By a health worker
Two hundred people from trade unions and community campaigns attended the second national conference of Keep Our NHS Public on 19 January. But apart from Amicus’s Gill George there were not official representatives of the trade unions present.
Many community based activists attacked the trade union leadership for lack of action, in particular the failure of NHS Together to call a national demonstration on 3 March.
John Lister from KONP said the group’s steering committee had decided against calling for support for a national demo on 3 March, that activists should build the regional activities that will be taking place. The community campaigns cannot substitute for the TUC. But it is too late to take the pressure off the leadership and we should continue to protest. No vote was taken on the issue despite a degree of disagreement with the “no call” stance.
Some excellent examples of local trade union branches and community campaigns working together were highlighted. In Nottingham a joint bulletin is being produced by union activists supported by the local KONP group.
There was agreement on the need for KONP to transform itself into a more formal national campaign. There will be both elected regional and national committees created in the near future and plans are being made for an AGM in May.
Platform speakers gave detailed reports on the size and effects of the cuts programme in the NHS. The administration of new systems is likely to increase the spending on bureaucracy from the historic average of 6% of the budget to 14% or more.
It was reported that left Labour leadership challenger John McDonnell has tabled an early day motion calling for a moratorium on all planned reforms and cuts. He want an independent enquiry to calculate the costs and effectiveness of the government’s plans. Any doctor or nurse who used an untested treatment on a patient would struck off. Yet the government’s reforms are being tested on the population as a whole. It is the worst case of malpractice every witnessed.
In a recent ballot 92% of Manchester’s 250 community nurses, occupational therapists and admin staff voted to strike. They are fighting massive cuts in jobs and services.
The Manchester Community and Mental Health Trust is facing the loss of up to half of the nursing staff. This for a service that demands continuity of care and small caseloads. Other cuts in admin staff and the tendering out of services put the care and in some cases the lives of clients at risk.
A one day strike on 31 January will be followed by a seven day strike the following week. This could be an important dispute. A small group of Manchester night nurses sparked off the last significant national industrial action in the NHS nearly 20 years ago.
Messages of support and donations can be sent to: Unison, Chorlton House, 70 Manchester Road, Chorlton, M21 2UN. Cheques to: “Manchester Community Unison”.