Saturday, 20 November 2010

Organising to speak up for public services

Mobilise! New Media module
Over 100 activists, paid officials and community activists from across Scotland are taking part in UNISON Scotland’s ‘Mobilise’ campaigning festival this weekend at the STUC in Glasgow.

Focussing on organisation, the event is pulling together a range of campaigning and bargaining tools, including media skills, ‘know your rights’, strategic campaigning, public speaking, involving members, equality issues, new media, economic briefings and myth-busting – along with more esoteric sessions on comedy skills and political song.

An exhibition on trade union history provided the backdrop last night to an evening of ‘inspirational dance’ and tonight’s entertainment includes Carol Laula (who is also doing a music workshop) and one of the masters of political song, Arthur Johnstone.

Opening the event, UNISON Scottish Convener Mike Kirby stressed the need to engage with members and get the arguments across that there is an alternative to the cuts.

The cuts were ideological, not based on financial need. It was a concerted attack on public services and the welfare state that was designed to be ‘irreversible’.

“I don’t like to get personal in political arguments”, said Mike, “But it is hard not to when you see the attacks from a cabinet that thinks poverty is another country”.

It was unlikely that the cabinet millionaires would ever have to worry about the electricity bill or about whether their children could ever afford to go to university or whether they can afford to pay for care for their relatives or themselves.

And the cuts were disproportionately affecting women. Women as public service workers, as service users and as carers, added Mike.

Trade unions and communities had to equip themselves with the arguments to challenge the cuts. But there will come a time – when people are ready, when they see the full force of the cuts – that the “force of argument” will have to move to the “argument of force” through action.

Mike stressed this had to be united action. It must not be seen as public versus private – a problem in the initial stages of the campaign in Ireland. For every public service job lost, another is lost in the private sector. This needed to be a united campaign of all workers and communities acting together.

The event continues through today, finishing at lunchtime on Sunday.

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