Thursday, 4 February 2010

Why stand for election?

Shades of 1979. An unpopular Labour Government, a Tory Party waiting in the wings and an economic mess. What awaits us?
The Labour Party don't think they can win the election, the Tory Party are scared to win it and the Liberals know they can't win it. Nobody is promising anything but misery. Our cuts won't be as bad as theirs. Where's the vision, where's the hope?

30 years ago there were many speakers who inspired us. Speakers who hundreds queued to see. Who would you queue to see now? And there is the rub. Because those activists who are the fundemental backbone of the union are moving into middle/old age. Who is inspiring the next group of activists? All those thousands of stewards who give their time freely to help others. Those people who the members in the workplace look to for support, advice and aid. Because it is the activists who require inspiration. Everyone has something to offer. You don't have to agree with them. You have to encourage debate, dialogue, and even disagreement. You learn from debate, not from orthodoxy and monotony. 'Don't write people off lightly, it's not the mark of a good organiser'. If we keep our heads down, who benefits; What is a union? 'An instrument of fight and the guardian of economic concessions. Every worker who joins a union understands this instinctively. The worker wants an improvement in their conditions, but also wants security in their job while fighting for those improvements. That is what recognition of the union means'.

The workers' reaction to the 0% pay offer in local government could be 'what is more important pay or job security?' But it is not as simple as that. Organisation and fighting for pay improvements, strengthens the union and actually increases job security. If you think that this is untrue, look at the low-paid, non-unionised sections of society. Have they got more job security?. British Airways cabin staff got a 90% yes vote on a 80% turnout. That's why British Airways went to the courts, because the employer had lost the propaganda war with their own workforce and the courts were their only hope.

So we have a General Secretary election in the union. A vital election. An election which will lay a marker down. Will affiliation to the Labour Party be such a big issue if the Tories win the general election? Whoever wins the general election needs a 'shot across their bows'. They need a message that unions are ready to organise. Very few public sector workers are anti-union. Some have had bad experiences in other unions or in this one. Some feel that the union is powerless or not there for them. It wouldn't take much to change that. Thousands of employees are frightened, worried and fearful. We need to give them confidence and hope. Then they will join a union in their thousands.

Where does that confidence and hope come from? From MP's on the fiddle or trade union leaders waiting to to get into the House of Lords or the City? No, leadership is 90% example. The General Secretary election is about the future of the union and our members. Let no-one be in any doubt that there is no feeling as good as the support of members. They have every right to be cynical. They see all around them the rewards of society going to parasites, while they struggle to make ends meet. Our inspiration should always be - what can we achieve for working people? If the Labour Party loses the next election - watch some Labour MP's running for jobs in the City and big businesses or with companies they have worked with whilst in government.

If we unite working people for the common good in the trade union we will acheive all those things that our policies demand - prosperity, job security, anti-racism, decent housing, trade union rights, decent pensions etc. If we don't, these policy aims will be impossible. Our leaders have to be honest, open and trusted.

'The purpose of leadership is to inspire - what more can you do for someone than to inspire them?'

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