UNISON leader predicts “biggest ever” campaign with other unions over pay


UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis smashes the ‘pay freeze’


UNISON is to launch a massive campaign against the government’s attacks on public sector pay, threatening “a UNISON Spring” of strike action with other unions.

Addressing delegates to the union’s annual conference in Bournemouth, general secretary Dave Prentis said: “I promise you this – you will see the biggest campaign this union’s ever seen.

“The October 20th demo will be massive, but will be just the beginning as we campaign and battle through the autumn and winter to a UNISON spring.

“The issue of pay will be our battleground. It will explode. We must be out there, campaigning, organising, recruiting, building a movement, an unstoppable momentum.

“We are always at our best in alliance, with our sister unions, making our case and, yes, delivering strike action across our whole union. It’s the only way.”

He started his speech by referring to the Coalition as the “most right wing government in our history”, and went on to say they were using the financial crisis as a smokescreen to destroy public services and the welfare state.

“Without it, they wouldn’t be able to privatise our NHS, privatise policing, close libraries, remove the hard-won rights of people at work. And make no mistake – they are every bit as determined as Thatcher to destroy trade unions too because we stand in their way.

“They are the party of privilege and big business, the enemies of working people and their trade unions. They hate the welfare state, they despise the public sector.

“I say this to Cameron: ‘You may have forgotten at Leveson who said what, to whom, and when, but this union will wage a fight against you that you’ll never forget’.

“Our fight for the NHS hasn’t been lost . . . it’s only just started. We will fight against privatisation too, and to preserve our welfare state, for better care for the elderly, for disabled people, our libraries, parks and open spaces, decent schools and so much more.

“And I say to the Tory posh boys: ‘They are not yours to sell off or give away. They represent the fair society that those who went before fought for. They are the legacy we leave to future generations. We will not give up.”

Delegates at UNISON’s annual conference

Prentis then turned his ire onto Labour, joking that two Eds weren’t better than one, warning the leader and shadow chancellor it was time to listen, not lecture.

“Your comments supporting pay restraints were provocative and if they continue, there is no way Labour will get the support of our members and this union,” he said.

“It was Labour that built the bridges the Tories now march over, that laid the foundations for the privatisation of the NHS, that invented PFI, gave us academy schools.

“The collapse in support for the Coalition should not be interpreted by Labour as a ringing endorsement. To win back our trust, Labour has to do much more. Not being as bad as the Tories is not good enough.”

The speech was well-received by a packed conference hall, with cheering breaking out when Prentis launched his attack on Labour.

There was an atmosphere of anger and determination among delegates during the day and, after Prentis’s speech, activists told me they liked what he said, but that they were going to hold him to his word.

“He’s always been very good at making speeches,” one delegate told me. “Now it’s time for him to put this money where his mouth is, and deliver what he promised.”

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