"Yes, we can and do work with other unions, but we can also bring communities together to build up a groundswell of support and protect vital services that are under threat."
Building opposition, in the workforce and the community, to cuts in public spending requires our union branches to step up a couple of gears because we are inevitably fighting on a number of fronts (Regular readers Sid and Doris Grammar-Pedant should note that busy Branch Secretaries are permitted to mix metaphors when dealing with large scale redundancies).
We need to build those alliances and organise the lobbying, leafletting, protests and publicity which are required; we need to engage diligently in consultation from the employer about redundancies, and; we need to campaign amongst our members for support for the industrial action which will become inevitable.
What are our chances of success? René Lavanchy has drawn attention to the sober assessment of the challenges facing our Union from the ConDem Government by our Deputy General Secretary (http://renelavanchy.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/649/). It is indeed as well to be realistic about the scale of the challenges we face - in order to rise to meet them.
Our managers are telling us that the financial situation is unprecedented - we face job cuts on a massive scale over the next few years and these could lead to the elimination of whole areas of service delivery. Even allowing for a certain amount of "shock and awe" tactics the cuts which will dominate the coming months and years will change the role of UNISON activists. Trade unionism will be more and more about fighting - and whilst we know we may not win every fight, we also know that the victories we can win will be worthwhile.
Every service we save, every reduction we mitigate, every blow we soften all will limit damage to the life chances of the vulnerable or lessen reductions in the quality of life of our communities.
Out of this struggle we can also articulate a political alternative to the Coalition.
In those pockets of local government under Labour control, the Party and the unions need to explore how we work together as part of this struggle.
How we can do that (particularly when Councillors see no alternative to implementing cuts which attack the workforce and community) is a blog post for another day...
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