Over 800 delegates have now signed up for the Unite the Resistance national convention due to be held in London on 19 November. It aims to build support for the 30 November public sector strikes.
Some 160 trade union branches, community groups and anti-cuts campaigns have announced their backing for the conference—making it one of the largest and broadest of such events in decades.
Speakers will include PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka, Nikos Fotopoulos from the Greek power workers’ union and Annabel Lincoln from Occupy Wall Street.
Mark Wood, a Unite convenor at Southampton council and a member of the union’s executive council, is one of the trade unionists who helped initiate the event.
He says his Unite branch in Southampton has booked a 49 seat coach to the conference. “It’s vital that lay members play a major part in organising the resistance to the coalition’s cuts,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We can rely on unions and union executives—but we also need a groundswell coming up from the grassroots membership.
“The conference will be about how we can build that.”
This message was echoed by Zita Holbourne from the national executive of the PCS union and joint chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts. She also helped call the conference. “The Unite the Resistance convention will be important in terms of motivating the activists that attend,” she told Socialist Worker.
“It’ll help us think about what our plans are for the last two weeks before the strike—and help us go back to our communities and trade unions and really push out.”
One longer term aim of the Unite the Resistance event is to help build a grassroots network of trade unionists that can support and sustain future industrial action.
Such a network can help counter the pressure ministers and employers exert on unions to call off or tone down the fight.
The government made just such an effort last week with its offer to the unions. But Mark and Zita both welcomed the decision by unions to firmly reject that offer.
“The government is seeking to divide us,” said Mark. “They’re offering crumbs that don’t have any real impact on the increases in contributions.
“They just want to fill their own coffers.
“It’s vital we put a great deal more pressure on them than we have done already.”
Zita also says trade unions “made the right response” in rejecting the government’s offer this week.
“We pushed the government into making the offer through our coordinated plans to take strike action. But what they’re offering doesn’t go nearly far enough.
“It would need to be hands off our pensions altogether as far as I’m concerned.
“Pensions are our deferred wages, and in my view we should not accept any changes that cut them.”
Unite the Resistance has produced a bulletin putting forward an alternative to austerity. It will be available at the conference for 20p each or £5 for 50 copies.
‘We need to publicise the message that victory is possible’
Liz Lawrence is on the national executive of the UCU union and is Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary. She spoke to Socialist Worker.
‘The Unite the Resistance conference will be an opportunity to unite all those who see how struggles to defend services, benefits, jobs, pensions and pay are linked.
We need to publicise the message that victory is possible. We need to go on until the whole attack on public sector pensions is defeated.
In respect of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, the government has failed to make any case for cuts. The scheme is viable and is paid for by the teaching profession.
We must not let the TUC impose a settlement on the basis of limited concessions by the government.
We also need to be vigilant about further attacks. I’m appalled at proposals that welfare claimants don’t get their benefits uprated in line with inflation.
It’s equal misery for all taken to a new low.’
UNITE THE RESISTANCE
30 November strikes: Building the fight, building to win
Saturday 19 November, 10am to 5pm
Royal Horticultural Halls, 80 Vincent Square,
London SW1P 2PE.
Tickets £5 waged/£2 unwaged
- Get your union branch to sponsor the convention
- Bring a delegation and sign up now
- First session starts at 11am, discussing 30 November strikes
- Afternoon of workshops on local and global struggles and closing rally
- For more details and to register
go to www.uniteresist.org