Unison "In Focus" : The Welsh Assembly referendum
1st March 2011UNISON's magazine for union activists, 'In Focus', has just dropped through my letter box. This month there is an additional supplement in Wales, in the run up to the referendum on additional powers for the Welsh Assembly, this Thursday.
The lead article, 'Trying to stifle the red dragon', claims great successes for UNISON in working in partnership with the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition in the Assembly and with local authorities across Wales. One of the successes highlighted is the 'Memorandum of Understanding' signed by local authority trade unions and all 22 local authorities in Wales. This sets out, in the words of the article, "a voluntary agreement on managing the impact of the UK government's public spending cuts on jobs and services in Wales".
The last bit of the article deals with how Labour-led Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) Council has torn up the existing contracts of its workforce in order to force drastically reduced terms and conditions on our members. If they are able to do this while still signing up to the deal then it's not worth the paper it's written on. Liberal-led Swansea is determined to press ahead in tearing up national agreements and Labour-led Neath & Port Talbot has implemented an across the board pay cut of an average 2% for its workforce.
UNISON members need to question the value of this agreement when local authorities are imposing huge cuts in the terms and conditions of our members and still cutting jobs and making cuts in services. Cuts on this scale can not be managed or mitigated with tinkering around the edges of our terms and conditions; only coordinated action can defeat them. To maintain unity amongst our members we need a commitment from our union to fight every cut and every job loss.
In Thursday's vote, local authority trade unionists should vote yes to giving more powers to the Assembly. But those powers don't come without a price; we need to demand that the Assembly use its increased powers to fight all cuts, not try to manage or mitigate some cuts while carrying through others.
A Swansea Unison Member