UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis slammed the “hypocrisy” of government ministers today, as he addressed the union’s police and justice conference in Brighton.
After thanking members for the work that they do in keeping our communities safe, he condemned minister of justice Michael Gove for “swaggering” around at the Conservative Party conference, “on full ministerial pay”, while attacking the facility time that allows reps to attend the conference.
And he was scathing of health minister Jeremy Hunt’s relish for cuts to tax credits on the grounds that they would make the low-paid ‘work like the Chinese’.
What the government was doing, he said, was “hurting working people, hurting families”.
Mr Prentis told delegates that “what we aspire to is for every one of our members to have decent lives.
“We want a society in which child and pensioner poverty is consigned to the history books; one where our people sleep without fear.
“Our fight for a better society is at the heart of everything that we do.”
He said that “New Labour was wrong … they believed in the middle ground … but there is no middle ground as we see now … they built the bridges for privatisation.
And Mr Prentis quoted Aneurin Bevan when he said: “Those who walk down the middle of the road get run over”.
He described the government as worse than that of Margaret Thatcher and detailed just a few of the anti-union measures that are contained in the Trade Union Bill.
But Mr Prentis was keen to stress that this is also an opportunity – that it presents UNISON with a chance to recruit and grow stronger.
And he had pledges for delegates.
“Whatever you agree at this conference,” he said, “I will work with you and [service group executive chair] Caryl Nobbs and the executive, to ensure that all the resources are at your disposal to implement the things that you want doing from this conference.”
And he promised to “ensure that you get all the support you need from our regions.”
“Although I’ll be leaving this conference for other meetings,” he assured the hall that he would be waiting to hear what they needed him to do.