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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 June 2004

UNISON local government conference

From Drama To Farce

AT THE end of a day of high drama on 21 June, UNISON's Local Government conference descended into farce when the president refused to take a vote on two emergency motions rejecting the pay offer and simply closed conference!

Dave Gorton

The dangerous three-year pay offer (see XXXX) has been roundly condemned by activists but the national 'consultation' exercise has been designed to give an 'accept' vote with UNISON's executive refusing to make a recommendation.

Emergency motions calling for a rejection of the offer and moving to an industrial action ballot were originally ruled off the agenda on spurious technicalities. But conference, led by Socialist Party members Glenn Kelly and Mike Forster, on three separate occasions overturned standing orders and insisted on their being heard.

Eventually Glenn Kelly was allowed to move Bromley branch's motion. His condemnation of both the offer and the cowardice of the leadership was loudly applauded. There was no doubt conference was going to overwhelmingly pass the motion. Calls for the vote were refused - this is 'not allowed' under UNISON's standing orders - the executive spoke against and the president turned the lights out and walked off the platform!

The executive had been 'on the run' all day, being easily defeated on two earlier motions on pay and a number of other issues.

But the other main debate was to be around the "Remodelling the Workforce" agreement in schools. Last year's conference rejected a call to withdraw from this agreement which the Socialist Party has called a recipe for 'teaching on the cheap'. Clearly there was a feeling amongst branches and long-suffering teaching assistants that it was worth giving the agreement a try.

One year on and it was equally clear that 'remodelling' had been tried and it had failed. Remodelling is one of UNISON's flagship policies, supposed proof of a successful partnership with the Labour government.

Socialist Party member Roger Bannister, moving an alternative motion calling for a complete renegotiation of the deal to include a national claim for all school support staff, reminded conference that even the UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, had said 12 months ago that if there was no extra money to fund remodelling, UNISON would be withdrawing.

There have been further budget shortfalls, not more money. The agreement is a key cornerstone of Labour's plans to cut teacher numbers and replace them with teaching assistants on much less pay.

Mike Forster, Socialist Party member from Kirklees, ridiculed the idea raised in the debate, that the existing agreement could be 'negotiated' borough by borough. The reality is that the agreement would have to be negotiated school by school!

Conference sank the flagship by 420,000 votes to 250,000.

In the week where we have been forced to announce our departure from the UNISON United Left because of the rightward drift of its largest component, the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party has proved that it has the authority to lead on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of low-paid members in UNISON's ranks.

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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.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
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In The Socialist 26 June 2004:

Time For A New Workers' Party

Stop Cuts In Jobs And Services

Socialist Students Fight NUS Cuts

Socialist Councillors Fight Housing Crisis

Encouraging Result for Martin Powell-Davies

Socialist Party news and analysis

Kilroy Was Here, Then There. Where Next?

Respect And The June Elections

UNISON local government conference: From Drama To Farce

Firefighters' Bitter Pay Battle

Socialist Party features

European Union: Bosses' Club Agrees A Constitution

Blair's War on Workers' Rights

Iraq: Imperialism's Plans Going Up In Smoke

Unite Campaign In Australia Wins Major Victory Against Low Pay


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