Socialist Worker

Unison local government: Missed opportunity in fight against the cuts

Issue No. 2206

The fight against cuts hung in the background to all the debates at the Unison union local government conference this week.

But you wouldn’t have always known it, based on the speeches by the top leadership.

The union must be ready for the “devastating tsunami that is coming our way,” local government service group chair Chris Tansley told conference.

But that kind of rhetoric was turned into little in terms of concrete action.

Nick Ruff, Kirklees Unison branch chair, told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “It’s been the flattest local government conference I’ve ever been to.

“The motions were mostly agreeable—there wasn’t much contention or confrontation. I think that was deliberate.

“When we talked about the Greek resistance to cuts it got a good response.

“It felt like people wanted leadership—but it never materialised from the top.

“We got good policy passed but it’s just paper policy, without proposals to do anything.”

All too often the union’s leaders indicated that membership would have to be far higher before a fightback could start.

In fact it’s action that builds the union.

Trades councils

Delegates rejected an attempt on Monday by the right wing in the union to oppose working with other trade unionists in trades councils.

The opposition came from some Newcastle and Manchester delegates.

It went to a card vote, where the amendment backing trades councils won by 307,190 votes to 258,243.

Social care

The conference warned that any privatisation of social care would not only cost jobs but damage the service. “It’s a class issue,” said Helen Davies from Barnet in north London.

She added that plans to make family and friends take on more responsibilities would put strain on carers.

Delegates called for proper funding for social work, agreements on national workloads and the creation of an NHS-like national care service.

Adult education

Delegates pledged to oppose cuts in adult education “at every opportunity”.

The conference heard that colleges face budget cuts of up to 25 percent this year.

Courses such as bricklaying, joinery, catering, care and sign language are under threat.

Delegates voted to work with other unions and campaigns against the cuts.


Four Socialist Worker supporters have been elected to Unison’s service group executives (SGEs).

Richard Buckwell and John McLoughlin were elected to the local government SGE.

And Karen Reissmann and Janet Maiden were voted onto the health SGE.


Some 85 delegates attended the Unite Against Fascism fringe meeting.

The local government conference ended on Monday. The national Unison conference was beginning as Socialist Worker went to press.

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Article information

Tue 15 Jun 2010, 18:43 BST
Issue No. 2206
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