Communists @ UNISON Conference 2010
Unity to defeat ConDems This year’s UNISON conference will be dominated by the planned assault of the new ConDem Government on the public sector. The £6 billion of cuts and the impact this will have on public services and in particular the weak and the vulnerable in our cities and towns across Britain has to be the key focal point for our union. Unquestionably, the biggest task ahead is to mobilise unity across the union and the movement in face of the biggest onslaught against working people to come in over seven decades. Of course the ability of the trade union movement to effectively resist this offensive is still hampered by the harshest anti-trade union laws in Europe. Despite empty promises from New Labour, the framework of anti-union laws have actually been made worse, during the course of 13 years of government. Recent judgements against BA cabin crew, First bus drivers Johnston Press Journalists, and others have demonstrated the lengths to which employers in the private sector will go to prevent worker’s taking legitimate action to preserve pay, conditions and pensions.
The ConDem government will almost certainly use all the anti-union laws at its disposal, to undermine action taken by public sector worker’s against the cuts. In fact the possibility of an outright ban on industrial action in the public sector is even now being floated by the ConDem government. This makes unity in the trade union movement all the more important, between public and private sector, affiliated and unaffiliated, small and large. Unity is the most effective weapon that the trade union movement has at its disposal. Things have got to change, Britain’s unions still need a mass workers’ party to represent their interests. But New Labour’s record over 13 years of government calls much into question. Under both Blair and Brown, New Labour openly defied the interests of and policies put forward by trade unions; they attacked the movement they purported to represent, imposing cuts on public services, flogging vast swathes of the public sector off. They consistently opposed any intervention to preserve or extend Britain’s productive economy. Instead, they placed their faith in gambling,
speculation and unsustainable economic policies that benefited the city and fat cat bankers. Then New Labour threw billions at the banks, instead of taking them over properly. Bankers, city spivs and monopolies have reaped super profits none of which has found its way into the public coffers. UNISON needs to ask how it got into the position of bankrolling a bunch of careerists who haven’t lifted a finger to help our union. “Don’t rock the boat” became the clarion call from sections of our union. “Any criticism of New Labour will let the Tories in” was the ridiculous rationale put forward for refusing to use what influence UNISON had to secure commitments for our members. Is the position hopeless? No, UNISON can be a powerful voice in the struggle against public sector cuts and in rebuilding the labour movement’s capacity to mobilise working people in support of socialist policies. A conference of UNISON that buries its head in the sand and refuses to question how we ended up with a ConDem government, why Labour lost 5 million voters, and what we do about it next would be a
The outcome of the general election represents a real challenge to working people. 13 years of New Labour privatisation and war will now be replaced by the one thing that we can categorically say is worse – a Conservative government. Because that is the reality of the situation; LibDems or no LibDems, this government will be Tory through and through. It is working people who will bear the brunt of this government’s policies – as workers but also as service users, in their own communities. The only thing that stands between the ConDem government and its destructive agenda is the trades union movement and the wider working class. Over the coming months and years, we will need to build the strength and unity of the movement to withstand the attacks that we will face. The recent rulings on Unite and RMT disputes at BA and Network Rail show the lengths to which employers will go to prevent unions from taking action to defend their members interests. Work must begin now to build the kind of movement which
Defeat ConDems Cont. non-event. This year’s conference is an opportunity to point the way forward. We will need to be an integral part of organising united opposition to government and big business attacks. This must not be based on big union chauvinism that excludes medium and small sized TUC affiliates. We cannot possibly successfully resist the massive offensive underway by merely putting the big-three unions together and secretly lobbying influential MPs. UNISON needs to build unity with unions that are not affiliated, for a whole host of reasons, to the Labour Party. As successive TUC Congresses have shown, there is broad agreement across the trade union movement on a whole range of left-wing policies. As poll after poll has demonstrated these policies also have mass support amongst the population as a whole. We must ensure that we reconnect with, organise & mobilise working people in every community across Britain by linking up with
local campaigning and community groups in the struggle for an alternative to the programme of cuts, job losses and privatisation pursued by New Labour and now the ConDem governments. As a union we need to be at the forefront of this struggle. All else will follow. Ultimately, working people will only decide what form of political representation they need, once they have gained confidence and experience through struggle. We should throw our weight, resources and activists into organising local Peoples’ Charter campaigns and anti-cuts and anti-unemployment bodies. We need to connect to and revive trades councils, not diminish them. Our union should link up with service users in the public sector as well as the many excellent but fragmented campaigns such as Defend Council Housing, Pensioners Groups, Keep our NHS Public, and other broad campaigning bodies. Only then will we begin to fight for and win a future which will benefit all working people.
