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Unison's National Delegate Conference 2012:
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Unison's National Delegate Conference 2012:
On The Agenda in Bournemouth
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Unison's National Delegate Conference 2012:
Unison's National Delegate Conference 2012 takes place this week as delegates from across Britain gather in Bournemouth. In Unison's Annual report 2011-2012 presented to the delegates and conference, it is pointed out that the National Executive of the union has just one priority for the union: “defending our members and the public services they provide”.
A Unison website report outlines the issues on the coming conference. It points out that the union is mobilising this year as the attacks are mounting on the members and on public services. “The two years and more of pay freezes, it is clear from across the union that one of the issues looming large at conference will be pay.” Motion 12 on the agenda at Bournemouth sets out a possible strategy for campaigning against the government's overall pay policy for public services, including a "high-profile campaign that engages branches, members and the general public in promoting a 'living wage' that prevents in-work poverty and is sufficient income to secure an adequate living standard without being dependent on in-work benefit”.
Another big issue, the report points out, is going to be “defending national pay and national pay bargaining from attempts to move to regional pay – which is likely to mean further pay cuts for people who live in supposedly 'low-wage' areas”. And of course, the fight for pensions continues in the campaigning of the union for decent pensions for all “and conference will debate the overall campaign and future steps”.
Motion 14 congratulates members for the magnificent turnout on November 30, and "recognises that the campaign to defend pensions in the public and private sector must continue". It sets out campaigning priorities for the union as a whole. Service groups, of course, will decide issues on the actual pensions disputes, ballots and any further industrial action.
But the report points out that the “attacks on our members, other workers providing public services – and workers in general – are not just about the pay in our pockets”. The union members' terms and conditions and rights at work are also under attack from this Coalition government.
“Branches up and down the country, in all service groups, have found themselves fighting off attacks on terms and conditions from local employers – perhaps most notably in Southampton, Swindon, Plymouth, Chester and West Cheshire and many more.”
The report goes on to say that the attacks have been coming thick and fast from the “central UK government and its ideological outriders”. Supposedly in the name of flexibility and boosting growth, there are plans to allow employers to unfairly dismiss workers with less than two years’ service, without the worker being allowed to seek recompense at an industrial tribunal.
And if that is not enough, ministers are making it clear they want to make it "easier to hire and fire people" by cutting back on workers' and union rights in the workplace.
At the same time, there is a steady drip of attacks – by ministers, the media and supposed think tanks – on basic trade union organising rights, particularly when it comes to paid facility time for union reps to carry out their duties.
The report points out that at the conference Motion 93 on the agenda will call for "a major fight-back campaign against attacks on employment, equality and trade union rights", as delegates debate how best to defend members and the union.
Similarly, motion 23 will set out plans to defend the roles of health and safety reps, and challenge any attempt to downgrade health and safety regulations as workers' basic right not to be killed or injured at work is attacked as “red tape”.
Speaking about the wider economy the report points out, “We need to remember that the attacks on our members, their pay and their working conditions is part of a wider attack on public services and the economy in general – attacks that will themselves be the subject of major debate in Bournemouth.”
On the economy, the report asks conference to note "the rising toll of those losing their jobs as unemployment (2.6 million) stands at an 18-year high with record numbers of women and young people unemployed. Job losses in the public sector in the third quarter of 2011 were 13 times larger than private sector job growth."
Of particular importance is that the report calls on the union to take concrete steps to spell out – and campaign for – an alternative and goes on to “urge the union to revitalise our Million Voices campaign throughout Unison, and incorporate our vision of an alternative into all levels of union campaigning, including a rolling programme of events in branches and regions”.
Delegates will also debate the campaign to defend and promote public services, including developing the union's community campaigning. Motion 43 argues that campaigning must include not only resisting the current round of cuts but, looking to the future, arguing against any attempt to present austerity and the smaller state as a "new settlement on the level and scope of public spending".
And conference will discuss how best to defend particular areas of public service, such as with Motion 69 on defending our NHS to continue the 'Our NHS Our Future' campaign.
The report points out that the union is in a fit state, but “that we constantly recruit and make sure our organisation is up to the tasks our members demand of us”, and that this makes Motion 1 on organising all the more important. It, and Motion 4 on learning and organising, might look like purely internal debates focused only on Unison members. But a strong, organised union is essential, the report emphasies, if we are to speak – and act – for our members, for our public services, and for an alternative to austerity and cuts.
Unison's National Delegate Conference 2012 runs from Tuesday to Friday. WWIE wishes every success to the delegates in their deliberations on these important issues not only for Unison members but for society as a whole.
Britain Steps Up Its Propaganda for Aggression:
It is despicable how the Coalition government is ratcheting up its rhetoric designed to justify armed intervention in Syria and topple the government of President al-Assad.
Last Monday, June 21, in the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary William Hague made a blood-curdling, hot-headed and outrageously partisan statement listing what he called the “savage crimes” of the Syrian regime.
He took account of the fact that President al-Assad and the Syrian government are accusing the instigators of violence in the country as terrorists only to accuse Assad thereby of “inflaming sectarian tension” and to blame him for Syria being “on the edge of civil war”. Hague, though, was careful also to accuse the “terrorist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda” of committing “attacks designed to exacerbate the violence, with serious implications for international security”. He did not, however, acknowledge the role of the US of arming the terrorists, nor the role of British special service operators in Syria in seeking regime change.
Syria is a cultured and stable country, with a modern democracy. It has taken a stand against the schemes of Anglo-US imperialism in the region. To the big powers, Syria is a vital piece in the jig-saw of the Middle East and West Asia. With its opposition to US-backed Israeli Zionism, it is a thorn in the side of the US, Britain and the NATO powers.
