#SaveOurNHS & a victory at Crossrail
Save our NHS
I referred, in my July column, to the summer having finally arrived and hoped that this year’s would be “a long, hot and happy one for all members in these tough times.” We certainly enjoyed one of the best summers for many a long year and Unite in the region also continued – right through to the end of September – to turn the heat up on the government as well as a number of exploitative employers.
29 September saw a fantastic team effort across the whole region as we filled a 536 seater train with Unite members from London,(stopping off at Milton Keynes) and coaches from Peterborough, Cambridge, Ipswich, Colchester and Bury St Edmunds. This created an impressive and noisy London & Eastern sea of red at the Manchester “Save our NHS” demo. Together with those who travelled under their own steam, we believe that not far shy of 1,000 London & Eastern Unite members gave up a very long day to deliver a powerful message to the Tory party conference faithful – “You will not get away with dismantling our NHS!”
Coaches were pulling out as early as 05.30 and the train left Euston at 08.20 – on time, with no delays en route! There was a real sense of solidarity and optimism across our contingent, as we helped swell the numbers in Manchester beyond 50,000. The march was long - very long, our general secretary made his customary barn-storming speech at the rally – and the sun shone all day on the righteous!
The “People’s Inquiry into the NHS in London”, organised and sponsored by the region, is now well underway. We have managed to assemble an exciting panel of health experts, including Polly Toynbee from the Guardian. Oral and written testimonies will be collected from a range of professionals within the sector, many of whom will be Unite members, as well as those who use the NHS, the Trusts, Commissioning Groups and politicians. Public sessions with the panel will be held across London and a report will be drawn up. Many of the health “experts” have been quick to praise Unite for doing what nobody else is attempting – the creation of a testimony-based picture of the real impact of the Con-Dem policies of slash and privatise.
After many months and several hundred demonstrations across London, Britain, Ireland, Europe and North America, Unite has scored a resounding victory in the battle against blacklisting in the construction industry. Activists will recall that our shop steward, Frank Morris, was removed from the Crossrail site, along with 28 other workers. Through skilful leverage campaigning and huge determination, the union was able to announce a massively important and successful outcome to this long campaign. Frank is back working on Crossrail with a decent future ahead of him, the employers are signing up to a clear rejection of black-listing practice and Unite is now preparing for a sustained organising and recruitment campaign on one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects.
It is hoped that this victory will rejuvenate our efforts and raise our profile within a sector that is notoriously difficult to organise and send a message to all employers that the disgrace of black-listing, which has blighted the lives of thousands of workers and their families, will never be tolerated by Unite the union.
Regional secretary, London & Eastern region