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Unions must fight Blair and Brown's plans
GORDON BROWN'S speech to the GMB union conference was full of fine words about ending poverty worldwide and investing in "neglected public services". But there was an Alice in Wonderland quality about it.
Phrases such as Labour "resisting Tory plans to privatise health and education" and criticising the Tories for saying: "there are too many jobs created in public services" do not fit reality. It is the Labour government - with Brown playing a leading role - that is carrying through privatisation and threatening 100,000 public sector workers' jobs.
RMT leader Bob Crow, speaking at a fringe meeting after Brown's speech reminded Gordon Brown of "the role he played in privatising London Underground workers through the Private Finance Initiative. Go and tell workers with a Jarvis logo on their backs that they are not privatised. The money he is putting into public services is only going to the privateers to cream off profits."
Liz Blackman, delegate from Leicester told the socialist: "It reminds me of when they promised to scrap Compulsory Competitive Tendering then brought it straight back in with Best Value."
Brown promised to implement the Warwick agreement of minimal concessions won by the unions from Labour. But this promise seems enough to convince the GMB leadership that Brown will reclaim Labour for the unions. Union president Mary Turner in introducing Brown said: "As far as we're concerned you are already in number 10."
Conference delegates got up time and again to complain that, after eight years of Labour government, Tory attacks had not been scrapped and Labour promises had not been implemented. Anti-union laws were still on the statute books, full employment rights had not been implemented and attacks on pensions were now taking place.
But most of these resolutions restricted themselves to: "calling on the Labour government" or saying the union should: "lobby Labour". One exception was a resolution on pensions passed without opposition.
This said the union should campaign by all means, "including industrial action, in a co-ordinated campaign with other unions." Unfortunately the executive said that it had been "sensible" not to ballot on strike action over attacks on public-sector pensions. They deny that the government backed down just before the election because of the threat of millions of workers taking strike action. They say negotiations won the day.
But if the government carry out any more attacks on public sector workers, the GMB needs to join other unions in co-ordinated strike action.
In The Socialist 9 June 2005: