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National Delegate Conference 17-20 June 2008

Raise our people up or our people will bring you down! Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, warns Labour

Dave Prentisby Jane Aitchison

It's not too late. It's time to listen, time to act," was the clear message from Dave Prentis to Gordon Brown. "Raise our people up or our people will bring you down! 2010 is just around the corner. We want a government which stands up for us, Labour candidates who stand up for working people and our union."

Dave warned that Labour were destroying their chances of a fourth term, but that the Tories were no alternative.

"We know what the tories are about.We know they haven't changed.The party opposed to the minimum wage, attacking trade unions, axing our pension schemes. They'll never change."

However, "The Labour leadership - we have to be honest - it doesn't look good. The optimism of last year when we applauded the retirement of Tony Blair, shattered as the labour vote goes into free fall. It doesn't look good when the very people who told our members to be loyal, not to rock the boat, be grateful for what we could get."

"Is it any wonder that our members are asking whose side this government is really on", with their reluctance to deliver on union backed Labour party policies, failure to deliver on Equal Pay, the moratorium on employment rights when the union was making progress with protections for hundreds of thousands of agency workers, inviting the private sector into the heart of the NHS - the list goes on. Dave reminded the Labour Government that they need to remember who their friends are, and remember what Labour is for. In hard economic times, it's fairness that really counts.

"Millions of people vote Labour because they believe in a fair society, redistributing income and wealth, helping those less well off than themselves. "What's so wrong in raising the basic state pension; restoring the earnings link now; helping families cope with rising prices; giving local authorities the powers and the resources to build decent homes - council homes - for rent; better care for the elderly; decent school meals."

"What is so wrong in the Government moving away from the rip off of the Private Finance initiative, giving British workers the same rights as the rest of Europe, and Labour marking itself out again as the party of working people, of social justice, the party standing up for the vulnerable in our society, the party of high quality public services."

"If belts have to be tightened, and plans have to be put on hold, people want to know that everyone is doing their bit. But don't ask working people, low paid people, vulnerable people in need of services and support, to take the pain while others make a killing."

Dave warned that UNISON will work with the other public services unions to organise the most powerful campaign ever seen in support of public services, to build a stronger labour movement, "a campaign that turns our anger into aspiration, lifting our horizons, member driven, making justice for all a reality."

"We need your hearts, your time, your energy, to build our vision, to bring hope, build confidence.Ambitious, committed, united - that's when we're strongest and that's how we'll win.

We need to prepare for battle UNISON gears up for joint trade union action on pay Dave Prentis warned the Government that it must act on fairer pay for all public service workers, or it will pay the ultimate price.

Industrial action is on the cards for local government workers in England and Wales, and in Scotland in response to the derisory pay offers,The England and Wales ballot result is due on Monday (June 23rd), Scotland's ballot is scheduled for July.

Dave highlighted the myth of public service workers' low pay being the cause of inflation and suggested that the Government should instead "tackle corporate greed, tackle the energy companies - BP and Shell - making £7 billion profit in just three months -while our members struggle to pay their bills; condemn the obscene bonuses paid to city bosses; tackle the tax evading property wealth of the super rich, who rake it in while our members' rents soar out of control - a disgrace when tens of thousands of public service workers can't afford homes in the communities they serve."

"How can it be that in New Labour's Britain. It's the working poor who pay the price" asked Dave," with food prices soaring. energy bills rocketing, one in six 6 households living in poverty.The government's ambition to take children out of poverty in reverse" "Class still divides. Geography still divides.Working people - our people - taking the hit. It's immoral. It's an absolute disgrace that MPs, and MEPs claim more expenses in a month than public service workers earn in year - and that's without th