UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis promised to fight against the privatisation of the NHS in a hard-hitting speech at UNISON’s Health Care Service Group Conference yesterday.
Mr Prentis said that the government had alienated health workers with its drive to introduce market forces into the NHS.
He also criticised Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals that finance many new hospital builds for being a waste of money.
He told delegates at the Harrogate International Centre: ‘UNISON will oppose any bail out of PFI contracts - not on our watch. The government is losing support and trust of health workers and the public.
PFIs mean that private companies take the profits, and the risk is transferred. Who shares the risk? The taxpayer, our members. We simply will not put up with it.’
Mr Prentis also praised Nursing Times, which has just announced a partnership with UNISON.
‘Nursing Times will be recommending UNISON as the union of choice for nurses, UNISON will be recommending Nursing Times to its members..’
Markets in motion
Meanwhile, a motion opposing privatisation of the NHS sparked passionate debate among conference delegates.
The motion, entitled Keep the NHS Working, condemns pro-market health policies of the main political parties.
It calls for a campaign against privatisation of the NHS and resistance against a European Commission directive on cross-border health care, which could make choosing European health care systems easier.
Karen Jennings, UNISON’s head of health, said: ‘It is truly astounding that the NHS has remained intact after all the attacks over the years. As far as this is concerned, 2009 is a key year .’
Delegate Caroline Bedale, from UNISON’s Manchester and Community Mental Health Branch, called for industrial action against privatisation.
‘We have to follow the example of workers who occupied their workplaces to fight for their rights,’ she said.