Wales UNISON member calls for fight against council cuts

Bleak future for local government predicted by WLGA

Recently the British economy managed to cough and splutter its way out of recession while this long awaited recovery is likely to drawn out given that 0.6% of the growth was due to massive expenditure of the Olympics the long term diagnosis for British Capitalism is one of chronic decline.

In Wales Unison and the other major unions capitulated before a struggle by agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Local Government Employers which basically agreed that they would concede on terms and conditions if jobs were protected but no promises were given by the employers to this effect. Since its implementation terms and conditions have been eroded in most local authorities often under the guise of implementing Single Status. With a couple of notable exceptions including Carmarthenshire County Unison Branch all the unions and their branches agreed to surrendering before any battle was fought. As we have consistently argued in the Socialist Party in Wales the Welsh Assembly back-loaded the cuts it was passing on from the ConDem government.

Our argument has now been vindicated by a Welsh Local Government Association press report released in October 2012 this report reveals a bleak future for public services in Wales where nearly a third of the workforce work in the public sector. The report states that spending per person has fallen by 8.4% in real terms since its peak in 2009-2010. The report findings quotes Councillor Aaron Shotton (Flintshire),WLGA Deputy Leader and Spokesperson for Finance and Resources who said 'while every local council in Wales is already feeling the squeeze when it comes to protecting vital services, this report highlights how over three quarters of the cuts to spending on public services are yet to come. The cuts and the pressures on local government finances are only just beginning, and the long-term financial future of local government in Wales is challenging...'

Describing the situation as 'challenging' is a gross underestimation of the dire situation facing public services due to the ConDems austerity programme. No consideration is given to opposing these cuts and the real difficulties will be faced by our members and working class people who will bear the brunt of the cuts. This report and the bleak future it predicts such as Local Authorities being in a difficult financial situation until 2021 poses a choice to the full time and lay officials in Unison and other unions: do they stand up and fight and organise fight back against austerity or do they continue to capitulate and wait for a Labour Government whose leader has promised them a slightly diluted but effectively the same medicine? We say if these leaders are not prepared to lead the fight back then they should step aside for someone that will.

All too often right wing lay officials in the branches and full time officers blame their members. In Neath/Port Talbot Local Government Unison branch a lay official said that they proposed to the Local Authority (and of course they accepted the offer) a 2% temporary pay cut to supposedly protect against worse cuts because a member suggested it and because members would not fight. This is an abrogation of leadership and this weakness only encourages the employer to make further cuts as this branch and its members are finding to their cost.

Following on from the October 20th TUC demo we need to maximise the pressure on Unison to pressurise the TUC to call a 24 hour public/private general strike. We should fight till we win - the alternative is the massive onslaught on public services and the welfare state will continue in Wales some project that Welsh councils spending could be reduced by as much as 18% and this could result in Local Authorities having to deliver spending cuts of up to 52% in unprotected services (WLGA press release). Our advice to all Unison and other trade members get active and hold your leadership to account demand that they mobilise members together with other trade unions to defeat the cuts.

A UNISON Cymru local government member

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