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Nominate Roger Bannister for Unison general secretary
A programme for local government
Roger Bannister, Knowsley local government branch secretary
Our union is facing huge challenges posed by a government hell-bent on imposing austerity. This affects all sectors of our union, with local government having been particularly singled out for attacks and cuts by central government.
For this reason a strategy to defend local government is urgently needed. Sadly this has been lacking under the current leadership. I intend to use the general secretary election as a platform to ignite a debate about the direction of this union in fighting to defend services and improve pay and conditions.
Our union can no longer continue to simply accept cuts to funding as a done deal and hope it will be restored at some indeterminate point in the future. It must launch a credible industrial and political strategy that demands a grant that funds services necessary to meet the needs of the boroughs.
On the industrial side the union must recognise local government is under attack nationally from central government. Only a national response by the union can hope to turn the tide.
These cuts cannot be fought branch by branch, workplace by workplace. We are a national union and it is time we started acting like it!
If elected general secretary I would begin consultation with branches and local government leadership to urgently draw up a strategy for national industrial action in response to further cuts to local government funding.
The cuts are deeply political in nature. They require a political response.
Jeremy Corbyn was elected on an anti-austerity platform. The huge response to his campaign shows there is a desire for a different kind of politics.
As a Nalgo (local government union, now part of Unison) branch secretary in Liverpool in the 1980s I was involved in the struggle of the city council to win back the millions stolen from the city by Margaret Thatcher. As general secretary I would demand a similar approach be taken by Labour controlled councils.
Where Labour councils implement cuts I would call on Jeremy Corbyn to intervene and put pressure on them to oppose austerity. Any Labour councillors that rebel against voting for cuts such as Kevin Bennett (now a TUSC councillor) did in Warrington should be given the full support of the union.
For a number of years our union has held one-day strikes in pursuit of a better pay claim. During the balloting process the leadership has made it clear it would take more than one day of strike action to shift the employers. However, when the time comes this is never backed up with sustained industrial action.
Instead our members have been subjected to a morale sapping cycle of one-day actions followed by a settlement when the government offers a few crumbs. We must break with this cycle.
As well as action to fight for better pay we must also take action to defeat the new anti-trade union bill which will limit our ability to fight if passed.
Unison is one of the largest unions in the country. It should be playing the lead role in bringing other unions together with a strategy of industrial action for the widest possible resistance to this attack on our trade union freedom.
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In The Socialist 30 September 2015:
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