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

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

If we shy away no one can help us but if we decide to fight, no one can stop us

#uNDC15 A thumping speech from Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, hit all the right buttons with Conference with support for the Glasgow strikers and a pledge that 'an injury to one is an injury to all' as he backed sacked SECC worker Robert O'Donnell.

It celebrated victories, listed the challenges ahead and underlined that trade union rights are human rights and must be protected.

His full speech is below:

Welcome everyone to our 2015 delegate conference and welcome to Glasgow,

This is a city that has done more for the union movement than any other.Over a hundred years ago, Mary Barber leading the Govan rent strike. A hundred years ago, Glasgow standing up against the munitions act taking away the right to srike the city of Keir Hardie. Glasgow taking on the upper Clyde shipbuilders.inspired by the giants who went before us.

Conference, there is no better place for us to be together, and following that great Glasgow tradition today in this hall – I have the privilege of introducing to you, our Glasgow homeless unit strikers…brave women and men – 12 weeks of solid strike action…we applaud you. you have our full support and solidarity: we will not leave you behind.

Conference, as you may have guessed, our president is not a Glaswegian.Although she can certainly swear like one. Lucia, thank you for your friendship, for never letting anyone stand in your way and for your unquestioning pride in our union. A health care assistant. Proud of your roots, proud of your family, and proud of john, your husband. Ireland’s only living saint. Thank you Lucia. And like Lucia we have so much to be proud of.

Our return to learn scheme, the jewel in our crown.

Janie Slaymaker, I met her on the plane, coming up…left school with nothing – we trained her, taught her, supported her. Now a consumer rights officer…

Branch Secretary of our Oxfordshire county branch Lillian Macer, trained by unison. Her degree through unison, her MA through unison now our convenor, and with Stephen leading this great union in Scotland.

Unison at its best and it’s unison creating a fairer society.

Council after council, now signing up to our ethical care charter. Moving to living wage deals..80% of councils in scotland paying the living wage thanks to unison.
In Cornwall, plans to privatise Nhs services scrapped thanks to unison. Hmrc investigating pay scams in the care sector thanks to unison.

In Cambridge – older people services remain in the Nhs, thanks to unison and at Western General, the government’s franchising plans were destroyed, thanks to unison our legal team, the law society’s employment rights team of the year with their relentless challenges to employers, governments and global institutions – winning £25 million in compensation for our members last year alone. This is your union and you – our activists, standing up for those who could have been left behind.

Yesterday our further education reps are lobbying parliament to stop the savage cuts to a sector which provides so many second chances. Our FE reps seeking to ensure nobody will be left behind and to all FE reps here yesterday, but now in Westminster this conference sends them a message of support, and it’s our union who stood up for Charlotte Munro who I know is with us today. A brave campaigner. A tireless activist… from Whipps Cross Hospital. A hospital I know all too well. Sacked by her cowardly bosses for standing up for what is right. We stood by Charlotte.

We challenged the system – took it all the way, and Charlotte won her job back. We did not allow Charlotte to be left behind, and neither will Robert O’Donnell and let me make it clear that Robert has our full support. We will not allow Robert to be left behind. This conference, this union, stands by him and let me make it very clear, from this conference today – to any employer, if you come for any activist – I promise, we will take you on. An injury to one is an injury to all – no victimisation. No witch hunts.

Conference, never forget the success of our equalities work. Nothing should inspire us more this week than our fight for equality, i’m so proud of all our groups challenging discrimination,
establishing rights. The heart of our union. and to our young members-you make me proud..and I give a personal commitment to take forward your agenda—your agenda is our agenda you’ll make sure we’re not left behind!

Our LGBT group how far we’ve come. Only a generation ago, homosexuality still criminalised, thousands brutally chemically castrated. But from those bigotted times – just round the corner, we now celebrate civil partnerships and same sex marriage – that was our fight…our activists’ victory.

The film “pride” is unison’s pride…and if you’ve seen the film, the last scene was the motion at the labour party conference – do you remember in real life that motion was moved by one of our people, Sarah Roelofs – now our equalities officer, and on that first pride march…that was us, our banners, our people…a massive achievement, still more to be done our lgbt activists still fighting to ensure that no one is left behind, and our fight for justice is global. it’s a fight against global poverty and repression.

It is Unison, through public services international, pulling together unions across the globe to fight for health services in West Africa capable of fighting ebola. It is unison leading the fight against the trade talks geared to rich multinational companies. Ttip, tisa, ceta and it’s our fight gainst the victims of war, conflict and disaster from Palestine to the Philippines, from Mosul to Nepal.

