Saturday, 20 November 2010

Mobilise to defend public services

Closing speech to UNISON Scotland Mobilise 2010 training weekend: That’s the end of our event and I don’t know about you but I’ve been inspired by the weekend. Inspired by the work everyone has put in and about the way everyone has got involved to make it a success.

I’m John Stevenson, Chair of the Communications and Campaigns Committee and I’m here to say thanks to a few people.

This has been a one-off. We have never done it before. I have to say that the planning went so smoothly, without a hitch, all of it just coming together step by step!

Firstly thanks to our sponsors for helping make this happen.

To our guests and entertainers for two great nights – although the mornings after were not quite so great perhaps. I certainly loved last night with all the home-grown talent and the mastery of Arthur Johnstone.

Thanks to Nancy and the staff team and especially to Gillian who I’m told did most of the work but unfortunately couldn’t be here.

And thanks to Mark for all the running about here at the STUC to make things run so smoothly.

But most of all, thanks to everyone – the tutors, facilitators and all of you who took part and worked so hard over the weekend with so much commitment.

As Mike Kirby said on Friday night, we need to have the information to make the ‘force of argument’ against the cuts. But he also said we all know that, at some point, that will have to turn that into the ‘argument of force’ as we face the biggest ever challenge to our services and to our welfare state – not just to our jobs and services but to the people who rely on those services and that welfare state,

And to do that we need to win hearts and minds. Hopefully over this weekend we’ve picked up some of the tools, some of the information, some of the ammunition to equip us in that fight and to take the campaign forward.

I believe people are looking for the trade unions to take a lead in defending public services and the welfare state. And that is because we – the unions – created those services and that welfare state.

Listening to the songs of struggles of the past from Arthur Johnstone last night reminded me of the unions’ role in history.

Working people organising. The vote itself. The working week. Pensions. The minimum wage. And the biggest struggle of all – our cherished National Health Service.

Yes unions have a role in defending all that. But more than that – I believe unions have a duty to defend that, not just for our members but for the people who rely on the services we provide.

Unions taking the lead over the years in creating a society that cares.

One that treasures equality.

That gives our young people a start in life without having to go into debt.

That looks after the sick and the most vulnerable when they need it – with dignity – and irrespective of the ability to pay.

Taking a lead in showing that public services are not the problem – they are part of the solution.

Public service workers did not create the crisis and they should not be asked to pay for it.

Public services did not cause the recession and they should not be cut to pay for the damage caused by the banks.

But this is not about public versus private.

We need to take the messages out we’ve heard this weekend that investment in public services – far from being a problem – is the solution to the crisis not just for the public sector but for the private sector too – so reliant on what we spend and on public investment - so we can rebuild our economy for the good of everyone, not just the few.

So we need to go out from here today – back into our branches – organising, spreading the word, passing on all the skills, information and knowledge we’ve got this weekend on to our activists and to our members so they are equipped for the campaign.

But most of all we need to take all those skills, knowledge and information and pass it on to the new activists. To a new generation of activists we need to engage to take our values, our philosophies and our campaigns forward into the future. And we need to do all of that with one simple message.

We are proud of our public services – and we WILL defend them.

Thanks to you all and safe home.

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