Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Year's Message to shop stewards

We are now half way through a Parliament in which the Coalition Government has used the opportunity of an economic crisis caused by the banks to launch an attack upon our welfare state which they have wanted for a generation.
 
The years of pay freeze, job losses and attacks on benefits and services have not reduced the public sector deficit - because that has never been the Government's intention. For the Cabinet of millionaires, the attack on our living standards and public services is an end in itself.
 
It will be a difficult year in 2013 (as UNISON warns on our national website today - http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2923) but if we work hard together we can make it less difficult - and make a real positive difference.
 
At a local level, since the General Election, we have lost hundreds of jobs in the Council, including some compulsory redundancies. However, we have also delayed and/or avoided many job losses.
 
The stronger and more effectively we are organised at a local level, the better will be the job that we can do to limit the damage being done to jobs and services as a result of the Government's economic policy.
 
In particular, we need to be prepared to win arguments with our members, perhaps section-by-section, to be prepared to take industrial action as part of our campaigning activity against cuts. In general we need to encourage more activism, including lobbies of Council meetings and participation in all sorts of campaigning.
 
Now more than ever we need to remember, and remind our members, that the Union is not something else, separate from the membership, and that we need to organise and mobilise our members to be active in defending our interests as local government workers.
 
Of course we also need to see a change in approach nationally from the leaders of the trade unions and the Labour Party if we are to be able to reverse the attacks upon our living standards and public services from the Government. We can only do so much at a local level.
 
Former Council Leader, Ted Knight, has recently explained what Labour Councils should be doing, with which I agree wholeheartedly and which I would urge you to read (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/30/coalition-resistance-local-council-cuts).
 
Our Branch Annual General Meeting will be an opportunity for us to consider what demands we should be making to our UNISON Conference about how our trade unions use the power of our six million members to stand up to the Government.
 
As much as I know 2013 will be tough and will see a lot of hard work, I cannot imagine a better place in which to face this challenge than the Lambeth branch of UNISON. I look forward to seeing you at the next Branch Committee and at the Annual General Meeting.

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