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Year 2001 No. 60, March 30, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

UNISON Health Care Service Group Conference:

Health Workers Vote to Step up Struggle against PFI

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

UNISON Health Care Service Group Conference:
Health Workers Vote to Step up Struggle against PFI

US Vetoes Resolution Calling for UN Observer Force

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UNISON Health Care Service Group Conference:

Health Workers Vote to Step up Struggle against PFI

by Workers’ Weekly Health Group

The debate on the Private Finance Initiative PFI took place on the final afternoon of conference. The first motion in the debate on Composite G submitted by Dudley Group of Hospitals and UCLH said there was no need for PFI in public services. The 1,000 richest people in Britain have a combined personal wealth of £146 billion and the motion called for taxing the rich and the giant companies in order to fund the NHS. Amongst other things it called for a national day of action against PFI and privatisation in the NHS, a national demonstration against PFI called at a time and venue to have the maximum political impact and strike action against the PFI.

At the beginning of the debate the Chair of Conference announced that the Service Group Executive having been opposed to the motion had withdrawn their amendment and would now support it with qualifications. Mark New delegate from Dudley Group of hospitals spoke in moving the motion. He said that the strikers were on their 135th day of action, an action which has been escalating and developing over the last eight months. He said he was extremely proud to have been involved in that strike and very inspired every time he met with the strikers because they are carrying out to the letter UNISON policy of opposition against PFI. He said the official reason why they were on strike and why the strike is taking place is that they do not want 600 UNISON members’ jobs transferred as part of a PFI scheme. But, he emphasised, it goes deeper than that because it goes to the heart of what PFI is about. He said that Conference had heard John Denham this morning talking about the need to increase the number of beds, yet the PFI in Dudley will lose over 70 beds. Also John Denham had spoken about how he valued all NHS staff, so why is it that 170 jobs are likely to be lost in Dudley? John Denham had spoken about value for money, but "where is the value for money?" Mark New told conference, "The Dudley Scheme has increased in cost from £65 million when it was first mooted in 1995 to £80 million a few months ago and we were told about two weeks ago that it had went up to £120 million." He went on to say that the Dudley strikers had voted to hold another three-week strike action that will start next week. He said that this motion would send a message to government saying that UNISON is now reviewing its policy and that it stepping up a nationally co-ordinated strategy.

A representative of the Service Group Executive spoke in the debate. He pointed out that the SGE had listened to the views of conference this week and that they were now able to give support to the motion but with two qualifications. He said that UNISON already had a national campaign of action but that would be stepped up. He said there was as strong case for a national demonstration but the qualification was that it would need to be built across UNISON and if possible more widely and it would have to be credible and would require preparation. The SGE said they that gave a commitment to deliver this and the representative called on delegates to go back to their branches and organise. He said that the motion also called for strike action against PFI and the SGE support this but he pointed out the qualification was that any such action has to be within UNISON rules and the law. This meant that strike action was permitted against the effects of PFI on jobs, beds and staff. If branches can deliver the vote we will support, he said.

After the debate the motion was carried. An emergency motion was also passed calling on UNISON to organise a national deputation, including strikers, to Alan Milburn and John Denham if the transfer of staff is signed on April 12, 2001.

Article Index


US Vetoes Resolution Calling for UN Observer Force

In the UN Security Council vote on March 27, the US used its veto power to block a resolution to establish a UN observer force in Palestine.

In addition to backing a UN observer force, the resolution called for "the immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation and collective punishment". It specifically called for the immediate end to Israeli settlement activities and closures of the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as the transfer by Israel to the Palestinian Authority of all due revenues. The text also called for the implementation of all agreed commitments, including those reached at the Summit convened at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in October 2000.

The text was submitted by the seven-country Non-Aligned States caucus in the Council: Bangladesh, Colombia, Jamaica, Mali, Mauritius, Singapore and Tunisia. China and Russia joined those seven in voting in favour. The four European Council members, Britain, France, Ireland and Norway, abstained and Ukraine did not participate. The US alone, exercising its Council veto power, voted against the resolution.

The brutal collective punishment carried out by Israel during the six-month siege of Palestine has resulted in the deaths of over 250 Palestinians and the wounding of thousands more. "Closure" has devastated the Palestinian economy and impoverished the people. The US has continued to stand firmly behind Israel and its abandonment of previous agreements with Palestine, some of which the US itself negotiated.

In statements before the Council, representatives of Israel and the US continued to decry the violence of "both sides" and blame the Palestinian people for the violence in the region. Yehuda Lancry, the Israeli diplomat at the meeting, lamented that the resolution took the "Palestinian side". "Must Israel continue to shoulder all the blame, as well as the responsibility?" he asked. He reiterated Israel's opposition to an observer force, saying that "Mr Arafat had decided to undertake that protection by himself" and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's line that it is up to the Palestinians to "end the violence they instigated".

James Cunningham, the US representative on the Council, expressed deep regret that the vote had been called on a resolution when it was clear there was no "consensus", that is, when it was clear the US would be forced to show its isolated position and veto the measure. He said his vote was a matter of "deeply held principle". "The road to peace began in the region in the region and the parties themselves must make the choice," he said. Now that the resolution was behind the Council, he said, "attention should be turned to ways to search for genuine peace".

Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Observer for Palestine, said Palestine would not give up on requesting that the Council shoulder its responsibilities in accordance with the United Nations Charter. He pointed out that the failure on the vote meant that the Council was prevented from following through with its duties in maintaining international peace and security.

Amwarul Karim Chowdury of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf the countries that brought the resolution, expressed frustration that action had not been possible on the text. He explained that great efforts had been made between the Non-Aligned and European members of the Council to draft a resolution that "enjoyed the Council's broadest support". Both the Non-Aligned States and countries participating in the Arab League meeting on March 27-28 had expressed the necessity for the Council to act before that meeting.

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