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Unite and PCS create alliance against cuts

Two million workers joining together can fend off savage attacks on working people and their families — that’s the message from the conference of the Public and Commercial Services Union, one of the country’s largest public sector unions, and from Unite whose General Secretary, Len McCluskey, yesterday addressed that conference in Brighton. Both unions signed an agreement committing to coordinated action in workplaces up and down the country, in the first instance to defend support services in Ministry of Defence bases and prisons, areas already in the frontline of coalition cuts. As part of the strategy to stop the cuts, Unite is prepared to ballot its members for coordinated industrial action.

Len McCluskey warned that government’s ideological mania for outsourcing puts services at risk while pensions’ proposals could impoverish hundreds of thousands as the government raids workers’ retirement pots.

Such is the severity of the coalition assault on jobs, wages and the welfare state, prodded on by an ascendant business lobby, workers must become similarly organised if they are to save jobs, communities and services – and coordinated industrial action to make the government see sense cannot be ruled out.

Among the first areas earmarked for possible common action by Unite and the PCS in addition to the Ministry of Defence, are the prison services and government drivers.  The accord will begin to take effect next month when Unite’s members at key MoD bases respond to strike action by PCS members on June 30th, including a show of support expected by hundreds of workers at one base, Donnington.

Ahead of this, Unite will assemble representatives from around 100 key MoD bases to discuss strategic responses to threats to the support both unions’ members provide to the army, navy and Royal Air Force with industrial and direct action by workers both a possibility.

Len McCluskey also urged the union movement to redouble its efforts, following on from the massive march against the cuts in spring this year, to communicate the alternative to the coalition’s deception that horrific attacks on public spending are the only response to the global economic downturn.

Although the PCS conference also called yesterday for “unison with Unison” in the battle against cuts, that is proving harder to achieve.

The full text of the PCS-Unite agreement is as follows:

Working together to fight the cuts and to unite workers with the communities they support

PCS and Unite are committed to working together to fight the vicious and unnecessary cuts being imposed by Government. We believe these cuts to be ideologically driven in the pursuit of ‘free market objectives’ and the wholesale privatisation of social and welfare services. The impact of these cuts on working people and the communities in which we live will be devastating with the most vulnerable facing a relentless attack on their dignity and social standing.

We are committed to a sustainable and positive economic alternative based on; a fair and sustainable redistribution of the tax burden, the closure of tax avoidance loopholes and evasion opportunities. We are committed to growing our economy; investing in jobs, training, our public services and national infrastructure as well as promoting our manufacturing industries and developing green technologies. This will involve campaigning, co-ordinating and, where possible, taking action in unity and support of each other.

In freezing pay, slashing jobs and attacking pensions the Government is seeking to make working people and those who rely on public services pay for a deficit caused by wholly irresponsible gambling by a minority in the finance sector – whose benefits, bonuses and tax concessions remain largely unchanged.

There is an alternative

The cuts to welfare entitlements and public services will be detrimental to the vulnerable, to the quality of service provided and to the economy. There is an alternative:

  • Protect and create jobs to secure the economic recovery
  • Invest now; supporting our manufacturing sector, public services and communities
  • Tax the banks, big business and the super-rich, with a crackdown on evasion and avoidance
  • End wasteful spending on consultants, agency staff and the costs of privatisation
  • Support collective trade union rights; protecting workers and their families and redistributing wealth across our society
  • Involve workers, unions, service-users and communities in developing an alternative agenda for a sustainable economy and fairer society.

What we will do together

At national level PCS and Unite will establish a liaison group of senior lay and full time officers to promote joint activity and co-ordinate our joint campaign. This liaison group will co-ordinate our approach to TUC campaign activity and will promote, build and co-ordinate alliances with other unions and action groups, and co-operation in terms of a communications and media strategy, including press releases, leaflets and shared resources.

To highlight the alternative, PCS and Unite will work with others to organise a “There is an Alternative” event, bringing together trade unionists, politicians, academics, voluntary and community groups. The aim will be to raise awareness of our alternative economic strategy and develop a broad coalition to fight the cuts.

At regional level the unions will develop practical ways of supporting joint campaigns. This will include twinning officers and organisers, developing regional campaign teams, regional events and road shows, and links with voluntary and community groups. The aim will be to build and support regional alliances.

At local level we will develop and support links between members and activists. This will include joint workplace meetings, public leafleting, locally organised town meetings and joint community activities.

United we stand

The Government’s cuts agenda will devastate public services and undermine the fabric of the welfare state.

Working together close to two million union members will be united to fight the cuts. Working together we can present our economic alternative to the Coalition cuts agenda in the communities we live and work in.

Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary   Len McCluskey Unite general secretary

Janice Godrich PCS president                Tony Woodhouse chair of Unite executive council

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