Beyond the General Election – UNISON’s Vision

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2005 National Delegate Conference
28 February 2005
Carried as Amended

Conference welcomes the expected return of a Labour government for a third term in office but expresses concern at the tone and direction of parts of Labour’s election manifesto and campaign, which often pandered to the perceived interests of middle England instead of presenting a clear alternative to the individualistic and xenophobic vision of society presented by the Tories.

Conference considers that terms such as choice, radical reform or empowering local communities can be used to mean different things. Unfortunately in New Labour’s case they have turned out to mean policies designed to open doors for private business and increase competition, rather than focus on the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in our society.

Driving through such policies has alienated many in the labour movement and provoked tensions at a time when political unity was of the utmost importance.

Conference is also appalled that after eight years of a New Labour government the private sector has increased its foothold in the public services and that by next year it is estimated that nearly a fifth of public services, £60 billion, will be run by the private sector.

Conference believes that in a period when election turnout and political engagement is at a record low, Labour in government must reconnect with the public through a clear, distinctive and radical agenda based on our shared values of equality, social justice, solidarity and democracy. These are the values that lie at the heart of the labour and trade union movement. They should be used to guide an agenda over the coming parliament that is committed to:

1)respecting the rights of every individual, regardless of age, gender, gender identity, marital and family status, religion or belief, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality or disability;

2)a cooperative, collective and democratic society, in which all can participate in the debate of our shared purposes and responsibilities;

3)strengthening devolution, recognising the changing nature of political governance at national, regional and local level. Extending democracy to unelected institutions and developing new approaches to participation and involvement by users, the community, staff and their trade unions in the planning, design, monitoring and review of public services;

4)public services which are publicly owned, with services currently contracted out speedily brought back in-house;

5)supporting communities damaged by poor housing, a blighted environment

and poverty. Tackling the social, education and economic barriers that create inequality;

6)a well-funded, modern, innovative, redistributive and accountable welfare state, that engages, listens to and responds to the views and needs of social partners, communities and individuals. A welfare state that is delivered by well trained, properly rewarded, and professionally empowered public employees, motivated by a public service ethos;

7)opportunity for all that can only be realised through redistribution, universal benefits, comprehensive public services, and strong trade union and employment rights;

8)supporting aspiration and rewarding hard work, by eradicating low paid and low skilled jobs through investment and access to education and training;

9)re-invigorating local democracy by developing the role and strength of local authorities, granting them the means and independence to be direct providers of the services required by local people;

10)full employment, through creating jobs that are fulfilling, secure, create genuine opportunity, and allow people to achieve a work life balance and dignity in retirement;

11)delivering economic growth and stability by proactively regulating and intervening in the economy to bring about high levels of investment, world class skills and training, and an appropriate balance between manufacturing and service sectors, across all parts of the United Kingdom;

12)promoting peaceful international relations, an ethical foreign policy based on democracy and human rights, an end to nuclear weapons and radical measures to eradicate world poverty.

Conference reaffirms that where the Labour government brings us closer to realising these ends we should and will support them. Conference also calls on UNISON Labour Link to publish regularly the voting record of the UNISON Group of MPs in Labour Link News and the Labour Link magazine. Where it fails to do so, we will continue to challenge and oppose policies that are not in the interests of UNISON members or their families. In doing so, Conference calls on the National Executive Council to ensure that this approach is implemented union-wide and that joint campaigning is undertaken with trade unions who share the above objectives.