18/06/2003

Unison chief threatens strike action over public service reform

The new general secretary of health union Unison has threatened strike action if the government fails to properly fund its public service reforms.

Speaking on the first day of union's annual conference, Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said that any action would not just be about pay, but would also be motivated by a demoralised workforce who were "no longer prepared to be unvalued".

Mr Prentis said: “If the local government pay commission is not funded, if the reforms in schools are not funded, if Agenda for Change is not funded, then Mr Blair we will take strike action again."

He also praised "the three quarters of a million local government workers" who had taken action in July this year.

He went on to criticise Private Finance Initiatives, best-value reviews and the market-led approach to public services.

“We’ll keep standing up for those who deliver our public services day in, day out. People who deserve more from this government than the failed policies of the last,” Mr Prentis said.

Speaking of the traditional relationship between the union and the Labour Party, Mr Prentis said he would continue to use the link to lobby the government on public service issues such as foundation hospitals and funding for education.

But he also told union members that he believed the union must remain within the Labour Party in order to influence the government’s political agenda rather than sulking on the sidelines.

“Those of you in this hall who want to form a new trade union party, I’ve got a message for you,” he told delegates. “We already have one. It’s called the Labour Party.”

The remark pre-empts a debate scheduled for tomorrow on the union’s affiliated political fund, which secures Unison’s political contribution to the party of government.

Another area where Mr Prentis levelled criticism at the government was over the recent war on Iraq. He maintained that the union was right to oppose the war before it started and right to oppose invasion during the war.

He also made demands for the governance of Iraq to be returned to the Iraqi people immediately.

(GMcG)

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