Karen Jennings, Head of Unison Health, spoke at a recent meeting held in North London for workers at the Whittington Hospital who are facing the closure of their A&E and maternity services.
The meeting was designed to get more workers involved in the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, and build their confidence to mount a fightback from within the hospital against the proposed cuts.
You would have thought that Jennings would have made an attempt to boost the confidence of the workers and the Whittington Unison branch. In fact, she did the exact opposite.
She started by saying that there were no concrete plans to close the A&E, leaving a lot of the staff confused.
When asked if there was any strategy to fight the cuts, she replied “Well, I don’t see many hospital workers here tonight, I don’t think the branch is strong enough to take any action. Perhaps an academic could write to the government explaining how the cuts wouldn’t be a good idea.“
Brilliant! Yes, Karen Jennings, that’s exactly how unions have won the fight against cuts before!
Later she went on to explain that polyclinics are actually OK and so are Private Finance Initiatives. Let’s get this clear — Unison is not in favour of polyclinics. She has publicly gone against democratically decided policy of the union.
At this point of the meeting the mood was very downbeat. Jennings left to go and canvass for her upcoming election battle in Hornsey and Wood Green, where she is Labour PPC. Thankfully, other people involved in the campaign managed to turn the meeting around, and workers and union members in the hospital are discussing how to take the campaign forward.
The most frustrating thing is that Jennings probably won’t be held to account for any of this; she will continue to go around saying these kind of things and simultaneously claiming to represent thousands of healthworkers. At a time when the Unison bureaucracy is viciously witch-hunting left activists, a time when we’ll be facing cuts like we haven’t seen since the 1980s.
What we need is a democratically accountable leadership, one that is going to inspire and build fights against cuts, not crush the first attempts at fightbacks they see.
Whittington day of action
The campaign to defend Whittington Hospital’s A&E and maternity services is going strong.
A day of action is planned for Thursday 29 April, with local stunts and a lunchtime rally outside the hospital.
Trade unions and staff are discussing how the campaign can move forward from within the hospital.
Rachel Tyndall, Chief Executive of NHS Islington, has been very dismissive of the campaign so far and said that the North Central London NHS sector (which includes the Whittington and four other hospitals) will loose £560 million over the next five years and needs to start making cuts.
The Whittington campaign is an example of how campaigns can be built to stop the closure of services. We need a coordinated fightback to attacks on the NHS across London.
£20 billion in cuts are forecast for the NHS in the next few years. These cuts have already started...
Leicestershire Hospitals — £58 million and 700 jobs to go in 12 months.
Southampton Hospitals — £100 million cut and 1,400 jobs to go in four years.
Salford Royal Hospital — 750 jobs to go in three years, budget cut 15%.
Oxfordshire Hospitals — £45 million cut in 12 months.
Cambridge University Hospitals — £35-£40 million cut over three years,