'We should be confident in our ability'
(19/06/12) "Cameron is leading a government hellbent on bringing discord, disharmony, doubt and despair to ordinary people, their families and their communities."
That was how UNISON president Eleanor Smith described the ConDem coalition this morning, as she opened the union’s national delegate conference in Bournemouth.
Comparing the government to characters from The Wizard of Oz, she said: "Straw Man; Cameron, no brain. Tin Man; Osborne, no heart. Cowardly Lion; Clegg, no courage.
"Their ideological agenda means they want to privatise anything and everything – the tired out rhetoric of ‘private good, public bad’ has been resurrected."
But the speech was a call to arms rather than one of resignation.
"The order of business for the next four days shows the sheer scale of the attacks our members are being subjected to, along with the services the provide to the public," Ms Smith told delegates.
"On top of the completely unjust and completely unsustainable pay freezes, Osborne now wants to move to regional or local pay bargaining – directly targeting the poorest areas for yet more pay cuts."
Ms Smith stressed that the government's policies are not working, with the country back in recession, the deficit having been increased and more people out of work, with unemployment particularly hitting young people in general and young Black people particularly.
But as she told delegates how proud she had been to be president "of such a modern, forward-looking union", she added that "we have to keep changing and adapting to ensure that our union and our movement endures."
And, she said, "we should be confident in our ability to do this."
Declaring that she would be continuing in her political activism in the coming years after her presidency, she praised general secretary Dave Prentis for "taking the lead in demanding the TUC organise the national demo on 20 October" in London.
"I'm sure you’ll all be there painting the streets purple and green, just as we did in March last year – I know I will!"