position the NHS holds within society there is an opportunity to have some critical thinking about the trade union role in community organising.

Both motions were passed unanimously and it is now import that branches take the commitments contained in them back to branch committees and start building a organising and campaigning local organisation.

Conference passed motions calling for branches to challenge racism in the workplace. The National Women’s Committee highlighting the impact of the Con-Dem cuts on women. Conference called on the use of Equality Impact Assessment as a negotiating tool with employers.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis told conference that the budget proved that we are not all in this together and that the multimillionaires Osborne and Cameron have looked after their own. That public sector and public sector workers will be forced to pay for the bankers’ crisis. While the rich get tax breaks, working people lose their tax credits and see benefits slashed. Things are bad but they will get worse unless we challenge this government and the austerity policies. He stressed that over 94% of the cuts are still to be implemented. The government says 750,000 public sector jobs will be lost by 2015. Already 625,000 jobs have gone. That is 1 job every 132 seconds this government has been in power.

These are the toughest times the union has seen, but it is when times are tough that the trade unions are needed most. UNISON has built on the magnificent response to the pensions strike on 30th November. Currently workers are joining the union at a rate of 500 a day.

But we need to build the union into an organising and campaigning union at local level. Dave warned Andrew Lansley that our health members will not sit back and allow his government to destroy our NHS. He said that UNISON’s 1.4 million members will be the rock that this government will not break.

Now more than ever the NHS needs our union and we will stand up to defend the service and our members pay. He declared that if the government cut our members pay and move to reduce the pay of members working in poorer areas of the country as trumpeted by Lansley UNISON will organise for industrial action and we will win.