19 Days Remaining

Monday 23rd
posted by Morning Star in Features

Junior doctors are showing a strength that the Trade Union Bill aims to crush, writes GAIL CARTMAIL

TORY ministers have taken the extraordinary decision to make their post-election priority an attack on trade union freedoms.

We will not allow decades of economic and social progress that the trade union movement has achieved, for its members in particular and society in general, to be wiped out by this right-wing, dogma-driven government in hock to its rich City pals.

Tory ministers believe the Trade Union Bill will divert public attention from the ongoing onslaught on public services — particularly in the NHS and local government, as well as the police — at a time of heightened security concerns.

You have to ask yourselves what sins public-sector workers have committed to be subjected to the draconian measures proposed in the Bill now before Parliament.

Think about it. Who do you trust? Our members working for the emergency services, such as paramedics who are often the first on the scene at emergencies?

Or David Cameron, who in his role as MP for Witney complained that the cuts being implemented are going a tad too far with his letter to the Tory leader of Oxfordshire County Council? He is the Prime Minister, for goodness sake.

This outburst of rank hypocrisy prompted a brilliant parliamentary question from Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds to ask the PM whether he was now “leading the anti-austerity movement in Oxfordshire.” Well, he isn’t, but Unite members are.

Last year the midwives voted overwhelmingly to support strike action. Just last week the junior doctors voted by 98 per cent to take strike action on a 76 per cent turnout. This shows union democracy is powerful.

But in typical blinkered Tory fashion, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned the three one-day strikes which will follow as “totally unwarranted,” showing that no ballot thresholds will ever legitimise any strike action in the eyes of this government.

Our public-sector membership will rise to the challenge of the vindictive prohibition on the check-off of union dues and will mount an aggressive campaign that will take our fight in defence of Unite’s organisation to workplaces in England, Scotland and Wales.

Turning to the construction industry, we have a vision and a plan that would turn around the sector by investing in good quality apprenticeships, using the power of procurement to end bogus self-employment, ensuring direct employment and slapping a ban on contractors who blacklist trade unionists.

And as we predicted, the banks that globally created the conditions for the 2008 economic crisis are picking up where they left off. They don’t seem to have learnt the harsh lessons of recent economic history.

It is hardly credible that the government is selling its remaining stake in Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley to US private equity firm Cerberus. We know selling mortgage debt was the main cause of the financial crisis, yet it is left to Unite to seek assurances from Cerberus over the long-term future of staff and the mortgage book.

But as the industrial sector conferences this week in Brighton will show, we have the energy, the policies and the commitment to take on the Tories. Unite is winning in workplaces across Britain and Ireland.

It is our collective voice and strength the Tories fear. Unite and the trade union movement face a myriad of hard challenges to combat in the months and years to come, and our task is to transform anger into hope and hope into action.

Our vision for a fairer and more equal society underpins our determination to win for workers.

  • Gail Cartmail is Unite assistant general secretary for services, energy and construction.