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

Monday, 17 December 2012

Austerity a time of opportunity for trade unions?

The FT interviews TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber who is retiring this month and surprisingly attributes a comment to Brendan that austerity is a “time of opportunity” for trade unions. It's a well known cliche that a crisis or disaster can present an opportunity. But the loss of 1.1m public sector jobs over six years is certainly analagous to a tsunami:

The real once-in-a-century opportunity presented by the banking crisis and subsequent austerity measures is for Conservative ideologues to destroy public services, state education, welfare benefits and workers' rights.

Undoubtedly it is important for unions to articulate an economic and political alternative to austerity. Brendan is right to point out that longstanding TUC policies such an 'active industrial policy, tighter financial regulation, fair taxation, the living wage and a British business bank' are attracting growing support and that the UK needs 'some very different policies focused on delivering growth.'

However the reality is that far from austerity being a time of opportunity for unions we are living in a period of mortal danger for hundreds of thousands of working families.

Resistance (including co-ordinated strike action) to the Con Dem onslaught on jobs and pay must be top priority of Congress House and the whole trade union movement in 2013.