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Unite the Resistance comes to Manchester

Tuesday saw the first real organising meeting in Manchester for the Unite the Resistance campaign, which recently held a several-hundred strong meeting in London to oppose the pensions sell-out.

Around thirty activists from unions such as Unite, Unison, UCU and FBU gathered in the Friends Meeting House to discuss how to further the fight against pension cuts at the local level.

The statement passed by the London conference on 14 January was printed out and circulated to those who attended, but unfortunately the SWP organisers decided not to include the amendment to the text which had passed by a firm majority and called to unite public and private sector workers, building rank and file conferences in and across the unions. The full text of the amendment can be seen on the Unite the Resistance website.

Initial shenanigans aside, an introduction by the meeting chair was kept brief, and everyone got a chance to say their piece once the meeting had started.

A debate started over whether it was necessary to have held the meeting under the Unite the Resistance brand, and whether more should have been done to include existing campaigns such as Manchester Coalition Against Cuts, Right to Work, Coalition of Resistance, the local trades council and the National Shop Stewards Network.

SWP members seemed a bit flummoxed by this argument made by Stephen Hall from Socialist Resistance, but stressed that the campaign was a different project from previous campaigns, aiming to prioritise the trade unions, and in particular organise workers from “the grassroots.”

A reply from a Salford Unison activist probably summed up the mood when he explained that the name was not so important, but that action needed to be taken in defence of pensions.

Calls to organise action from below were given a somewhat different emphasis in the meeting: whilst all agreed that we need to prepare to organise events and activities from below, some felt that the best course of action was to explore all official avenues first, before organising activity.

Other points of interest in the meeting were reports of the Unison leadership’s selective use of democracy, trying to stop left-wing branches from taking votes on a potential agreement, and that across almost all branches in all unions, there are sizeable numbers of workers that are set against accepting any deal currently on the table.

An activist from the FBU explained how firefighters are furious with service cuts, and that their pensions are also under attack, meaning that they could potentially join future joint strike action.

The meeting concluded by agreeing to build a public meeting with Mark Serwotka on 29 February, and to meet again in two weeks time.

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