The People’s Charter Cont. can not only respond to the ruling class offensive but which can put forward an alternative set of policies in the interests of working people. The People's Charter presents just such a set of alternative policies around which unions, campaigns and communities can unite. But we need to seize the initiative. Already, People's Charter campaign groups are being formed across the country, which bring together union branches, campaign groups and community organisations on a local basis to begin the fightback. UNISON has a key role to play in this process. The resources that our union has at our disposal could be used to re-establish the a direct link between unions and the communities in which they are based. If we want to see a real change, we need to organise not only in the workplace but also out in the community. Whether it is a campaign to save a local school or hospital, or to build affordable housing, to defend a community centre or increase access to local facilities, trades unions must be on the front line. And every opportunity must be used to link theses struggles to the alternatives put forward in the Peoples' Charter. A united movement can not only defend and extend our current rights but can forge a new direction in politics. This struggle is too important to wait. The fightback begins here!
Conference preview by Ray Walker At this year’s conference there will be a big debate on Personalisation of Adult Social Care and the continuing problems that social workers encounter as the target of the media week in and week out in Children’s social care. The new negotiating body for schools (SSSNB) will also be debated and there is a ballot planned for July to formally seek to establish it. This is a move that will be aiming to commit the new government to proceed with the body. School support staff often have the worst pay and terms & conditions of service of any staff in schools and UNISON is seeking a parity with the Teaching staff in respect of more union reps and a clearer voice around the negotiating table at national level. The National Delegates Conference will as usual focus on recruitment and retention of members and so we can expect to hear a lot more
about A Million Voices for Change. Let’s hope that the People’s Charter also gets a look in as far as uniting the working class around some fundamental campaigning issues and creating a fairer society. International issues will be highlighted and in particular the plight of the Gaza population under the oppressive Israeli blockade. The continued US blockade of Cuba and the many social struggles of other Latin American, African and East Asian nations will be aired and generate solidarity in the Main Hall. Look out for some of the fringe meetings around some of those issues this week. Do not miss the Morning Star Social on the Tuesday night at the Cafe on the end of the Pier, tickets are only £5 and live music is guaranteed with “Los Albertos”. A chance to support Britain’s only socialist daily paper.
Workers’ ballot & bosses’ bonuses by Carolyn Jones
by Joanne Stevenson The continuing rise in unemployed within Britain, at 2.51 million in May, makes it increasingly likely that it will soon reach 3 million. However, as the YCL has continuously been arguing, the picture is likely to be much worse. The governments official figures are based on the number of people currently claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance, whereas due to the difficulties in claiming, the correlation between unemployment and precarious work, the true figure is likely to be much closer to the record number of economically inactive people of working age, currently at 8.2 million. If you also take into account 1,066,000 people who are working part-time because they could not find a full-time job. What we see is somewhere in the region of at least 12million people within Britain who are unable to find decent secure, well paid employment. What this shows is that to separate unemployment from temporary, parttime, casual and so-called flexible work is to misunderstand the situation facing an increasingly large proportion of the Working Class. The reality is that the `choice’ between precarious work or unemployment is what the vast majority of young people face. However it is also the lot of most women, migrants, and ethnic minorities of all ages. The ONS figures showed youth unemployment rising, with 941,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work in the January to March period- a rise of 18,000 on the previous three months. However the latest ONS figures suggested that people in the 35 to 49 age bracket had been hardest hit. Over the last three months 85,000 in this age group have left the workforce, a drop of 0.8 per cent, a much bigger drop than the 0.3 per cent fall witnessed across all age groups. Joanne Stevenson is the YCL Industrial Organiser.
