Brett Sparkes gives a personal view of Saturday’s first Social Security Summit

Brett Sparkes Europe, UK, Community, PCS, Unite,

Social Security Summit iIt is 138 miles from Beckingham in South London to Birmingham but this didn’t stop Paula Peters attending the first Social Security Summit at the weekend.

Paula is a Unite Community member and campaigns for Disabled People Against the Cuts, an organisation standing up for the rights of disabled people in the face of a government and media onslaught against “skivers”.

The Social Security Summit as organised by PCS and Unite Community to bring people like Paula together with other activists and workers to challenge the rhetoric about “welfare” and to plan a  responses to the government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

Unite AGS Steve Turner talking at the first Social Security Summit, October 2015

Unite AGS Steve Turner talking at the first Social Security Summit, October 2015

To emphasise the importance that both unions placed on the event, keynote speakers included PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner. But this event was not about the leaders of our movement but the everyday members and activists.

Paul said: “I think it is really important that we come together in solidarity to organise and show the Conservative government that we are not going to sit back and accept their pernicious policies that are causing huge suffering and even deaths within our communities.”

From Belfast to Truro more than 150 people from Unite, PCS, charities and campaigning groups, travelled to Birmingham to make sure that their voices were heard. These are the members who have to deal with this government’s attack on the welfare state each and every day. The unemployed workers and disabled members who are suffering and the job centre workers who are forced to implement these vicious policies.

The various workshops which were led by the members debated our responses to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill and also the danger to “Ordinary Hard Working People”, the label now given to us by those in Westminster, of the Trade Union Bill.

The dangers to our hard won equalities rights, how we can campaign against these pieces of Legislation and how we use the media to help our cause were just some of the subjects which were high on the list of issues.

Steve Turner set the tone for the day when he reminded us all of the struggles we have won in the past, universal suffrage, our fight against apartheid, trade union rights and the fight against fascism that our parents and grandparents waged, before they returned home and demanded a new society with healthcare and a decent safety net.

The “elite” in their Westminster offices and boardrooms can be certain of one thing: we are not going to go away and we will challenge them on every move they make to take away our hard won rights and our welfare state. This is just the start of the journey.

  • Brett Sparkes is the Unite Community Co-ordinator for the South West of England

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