Report From Tanis Unite Community Leeds

The general secretary, Len McCluskey opened the conference with his keynote address, urging that Unite’s major focus had to be the election of a Labour Government in 2015. The main reason is to stop the austerity programme of cuts. The two major themes of the conference was planning how to the defend the NHS from privatisation, one of the biggest threats being TTIP, which will prevent any attempts to renationalise the NHS if it is sold off, but will prevent the renationalisation of any sector of our economy, even if Labour won the 2015 elections and was willing to fight for it. There was a explaination of Unite’s new leverage campaign to save the NHS, through building public awareness and to put pressure on MP’s (in particular Labour MP’s) to vote against the privatisation and to defend it and to vote against TTIP (even if the NHS is not included) as it is being done in secret in the interests of creating trade agreements that will allow for the exploitation of workers across the globe in the interests of big business.

Overall, it’s been successful years for unite, with many gains, including the win at the Optare Strike Dispute in Leeds. Steve Turner gave a report of Unite’s campaigning against the austerity programme. Not just through demonstrations and strikes, but also with the forming of Unite Community, which gives an opportunity for Unite to build in the local communities.  There was also a video of interviews of community members on the people’s assembly demo, including Steve Johnson form Leeds Branch. The community branches have been a great success, with many groups forming and the opening of several community centres, particularly across Yorkshire. It has also helped boost the profile of Unite in general, by being at the forefront of the protests and campaigns against austerity.

The most relevant policy on Unite Community was J4 (Building and Strengthening the Unity of the Movement Against Austerity: twinning Unite industrial branches with Unite Community Branches). This motion covered the use of Unite Community in building a unified movement against austerity and the way to link industrial branches with the wider community is by twinning industrial and community branches. The industrial can provide education, funding and support to community and help the industrial in the wider movement against austerity. This motion was passed and many of the speakers and delegates showed strong support in helping to build the community branches. I spoke on this motion, outlining the importance of community in building branches in non-unionised workplaces and the support we can lend to the industrial members and vice versa, giving the examples of some of the leafleting of workplaces we’ve done in Leeds and the zero hour contract and Bedroom Tax protests.

The most moving speeches came from Aidee Moreno, FENSUAGRO EC Member and Head of Human rights explaining the attack on trade unionists in Columbia. We also saw a video message from a political prisoner in Columbia, Huber Balleseros and we all held up posters calling for his release. Ricky Tomlison gave an inspiring speech on the Shrewsbury 24 campaign, which is now on its 40th anniversary.