Socialist Worker

GMB congress delegates say—defend the public sector, jobs and union rights

by Simon Basketter, at GMB conference in Brighton
Issue No. 2255

Opposition to government cuts ran through GMB congress.

Remploy worker Les Woodward caught the mood of conference with a spirited speech calling on the union movement to fight back.

“As long as there is breath in my body, I will fight with any comrade who takes the cuts on,” he said.

“It’s a fight we cannot shirk. Let’s show these millionaire bastards who we are.”

On the fight to defend public sector pensions, the union is slowly moving towards strikes in the autumn.

National officer Brian Strutton argued, “We draw a line in the sand when the government deliberately attempts to destroy our pensions. Sensible reform? Yes. Slash and burn? No.”

He argued the union “was making progress in negotiations,” but added, “The crunch will likely come in the early autumn. We will exercise our right to strike to defend our pensions.”

A composite motion allowed for using industrial action to defend pensions. But the union’s executive also accepted another motion calling for the launch of an industrial action ballot over pensions—after negotiations have run their course.

A number of delegates talked of showing solidarity with public sector strikes on 30 June, but the GMB nationally won’t join them until the autumn at the earliest.

We will use civil disobedience to defend our union

The GMB union responded to Vince Cable’s threat to tighten the anti-union laws by promising a huge campaign of civil disobedience.

Speaking at the GMB’s congress in Brighton, general secretary Paul Kenny said, “Cameron and Clegg and the other fella, I promise you this. You try to stifle the basic rights of working people to go on strike and we will give you the biggest civil disobedience campaign your tiny little minds have dreamt of.

He added Vince Cable was “a man with more neck than a giraffe. You come here and lecture us, but no strike has done damage like the banks, so bugger off and tell them.”

Unemployment—the stats get worse

As many as 32 people are chasing just one job. That is the stark statistic revealed in a study by the GMB union.

There are 5.8 unemployed workers chasing each live unfilled job vacancy in Britain. The figures show that there are a total of 1,461,644 unemployed claimants chasing a total of 253,698 unfilled job vacancies. There are of course many more unemployed people not claiming unemployment benefit.

In Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, 32.7 out of work people compete for one vacancy.

Ayrshire in Scotland has 31.3 people chasing each job. Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire both have 30 hopefuls after the same post.

Some areas of London have also been hit hard. Hackney has 24.2 people chasing each opening.

The area with the best chances of getting a job is the City of London, just 0.1 people chase one vacancy.

The full regional breakdown is available here:

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