STOP THE SALE OF NHS LOGISTICS! – crushing defeat for Blair at LP Conference

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Striking NHS Logistics workers on the picket line in Maidstone on Tuesday night
Striking NHS Logistics workers on the picket line in Maidstone on Tuesday night

THE Labour government yesterday suffered a massive defeat of its plans for NHS privatisation at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, with delegates backing a composite motion from UNISON by an overwhelming show of hands.

Only a small group of delegates backed the government in the vote, with huge cheers when the motion was carried.

Composite Eight put forward by UNISON, Britain’s biggest trade union, urged a halt to the government’s ‘headlong rush’ to privatise the NHS.

Striking UNISON members at NHS Logistics were demonstrating outside the conference, demanding the government withdraw the planned sell-off of their service to DHL on October 1.

Dave Prentis, the UNISON leader, had his microphone switched off by the platform for ‘going over time’ when he moved Composite Eight.

Asked for his reaction after the motion was carried, he said the vote was so overwhelming, from trade union and constituency representatives, that the government could not ignore it.

‘What our composite is calling for is a real review of health policy – we believe that there has been a dangerous change in direction over the last six months,’ said Prentis.

‘We signed up to a reform programme which we believe was working, but now this push to bring in markets and competition, hospitals competing for patients, to bring the private sector to actually run our services is a step too far.

‘We’re finding ward closures, we’re finding redundancies and we’re finding student nurses and doctors simply cannot get jobs.’

Prentis added the vote for UNISON’s motion ‘was so overwhelming that we believe that there is now pressure on the government to do something about it.

‘You would not believe the shenanigans that have gone on this week to try and defeat our composite,’ he said.

‘You’ve got to remember there was an NEC Statement put to this conference which we believe was clearly lost on a show of hands.

‘We will have this very, very clear motion, that’s come from UNISON, saying we’ve got to review the direction of travel.

‘And I think included in that we’re saying we’ve got to do this if we want to win a fourth term for Labour.’

Speaking about the NHS Logistics strike, Prentis said: ‘In the last six months we’ve been ignored, we’ve been sidelined. Our views haven’t been sought, as big business has taken over.

‘And unfortunately our ministers have cow-towed to big business. . .

‘But the Labour Party has got to recognise what’s happening locally.

‘Five thousand people walked out on the streets in Nottingham last week spontaneously, 10,000 in Gloucester, and you even get the Secretary of State in Glasgow with a placard defending his A&E unit.’

Supporting the UNISON motion, Sharon Holder from the GMB said: ‘GMB believes reform and investment can go hand in hand without being undermined by the headlong rush to embrace the private sector.

‘But first-class healthcare can’t be delivered on the back of demoralised workers.

‘Without a change of policy approach many NHS workers may never vote Labour again.

‘GMB calls on the government to listen and to take heed or we’ll pay a heavy price at the ballot box.

‘Please support Composite Eight.’

When health minister Hewitt spoke she said: ‘I know that many of you are unhappy about the decision we made on NHS Logistics.

‘I’ve got to ask myself: is this right, is this fair for patients.

‘I’m not going to turn my back on a billion pounds of savings that will go straight into frontline care for patients, better care from NHS hospitals for NHS patients.

‘But I know staff are unhappy and it is difficult when we are asking you to transfer to a different employer.’