‘This is our time to smash the consensus’

UNISON general secretary welcomes new language of opposition at TUC congress in Brighton today

Speaking today (Tuesday) at the 147th Congress in Brighton, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

“I’m representing UNISON’s 1.3m members who are keeping our public services going. One million women leading the way – nurses, dinner ladies, teaching assistants, social workers and so many more.

“Our people didn’t cause the recession, but they are now paying the price, decimated by the Tories’ austerity agenda.

“Our public services have been cut, closed down and privatised. Thousands are fearful for their jobs, and even more fearful for the essential services they provide.

“Looking after the sick and the vulnerable, caring for our children, and the elderly.

“But on Saturday our people, for the first time in a decade, heard a message of hope, a clarion call that there is another way. An alternative message that it doesn’t need to be like this.

“For the first time in a decade there is a new language about opposition, of challenge, of holding this vicious government to account as they slash and burn all we hold dear.

“There’s been £160bn of cuts across the board – local government and social care are teetering on the brink. Our NHS is under siege, and there’s a pay cap for another four years, on top of the five we’ve already had.

“George Osborne lied when he claimed Britain will get a pay rise. Tax credit cuts will penalise the poor and low-paid. A teaching assistant earning £16,300 with one child will see her net pay fall by £1,800 a year, and millions of other working families will see their incomes hit.

“In the Labour party leadership election we’ve heard talk of a kinder, more compassionate world, one where public services matter and its people matter before profit. We’ve been given a vision of a better world that works for everyone, not just the self-serving few.

“It’s no shock to anyone here that people want an end to austerity, more council houses and more opportunities for unemployed young black people.

“It is no shock that people support more money for our NHS, and an end to a six year pay freeze for low-paid public service workers.

“For too long now, public sector workers have made do with half-baked promises from our own politicians. Yes, promising fewer cuts than the Tories, less privatisation than the Tories.

“But we don’t want fewer cuts than the Tories, we want no cuts to our public services. We don’t want less privatisation than the Tories, we want no privatisation for our NHS, and no privatisation for our local government, police and probation services. No selling off our public services on the altar of privatisation.

“Over the coming months, we’ll hear a lot about replacing Trident, but how on earth can we justify Trident, when adult social care is on the point of collapse, when wards are closing in every city, and when there’s more than a million without a job, without a hope.

“This is our time to smash the consensus that austerity is here to stay. It’s our time to create a new path that offers hope and opportunity for those already left behind. To set out an alternative to the cuts agenda, the privatising agenda, and to the pay freeze destroying lives.

“There’s now a clear message that there is another way. A society for fair pay for all, a society that cares, and an NHS Bevan would be proud of.

“Now is our time, with our movement leading the way strong and visible, with demonstrations, protests, lobbies, and co-ordinated action.

“The vicious trade union bill will not stop us organising. It will not stop us striking, standing up for the lives of millions and protecting the vulnerable.

“We will make our union stronger and united we will build coalitions, and we will resist.

“We will be strong and we will defy, and if that takes us outside of the most draconian legislation in the western world so be it. Our union will remain true to our members.”

UNISON media contacts:

Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk

Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk