Surrey Unison on the march against austerity

Surrey Unison on the march against austerity

Paul Couchman, Surrey County Unison (personal capacity)

Over 150 delegates registered for the South East regional council meeting of local government union Unison which took place on 8 February. This was the biggest meeting for many years. There was a serious mood and a clear willingness to start the fight-back against Boris Johnson’s Tory government.

There were nine motions on the agenda, including our Surrey County branch motion calling on Labour councils to fight the cuts. I made the point that Unison, as the biggest trade union representing members in local government, must adopt a position of supporting Labour councils and councillors who make a stand against the cuts. I gave the example of socialist-led Liverpool City Council in the 1980s.

Two other Socialist Party members spoke in the discussion, Paul Tovey and Chris Pickett. A range of other supporting speakers included Diana Leach (Unison national executive committee member) and Antoinette Solera from Reading, who spoke about how their branch and other local trade unions have been protesting against their Labour council outsourcing to union-busters Greenwich Leisure Limited!

National action

Ours was definitely the motion of the day, and it topped the poll for motions to go from the region to Unison’s national conference in June. If it gets on the agenda and is passed there, we can use that to push the national union into taking action which reflects this position.

All the Unison Action broad left candidates who stood for regional positions were elected.

A motion was also moved by Socialist Party member Paul Tovey from Bucks Health branch on developing a campaign for a South East cost of living allowance, building on the current Thames Valley Allowance campaign. This was also passed unanimously.

The day was topped off with Kye Gbangbola, from the Truth About Zane campaign, as the guest speaker (see ‘Five years on – and still no justice for Zane’ at socialistparty.org.uk). The campaign has 90,000 signatures on its petition now and is holding a commemorative public event at the House of Lords on 12 February.