Thousands of public sector workers will gather at the Unison union’s annual conferences in Brighton from this Sunday. The fight against austerity and dissatisfaction with the union leadership will be key themes.
Karen Reissmann, a Unison national executive member (pc) and a leading health worker, told Socialist Worker, “The public sector is being devastated by the Tories.
“Council budgets are being slashed, the NHS is being privatised and our pay and conditions are under attack.
“But all of general secretary Dave Prentis’ talk of fighting back is out the window—we’re back to waiting for the general election in 2020.”
But Prentis has lost considerable support in the union. Karen argued the low result he got in the general secretary election last year reflects “a lack of faith in the leadership’s strategy”.
She said, “Their strategy is based on abiding by the law and looking to the Labour Party winning elections.
“That’s a tragedy because the Tories are so weak and other unions, such as the NUT, are pushing for strikes.”
John McLoughlin, a local government service group executive member (pc), told Socialist Worker, “The teachers’ ballot ends next week and the union has a lot of members in schools.
“We shouldn’t be crossing picket lines and the union needs to back its members in schools.”
The local government sector conference this Sunday comes in the wake of another sellout by the leadership over pay in England and Wales.
In the general secretary election some looked to national officer for local government Heather Wakefield to offer an alternative, but she led the sellout.
John said, “The leadership has failed to lead a proper fight—we need to develop broader left forces.”
Karen said, “There will be a left meeting that’s wider that just the usual faces—it shows there’s a layer looking for an alternative.
“Members know that every time we’ve made concessions, the Tories only come back for more.
“If the junior doctors’ deal goes through, Hunt will definitely want to come after our unsocial hours—we have to organise and fight now.”