Chris Morey, the long standing UNISON Branch Secretary who had only recently retired, has died. Chris was invariably good company as well as being an exemplary trade unionist and it seemed strangely and sadly appropriate to learn of his passing at a Regional event, for he was the source of knowledge about Provincial level agreements in London local government.
The Regional Committee sent condolences to Chris's family and to the Ealing branch before returning, as we had to, to the issues before us.
The main topic of discussion was our response to the ConDem attacks. The Regional Secretary gave an overview of these attacks and the response of our movement which was supplemented by further reports from others.
We heard the good news that Croydon Council are backing away from their intention to attack nationally agreed sick pay. This is a tribute to the work of the Croydon branch and a testament to the way in which, even in the worst of circumstances, concessions can be won by determined struggle.
Our job, locally, Regionally and nationally, must be to wage the most determined and effective struggle possible in order to secure the maximum concessions, with the clear goal in mind of defeating every cut and every attack (and of bringing down this Government at the earliest opportunity).
Sadly, one Regional Council officer struck a slightly jaundiced note, bemoaning the fact that we had lost the General Election (as if this meant we should accept Government policy?) he was worried about our ability to mobilise our members. A fellow NEC member wondered whether members would be prepared to give up a Saturday to demonstrate.
These slightly disappointing contributions (which are hardly in the spirit of UNISON's approach) were effectively countered by others present. Phoebe Watkins, Camden local Government, pointed to the success of the Camden Trades Council demonstration on 20 October. Len Hockey, Waltham Forest Health, commended the mobilisation initiated by the RMT Union on Saturday 23 October.
Andrew Berry, Islington local government, reported from the STUC Demonstration in Edinburgh on 23 October.
The marvellous NUS/UCU demonstration last week was also given as an example of the possibility of mobilising opposition to this Government.
In summing up, the Regional Secretary responded positively to these more positive contributions - and urged branches to share information about campaigning activities so that the Region could publicise them.
I hope branches campaigning actively against Government policies will take the Regional Secretary up on this. As we build up to the TUC demonstration on 26 March (and beyond) we should not make the mistake of those who would "march in March and not before" - to mobilise a million then we must first mobilise hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands in local and Regional and national activities.
We also need to think seriously about the approach of the NUT Executive on pensions, which may offer us a chance to inflict a major defeat upon this Government.
We do now need leaders, at every level, who are prepared for this fight. Pessimism of the intellect is always reasonable, but pessimism of the will would be inexcusable.
We could also do with a unifying approach - if an agreement could be reached to reduce both the quorum for and the frequency of our Regional Council (so that we had three meetings a year attended by at least a quarter of registered delegates, rather than failing three out of four times a year to secure attendance by a third of registered delegates) that might suggest we were focused on what now needs to be done.
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