"No more blank cheques"

A UNISON Press release from today’s session of their conference

Dave Prentis laid down the gauntlet to the Labour government today, as he told UNISON’s national delegate conference: “No more blank cheques.”

The general secretary told delegates that a Mori poll, commissioned by the union, had this morning revealed that “over 73% of the public and 80% of public service workers say that private companies should not run our public services” and that “over 70% of public service workers now say they won’t vote Labour.”

In a barnstorming speech, the general secretary laid into “self-serving” politicians – “disloyal to their party, disloyal to their constituents” – before saying that he couldn’t “help but compare them to you.”

“Your loyalty to this union. To our members, the jobs you do, the communities you serve.”

“I know what you give up,” he told delegates. “Your time, your energy; careers often put on hold, family life affected.”

“This union is nothing without you.””

Mr Prentis reeled off the names of some of the “loyal activists” who have served the union – and the labour movement – with honour.

He assured delegates: “We are a strong, free, independent union. We’re not just here for the good times. We’re here to protect our members.”

Turning his attention to “the billionaires, the bankers and the private profiteers” who have been let in by “our government” to “call the shots”, he savaged the result: “Their private jets and their yachts; wealth. Power. Privilege on a scale never seen before.”

And the reverse of this coin? “Wages squeezed, jobs casualised, pensions cut back and public services suffering.”

“Housing more and more unaffordable. Ordinary people working longer and harder to make ends meet.”

“Billions for bankers, peanuts for public service workers.”

And the financial collapse and the expenses scandal were the “inevitable consequences of a society built on greed.”

Mr Prentis told conference: “Today we launch the biggest campaign our union has seen – a million voices for change. A political campaign to voice the anger and fear our members feel. A campaign to show members we’re on their side. Our campaign for action.”

And he pledged to “bring together an alliance of public service unions … an alliance to fight job cuts, to defend public services … a united fight to save our National Health Service.”

Mr Prentis told delegates that the union’s Labour Link “is an integral part of our union”. But to roars of agreement he continued: “Our members are tired of feeding the hand that bites them.”

And the conference gave a standing ovation when he called on the Labour Link to suspend constituency payments, ensure that the next manifesto does not continue privatisation of public services and “ensure that our union only promotes and supports prospective Labour candidates who are willing to stand up for our values of public service.”

Turning again to the union’s new campaign to fight for public services, he told delegates: Now is the time to stand up for our values, our policies, our people.

“Proud. Determined. Strong and united.

“A million voices raising the roof of all of us in UNISON.”

And invoking the inspiration of US president Barack Obama, he concluded: “Conference – together we can.”

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