UNISON delegates determined to organise coordinated industrial action

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DELEGATES at the UNISON National Delegate Conference in Brighton on Thursday forced a debate on Friday on coordinated action over soon-to-be prime minister Brown’s public sector two per cent pay freeze.

They spoke to News Line about the leadership’s attempt to gag conference and other issues they are concerned about.

Surrey and Sussex healthcare delegate Zena Dodgson said: ‘What’s behind this is they know delegates will overwhelmingly vote for coordinated action over our derisory pay offer that is in effect a cut.

‘The union leaders do not want to embarrass the government.

‘They’ve consistently sold the members out to this government.’

Eastleigh delegate Mark Lonsdale added: ‘I appreciate the need for legalese to avoid legal jeopardy but the Standing Orders Committee seems very reluctant to discuss anything that is controversial.’

Stephen Parkinson, of Oxfordshire health, said: ‘We lack leadership.

‘If they’d stuck their head above the parapet, the members would follow.

‘And it is no good union activists not being supported by the union.

‘(UNISON general secretary) Prentis should be getting up and saying we are going to defend this or that individual.

‘We should be standing up for people’s rights. It’s leadership that counts.’

He added: ‘I was all for the vote to support Palestine, to end the occupation and boycott Israel.

‘All unions should do that. But whatever other unions do, UNISON should operate a boycott and stand up for what they believe is right.

‘A trade union boycott is much more powerful than individual boycotts.’

Disabled delegate Trevor Lucy from the north of Ireland said: ‘The main issue at conference for me is the disability issue.

‘There needs to be more attention paid to suitable conditions both for delegates and the summer conference.

‘For me, personally there’s too much at conference of what we’ve heard before.

‘Standing Orders Committee have ruled against contentious issues and stuck to the safe ones.

‘You won’t make change by sticking to safe issues.’

Young Members rep Daniel Robertson told News Line: ‘Young members have to mobilise and fight against privatisation.

‘They need to know they have a voice and if they use it they will succeed to campaign against pay cuts, privatisation and pension cuts so they can continue to enjoy quality public services.’

Herefordshire local government delegate Christopher Vincent-Northern said: ‘The leadership should listen to us. They seem to be gagging everything.

‘It’s almost as if the leadership has their own agenda – how they want to do it, not how the membership want to do it.

‘A few motions went against the leadership, which is good.

‘I think there has to be strike action with the other unions, that’s the only way you are going to get a decent pay rise.

‘The other big issue is privatisation.

‘Half of our council is gone to privateers, it’s only a core thing now to do with housing benefit, council tax and planning left public.

‘PFI is a complete disaster.

‘We have a new hospital and a new school which we have to pay for, for years.

‘They sold off three hospitals for one. We did have 500 beds and it’s down to 350.

‘If necessary we should defy the law and take action to stop this privatisation.

‘If we don’t fight, we are going to lose everything.’

Visitor, Charles Watson from Shropshire added: ‘I’m a Labour man. I want our government to change.

‘Brown is the founder of PFI.

‘The biggest downfall for this government is the people of England see the governments in Scotland and Wales looking after people.

‘UNISON is always publicising Keep Our NHS Public but what are they doing about it?

‘UNISON will have to take industrial action, it’s the only way.’

Nottinghamshire local government delegate Grace Perry said: ‘The most upsetting thing for me is there’s been very little discussion on social care and how the0 union is going to tackle huge concerns about adult social care.

‘In Nottinghamshire, the government has withheld funding to the county council.

‘The council is now having to make difficult choices about whether to close old people’s homes.

‘The government needs to address how the £1.8bn black hole is going to be resolved.

‘There needs to be an increase in elderly care commitment and learning disability provision.

‘The union needs to put pressure on the government on how it spends its money.

‘I’m against the war on Iraq and Afghanistan and the government’s refusal to negotiate.

‘We live in a capitalist and commercial society that is only interested in profit.

‘We need a change of leadership.’

Doncaster health delegate Anthony Bryan told News Line: ‘The big issues for our branch are pay and foundation trust status.

‘We are concerned about not having trade union representation on the main trust board. That is causing anger.

‘We need flat level pay rises not percentage rises.

‘I hope there will be action over the 2.5 per cent limit.

‘We’ve rejected the staging and we’ve rejected the offer – it’s a joke.

‘We should be looking towards doing battle.

‘There’s got to be some questions asked about paying into this Labour Link.

‘The government is not listening to us and is going ahead with cuts and privatisation.’

Salman Mirza, Birmingham local government branch, said: ‘The big issue is whether we pay lip service to a fight or whether we fight over pay, privatisation and our public services.

‘We don’t just want talk, we want action.’

‘There has to be strike action, Gordon Brown doesn’t need a honeymoon.

‘We should take a leaf from South Africa’s public sector workers who are taking general strike action over pay.

‘I agree with bringing down this government and getting a workers government.

‘It was important that we voted to end the occupation of Palestine and boycott Israel. I spoke for the boycott.’