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August 2013 update - Peter Kavanagh's column

August 2013 update - Peter Kavanagh's column

14 August 2013

The importance of organising and rally to #SaveOurNHS

Stop the NHS sell off

London & Eastern 100% Campaigning

Unite’s 100% Strategy for Growth has been running for almost two years now. During that time all of our 310 regional officers and thousands of shop stewards and reps have launched over 1,200 individual workplace campaigns. Many of these are now highly advanced and in some cases, complete. More than 84,000 new joiners have been recruited into these 1,200 targets, with an impressive net growth of 65,000.

In London & Eastern, our 275 campaigns have delivered 15,000 new joiners, with a net growth of 11,430. We have seen an increase in the number of reps and activists and in many cases, significant industrial wins on the back of this greater union density.

Our region has trained up hundreds of reps in the organising model, sharpening up communication skills and deploying 'mapping' techniques so that we know far better where our strengths and weaknesses lie. At the heart of our organising approach is the identification of collective issues which are both deeply felt and widely felt. We train reps how to do surveys, petitions and newsletters, and how to plan their campaigns according to time-lines and achievable targets.

In London & Eastern our successes span many sectors - notably not for profit, passenger, aviation and  local government. However, we are now also seeing good growth in GPM, our cleaners' and hotels sections, and the health sector.

The numbers coming into the Union through this Strategy are very welcome in themselves - more members means that we as a union can do more. However, the primary reason for pursuing this campaign in such a consistent and robust manner is to increase our industrial strength in the work-place. Quite simply, we have a far better chance of achieving successful outcomes in our collective bargaining and we have far more power to influence if we have very high union density. Asking for a decent pay rise rings rather hollow with most employers, if we only have a third or a half of the workforce organised in the union. Asking for it - and being ready to fight for it - when we are speaking on behalf of the overwhelming majority is a different matter.

If your employer recognises Unite and you believe your workplace is ready for a 100% campaign and that you and your shop stewards could benefit from some quality training and planning to maximise membership density, activity and participation, then talk to your officer and make a case. We will be more than happy to help.

All aboard for Manchester!

The London & Eastern region of Unite will be joining the national march and rally up in Manchester on 29 September to defend our NHS.

Unite, together with sister unions and campaign groups have agreed to march on the Tory party conference to leave them in no doubt that there is growing and determined opposition to their policies of dismantling and privatising our health service. Throughout our region and throughout the country we are witnessing a massive axe being unleashed on essential services and a sense of panic and crisis being manufactured for cynical ends, while at the same time the Tories' friends circle like vultures to pick up the most lucrative parts in a sick parody of US-style private health, where profit margins are considered far more important that patient care.

Our region has been at the vanguard of a growing fight back, linking workers and communities. We organised the highly successful 18 May London march and also took several coach-loads of members and activists to Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt's constituency in Surrey, to take the message of resistance to his own heartland. We are establishing a "Peoples' Inquiry into the NHS in London", bringing together medical and professional experts, patient groups and a strong union voice, to shine a spotlight on what is actually taking place.

We will now play our part in taking a strong London & Eastern voice up to Manchester and will be providing transport to take as many members as possible. If you are interested in coming up with us, please contact your local Unite office. We will try our best to accommodate you.

This is not a campaign limited to our members in the health sector - although with over 100,000 of them, it is of course hugely important that we secure their jobs and terms and conditions. This is a fight for one of the most valued and critical parts of our public services - a massively important element of our "social wage". We all need the NHS - our workmates, our families and loved ones - everybody. We demanded it after the horrors, the suffering and deprivation of the World War II. We built it, our people work in it, our taxes pay for it - and we are not going to let it be hived off to the speculators and privateers. This more than anything must be the focus of our struggle as a union movement.

Please do everything you can to publicise this growing movement to defend our NHS in your workplaces and communities. Please also find a link to a new Unite 'Save Our NHS' video - enjoy and forward to as many people as possible.

Peter Kavanagh
Regional secretary, London & Eastern region