Life on Unison fringe

Submitted by Anon on 23 June, 2004 - 12:23

On the fringes of the annual conference of the public services union Unison (from 22 June in Bournemouth), there will be opportunities for both local government and health activists to get together and debate attitudes to the current pay offers, and a meeting to launch an exciting new campaign to raise support for the newly emerging trade union movement in Iraq.

There will also be a meeting in the official fringe on the TUC Play Fair at the Olympics campaign - talking about issues around sweatshop workers and how trade unionists in this country can and should get involved in campaigns like those run by No Sweat to end sweatshop labour the world over.

Inside the hall, however, because of the internal structures of the union, none of the big issues will find their way onto the formal agenda of the conference.

There are major industrial battles in the public sector - with Agenda for Change in the health service, a three-year pay deal on the table for local government workers, and massive attacks on public sector pension rights also on the cards.

Conference can't take decisions on industrial campaigns, or review our successes and failures in campaigns like that recently waged by nursery nurses in Scotland.

The agenda for the conference seems pretty bare. Anti-fascist campaigning is on the agenda, but with little likelihood of any real debate, as there is so little dissent from the leadership line.

However, there is a motion supporting the RMT and protesting against the decision of the Labour Party Executive to expel the union from affiliation. Another is a one-line motion simply calling for Blair's resignation.

The fact that these motions got prioritised by the regions to be on the agenda is embarrassing enough for Unison's leadership. They appear to be most anxious not to fuel any dissent amongst the Labour Party membership and are putting their faith in secret meetings and documents circulated between union general secretaries to shore up their position of influence with the government (see page 7).

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