Sunday, October 17, 2010

Defending the NHS after the legal challenge...

UNISON’s legal challenge to the NHS White Paper may not have succeeded. However our campaign in defence of public services goes on.

Legal challenges are a legitimate and necessary tactic. Justice Mitting may have ruled that the court could not place a legal demand on the government to consult the public, patients or staff over plans contained in its NHS white paper. However, he said that it was perfectly proper for UNISON to seek a judicial review, and that the union had raised an important principle that was in the constitutional interest.

More to the point, any tactic which helps to focus attention on the detail of aspects of the ConDems assault upon our public services has validity. There must be a danger that the suggestion that the health budget is being “protected” will distract attention from the truly appalling proposals in the White Paper as we mobilise against the draconian cuts which will hit many other parts of the public sector from Wednesday onwards.

The challenge for UNISON now is to break out of our service group silos and unify our campaigning around our one priority – the defence of public services, including the NHS. If we can mobilise an excellent attendance at a training Conference for health branches then we can mobilise around campaigning activity locally, Regionally and nationally. Those who want to unite UNISON in Greater London should get along to the Regional Council on 7 December – and should overcome political differences which weren’t an affordable luxury even before the General Election.

At a local level UNISON branches need to be linking up, with all other union branches and local community organisations in order to resist cuts – the TUC “Stronger Unions blog” has some thoughtful online advice. Dave Prentis also recommends that we link up with the Citizens Organisation. We need to pull out all the stops to engage UNISON members beyond our largest Service Group, otherwise we’ll fail to focus sufficiently widely on the full range of attacks upon the Welfare State.

The challenges we now face make the differences within the Union, which can seem so important to those involved, appear as trivial as they probably always were.

Unity is strength.

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