We must be strong to protect our members: Dave Prentis

“We have only one priority: to protect our members and the services they provide,” general secretary Dave Prentis told UNISON’s national executive council meeting in London today.

To do that, he added, “we need to stay strong and look after our members who are going through traumas. Strong cohesion will get us through the next two to three years.”

Mr Prentis was speaking after the NEC heard an exhaustive report of the effects the austerity agenda was having across the whole union – in every service group and every country of the UK.

More than half a million jobs have been lost from public services, with another 400,000 under threat over the next year, the meeting heard.

But the union has managed to hold its own financially and reduce the impact of job losses on membership figures, in part because “we have never recruited more than in the past year.”

And that recruiting work will continue in 2014, the NEC agreed, with a focus on several short sharp bursts of campaigning in January and February, late March and the autumn.

Two particular effects of the austerity drive are increasing attacks on members’ pay, terms and conditions, and an increase in outsourcing.

Already the union has 150,000 members working in the private and community sectors, spread among 11,000 employers in 40,000 workplaces. That number is projected to double and Mr Prentis told the NEC “that quarter of a million private sector members will change the nature of the union.”

The general secretary issued two direct calls to arms – for the union to start mobilising for the TUC-organised national demonstration planned for 18 October in London, and for branches to support the Stand up to Racism and Fascism rally in London on 22 March.

The NEC agreed to send messages of support and solidarity to members dealing with the direct effects of austerity, including:

  • groups of members involved in industrial action across Glasgow;
  • Environment Agency and other members dealing with or affected by the floods;
  • higher education members involved in the current pay campaign;
  • Scottish police staff members facing massive job cuts and plans to slash the number of police control centres in the country.

The meeting heard updates on the current state of pay campaigns and the union-wide Worth It campaign, as well as current and planned industrial action around the union; the recruitment campaign; general political fund and campaigning priorities for the year; the need to hold a political fund ballot this year; organising; and plans for the national delegate conference in June.

A number of these themes were picked up in the motions the NEC adopted to submit to conference, covering:

  • campaigning against austerity up to the general election;
  • a manifesto for collective bargaining;
  • rebuilding local democracy and combatting local government cuts;
  • planning for an NHS for the future;
  • the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the EU;
  • campaigning for a fair and just social security system;
  • stopping probation privatisation;
  • campaigning on pay and living standards;
  • solidarity with Guatemala;
  • organising in the fragmented workforce;
  • promoting political education and developing activists;
  • the branch resources review.

It also adopted a number of proposed rule amendments to put before national delegate conference.

The meeting also approved the union’s provisional management accounts for 2013.

Useful links

Stand up to Racism and Fascism rally

UNISON national delegate conference 2014

TUC rally 18 October (external link, opens in new window)