BA cabin Crews, First London bus drivers, EDF Power workers and Milford Haven harbour crews show how the full force of the law is being used to quell worker resistance and undermine union attempts to protect members’ jobs and conditions. The law on ballots was allegedly introduced to ensure that unions honoured the democratic decisions of their members. In the recent BA case even play they are. The ConDem Coalition is the Judge noted the irony Bosses’ bonuses and on a mission to introduce a of an employer blocking bankers’ bonanzas are level of public sector cuts back. £38 million to HSBC industrial action by using a that will “affect our law intended to protect a bosses; £1.3billion to economy, our society workers’ right to strike. So investment bankers at indeed our whole way of life” . In other words, post- RBS; 58% rise in profits to if the law on ballots continues to prevent unions British Gas shareholders. election cuts will fall fast responding to their Even BP is planning on and furious on the many, members then the law must paying out dividends but not on the few. The go. Having won the right working majority will pay despite polluting the to table a Private for an economic meltdown planet. This is war. Class Member’s Bill, John war. And battle lines are created by the privileged McDonnell will once again being drawn throughout few. Deregulated during Europe. In Greece, France, offer an opportunity for the Thatcher years and Britain’s laws on ballots to Germany and Spain, encouraged under New be updated, simplified and Labour, bankers and bosses thousands have already taken to the streets under a brought in line with speculated, asset-stripped international standards common theme - we will and exploited until the and fundamental human not pay for your crisis. whole rotten system stumbled and fell. Now, in Back off and look elsewhere rights. Recent disputes for savings (war machine) an effort to rebuild a highlight the desperate and income (fair taxes). meaner, leaner need for the law on Noting and fearing a international capitalist balloting to be changed. similar response, British structure, politicians, Let’s make sure that the bosses are increasingly media moguls, employers and the judicial system are turning to anti-union laws ConDem Coalition is listening! to deny democratic united in their Carolyn Jones is decisions of workers. determination to ensure that the workers pay while Recent injunctions against director of the Institute Johnston Press Journalists, of Employment Rights the capitalists play. And
Communist University of Britain 2010
Ruskin House, London July 30th-August 1st A weekend of discussion and debate, music, culture food. With speakers from the labour, peace and progressive movements in Britain and internationally.
For full programme and bookings contact 02086861659 or visit www.communist-party.org.uk For up-to-date reports on the campaign against public spending cuts in Greece, visit the English language section of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) website.
"Freedom from Tyranny" is essential reading .In his well illustrated book, Phil Katz outlines the international events which led to WW2. Katz deals effectively with the thwarting of Soviet attempts to build an anti-fascist alliance to stop Hitler’s expansionist plans by the "traitor class" in Britain and France, whose sole aim was to appease the Nazis and destroy Socialism in Russia. He deals with the immense self sacrifice, struggle and solidarity of the British and Soviet people on the home front and in battle, as well as the suffering & resistance of People across occupied Europe. The book is particularly timely given current attempts to rewrite history by revisionists - which has culminated in the notorious Prague Declaration of 2008. This gross distortion by farright politicians across Europe places the blame for the outbreak of war and only begrudgingly acknowledges that Fascism might have played some role. Anti-
Communism is on the rise and feeds on these lies. Phil's passion and research shines throughout and makes this book both extremely readable and enlightening. He does not shirk issues which anti Communists thrive on and he writes in detail on the German-Soviet pact of 1939, the Katyn Wood massacres, the FinnishSoviet war and the Warsaw uprising of 1944. "Freedom from Tyranny" has been published to coincide with the 65th anniversary of V.E. day on May 8th. To preserve the memory of that remarkable generation from Coventry to Stalingrad who stood together against Hitler's murderous regime with millions giving their lives reading this book goes some way to show our gratitude. Freedom From Tyranny The fight against fascism & the falsification of history. ISBN 978-1907464-03-4 £5.95 (+£1.50 p&p) 114pp illustrated. Published by Manifesto Press with the CP History Group.
Freedom from Tyranny by David Horsley
manifesto press www.manifestopress.org.uk Manifesto Press is a new publishing venture with a focus on politics and analysis, action and culture. It aims to make the link between working class power and liberation with an ambitious publishing programme. Uniquely, it commissions work in cooperation with trade unions, progressive campaigns & pressure groups in order to reach new audiences with books that connect directly with their experience and interests. Recently published titles include:
The education revolution: Cuba’s alternative to neoliberalism by Théodore H. MacDonald (£13.95 +£2 p&p, 265pp illustrated)
US interventions in Latin America published for free distribution with the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The Imperial controversy: Challenging the empire apologists by Stop the War chair Andrew Murray (£12.95 + £2 p&p, 150pp)
Killing no murder? South Wales and the Great Railway Strike of 1911 by Robert Griffiths (£12.95 + £2 p&p 126pp illustrated) published in cooperation with the RMT Union.
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Unity bulletin published by the Communist Party for the 2010 Unison Conference