NO NHS CUTS! – says UNISON Conference

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THE UNISON National Delegate Conference voted unanimously yesterday to oppose cuts to the National Health Service and against privatisation by the Labour government.

The main motion, Composite B: Public Services, said: ‘There has been a misguided efficiency drive and marketisation strategy that is leading to destabilisation, cuts and privatisation.’

The motion called forspending on the NHS to be maintained ‘above the European average’.

Moving Composite B, Steve Warwick, on behalf of the union’s NEC, said: ‘Funding increases have come to a stop. The Department of Health has been told to rein in spending.’

He attacked ‘payment by results’ and privatisation in the NHS as well as trust schools and academies that are privatising education.

However, Warwick also said: ‘We need to pick our fights carefully and decide who and what we support’, adding: ‘Our Positively Public campaign will harness our power.’

An amendment to the composite, B.1, was overwhelmingly passed, with the support of the NEC.

Moved by Greenwich Local Government branch, it stated: ‘Conference condemns the thousands of jobs shed in the NHS, with 4,000 announced in March 2006 alone.’

It continues: ‘Conference notes that under a Labour government, Tory policies on public services have not only continued but accelerated.

‘Conference believes that the Labour government’s attacks on public services bring into serious question the relationship between the Labour Party and the trade unions.’

Greenwich delegate Ahmad Hassan said: ‘Cuts are bleeding the NHS. The NHS is being used by New Labour as a middleman to boost big business.

‘We’ve seen betrayal after betrayal. Our amendment demands our relationship with the Labour Party comes into question now.’

He added: ‘Our national leadership will not carry struggles through because they don’t want to rock the New Labour boat.’

Younis Bach, from Newcastle, supporting the amendment, said: ‘I will not see the NHS destroyed by a Labour government.’

Mike Hogan, Liverpool, opposed the amendment. He said: ‘We’ve got to keep the fight going in the Labour Party.’

Linda McCoy, from the NEC, speaking in support of the amendment, said: ‘So far this year we’ve seen one bad news story after another – 1,000 jobs lost at Stoke, 3,000 jobs lost in the West Midlands, and bigger financial deficits are likely.’

Wendy Nichols, Yorks and Humberside, said: ‘Why do we have to suffer PFI? Marketisation is destroying public services.

‘Government policy is directly responsible for staff demoralisation.’

Gloria Hanson, Newham local government branch, warned: ‘The 2007 spending review is going to take the money back. We have to push for more money to be invested in public services.’

Motion 24: Public Services, a separate motion, was also carried unanimously by conference.

This stated that conference ‘recognises a commitment to action – including lobbies, rallies and demonstrations and lawful industrial action to defend jobs and services and oppose privatisation – is essential at all levels and should be central to the campaign strategy.’

Moving the motion, Clare Williams, Northern Region, said: ‘Foundation hospitals and schools are being handed over to big business.’

Caroline Beadale, from Manchester, said: ‘We have to stop the Labour government from destroying our public services.’

Paul Thompson, from Durham, appealed to the leadership of the union, saying: ‘The branches need support, but it has to be real support.’

l Earlier, UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said that ‘any final offer’ on pensions ‘will be put to members in a ballot’.

He said: ‘And if negotiations fail, I promise you this, we will ballot again for industrial action.’

Prentis pledged that UNISON ‘will be at the forefront of the campaign to defend our National Health Service’, in conjunction with patient groups, community groups and the TUC.

He said the Blair government was ‘opening the sluice gates to the multi-nationals’.

He concluded that: ‘This conference will support our members in the NHS taking industrial action to oppose job cuts and the privatisation of our National Health Service.’