A thoughtful post-election analysis written by one of our branch members:
With the new Tory government elected by little more than one in five people eligible to register and vote, some of us were surprised that they feel confident to go on the offensive against trade unions under the guise of increasing democracy.
We don’t believe for a minute that this talk is anything but an attempt to weaken the very people who stand between the government and public services. We don`t believe for a minute that the cuts and privatisation that have been forced on us since taxpayers propped up a banking system run by failed gamblers are even necessary. In fact one business leader stated quite clearly in 2009 that a recession was a good time to get rid of staff and cut pay.
Over the last five years, the last government got away with the kind of attacks on workers’ pay, the NHS and the welfare state that Thatcher could have only dreamt about. While trade unions were able to defend individual jobs or services where we were strong enough, many were disappointed that we couldn’t seem to unite all public sector workers to say “Enough!” The public sector strikes in November 2011 gave us a glimpse of our potential however. And with much worse cuts round the corner, the government want to make it impossible to resist where we are at our most powerful – in our role as workers who keep the country going.
Why We Need Stronger Union Organisation
Where campaigns against cuts have been successful, it has often been because community groups and users of services have been united with the service’s workers. The union rep or steward plays a key role as they often work directly with both groups. Brighton & Hove Unison will give total support to its members and campaigners, as well as playing the role of a link between the campaign, political activists and opposition political parties, without letting the latter dictate the agenda.
We will also be reminding the local politicians of the council’s own survey that showed that the majority of local residents opposed all cuts.
Those of us who work in the health service, in education, caring for vulnerable adults, children and the elderly, or keeping libraries open, the emergency services running or the streets clean are now living in fear. Already, some Conservative councils are attempting to privatise almost everything leaving a core council workforce of a few hundred. Those in the NHS have already seen years of private companies weedling their way into the NHS and sucking out profit at the expense of staff and patients. All those trying to provide care for the young, vulnerable or elderly have seen their services and jobs cut, and those cared for suffer.
Now Cameron thinks he has a mandate to up the ante, we all know we are in for a rough ride. We don’t believe he has a mandate and we intend to give him a rough ride.
We are prepared to resist.
We have no choice.
We will work with anyone who will support us, but we are not prepared to compromise on our members’ jobs or the services they provide. Sometimes, politicians have supported us and we welcome that. But we would be foolish to rely on councillors whose only disagreement is whether to make £20 million, £25 million or £2 million of cuts in Brighton & Hove.
Not only do we need to be prepared to collectively resist what’s coming more than ever before. We also need to be prepared to take on the anti-union legislation that the government is bringing in because it sees, perhaps rightly, our potential strength, as the key barrier to their plans.
Their talk of democratising the unions is clearly a sham.
• We elect our union leaders annually, but they insist we have to put up with them for five years.
• They call our elected leaders “barons”, yet they rely on real barons and a host of unelected bankers, judges, CEOs, hedge fund managers and newspaper owners.
• They tell us we are too essential to be allowed to strike, yet not important enough to be paid properly.
• They tell us that those in public service and caring jobs can’t be paid too much because otherwise, we’d only be in it for the money. Yet they pay themselves six and seven figure salaries because they say they need to get the best people for the job.
What you can do to help
• Ask your union rep what help they need
• If you haven’t got a rep near by, offer to become one, or at least a “point of contact” between the branch and other members in your team.
• Make sure you have a unison notice board prominent in your workplace, and keep it up to date with union information and actions
• Keep your colleagues informed by forwarding emails from Unison to colleagues
• Join local protests such as the People’s Assembly anti-austerity march in Brighton on 6th June.
• Join the national anti-austerity march in London on June 20th – cheap coach tickets and group train tickets are organised. Contact the branch office for details
• Support other unions when they take action, such as the RMT strike on 25th May – send messages of support, do a collection, visit the picket line with our branch banner
• Share any information about cuts to services with Unison and campaigning groups, and let everyone know that Brighton and Hove Unison will do whatever it can to stop further cuts