PRIVATISATION OF PUBIC SERVICES: UNIONS LAUNCH FIGHT-BACK
by Pam Woods, shop steward, Islington UNISON (personal capacity)
Today, Tuesday 17th June, around 1,500 trade unionists gathered at
Westminster Central Hall, London, to launch a fight-back over the
privatisation of public services. This was an excellent turnout for a
weekday rally. Called by left-wing MP John McDonnell, the rally was
supported by 15 trade unions which included transport unions RMT, Aslef
and tssa, civil service union PCS, fire brigades union FBU,
communication workers’ union CWU, and the National Union of
Disgracefully, the TUC refused to support the rally, as did the largest
public sector union, Unison. However, Kelvin Hopkins, MP, Chair of the
Unison group of MPs, was one of the platform speakers. A couple of
hours into the rally, a message of support suddenly arrived from Unison
general secretary Dave Prentis.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, condemned the TUC for refusing to
back the rally, and said pressure must be brought to bear on it to call
a national demonstration in defence of public services, and also a
national day of action against privatisation. He said the next Labour
Party leader should not be Gordon Brown but someone like John McDonnell.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear warned of the danger of privatising
the BBC, saying the rationale behind de-regulation was “bollocks”. He
said what was needed were high-quality programmes and a commitment to
excellence. He called for a united front to defend public services.
Referring to the World Cup – and alluding to Gordon Brown – he said no
football manager would substitute a player with another of the same
calibre. The present Labour Party leadership were, to use one of their
own phrases, ‘not fit for purpose’.
Billy Hayes, general secretary of CWU, drew attention to the current
water shortage in London. This was occurring at a time when Thames
Water was making millions of pounds’ profit and directors were awarding
themselves record bonuses. To applause, he said: “We should be proud of
the fact that the public sector is highly unionised, with better terms
and conditions”. He said that those, like himself, who were members of
the General Council of the TUC, must insist it seriously take up the
anti-privatisation agenda. Praising the high turnout, he said “We’re on
the beginning of something here”.