Prentis ‘Call To Arms!’

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Unison conference delegates voting to oppose the coalition’s attacks on health, education and pensions
Unison conference delegates voting to oppose the coalition’s attacks on health, education and pensions

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis yesterday made a ‘call to arms’ at the union’s national delegate conference urging delegates to stand ready for ‘a campaign of strike action without precedent’.

He said: ‘Today is my union’s call to arms.

‘When you get back to your branches, prepare for action.’

He added: ‘Strike action will need to be sustained and the political and public campaigns intensified.

‘The fight of our lives may be an over-used cliché, but conference that is what this is, a fight we can win, a fight we must win and together, a fight we will win.’

In his opening remarks, Prentis hit out at Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls warning the unions not to take strike action.

He said: ‘To Ed Balls, I say when we want your advice, we’ll ask for it.

‘If you’ve got nothing useful to say, shut your gob.’

He said the TUC demonstration on March 26 was ‘the day our union roared’.

He went on to say: ‘Our members are struggling to pay the bills, waiting for the redundancy notices they dread.

‘There’s a wasted generation of young kids, one million young people without jobs.

‘It is our members, our people, who are fighting the brutality of Cameron’s Big Society.

He went on to stress: ‘We know who the enemy is: it is the bankers who crashed our world.

‘It’s the venture capitalists who sucked the lifeblood out of Southern Cross, it is this coalition who set our nation on a reckless course.

‘They are the enemy, this coalition, with no democratic mandate taking a chainsaw to our public services.’

He went on: ‘If there’s money to bail out the banks, if there’s money to protect the bankers’ bonuses, if there’s money for war and replacing Trident, there’s money available for our public services.’

Going on to the NHS ‘reforms’, he said that the government ‘may have paused but they didn’t listen. Their aims remain.’

He added: ‘This union remains on red alert. The threat to our NHS is greater than at any time since 1948.

‘Our message is clear to Lansley, Cameron and Clegg: we want the bill scrapped and we will fight you every step of the way till we get our NHS back, until Lansley tosses the bill back in the bin where it belongs.

He added: ‘And so to the fight on pensions, our biggest test yet.’

‘To those who say name the day, I say a day won’t be enough. This coalition won’t move over one day of action.

‘To those who say negotiate: I say any time, anywhere, as long as it takes.’

He continued: ‘Next week we stand firmly behind our brothers and sisters from PCS, UCU, NUT and ATL on June 30. Their fight is our fight.

‘But if the government fails to listen, to heed our warnings, to negotiate in good faith, I say: David Cameron, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

‘We will strike to defend our pensions.’

In his concluding remarks, he said that the union is ‘fighting to build a united, coordinated, sustained campaign of public education, community organisation, targeted industrial action and mass mobilisation.’

He called for a campaign that ‘doesn’t just make the government think again on pensions, but will work to break the pay freeze, stop the jobs cull and send this coalition packing at the next election’.

He added: ‘When you go back to your branches to build for the battles to come, remember this: the campaign we are fighting isn’t just about pensions, it isn’t just about jobs and pay, it’s about the kind of society we want to leave our children.

‘It’s about protecting and passing on the rights our grandparents fought for, the Welfare State and universal public services.’