Thursday, June 17, 2010

UNISON NDC 2010: Dave Prentis Speech

(Some notes about the General Secretary's speech to conference on Tuesday afternoon – usual health warning about my hurried note taking). Dave started off with a joke about conference clashing with the World cup and how UNISON had tried unsuccessfully to get the football authorities to change their date. This conference is the biggest gathering of public service workers in the world. There were more people at the International rally last night then most unions have delegates at their AGMs.

He affirmed our solidarity with our sister unions in Europe taking to the streets to protest against cuts. He condemned the attack in Gaza and offered support for peace and justice in the Middle East. Dave praised the role of UNISON activists and “Our people” in defeating the BNP and Nick Griffin. The Battle against them continues. There is no place for fascists in councils and in our great union. This is the Centenary of UNISON Welfare. He described Gerry Gallagher the UNISON President as a man of integrity and wished him well in retirement. Thanked activists for work you do for our union. Slogging through meetings and paperwork – putting up with each other (most of the time). There are now 5000 Learning reps. Our Self organised groups. We are slowly, slowly winning equal pay. We will continue until we get equal pay for all. Recruitment is at an all time high. There is a new army of area and local organisers. Strong political and industrial action funds.

On May 7th our world was transformed. We have Tory and Liberal attacks on us. I has a message today for the headline writers in the “The Daily Telegraph” “Your parents wasted the money” on your public school education. You are not that clever - you can’t add up. You claim that it cost each household £4000 per year on public pensions. They got the decimal point wrong. It costs £400 per year. We demand an apology from Clegg and the “Daily Telegraph”. Remember before the election the Tories claimed they have changed. They now want to cut your pay, your pensions and your jobs. It’s “gutting not cutting” our public services. This is not inevitable it is ideological. Tell employers they do have choice. Stop cutting pay and start cutting consultants. Councils stop giving council tax "give away's". Go to Osborne and say make the bankers pay for it. It’s about fairness. The richest 100 people in the UK in the middle of a recession increase their wealth by 30% in one year. The money for one Council CEO is increased by 30% 3 years and a NHS CEO by 7% this year. We have money for war and Trident. Let’s have a Pay freeze for the bankers. If threaten to leave the country. I say let ‘em go. I’ve said before that I will organise a whip round for 1 way ticket out of the UK.

Public services are our jewel in our crown. Those who work with young offenders are as important but are not as poplar as those who provide child care. Who will champion what is right and not what is poplar? This union will. This is our time. Unions were not made for good times but for the bad times - this is why we came about. We are facing a “Perfect storm”. 1000’s are joining every week for protection. They are looking for us for leadership. This is a heavy responsibility. We are where we should be. We cannot tell where it will end. Every hour and every day - this union will protect its members. We will not take us down “dead end alleys. We will not exhaust ourselves in the first few months. Build alliances with other public unions – yes, the CPS and NGOs via our “Million voices” campaign. Only support as leader of the Labour Party candidates who will fight the cuts. Expect Labour Councillors and Councils to do the same. Give full support to any branch who is forced to resort to industrial action to defend jobs. United campaign to fight the pay freeze. If Clegg comes for our pensions then we will ballot for national industrial action.

Don’t get me wrong we are not looking for a fight. We are always prepared do talk and negotiate. That what unions are there for but no one should under estimate us. If this government picks a fight - we are ready. If they pick a fight we will be ferocious defenders of our members. They will not know what hit them. This is not the time to hand our heads. We should stand tall and confident. If we have to fight we are ready - this will be our time this is what we are about.

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