Monday, 20 December 2010

Unite and fight!

Good to hear that Len McCluskey, the new leader of Unite, has called today for trade unionists to oppose the cuts and work with all the other groups who are fighting cuts. He called for co-ordinated industrial action to fight the cuts in public services, including education. Of course, no sooner had the words been published than the usual suspects - in this case via a Guardian editorial - began to attack him on the predictable basis that this was a return to 'old fashioned' 1970's trade unionism.

These people are daft enough to think we should hold on for five years until the general election in the hope that another (Labour?) government will make things better. Well, don't believe it - that is the politics of failure. Why? Because there is no guarantee that an incoming Labour government would reverse the cuts, in fact it is unlikely that they would do so. What we have is a Tory lead government which is desperate to change Britain for good - to slash the welfare state and privatise what is left of the public sector. At best this would take us back to the 1930s.

This is a government which has no mandate for this change. Cameron and Osbourne kept quiet about slashing welfare during the election and suddenly found after being elected that it was 'necessary'. This is also a government which is vulnerable to pressure and nervous about the recovery that they have promised. In June I predicted that there would be an economic collapse and that we would slide back into recession. At the moment, that is looking like a pessimistic view but I'm still sticking by it. With the rise in VAT, a stagnant housing market, the remaining mountain of toxic debt and rising prices forcing a rise in interest rates there is a very good chance that we will have a jobless 'recovery' and economic stagnation in the longer term - which I also predicted.

There is cause for optimism. The coalition can be cracked apart under the pressure of protest. But McCluskey and trade unionists have to box clever. We need to forge alliances with all the other groups who are affected by the cuts. We have to support the protests of the students, UKuncut, the Coalition of Resistance and all the other community groups who are fighting the cuts. Strike action will play a part but it must start when we have those groups behind us, not beforehand. I think McCluskey has recognised this in his article today. Now we have a short break before we have to begin again in earnest in the new year. I'll be active in Cheshire West Against the Cuts, and if you live near here I hope you'll join me.


Anonymous said...

Am signed up to the Greater Manchester Aganist the Cuts group and am working with my own union on this.
Are you a Unite member? I ask as am in GMB and just changed jobs - where I work now, most of the people are in Unite. Feel very loyal to my union, but it seems odd to be outside the main group of union members! Would appreciate an 'outside view' on Unite as a union...if you can give one?



Howard Thorp said...

I am a Unite member but I have only just joined!

I was a Unison member for 15 years and a rep for 10 but got disillusioned with the useless approach and timid lack of fight. The problem for me is that Unite members are very much in a minority where I work.

Are Unite OK? Its too early to tell but they can't be any worse than Unison.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. The last time I heard a comment like that was from one of our stewards in GMB. Maybe I should say 'so-called' stewards.... as he turned up for the meetings, talked a lot and often didn't do the actins he agreed to. He went to the conferences, but never represented a member adequately (christ, he caused mayhem in one case!). We were stuck as noone opposed him. Our full timer suggested disciplinary - we didn't really want to do that. Anyway, this guy left the union/ resigned as steward - but I'm sure that's different situation all round!

My mind is still open re me changing my union!!! I may sit on the fence and be in 2 unions yet...