General Secretary speech to TUC Congress

Speaking on the public services motion at TUC conference, Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary

“Today we face our greatest test for a generation. Our economy still on life support. The blight of unemployment scarring lives, wearing down communities.

“A government with no democratic mandate. Mounting an assault on all that our movement has won for our people. Our pay, our pensions, our jobs. Our public services and our welfare state.

“An attack the like of which we have never seen before. The coalition taking a chainsaw to our public services. And they’re hoping no one will notice.

“Hoping no one will notice banks are posting record profits, bankers back to their bonuses. Hoping no one will notice the income, of the top 1 per cent of our society. Now greater than the total pay bill for our NHS, schools, and local government put together.

“Hoping no one will notice the amount we lose every year in tax evasion, and avoidance by big corporations. More than enough to wipe out the deficit at a stroke.

“A society in which some backers of the Tory party, pay less in tax than a cleaner in a hopsital.

“Congress, we wont fall for the lie that this society can’t afford decent public services. The money is there in our economy. We are under attack, not because of a deficit, but because of an ideology.

“An ideology that hates public services. That loves privatisation – an ideology that sees public service employment – millions of people caring and helping and educating – not as an achievement to be celebrated – but as a problem to be tackled.

“This coalition does have choices. It can stop the giveaways that benefit the few. It can start protecting the services needed by the many. It can have the guts to go back to the banks, the speculators, the profiteers. Tell them on our behalf. You created this mess, you pay for it.

“But the coalition say they can’t ask their friends in big business to pay tax. That would discourage enterprise. They can’t regulate the financial system or there’ll be fewer jobs in the city. But with breathtaking hypocrisy, they take away benefits from the poor and disabled. They undermine the job security of low paid workers. They let our communities feel the pain.

“If there’s money available to bail out banks and bonuses. If there’s money for war, for Trident. There’s money available for our public services.

“And if money is tight. Never mind a pay freeze for our members. How about a pay freeze for the bankers? We’ve seen enough of what they’ve done. We’ve had enough of their greed, their arrogance. It’s them – not our members – who should be doing more for less. More for their country, less for themselves.

“And now the arrogance of a coalition asking the public where the axe should fall. Our public services. The subject of an obscene lottery. Not everything that is valuable is popular. Not everything that transforms lives wins applause.

“Will those working with young offenders be as popular as those who work in childcare? Will people supporting drug users be as voter friendly as paramedics? Who will speak up for the Cindererlla services?

“Who will champion what is right, not just what is popular? I’ll tell you who. We will. We will speak up for the vulnerable. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with those who work in public services, and those who rely on them. We will work together to raise public awareness. Build opposition. Give practical support to those in our communities fighting to defend their schools, their hospitals, their care homes,

“We will build alliances with NGO’s, with charities, social movements in the UK, our sisters and brothers taking action across Europe. We will build an alliance of public service unions to break the pay freeze. And when the call is there, we will move to co-ordinate industrial action to defend all we hold dear. Alll that past generations have fought for.

“Congress, we have to rise to the challenge. Show our resolve. Defend our welfare state. Fight for our vision of a fairer society. Build a powerful coalition of our own. Our members expect nothing less from this great movement of ours. To stand up for them. To protect their jobs, their welfare state. To lead the fight. Together united, fierce defenders of our members and the services they deliver.

“Ps – Bob Diamond, new boss of Barclays, £11 million a year. We’re told he’s worth every penny. Says he wakes up every morning with a smile on his face.

“But Congress, I’ll tell you who are really worth every penny. The members of my delegation, all public service workers – And every other public service worker across the land who wakes up every morning not with a smile on their face, but worried if they still have a job because of the failure of bankers like Mr Diamond.

“They look after us in times of need It’s now our turn to look after them.”