We stand by them. Just as we stand by those who fear for their lives in Columbia, and to our friends in Cuba….and to our sister unions in Greece, part of Psi. You too are an inspiration. Let us send from this great conference, a message of solidarity and our full support.
There is a better way! And, so to our labour party…. it’s our party and we’ll cry if we want to…the leadership contest…now more of a contest with Jeremy Corbyn’s late arrival.
but….Liz, Andy, Yvette – in danger of fast becoming a Tony Blair tribute act….all preaching we have to learn the lessons…well maybe we do…:we are told by contenders we must shimmy to the centre. talk the language of tory aspiration…and they are right that we should “aspire” to better things, but our aspiration isn’t about tory wealth and acquisition. Our aspiration is about conviction.

What we in unison aspire to is for every one of our members to have decent work.

Instead of the abuse of zero hours, we aspire for our members to have proper jobs, fair pay,
proper contracts, affordable housing, we aspire for our members to have enough money to put food on the table, to sleep without fear – for their family – their future – without fear of racial abuse. We live in a different world. Theirs is about money. Our aspiration is about values, conviction. Theirs is about greed. Ours is about ensuring no one is left behind.
and to all those Mandelsons, Milburns & Blairites crawling out of the woodwork… after the event…your time is past – your ideas are past…and in our union there is no back to the future. Because if the labour party does shift to the right – it could face years of oblivion.
But conference, the stark truth is that the leadership of the labour party is not our top priority – nor is waiting for the next labour government…

We are under attack now from a vicious vindictive …. tory government. 42 bills in the queen’s speech – a weather forecast for the storm to come. Attacking our jobs, the services we provide, attacking our democracy, our funding. Our right to exist. Our union in the firing line like never before, and conference – it’s as simple as this, we can build walls around and between us. We can hunker down, look inward, be angry, divided impatient with each other
throwing brick bats. But conference -isn’t that just what they want? isn’t it?

Conference I tell you we are better than that, in 2010 – we defied the odds – so many wrote us off – said we’d be finished, but we proved them wrong. We had a belief. A belief in ourselves and a belief in the impossible.

Record numbers coming in to our union. Record stewards trained, record strikes organised the true test of our union is not whether it’s perfect, it’s whether we can work together across regions, across service groups to make it better….yes, by all means recognise our weaknesses…
but that cannot be an end in itself, we must rise together to overcome them. Making our union stronger, organising, agitating united.

While other unions reduce their full-time staff we will treble ours the number of fighting fund organisers rising from 100 to 300a great scheme making a difference. If Unionlearn money is stopped we will find the resources to train our own stewards.

We will fight the attack on facility time, doubling our legal funds, challenging, campaigning. And if we fail in parliament, then we will take this vicious, vindictive government to the highest court in Europe to defend our right to strike.

These are our civil rights, these are our human rights, but more than that conference we will resist, we have the strength. We will build coalitions – across all four nations. In Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and the english regions. Link up with community and civil rights groups we will be visible – new unison battle buses for local action purple and green, loud and visible, we will support the people’s assembly march on 20 June in London and Glasgow. We will continue our crusade against racism.

We will take on Ukip at every opportunity and we will do more.

We will campaign for the Tuc to organise a mass lobby of the Westminster parliament. And we will campaign for the Tuc to organise a massive march against austerity. If they refuse, we will organise it ourselves and we will do more. We will raise our people and where our members are unsure, as many are, we will build them up. We’ll work together to strengthen their resolve: and when and where they are strong… we will move to industrial action  whether it be fair pay, privatisation or cuts. And all the resources of our union will be mobilised to support that action. We will co-ordinate, share information and expect other branches to show solidarity and to those branches and regions who are taking action,  we applaud you, we applaud our members in Northern Ireland, our members in probation, in Herts County, Rathgael, Watford housing, Rhondda Cynon Taff, our porters at Carillion ballotting this week.

Our teaching assistants in the northern region, 84% turnout in their ballot, 100% “yes” vote for action. A special mention of my a local branch – a magnificent branch. 2 years fighting privatisation on strike again on 8 July.

And finally conference,

Back to our Glasgow Strikers. Their rally is outside Glasgow City Chambers, George Square, 5.45 pm Thursday.

I speak for everyone in this hall – we will be there shoulder to shoulder with you to show our union’s solidarity. We applaud you. This is a union that takes action. So conference,
this is our week, to determine policy to argue to even disagree.

But my message to you is clear, if we shy away then no one can help us, but if decide to fight, then conference, no one can stop us. So when we leave on Friday – we leave with our heads held high our shoulders back and we’ll send a message to the world unison marches on!

I have confidence in this union, I have belief in you, thank you, for everything you do for our members and the union have a great week. Thank you