Monday, 19 October 1998

Big bad UNISON - we must be getting it right!

UNISON is a big bad thing if press reports, councillors comments and even other unions are to be believed.

We are accused of being locked in the past with quaint ideas like protecting jobs and conditions, fighting for publicly funded and accountable public services and trying to save the taxpayer from the £billions wasted on the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and privatisation.

But of course it is not about the past, it is about the present and the fact that we are asking the hard questions on behalf of our members and the public.

And we must carry on doing that. Building alliances with community and users groups and with the wider public to put our, and the Scottish people's, belief in properly funded public services back on the agenda.

Do you really think Councillor Dalgety would be slagging us off in her Evening News column if we were a relic from the past? Of course not.

It is because we are exposing the present.

Take the PFI example. Such has been the recent onslaught to rubbish UNISON's warnings, that the press is only now waking up to it, analysing the real implications and vindicating our work.

We are not the dinosaurs they'd like to make us out to be. UNISON was first to present forward-thinking proposals for partnership with the council, for flexibility, for new imaginative ways to protect and improve services - and make them more cost effective, even before their Edinburgh 2000 document.

Yes, we want partnership. But real partners say the hard things when they have to be said. Real partners fall out from time to time but they don't ask the other to give up their principles. Real partners work on facts not prejudices.

Cosy deals
But there is a 'modernising' we do not support. We are not into the 'modern' cosy deals like the Glasgow GMB giving blind support to the council and backing the PFI that will sell off their members jobs.

In Edinburgh, we are not phased when some politicians heap praise on other unions and slam UNISON. You don't get praise from politicians for fighting your members corner.

We have been a lone voice for a long time but we've dug in and the rest are catching up.

Maybe it is not that we are in the past, but that we have seen a future that some politicians would rather keep under wraps.

If they are slagging us, we must be getting it right.

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