Delegates to the largest public sector union, Unison, are meeting this week in Liverpool.
The conference will be dominated by the grim realisation that we are still less than halfway through the Tories’ proposed cuts.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs have gone. Real pay has been cut by as much as 16 percent. Pension entitlements have been slashed. Workers are doing more for less, with constant anxiety about the future of our jobs and services.
Unison led the way with the massive TUC demonstrations of March 2011 and October 2012. When general secretary Dave Prentis called for a fight on pensions, members responded in November 2011 with the most extensive strike in Britain since 1926.
Yet there is deep frustration that this has not been turned into effective resistance—and a feeling that branches are left to fight alone.
Unison recently launched a major recruitment campaign to deal with membership falling as jobs are lost.
Yet the numbers recruited did not match those in the run- up to the first TUC march or the November 2011 strike. The union grows when it fights.
Last year Prentis called for a united fight to break the pay freeze. But there has been a failure to even coordinate pay campaigns within Unison.
In Scottish local government Unison is balloting to strike over pay. The higher education sector is calling for rejection of 1 percent. In England and Wales local government consultation was ongoing as Socialist Worker went to press.
Where branches and regions called for rejection members responded with resounding majorities. But by a single vote the national negotiating body had failed to make any recommendation—and often seemed to imply acceptance.
A strategy of waiting for 2015 is emerging. But we can’t afford to wait when jobs, services and pay are being slashed now. And without massive pressure it is clear that Labour will not reverse any of the Tory cuts.
At conference activists will need to argue for a fight now.