17 November 2014
US fast food workers Alvin Major and Flavia Cabral brought the house down when they spoke about the fight at McDonald’s, KFC and others for $15 an hour minimum wage.
Roger Hutt and Adam Lambert spoke about the disputes at Care UK and St Mungos that have won so much solidarity across the movement.
Ian Hodson from the BFAWU bakers’ union spoke about the growing demand for a £10 an hour minimum wage.
Paula Peters from Disabled People Against Cuts gave an angry speech about the fightback against scapegoating and Tory cuts by disabled activists.
John McDonnell MP, Peter Pinkney from the RMT, Sean Vernell and Jane Aitchison joint Unite the Resistance national secretaries, Lee Jasper from, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC), Dean Rogers assistant general secretary of NAPO and Billy Hayes of the CWU all shaped a serious debate about the state of the fight against austerity and the question of political representation.
There were contributions throughout the day about the way the Labour leaders have swallowed the government’s austerity agenda and the need for a different political approach.
Alongside the inspiring stories, such as a moving contribution from the floor from the New Era housing estate campaign, the movement also has to confront the experience of setbacks.
The conference met in the wake of the unions’ consultation over local government pay.
Union members accepted the offer, but where branches and regions had put out a clear call for rejection it was a different story. In several of these branches 80 percent or more voted to reject the deal and hold strikes to win.
The question of leadership was central to Saturday’s discussion.
Health workers are set to strike in England on Monday 24 November.
The conference argued to build solidarity and to encourage everyone to take collections for the health workers and visit the picket lines.
The strike is about decent pay for NHS workers but also “about the society we want – one dominated by private profit or one centred on social need” as one speaker put it.
A successul strike on 24 November can increase the pressure for the longer strikes needed to win.
Helen Davies and Karen Reissmann, Unison members speaking in a personal capacity, hilighted the need to build networks inside the unions that will push for a serious fight now and to organise those people who won’t simply wait for Labour.
There were successful workshops on Benefit justice, building on the strikes and campaigns in the NHS, defending and celebrating the contributions of migrant workers, organising the fight against zero hours contracts, and the way forward in local government.
Unite the Resistance now plans to roll out a series of regional meetings and a ten point trade unionists’ intervention in the general election campaign.