The UNISON Labour Link National Committee meets on July 29th and will discuss the Labour leadership and deputy leadership elections. This is an important meeting, which will determine the way in which one of Britain’s most important unions fights back against the Tories and austerity.
The UNISON Labour Link National Committee meets on July 29th and will discuss the Labour leadership and deputy leadership elections. This is an important meeting and the National Committee has been taking soundings from regions to help inform its discussion.
For UNISON members, with a majority Tory government elected, the stakes are high. In fact, the next few years will be some of the most difficult years since Thatcher and her minions ran roughshod over local democracy, slashed public spending and launched their fire sale of privatisation in the 1980’s.
With that in mind, a leadership election where the debate revolves around the question of austerity – whether to fight it or to accept austerity-lite, or worse…merely accept the Tories’ arguments – should be more than sufficient to concentrate the minds of UNISON activists.
Of course, fighting austerity is precisely what UNISON stewards and branch officers are forced to do every day. There are some horror stories: Tory councils outsourcing everything, as in Barnet; but also Labour councillors acquiescing in the face of budget cuts and failing to lead any sort of movement to fight the cuts. UNISON members will also have been horrified this week to see the Labour front bench failing to oppose further welfare cuts in parliament.
Welfare cuts have a dramatic effect on the services we deliver and on the health and wellbeing of the people who use them: social workers on long term sick leave through stress; home care workers forced to cut the amount of time they spend working with elderly and vulnerable clients; health workers facing uncertainty as the Tories open up the NHS to vultures and bandits. The next five years will be a turning point as the Tories try to drag us back to the 1930s.
The struggle against austerity must therefore be at the heart of UNISON’s strategy. PCS and UNISON members are some of the most vulnerable to spending cuts and privatisation of any of the major unions. What might merely appear as a red line through a budget on some Tory minister’s desk, will mean members going down the road and services being savaged.
UNISON members, therefore, and in particular the members of the UNISON Labour Link National Committee at their meeting on Wednesday 29th July, will have a decision to make. Should we go along with more of the same from the Labour Leaders? Should we accept austerity-lite and wage freezes as advocated by Ed Balls and Ed Miliband before the last election? Should we accept Blairite policies which merely ape the Tories’ programme as advocated by Liz Kendall? Or should the National Committee take a decision to support the only candidate who is prepared to fight austerity in this election? Surely there is no doubt. UNISON must support Jeremy Corbyn and carry the struggle into the union to maximise the vote.
An anti-austerity Labour Party led by Corbyn, fighting the cuts and presenting a genuine opposition to the Tories would be a weapon in the hands of UNISON members and all trade unionists. To sharpen that weapon and make it effective, that anti-austerity stance needs to be combined with a socialist programme that seeks to abolish this rotten, crisis-ridden capitalist system, which is the root of the problem.
- Endorse Corbyn and build a campaign inside the union to maximise his vote
- Carry UNISON’s struggle against austerity into the Labour Party
- Capitalism is the root of the problem: fight for socialism!