Defend all council jobs and services

How can we build a fighting, democratic UNISON branch in Southampton?

Southampton UNITE and UNISON members protesting at Labour Party South East Region Conference, 2018

Public Meeting Monday 11 March 7.30pm Stop All Council Cuts

Speaker: Sue Atkins, Coxford Bi-Election Candidate for Socialist Alternative – Putting People First

Lordshill Community Centre,Cromarty Road, Southampton SO16 8LX

Southampton and District UNISON members will be shocked and angered at the news of the role some regional UNISON officials have played, alongside Labour Party members and officials, in undermining the fight of carers and their families who have fought alongside UNISON & UNITE members to stop the closure of Holcroft and Glen Lee care homes. 

Regional UNISON officials threatened to discipline Southampton UNISON branch officers if they supported a lobby of South East Region Labour Party Conference last year, calling for the withdrawal of the closure of Holcroft and Glen Lee care homes.

At a time of continuing austerity, when so many jobs and services have been cut, leaving those behind overworked and underpaid, the key task of all UNISON members is to ensure our union becomes stronger and better able to resist cuts, both locally and nationally – whoever runs the council.

Implement UNISON South East Regional policy to fight council cuts

UNISON’s policy for Local Government agreed by its Service Group Executive, is clear and calls for Labour councils to use reserves and borrowing powers to set legal, balanced, no cuts budgets – to defend jobs and services – as a means to building local and national resistance to cuts. This policy was recently overwhelmingly endorsed at UNISON South East region’s Annual General Meeting.

This position has bought UNISON members in Southampton, fighting to save Holcroft and Glen Lee care homes, into confrontation with Southampton Labour councillors who have failed to resist cuts and have implemented £136 million of cuts with the loss of over 1000 jobs.

What needs to be done to rectify this situation? 

Southampton UNISON District branch has over 2700 members, the biggest union at the council but also at Solent University, City College, City Bus and elsewhere. With strong support for the campaign to save care homes, the branch has a potentially powerful position in the city.

The anger of UNISON members at UNISON officials and the inactive role of UNISON nationally in fighting cuts, has been reflected nationally and across the region with the launch last year of UNISON Action. 

UNISON Action is building support for a fighting, democratic UNISON which will fully mobilise its resources to defend jobs and services.

Whilst branch officers are furious at the role of their regional officers, we believe that leaving UNISON at this stage is a mistake and will potentially leave members in the hands of the region’s officials, with the branch possibly put under regional supervision. 

Neither would this help Southampton UNITE members who would be more isolated in the aftermath of such a step.

This emergency meeting, should appeal to the branch officers to stay and fight, to work with others in UNISON, including through UNISON Action to ensure full support is given to the Southampton Branch campaign to stop cuts and to build a democratic, fighting UNISON at every level of the union.

The branch should also seek full support and collaboration with UNITE locally and nationally, whose policy in local government (from their National Industrial Sector Committee) is the same as the UNISON SGE and build the fight to stop council cuts now, as well as National Education Union members in Southampton who are striking on Thursday 14 March at Valentine Primary in opposition to threatened redundancies.

  • Full support for the campaign to save Glen Lee and care-workers jobs
  • oppose all council cuts to jobs and services
  • build a fighting democratic UNISON
  • elect all UNISON officials
  • stop school cuts, solidarity with NEU strikers at Valentine Primary School in Sholing
  • call on Southampton Labour councillors to set a balanced, no cuts budget using reserves and borrowing powers
  • replace all Labour councillors who refuse to fight cuts with fighting, socialist councillors
  • build a mass campaign of council workers and their trade unions with the community to demand the restoration of the £136 million stolen from Southampton by the Tory government since 2010
  • build a mass socialist Labour party, de-select the Blairites, readmit expelled socialists
  • Jeremy Corbyn and the TUC must urgently call a mass demonstration calling for an end to austerity and an immediate general election

For a fighting, democratic UNISON

The time is long overdue for UNISON to throw its full weight into the battle against austerity. No more marching up the hill and down again. Not just lobbying of MPs and petitions. A serious national leadership is needed urgently to lead joined-up strike action against the government & employers.

UNISON should not leave branches to fight alone – The national union has to join up the struggles and work with other trade unions, trades councils, community groups and campaign organisations to build maximum solidarity to deliver real, active opposition to cuts in pay, terms and conditions. For a real ending of pay restraint and low pay in the public sector. £10 per hour must be the minimum demand in any UNISON pay claim.

UNISON must give full support to branches taking industrial action – including immediate approval of strike ballots where there is clearly support for action and practical support once industrial action has begun, including positive solidarity campaigning across the union. No talks with employers without agreement from those on strike.

We must support members in private and community sectors fighting to win collective bargaining rights. A serious response to the crisis in Health & Social Care is needed urgently with opposition to ACO & STP plans, including national action.

UNISON must join the fight with other unions against the school funding cuts that are putting our children’s safety and education in danger. No more Academies – call for all schools to be brought back under democratic local authority control.

A national fight is needed to hold back the savage cuts in FE and HE.

UNISON must fight all forms of discrimination and mobilise against those who seek to divide us – no scapegoating of migrants. UNISON must take the lead, alongside other trade unions, in fighting racism – not just outsourcing anti-racist work to others. For an anti-austerity message of jobs, homes and services – not racism. The fight against the far right, fascism and racism also requires the widest possible campaigning and mobilisations. UNISON should be actively involved in these.

UNISON must oppose any further attempted coups or slurs on the Labour Leadership. Expressions of public solidarity from our union are essential and no more members’ money must go to support MPs/Councillors attacking Jeremy Corbyn. UNISON should support any councillors making a stand against cuts and call on Labour Councils to stand up against the cuts now and set no-cuts, needs budgets, using reserves and borrowing powers.

An incoming Labour Government should guarantee to replenish any reserves and underwrite any borrowing used to stave off cuts and to return the billions stolen from public services since 2010. To reverse all privatisation, bring public services back in-house and cancel all PFI contracts, guaranteeing job protection to those employed in those sectors.

UNISON should be using its influence on the TUC for a national demonstration to push this government over the cliff once and for all. The battle needs a mass mobilisation on the streets — not just in parliament — to kick the Tories out.

We support the election of Regional Secretaries and Senior Regional & National Officers on no more than the average wages of those they seek to represent – no more over-inflated salaries at the top of our union. Members and activists must have full transparent, democratic control over the union.

Conferences must be allowed to debate any relevant issue – no more over-prescriptive Standing Orders decisions.

Branches do 90% of the work that our members benefit from, whether that is representation, negotiation or bargaining. It is branches that are in the frontline of austerity and our fightback against government cuts. Yet the resources, funding and support we need as branches to function effectively are simply not there. The promises we have heard for years on branch funding have not been delivered. Put the money where the work is! That is the way to grow a strong trade union.

Branches and members must have the right to campaign against national policy – including opposing pay deals – free from interference of unelected union officers.

If you agree join the Socialist Party and its members in UNISON today www.socialistparty.org.uk or text your name and postcode to 0783 681910