April 2014 - Peter Kavanagh's column

April 2014 - Peter Kavanagh's column

11 April 2014

A trip to the GP or local hospital when we’re in pain or have a health worry, usually reminds us how invaluable our NHS is.  A service, which cares for our health and wellbeing free at the point of delivery, universal in nature, with no grace or favour shown to the rich and powerful, is something to be cherished – and something worth fighting to defend.

That’s why 130 Unite activists from across the region and from all sectors, gave up their Saturday on 22 March, to begin in earnest the mobilisation to save our NHS.  Speakers at our conference included Barry Brown, national officer from our Health Sector, health academics, Dr John Lister and Sue Richards, and Greek trade union leader Vivi Paschali, from Athens’ largest hospital.  Barry set the scene and gave political perspective to what this government is doing to our health service.  John and Sue provided a detailed summary of the key findings from the “People’s Inquiry into the NHS in London”, the Report commissioned by the London & Eastern Region of Unite.  Vivi, in her emotional presentation, described to us the devastation brought upon the Greek health service by austerity, but also inspired us with a passionate account of what the unions and the Greek people are doing to fight back.

The afternoon saw a number of workshops being held to explore how we can mobilise, educate and agitate – how to make best use of social media, how to organise within the Labour Party and how to engage members in the workplace.

The key thing now is to spread the word and to that end the London & Eastern Region is producing a regular news-sheet for circulation in all of our workplaces. The first edition was distributed at the Conference and copies are being sent to all branches and reps across the Region.

The Union nationally has committed to make the defence of the NHS a key battleground in the lead up to the general election, using our resources, experience and campaigning expertise to get amongst our communities, highlight the tidal wave of privatisation that is already rolling in and find ways of joining together all those who are up for fighting to preserve our most valuable asset.  Watch this space!

On the subject of defending the health service, there was a no more passionate fighter than Tina Mackay. Tina was a much loved and hugely respected regional officer and led the Health Sector team until her tragic death in a ‘hit and run’ road traffic incident in 2011.  In a wonderful tribute to her life, more than a hundred friends, comrades and family members attended the official opening of the Tina Mackay Conference Room at our new Regional offices on 5 March 2014 – the very room we assembled in to launch our NHS mobilisation three weeks later.

Visit our NHS campaign page for more information.

Good news on the membership front!  Our highly successful 100% campaigns go from strength to strength.  The campaign launched in late 2011, aims to maximise membership density in our organised workplaces, increase rep numbers and provide bespoke organising training for them.  The figures speak for themselves.  In London & Eastern Region, our 340 workplace campaigns have seen 23,000 new joiners, with a net growth of 16,345.  The first three months of this year have delivered one of the best quarters since the campaigns started.  This terrific collective effort by our reps, officers, organisers and staff is more than countering the ongoing effects of the 4 year long austerity, cuts and redundancy environment we have been operating within.  The Region saw an overall net growth in the January-March quarter of 1,808.  In such a difficult environment, that is something to be proud of.  A big thank you to all our activists!