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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 October 2015

For a fighting, socialist Unison general secretary, back Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister, Knowsley Unison branch secretary and general secretary candidate
Roger Bannister speaking, NSSN 8th annual conference, 5.7.14, photo Senan

Roger Bannister speaking, NSSN 8th annual conference, 5.7.14, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

Unison members need a general secretary with a proven record of fighting for them, who is prepared to put their interests first. Unison cannot carry on as it is, punching below its weight, while members live daily with the threat of redundancy and cuts to pay and conditions.

As a lifelong socialist and anti-austerity activist I have every confidence in our members' ability to turn back the attacks coming from this vicious Tory government.

As a branch secretary I represent members on a daily basis in disciplinary, grievance, at sickness absence hearings, and in collective bargaining forums.

When necessary I am prepared to organise industrial action so that members are treated fairly in the workplace. On that basis I have been able to achieve many good agreements for members, including a reduction in the working week across the council workforce and pay increases for many local government workers.

As a National Executive Council member since Unison was formed, I have supported fighting policies to defend ordinary members, and have consistently opposed the divisive, politically motivated and illegal witch hunt of left activists in the union.

Support

Serving on the Industrial Action Committee has enabled me to argue for support for members when they demand the right to strike.

As a member of the health and safety committee I have been able to support and help to extend this vital aspect of the union's work. Bad employers must not be allowed to put Unison members at risk!

For a number of years our union has called strike action in pursuit of various claims including pay. During the balloting process the leadership has made it clear it would take more than one day of strike action to shift the employers.

When the time comes for action however, 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 general secretary my priority in national industrial disputes would be to assess whether sustained action would be necessary and then work to deliver that strategy among the membership. Our members cannot continue with pay freezes while the cost of living climbs higher and higher. Winning a decent pay rise will be my top priority.

Unison urgently needs change. I have fought for a single anti-Prentis candidate in this election; even offering to withdraw if that could be achieved. I initiated a meeting between myself, Heather Wakefield and John Burgess but unfortunately no agreement could be reached and now the ballot papers are being prepared.

So, on the basis of my votes in previous general secretary elections, my profile and programme I believe that I am in the best position to deliver the change our members need and deserve.

Cuts

Council cuts can be stopped - but we need to build a powerful movement. Local actions in Glasgow and Yorkshire have shown action can win.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, on an anti-austerity programme, is a significant political development for public sector workers. But it is the beginning and not the end of a process that could easily be derailed by Corbyn's many opponents in the Labour Party.

Many thousands of Unison members are employed by Labour councils who have passed on Tory cuts. This must stop. The councillors should follow the anti-austerity message of Jeremy Corbyn and unite with our members in resisting cuts.

I call for greater flexibility in our political fund rules so that none of our funds go either directly or indirectly to politicians that attack Unison or its members. Anti-cuts candidates, including councillors forced out of Labour for opposing cuts, deserve our support - not councillors that attack us regardless of what party rosette they wear!

In the 1980s I was deeply involved in the struggle of Liverpool City Council and the working class in the city against Thatcher's cuts. Because of the council's defiant stance, thousands of local government jobs and services were saved. As general secretary I would campaign for a similar approach to be taken by Labour councils throughout the country.

Our NHS is under attack like never before. We have all been inspired by the brave and militant stand taken by junior doctors. Our members in health have shown their willingness to fight time and again in disputes like at Care UK.

Unfortunately this has not been matched by our leadership. Unison is the largest health union in the country. It should be leading the battle to defend our NHS.

Under attack

The trade union movement as a whole is now under attack from the Tories with their trade union bill. 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.

If the TUC are unwilling to take action Unison should take the lead in forming a 'coalition of the willing' with other fighting unions to take action together against this bill.

Finally, I believe a general secretary in touch with the members should live the same life as the members. For that reason, if elected, I would only take the average wage of a Unison member and donate the rest of the general secretary salary to the labour movement.

If you are a Unison member and agree that Unison needs a fighting strategy to beat the cuts and win victories for members, we urge your you to vote for Socialist Party member Roger Bannister. Ballot papers will be hitting doorsteps from 9 November and voting closes 4 December. Join the campaign at www.facebook.com/roger4gensec or email electrogerbannister@gmail.com

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to click here to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

In The Socialist 21 October 2015:


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