UNISON general secretary tells Labour leader to back November 30th Day of Action as Tories take “chainsaw” to public services

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UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis today told Ed Miliband to stop sitting on the fence and back public sector workers taking part in the Day of Action on November 30th.

Accusing the Tory government of taking a “chainsaw” to public services, he said Labour should demonstrate they are on the same side as working people.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference this afternoon, Prentis said: “Millions of public service workers and our union will expect the support of their party and its leadership. The campaigns we are fighting are not just about jobs, or pensions, they are about creating the type of society we leave for our children.

“They are about preserving and defending all our grandparents fought for; a welfare state, universal public services, they’re about saving the gains we made together, while we were in government. Our members have not given up the fight, and nor must our party.”

He went on to say: “It’s no time to sit on the sidelines, while this government tears down all that we built. It’s no time to sit on the fence when this country faces a stark choice between taking on the powerful and privileged, or letting the price be paid by the poor and the powerless.

“And this – there’s so much talk about reaching out and reconnecting, but now really is the time to reach out to millions of public service workers, to show we are on the same side of the street as them. To those nursery workers fighting for their jobs, to those care workers fighting to protect their services. And yes, yes to the millions fighting to protect  their pensions, they look to Labour now more than ever to support them, to speak up for them. They will never forgive us if we let them down and neither will their union.”

 

  • Dave Prentis’s full speech is printed below:

 

“Today we face a coalition with no democratic mandate – taking a chainsaw to our public services. Public service workers, our members, keeping families and communities together, keeping our children learning, keeping the vulnerable safe.

“And in our most damaged communities, standing between us and another lost generation. Picking up the pieces, giving rays of hope when it looks so bleak. Putting people on a path to a better future.

“But the services people rely on most, are now targets for swingeing cuts and privatisations. Redundancy notices scattered like confetti.  At the time that we need them most, we’re adding public service workers to the dole queue.

“And for those that are left, their living standards squeezed between rising prices and frozen pay. Ordinary people, our people, paying the price for the reckless greed of the rich, and now the Coalition coming for their pensions.

“Pensions that are affordable, worth less than £100 a week. Pensions that they’ve saved for the dignity of an old age free of means-tested benefits. And now they face a punitive hike in contributions. Not a single penny to go into any pension fund, but siphoned off by the Treasury to pay off the deficit, the biggest con trick of our time.

“Expected to work longer for worse benefits. Members who are privatised, cut off from their pension and that is why we have said: “enough is enough”.  We’ve spent 8 months in negotiations – searching for solutions.  We will continue to negotiate – that’s what we do. But we are now balloting millions of workers for action on 30 November.

“Conference, my members are no militants.  But they will stand up for what’s fair, what’s right, and to those who say we shouldn’t strike, who say striking doesn’t work, that we’ll only harm the economy, make things worse, put jobs at risk. Just remember, that’s exactly what they told the matchgirls who shut London’s sweatshops. The gasworkers who won the eight hour day. The builders who fought for health and safety legislation. Our women who won the right to equal pay. Sometimes you have to remind people what you are worth.

“You have to show people what they’d miss if you weren’t there. Sometimes you have to let people know that you cannot be taken for granted.  And I want to make it very clear today, if we vote to strike, a hard decision, always a last resort.

“Millions of public service workers and our union will expect the support of their party and its leadership. The campaigns we are fighting are not just about jobs, or pensions, they are about creating the type of society we leave for our children. “They are about preserving and defending all our grandparents fought for; a welfare state, universal public services, they’re about saving the gains we made together, while we were in government. Our members have not given up the fight, and nor must our party.

“So conference, it’s no time to sit on the sidelines, while this government tears down all that we built. It’s no time to sit on the fence when this country faces a stark choice between taking on the powerful and privileged, or letting the price be paid by the poor and the powerless.

“And this – there’s so much talk about reaching out and reconnecting, but now really is the time to reach out to millions of public service workers, to show we are on the same side of the street as them. To those nursery workers fighting for their jobs, to those care workers fighting to protect their services. And yes, yes to the millions fighting to protect  their pensions, they look to Labour now more than ever to support them, to speak up for them. They will never forgive us if we let them down and neither will their union.”


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