Tuesday, November 02, 2010
UNISON Community Conference 2010: Dave Prentis
Our General Secretary gave the key note speech to Conference. He began by playing a tribute to activists. John Martin, who was a guest of this conference had spend many years trying to bring about today. Community is the fastest growing part of the union. If we recruited as well elsewhere in UNISON as we have done in Community we would have more than 2 million members. Equally, Community activists have been forced to fight. In the dispute with Notting Hill Housing. They had to take action against purely ideological attacks by a CEO that advises Tories on housing policies. In Hampshire there is currently a dispute over an attempt to derecognise our union.
There is an onslaught on everything we have negotiated in the past for our members. This is crunch time. The greatest test for our union and our membership. Attacks at a time when the economy is on life support. All are being hurt by ideological polices by this government. They have no democratic mandate. Attacking pay, pensions, jobs, public services and our welfare state. Attacks the like we have never seen before. Applying a Chainsaw to public services. This is not due to the deficit but due to an ideology that hates public services and loves privatisation. An ideology that sees public services not as an achievement but as something to attack.
This coalition has a choice – it could go back to Banks, the Spivs, and the Speculators and say “you caused this mess now you clear it up”. No, their friends in the City say you cannot do this but instead attack the benefits of poor people. They will let down the people who rely on the services that we provide. If money is available for banks and bonuses, for war and Trident then there is definitely money available for public services. Money for the Social Housing that we need so much. If money is that tight why have Bankers and Executives increased their money by 55% in the last year alone. We have had enough of their greed and arrogance. Spivs should do less for themselves and more for their country.
Our commitment is that unions will speak for those who work for public services and those who rely on them. We will be your voice to let people know what we are doing. We cannot have thousands of families having to move homes. Got to build opposition. Not to sit back. We must recruit to lever support. We have got to give practical support to those on our communities fighting to defend services and not just to look after the interests of our members. We have got to stand together for what is right.
The recent massive lobby of parliaments. More people outside Westminster Hall than able to get inside. This was a tremendous start. Movement of trade unions and community groups, pensioners, students, taxpayer and unemployed. Not just to oppose cuts and protect jobs and services. Got to be a movement to campaign and build a better future. Build an economy to build a better society. We have our million voices for public services and a million voices to build a better society. Build alliances with other unions to break the pay freeze. We will rise to the challenge. This is our time. Unions were born in adversely. Our history is about protecting the poor against the rich. We have got through good times and more difficult times. This is our time not just for members now but for their future. Yes, will lose some of these battles but we will have victories along the way. Show our resolve to protect our welfare state. Go back to 1945 when after the war there was a massive debt which we have only just paid off now. The Labour Party still came out with a manifest building for the future – they created NHS, schools and the welfare state and we will not let this government take this away. We want a society that says whatever your lack of wealth you deserve dignity.
Unison has 1.4 million in membership. We are the public services union. Other unions in the UK and Europe look to UNISON to lead the fight. What I say to you more than anything is that we will lead the fight. If Osborne cuts go thru cuts we will fight back. If they come for our pensions, I am sure it will be the straw that will break the camel’s back. We will march next year; will hold rallies, walkouts and we will be visible.
We may march in our thousands but we vote in our millions. We must let people know where blame lays – the Banks and the Coalition who wants to make cuts to the poor rather than the wealth of our friends. We are not waiting 4 years. Next year in May local elections, get them out of our Town Halls. In Wales and Scotland get them out.
Defend our members in the workplace. Challenge Cllrs and MP's, we have got a plan that will move forward but it needs your involvement. Will be great for us to prove what unions can do. The reason why unions came about is to protect. Not just this generation but future generation. Thanks for what you have done and what you will do in future.