Interview with Dave Auger (in a personal capacity) – newly elected member of UNISON NEC for the West Midlands
We are pleased to announce that Socialist Party member Dave Auger has been elected to the UNISON National Executive Council, standing for the West Midlands Male Seat. He received 2834 to the 2556 votes of the incumbent. In this interview for our website, Dave, who is speaking in a personal capacity outlines why he stood and the sort of union he will fight for. Socialist Party supporters in UNISON congratulate Dave on this excellent victory; let us carry on with the fight for a fighting, democratic Unison.
Dave Auger speaks to Unison conference
Many stewards in the Coventry area campaigned for you, helping to give out your election literature, and no doubt persuaded people to vote for you. What would you like to say to them?
Dave A – Firstly, obviously to thank stewards who worked for my election and those who voted for me.
In my election address I did make the point that unlike a lot of elected NEC members , who you never see again, I am always available to attend your branch meetings , both to tell you what is going on nationally , but also to hear your concerns and issues
As part of the Reclaim the Union slate, you ran a campaign that was critical of the current national leadership of Unison. Can you explain a bit more about the sort of programme you were putting forward?
I have been critical of the current leadership, but have always believed it is not enough to be critical. If you believe as I do that they are not representing members then they need to be challenged, which is why I put myself forward.
The key word at the moment is recruitment and I agree on its importance. But workers join a union because it offers something and that is not just cheap insurance and holidays.
Council workers are afraid of losing their jobs , attacks on their terms and conditions and just as importantly services that they take a pride in providing.
They want a union that will fight to defend these things , which will give leadership to that fight.
What we have currently is a leadership that when it suits ‘talks the talk ‘ but never ‘walks the walk’. It invariably leads us up the hill only to lead us back down , whilst seeking to convince us that we have won or the membership are not up for a fight.
It does all this because it is wedded to the Labour Party, what they call a ‘link’ is actually a millstone which prevents us taking concerted action in case it embarrasses the Labour Party or challenges their own role in service cuts.
On issues such as pay, you were one of those who called for outright rejection of the 1 per cent offer. Where do you think the union are going wrong on issues such as pay and previously pensions?
The vote on the pay offer is a perfect example, the committee which makes the recommendation went from a unanimous stance of opposition to the offer to voting to make no recommendation. They said members were not up for a fight and were very defeatist.
Those who voted to recommend rejection did so on the basis that what members needed was leadership and encouragement ,that not only should it be rejected and action taken , but that not to do so would seriously weaken our union when we are under concerted attacks by government and employers.
How should we be responding to the massive jobs losses being proposed in local government and the public sector in general?
Employers have never welcomed unions with open arms , they have always accepted unions because they know the power we have can bring them to their knees. If we continue to surrender terms and conditions and services, they will just come back for more.
We have to fight and yes we have to convince many of our members who think keeping their heads down , that our continued existence depends on our fighting.
What experience, ideas and policies will you be bringing to the NEC? How long have you been an active trade unionist, tell us more about what branch you are from, your positions etc.
Dave supports striking PCS members
I have been a trade unionist for 40 years , I joined when I started work at 17.
I became politically active 30 years ago . I have been involved in many of the battles of the last 30 years both a trade unionist and community activist.
For the last 12 years I have been full-time deputy branch secretary of my branch which has a membership of 5500. So (without blowing my trumpet – tongue I cheek) I have a wide experience of representing and fighting for members and negotiating with employers. I am also the Regional International Officer because international solidarity is central to our work as trade unionists.
What is your view of the current situation, with regards to the Labour Link?
I have no problem with UNISON members being members of the Labour Party, I know some very good ones. However the Labour Link has a control over the union which I believe is unhealthy and produces many of the problems I have already outlined. But why should we be supporting a party which is responsible for many of the attacks on us?
Their control is such that you can find yourself in the nonsensical situation as a branch where you are affiliated to your local Labour Party, at a time when that same Labour Party as your council employer is attacking your members jobs and services!
You are a member of the Socialist Party and very open about your political affiliation. Can you tell us why you are a member and why you would urge Unison members and council workers in general to think about joining the Socialist Party?
I joined the Labour Party in 1981 with the naive impression that this was the party of the working class. It quickly became apparent that this was not the case!
I quickly became a member of Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) because only they among the Left in the Labour Party were serious about fighting for the working class and recognised that only a socialist society could achieve this. Since I and many others were expelled the Labour Party has drifted further to the right . Since those days I have always found the position of the Socialist Party to be generally spot on in terms of both perspectives and tactics.
I would encourage all workers to consider joining the Socialist Party.
Thank you for your time Dave, and best of luck
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