Socialist Worker

'We have been betrayed'

by Rahul Patel, assistant branch secretary Westminster Unison (personal capacity)
Issue No. 1817

WESTMINSTER Unison members are very angry and hurt by the decision by our union, both regionally and nationally, to instruct us to return to work. Union leaders called the return to work after a seven-week strike by nearly 300 Unison members against Westminster Tory council's plans for wholesale privatisation of services. This decision came after the council initiated legal action against the strike, using the anti trade union laws. But if the national and regional union had followed the strategy of the local branch, this legal action would not have happened.

We originally voted for 800 workers to come out on all-out indefinite strike against the Tory council's privatisation. But Unison's National Industrial Action Committee instructed us to follow a programme of rolling industrial action. This strategy laid us open to the council using the anti trade union laws against us.

We could have won this dispute. The council was in real trouble because of the action by workers in Planning, Environmental Health, Parking and Building Control. But it called Unison's bluff and the union leadership called the action off rather than face a court case.

This has allowed the council to defeat us in our fight over privatisation and pensions. National union leaders disgracefully left it to the local regional officer to tell us of their decision. We were told national union officers did not want to face the wrath of strikers.

The union leadership should have made this strike a big national issue, but it completely failed to do so. It did not send one letter to get backing from other Unison branches or other trade unions. It did not carry a single article in any of the union's publications during the strike. The role of strikers has been magnificent - and every one should be congratulated. The strikers have now mandated the local branch and region to start an immediate reballot for industrial action.

Some workers argued that regional and national Unison officers, including Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, should come down to the branch to campaign for it. The branch committee and the strikers have instructed the Westminster Unison branch officers to send out a letter to every branch in the country raising the issue at every level of the union.

They passed a vote of no confidence in national Unison leaders and our regional Unison officer. And they also demanded that our national union leaders campaign for the Labour government to repeal the anti trade union legislation, and if it doesn't, to withhold funding for the Labour Party.

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Article information

Sat 14 Sep 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1817
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