Hague spoke of a three-point approach in co-ordination with the big European powers. The first, he said, is “to push for the implementation of the Annan plan”. This is gross hypocrisy given the fact that it is outside intervention and terrorism that is preventing a peaceful solution and increasing the tension. The civil war that Hague is darkly predicting for the Syrian people is not being easily fomented by the big powers. For that reason, Hague’s second point is “to increase the pressure and isolation felt by the regime”. Once more Britain is not acting like a modern state which recognises the right of a people to settle its own affairs without outside interference. It is acting as it did with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, to mention the cases in recent history, as a big chauvinist power. It manufacturers in a Hitlerite manner the pretexts for regime change, and covers them in the cloak of ensuring “justice, accountability and humanitarian assistance”, as Hague spoke of as his third point.
In the face of the violence of the opposition forces, the Syrian regime is taking its own measures to maintain the integrity and sovereignty of Syria, and the security of its citizens. It is completely unacceptable for Britain and the NATO powers to conspire to remove the Assad regime as they are doing, which includes expelling Syrian diplomats, and tightening their “stranglehold on the regime’s resources and external sources of support, building on the 15 rounds of EU sanctions that already target 128 individuals and 43 entities” (Hague’s words).
William Hague ominously spoke of sending a team of “British experts” to gather testimony, and a team of Syrians “trained by the United Kingdom”. He openly declared that Britain is increasing “funding for the Syrian opposition and civil society groups, providing £1.5 million of assistance in this financial year to help provide human rights monitoring and media training for activists, and other non-lethal support, such as communications equipment”. He then concluded by saying that if all else fails, “Britain will work with the friends of Syria group to increase further the isolation of the regime and to adopt sweeping new sanctions across the world”. This so-called Friends of Syria grouping was specifically established with Hague’s purpose as its aim.
That the Foreign Secretary of the British government should be acting in the manner of an imperialist and colonialist warmonger is completely unacceptable for the working class and people. They cannot be fooled into believing that Westminster has become a champion of peace and human rights. It is against both peace and human rights for the British government to take open steps to overthrow the Syrian regime as it is doing. Britain must end all its interference, open and covert, in Syria. The Workers’ Opposition must be built in Britain itself to hold the British government accountable for its crimes.
Parts 1 and 2 appeared in WWIE , Nos. 18 and 19 respectively
The government is to introduce two Bills concerning pensions: the Pensions Bill and the Public Services Pensions Bill 2012-13. Rather than starting from the principle that pensions are a claim on the economy, necessary for guaranteeing the right to a decent standard of living after retirement, both Bills reflect the capital-centred outlook that pensions are both a cost and an individual matter of saving and investing. It is in this vein that the Pensions Bill replaces the current state pension with a new single-tier pension and brings forward the planned increase in the state pension age to 67.
The Draft Care and Support Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech also represents this outlook. Originally, the government was to have published the full Bill in this parliamentary session. However, this has been postponed until the next session.
Carers UK Chief Executive Heléna Herklots responded: “It is deeply disappointing that the government has decided to delay social care legislation until the next parliamentary session. ... carers struggling now without support or who are receiving poor quality or insufficient services will feel let down by delays in legislation and the glaring omission from the Queen’s Speech of any mention of how we tackle the growing crisis in the funding of social care.”
The government published its paper entitled A Vision for Adult Social Care: Capable Communities and Active Citizens in November 2010, which gives an indication of the thinking behind what the Draft Bill will contain.
This paper elaborates the government’s “Big Society” notion with regard to social care. Care is to be “personalised”; for example “personalised budgets... are provided to all eligible people”. There is to be a “partnership” between “individuals, communities, the voluntary and private sectors, the NHS and councils”. The mention of the private sector is telling; even more so is the promotion of “plurality”, meaning “diverse service provision with a broad market”. Further, “we want people to have the freedom to choose the services that are right for them from a vibrant plural market”.
Additional private involvement combined with fending for oneself is the direction, under the signboard of “freedom, fairness and responsibility”. Indeed, the paper makes a point of telling us that “social care is not solely the responsibility of the state”.
The “Big Society” by no means puts an end to Big Government, as evidences by the Justice and Security Bill 2012-13and the Draft Communications Data Bill. The former has already entered parliament, via the Lords, receiving its first reading on May 28. This will provide for oversight of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ and other activities through an expansion of the remit of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). Parliament will also have a greater role in ISC appointments.
The Bill provides for closed material procedure in certain civil court proceedings. It enables the Secretary of State to apply to the court to obtain this, the judge determining whether or not it goes ahead. The judge is to grant the request on grounds of whether not to do so would be “damaging to national security”.
According to the Explanatory Notes to the Bill: “The new provisions cover reviews of certain cases where the Secretary of State has decided to exclude a non-EEA national from the UK, or to refuse a certificate of naturalisation or an application for British citizenship, in reliance of information which the Secretary of State considers too sensitive to make public.”
Furthermore, the Bill prevents the making of certain court orders for the disclosure of “sensitive information”.
The Draft Communications Data Bill has already been labelled a “snoopers’ charter” by various commentators. This Draft Bill intends to make it easier for authorities to obtain communication data, apparently without the need for a warrant. It broadens the scope of such data to include time and duration information, telephone numbers and email addresses, and the location of the originator of the communication. There will be increased oversight by the Interception of Communications Commissioner. Under the guise of catching “criminals and terrorists”, this represents a further encroachment by the state on privacy of people, according to the notion of balancing or trading-off rights with “security”.
(The fourth and final part of this series will deal with the remaining unpublished Bills outlined in the Queen’s Speech of May 9.)
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