Thursday, September 23, 2010

Union meetings..Now and then

On Tuesday I had the great joy of attending the UNISON London Regional Committee.  Before I bored everyone to tears with my Finance Convener report, the Regional Council Officers (RCO) had tabled a statement to the Committee on “Responding to the Coalition Government”. 

This one and a half page statement was something that we RCO’s had genuinely thought would be welcomed and serve to unite all sections of the Committee. It recognised that the real agenda of the Coalition government was to destroy our public services and committed the region to campaign and defend public services.

It also stated that we must ensure the union survives; work with members to defend jobs and livelihoods; campaign for quality public services; organise in private companies; enhance unity across workplaces and unite London against the Coalition.

All good stuff I thought.  I was expecting a debate on the statement (this was our first meeting since the General Election) however for some reason the discussion only centred on the use of this one sentence (& two words) the “current attack on public services is not only an attack on public service workers but on our society and the British people as a whole”.
There was then, to my mind, a very odd and rather unreal debate about the use of the term “British People”!  According to some members of the committee this was the wrong term to use since there are millionaires who are British so if we use the word British this means we are actually defending millionaires? 
One committee member wanted us to get rid of “British people” and instead only use the term “working class”.  It was gently pointed out that while we here today might indeed think all working people in Britain are “working class”, most workers, rightly or wrongly, do not recognise that this term applies to them and if we want to genuinely connect with them we should use terms that they relate to. 
This statement of the bleeding obvious didn’t go down well with a minority of committee members and the debate continued. I pointed out that the use of the term “British people” was actually something that we RCO’s had welcomed because we felt it was vital  to make the argument that the public sector trade unions are not just opposing the coalition just to defend our our own jobs and interests - but that we think that quality public services should be protected since they are the glue that hold this country together! 
There were some sensible points made such as some of our members are not British or do not see themselves as British (as my Plaid Cymru Councillor brother-in-law would no doubt agree). 
But overall I was astonished and frustrated that in the face of the impending Coalition Tsunami and slash and burn of our public services - we spent our precious time arguing over the modern day equivalent of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”.  
It has since become apparent that one of the reasons for this classic “Life of Brian” debate was that some of our ultra left witch hunting brethren had thought (wrongly as usual) that the phrase “British Public” had been inserted into the statement by some dastardly doublethink enemy of their micro-sects!
Due to the scale of the threat we face we really cannot afford to waste any more of our time on such pointless and self indulgent navel gazing or rearranging of the Titanic's deck chairs. The ultra left have got to grow up and stop behaving like a dog constantly gnawing and slobbering at its favourite bone. IMO.

(see video: some things don't change)


Bill said...

However, it's patently not an attack on the "British people as a whole" (leaving aside that there is no such thing as the British people) since some people are going to do very nicely indeed from the cuts.

I'd agree 'working class' is limiting, and 'working people' may be better.

John Gray said...

Hi Bill

Apologies for not replying sooner. Been a bit busy.

Leaving aside your views on whether or not there is such a thing as the “British people”. Surely you must accept that the vast majority in this country do consider themselves to be “British”. So if you want to address an argument to them the term is appropriate?

Thinking about it – even if we used the term “working class” because of a few millionaires - are we trying to say that all working class people are the same and they are all wonderful? Since there are working class tories, racists, wife beaters...?

Yes, working people is better.