Thursday, February 21, 2013

UNISON - "TUC get off your knees and organise a serious campaign"

I said yesterday that UNISON's response to the TUC consultation on "the practicalities of a General Strike" warranted an entire blog post and, given interest expressed by some of UNISON's leading Twitterati, I thought I had best get on with it.

The background to this document, which I hope we will publish officially, is the consultation with affiliates launched following last September's decision (backed by UNISON) to consider "the practicalities" of a General Strike.

UNISON's response starts with an acknowledgement that living standards have fallen back to 2003 levels as the Government pursues a programme of austerity which manifestly fails to achieve its stated aims.

The demonstrations on 26 March 2011 and 20 October 2012 and the strike on 30 November 2011 all show that we can mobilise opposition to the Government and "it is regrettable that the TUC failed to build on these events and that a degree of momentum was lost."

(I've included that quote verbatim as cats have few opportunities to laugh).

We can't afford to sit and wait for a Labour Government and the trade union movement needs to provide leadership and an alternative economic strategy.

There are a number of issues we have to consider in relation to a possible General Strike. First, it is a tactic not a strategy and ought not to be counterposed to other tactics.

Having demolished that straw man, we go on to observe that the willingness of our members to engage in industrial action is falling (and, in response to a question from your humble blogger, our General Secretary confirmed that this means since 30 November 2011). As we have on

We need to take account of falling trade union membership and density (and - again - in answering a question, the General Secretary confirmed that he didn't necessarily mean UNISON, as our density in many areas is rising as non-union members are made redundant in even greater numbers than our members). This is certainly true across the movement as a whole.

We appreciate that leading labour lawyers (Hendy and Ewing) have suggested that current anti-union laws contravene our human rights, but we're cautious about legal challenges and our own Rules require us to ballot for action.

Our overall conclusion is that the TUC should be leading a serious campaign to increase our members' confidence and industrial strength so that our members come to see mass industrial action as necessary and desirable.

So our answer to the question of when a General Strike should take place is?

Not yet.

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