UNISON’s Political Campaign After the 2015 General

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2015 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2015

Conference notes that the Conservative Party’s success at the General and local elections on May 7th carries with it significant threats to public services, our members’ jobs and standard of living and growing levels of inequality. As such Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to develop and put in place a comprehensive political campaign to address this dangerous situation.

Conference agrees that this should complement the union’s post election organising and negotiating strategies and maximise the use of our political resources and activist base over the lifetime of this parliament (up to 2020). Conference further agrees that the union’s political campaign strategy will need to reflect a changing and challenging political environment, examples of which include the new political landscape in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the millions of votes won by UKIP. Crucially the strategy will also need to face up to the urgent and immediate challenges posed to our members by the legislative programme set out in the Queen’s Speech on 27th May and the measures anticipated in the forthcoming stability budget on 8th July. These include plans to:

1) Implement further massive cuts to public services and public service jobs, with close to one million more job cuts anticipated between now and 2020 regardless of the consequences on the services our communities rely upon;

2) Continue with the policy of pay restraint which has resulted in the average public service employee now being more than £2,000 a year worse off than they were in 2010;

3) Make yes votes for industrial action harder to achieve by setting high turn-out thresholds and making it easier for employers to use agency workers during strikes;

4) Make it more difficult for trade unions to maintain political funds;

5) Implement further reductions in public sector facility time and possibly extend the removal of DOCAS across the public sector;

6) Continue to privatise our public services, including in probation in England and Wales and in the NHS in England, whilst also encouraging more cut price outsourcing, social enterprise spin outs and personal budgets in local government;

7) Increase the number of Free Schools and Academies in England and attacks on unsocial hours payments in the English NHS;

8) Promote greater regional devolution in England, changing the political landscape in which public services are delivered;

9) Extend the right to buy to housing associations in England;

10) Cut £12bn from welfare and freeze of most working age benefits, e.g. Tax Credits, until 2018.

At this moment of Conservative triumphalism, we must keep in mind that their permanent austerity agenda is not as widely shared by the public as it might appear. The UK is not a right-wing country, but a divided country. Only a quarter of the electorate and fewer than 4 in 10 voters, supported the Conservatives and their victory has been met with more dismay than joy. Anti-racist activists will be heartened by the failure of Farage to win a seat in South Thanet. However, UKIP have continued to spread fear and division which unfortunately has been echoed by other parties. With UKIP registering over 4 million votes we must challenge their racist lies.

In drawing together the union’s political strategy, conference calls upon the National Executive Council to ensure that the central objectives of UNISON’s campaign activity focus on:

a) Protecting members jobs;

b) Defending quality public services;

c) Protecting and enhancing pay, living standards and gender equality;

d) Defending the rights of trade unions to take action, including industrial action;

e) Encouraging a fair, inclusive and tolerant society so that no one is left behind and nor is anybody scapegoated for the economic crisis;

f) Seeking to ensure that the next UK level government is one which better reflects our values.

This process should culminate in UNISON’s political campaign strategy and include:

i) Opportunities for all parts of the union to feed into and shape the union’s political messages to build unity and cohesion for the period ahead, by including branches, regions, self organised groups, National Young Members Forum and the Retired Members;

ii) An assessment of how to build new coalitions of support for public services, including encouraging branches to take part in the People’s Assembly march on 20th June. This should include an evaluation of previous coalition building efforts, e.g. the Public Services Alliance (Northern Region), Housing Voice and the various citizens initiatives;

iii) Opposing further attacks on benefit claimants and work to develop stronger links with anti-poverty organisations including the Child Poverty Action Group and anti-Bedroom Tax campaigns;

iv) Effective mobilisation of both the Labour Link and the GPF – with every effort being made to ensure that the political fund is protected from the Tory attack set out in the Queen’s speech;

v) A thorough review of the UNISON response to political devolution as it has evolved over last 10 years, in conjunction with the devolved nations, and how it emerges in the English regions, seeking to improve our campaigns and communications;

vi) Full engagement in the development and execution of broader trade union movement campaigns co-ordinated by the TUC, STUC, WTUC and ICTU;

vii) Convene and seek TUC support for a national demonstration against austerity and racism at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Sunday 4 October;

viii) To work with other trade unions, campaign groups and the TUC to organise the biggest possible campaign of meetings, rallies — and action— to defend the right to strike and call on the TUC to hold lobbies and rallies of Parliament on the Trade Union Bill;

ix) Identification of and full involvement in key electoral staging posts, including local, mayor, Police and Crime Commissioner elections and the elections in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London in 2016;

x) Co-ordination with our organising and industrial work, so as to ensure that political campaign activity supports and amplifies local actions and vice versa;

xi) Development work to ensure that the union is supporting and training the new generation of trade union political activists;

xii) Ongoing efforts to make sure that the union is using the most effective campaign techniques possible to reach and mobilise members and to ensure that the voices of our member and activists are heard at the highest level;

xiii) A campaign to save the Human Rights Act which provides essential protections to UK citizens.