Socialist Worker

Unison conference cheers the workers who are fighting back

by Sarah Bates in Brighton
Issue No. 2609

Homecare strikers speak to Unison conference

Homecare strikers speak to Unison conference (Pic: Birmingham Unison)

Over 800 delegates attended the Unison union’s local government conference in Brighton on Sunday and Monday.

Key debates were fighting for pay justice, oppression in the workplace, how to respond to Brexit and the fightback against austerity.

But many delegates were frustrated that there wasn’t enough discussion about local government pay.

In March the union’s National Joint Council recommended a pay deal, after 50.4 percent of members voted against it.

Maddy Cooper from Camden Unison told Socialist Worker, “There’s a real anger on the conference floor because we don’t fight and haven’t had a pay rise in donkey’s years.”

But delegates did hear from strikers fighting in local disputes.

They included Glasgow janitors who won a 6 percent pay rise last year, and Birmingham home care workers who are battling council cuts and privatisation.

The conference also discussed new guidance on transgender inclusion.

Speaking against attacks on the new guidance, Jenny Harvey from Staffordshire said, “If you want to know how damaging these attacks are, just google Lucy Meadows [a transgender teacher who killed herself after she was viciously attacked by the press].

“These people want to divide women, exclude women and define what women are.


“As a trans woman I will, we will, continue to stand for women-only positions in our union, because we are, I am, a woman.”

The forthcoming visit from US president Donald Trump, and a demonstration by Tommy Robinson supporters led to calls for taking to the streets to oppose them.

Over 70 people attended the Socialist Workers Party fringe meeting on Grenfell.

During the meeting, Valerie from Islington reflected on the “really frightening” experience of opposing Tommy Robinson supporters earlier in June.

She said, “We can’t wait for Jeremy Corbyn, we don’t have enough voices now. We need to tackle the schools and colleges.”

Delegates also discussed how best to fight austerity. Andy Pattinson from Surrey works in mental health care. “I’ve never seen the service under so much pressure,” he told conference.

“There is an acute shortage of beds meaning people are being left in the community or accident and emergency.

“This is both dangerous and unacceptable for patients and their families.”

Education worker Julie urged conference to action. “We need to fight now for schools to be democratically run,” she said.

“Because, if a Corbyn government is going to achieve anything there needs to be an army of people fighting for our schools to be run for children not for profit.”

The union’s national conderence for all sectors began on Tuesday

Stunning 97 percent vote for strikes by Birmingham health care workers

Birmingham home care workers are planning a return to the picket lines after a ballot has given a huge new mandate for action.

The Unison union members voted to strike by 97 percent on a 58 percent turnout.

A home carer told Socialist Worker, “We’re going to keep on fighting, and the ballot vote shows more people have changed their minds.”

The action is part of a year-long fight to defend the home enablement service from Labour-run Birmingham council’s brutal cuts.

A year ago the council set out to implement 48 percent redundancies and a new split-shift service.

The new ballot includes wider demands on retaining mileage payments for all journeys made during a shift.

Another demand is about ensuring the service is still operated by the council.

A Unison activist said, “We want the service to stay in house. The private sector is really dreadful.”

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