UNISON members can't wait: end austerity now!

21st March 2014

"The Chancellor wanted to put clear blue water between him and Labour", was the assessment of the General Secretary of my union, Dave Prentis, on George Osborne's budget. In a statement on UNISON's website, he pointed out that although Osborne tried to skate over them, the budget was full of further plans to cut public spending and with it, the jobs of UNISON members and the services we provide.

Labour's would-be iron chancellor, Ed Balls, soon made sure that no blue water opened up between the Con-Dems and Labour. In the week of the budget he took advantage of every media opportunity to commit Labour to continuing austerity. The Torygraph gleefully printed an interview in which he promised Labour would be "ruthless" in cutting public spending. He said Labour wouldn't rule out cutting anything, including the overseas aid budget, which even Osborne has baulked at attacking.

Dave Prentis rightly states that UNISON members and their families can't wait until 2018 (the date of the release of the new £1 coin - one of Osborne's attempted distractions from planned cuts) for the reversal of our declining standard of living. He's right of course, and UNISON members who've seen everything go up except our wages, will welcome the commitment that our union won't wait either. But we want to see these welcome words backed up with action; the coming union conferences need to be councils of war where our union is put on a war footing to take on the Con-Dems and the employers now. Never mind 2018 we can't wait until next year's general election.

With Labour, as made abundantly clear by Balls this week, offering us no respite from attacks on our jobs, terms and services, we don't expect to be asked to wait until after the election. If Labour's commitment to austerity isn't enough to convince UNISON members that Labour isn't on our side then please consider what one Labour-led authority is doing here in Wales. Carmarthenshire is taking away all union secondments from April 1st, threatening representation for the County's 4,000 UNISON members.
(Sign the petition to demand Carmarthenshire's Labour-led council rethink ending all union secondments)

Labour councillors vote for cuts to our jobs and services; now they vote to attack union rights and representation. Unison must break with the Labour Party that has gone over entirely to the side of the employers. We should stop funding this third bosses' party. If our union's leadership prevents the membership from discussing and voting on disaffiliating from Labour then we need to build an effective disaffiliation from below, organising members to check which political fund they pay into and encouraging them to switch from the affiliated fund to the general political fund.

Disaffiliating from Labour is only half the battle though. Until UNISON members are able to democratically able to decide to back candidates in elections who are committed to vote against all cuts, such as Trades Union and Socialist Coalition candidates, then we won't have a full armoury of weapons to use in the fight to save jobs and services.

Ronnie Job, Swansea Socialist Party
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