Monday, September 26, 2011

Labour must back the unions

Our General Secretary, Dave Prentis was clear and to the point in Liverpool today as he got a standing ovation at Labour Party Conference (http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2454).

The Labour Party leadership need to show their support for the coming pensions action on 30 November. They need, as the Labour Representation Committee has argued (http://l-r-c.org.uk/news/story/towards-30-november-build-the-resistance/), to demonstrate to our members (whether part of the "squeezed middle" or, for that matter the "squashed bottom") that they stand on our side.

This is the decisive moment at which the Leader of the Opposition has to decide whether to lead opposition and - as I was saying the other day (http://jonrogers1963.blogspot.com/2011/09/wanted-alternative.html) the answer to this question goes beyond the single issue of pensions.

The Coalition Government have taken sides - the Labour Opposition also has to take sides. For or against the welfare state? For or against dignity in old age for retired public servants? For or against workers prepared to make sacrifices to defend our interests?

The pensions struggle is shaping up to be the decisive battle of this Parliament. One lesson of the 80s is that the support of the Labour leadership (even in opposition) can still be significant and helpful (or perhaps the lesson, learned by the NUM, is that the absence of clear and unequivocal support from the Labour leadership can be very damaging).

Dave Prentis is therefore right to demand this support (we are, after all, having a "national ballot"!)

An important difference between now and the 80s is that we now have the leadership of the big unions united in support of action, to be taken across unions and sectors, with the support of the TUC.

We now have to deliver similar unity from the membership of the various unions - having been offered leadership we may have to show some "followership".

The most important single thing any UNISON activist can do just now is work to maximise turnout in the coming strike ballot.

For those involved in the Labour Party (whether as delegates or individual members) we also need to keep pressure on Labour politicians to back us, as early and with as much publicity as we can get!

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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