Look back with pride and forward with confidence – message to members from Branch President

Branch activists and members can be rightly proud of our successes in 2011.

Keeping Edinburgh’s environmental services in-house was a high point that came from using all the resources at our disposal. Publicity, campaigning, engaging with local communities, lobbies, leafleting and stunts all went alongside research, organising, political lobbying and the sheer force of persuasion to achieve the right decision from the council.

Everyone from members to activists and staff who kept the campaign machinery running should rightly be satisfied with the achievement. Challenges lie ahead for those directly involved but they are challenges they are up for.

But we still have two huge privatisations to challenge in January. We must keep up the same unity of purpose in the Branch that has brought us success so far.

The pensions strike of 30 November saw that unity of purpose and sheer hard work on the ground result in a great turnout that surprised many pundits. Many members came out on strike and stood on picket lines for the first time.

The 10,000 strong march and rally in Edinburgh was inspiring. It showed the real strength of feeling about the unfairness felt by public service workers being asked to pay for the excesses of the banking system and the super-rich. Members will be consulted in the coming weeks on the progress made in talks following the action.

All of this was against a background of real challenges for the Branch with vacancies in the branch officer team. One key event was our lead negotiator Kevin Duguid deservedly moving on to a new job. The thanks extended by both the Branch and management to Kevin was a testament to the respect he commanded.

Branch secretary Agnes Petkevicius and lead officers had to put together an ad hoc team to manage the huge workload. Many thanks to those who stood up to the mark to help out.

The death of John Ross, a key figure in the Branch from its inception, affected us all and left a gap in the team, the office and our lives that is still felt.

The fact that the Branch has been able to deliver so much when its activists’ pool has been so stretched must give us confidence for the coming year. Already the signs are that new people will be coming forward to fill the gaps at the AGM in February.

But the lessons from the ‘Our City’s Not For Sale’ campaign is that it is not enough just to fill the posts. We need to get more stewards on the ground and more members directly involved in their union. Most of all – and this was the success of the campaign – we need to use each other’s talents, working as a team and using all the tools available to us.

That means basic organising, education, campaigning and action where necessary, alongside strong support for bargaining and representation. No one part of it will deliver by itself.

On behalf of the Branch, I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year – and most of all a 2012 that starts to bring fairness and justice back to public services and those who deliver them.

John Stevenson
Branch President

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