Services Not Private Profit Campaign was launched last year by a number of
trade unions and John McDonnell MP as a response to the inability or perhaps
lack of will from the TUC to provide a robust response to New Labour's slash
and burn approach to public services.
In light of
the gathering mood within many unions for a fight-back, activists within
Westminster Trades Union Council and other local union activists called a rally
in central London
recently to get a local group up-and-running.
Speakers were Mark Serwotka, PCS,
Paul Mackney, UCU,
Tony Benn and Judy Moorhouse of the NUT.
They gave a number of examples of how New Labour's drive to sell off public services
has resulted in a race to the bottom on jobs, pay and conditions for those
working in Health, Education and the Civil Service and the continuing
deterioration of service provision to the public.
was not all doom and gloom. There was a clear call for a campaign across the
public sector unions which will undoubtedly tap into the growing
disillusionment in British society with Blair's privatising agenda.
Although many activists are frustrated at the lack of momentum, there seems to
be a clear drive for action in PCS, the UK's sixth largest union. If
members are willing to follow up the massive show of force on 31 January, when
over 200,000 struck in defence of jobs, equal pay and public services then a
national civil strike on 1 May could be on the cards. Mark Serwotka is hoping
that this could be a focal point to inspire and rally the other unions, like
Unison, to link up with the campaign.
Activists and no doubt members of the big unions, particularly in the NHS, are
getting increasingly angry but are frustrated with their leaderships who are
quite clearly hedging their bets with Gordon Brown. But many PCS activists are
hoping that if their rank and file can be inspired to start moving pressure can
be brought to bear on the leaderships who unlike Brown (although we are working
on it!) are more likely after all to face elections at some point ! The ongoing
debate will also give us an opportunity to discuss the Labour link and put
forward ‘John4Leader' as a viable response to the continuation of the
discredited New Labour 'Project' under Brown.
Another very interesting point that came out was the ‘Make Your Vote Count'
plank of the PCS campaign. PCS are intending to ask all 5000 candidates before
the coming local elections where they stand on Public Services and will then
publish their results to every PCS member. Mark explained that many within the
TUC had expressed opposition to this on the basis of loyalty to Labour i.e.
Tories might give a better answer than Labour candidates!
This is surely
a great idea. With the current disillusionment with public services, any Labour
candidate with half a brain is surely going to answer with a pro-public
services answer, meaning that they can be held to account when and if they
win council posts. There are also perhaps many Labour candidates out there who
are disillusioned with Blairism and only too happy to stick two fingers up to
Tony Blair and co.
expressed the hope that this would signal that the Labour Party was in revolt
and shake the Parliamentary Party – another thing that he suggested scared the
TUC officialdom, something I'm sure all socialists would welcome! Socialists do
not support Labour blindly, out of tribal loyalty, but critically, from a
working class point of view. That is why we are fundamentally opposed to
Blair's pro-capitalist clique which to handing public services over to big
business. And this is also why we argue that as long as the union link remains
so does the potential to change the party. But this will not happen without a
fight and this has start in the unions.
1 May will be in many activists' diaries already so let's hope that PCS'
consultation with members reveals a mood for a second day of strike action on
that day and that unions across the public sector can link up to fight for
& Commercial Services Union, the largest
civil service union
University and Colleges Union, recently merger of NATFHE and AUT, representing
lecturers and teachers in further and higher education.
Union of Teachers