CP meets Len McCluskey

25 October 2019

Community Practitioner caught up with general secretary of Unite the Union Len McCluskey after his talk at the Unite-CPHVA Annual Professional Conference 2019.

Len McCluskey spoke about the main message he would like our journal readers – health visitors, school nurses, community nursery nurses and all community practitioners, to take away…

‘Well obviously, first of all, a huge big thank you for what they do day in day out. It is incredibly important of course we live in a world at the moment with a government that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. 

‘And yet it’s proven over and over that if you look after our young people properly, with proper health and proper education, then of course the whole of society benefits dramatically later in life. And that is the message that has been lost during these austerity years. 

‘Healthcare professionals are seen as the easy touch to cut when the government is instigating an austerity programme that isn’t needed. There is no economic sense in austerity. It is a political decision. This idea that there is no money available and therefore everybody has got to tighten their belts is utter nonsense. 

‘We’ve been pointing out for a considerable period of time that £40bn a year is lost to the treasury through tax avoidance. Now that’s not a trade union leader saying that, this is independent fiscal bodies. If we could actually close the loopholes on tax avoidance the amount of money that could then be spent on proper public services is something we can only dream of. 

‘The other thing that strikes me as important to point out is that nobody knows of a friend or family member who when asked the question: would you like less public services? Nobody knows anybody who says ‘yes’ to that. Everybody wants more and better public services. 

‘I want our members in the health sector to understand that we value and respect their jobs immensely. We will do everything we can to defend them industriously, but of course also, we will do everything we can to influence the political changes that are needed.

‘Fortunately, we have been able to have an influence on the Labour party leadership and they are absolutely committed to making certain that sufficient money is available to start to invest in our public services once again, invest in our health services, invest in nursing and school nurses and all of the other professions that have been at the sharp end of being attacked by this obsession with austerity. Hopefully good times are on the way.’

In addressing conference, Len spoke about the health visitors in Lincolnshire who have had to strike. Community Practitioner asked him his view on how it had got to this point… 

‘It’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s because in this particular instance, a Tory council decided that they were an easy target and decided to save money. Now the problem is much deeper obviously. It’s endemic when central government reduces the amount of government grants to councils. 

‘But when it starts to happen, people at local level, councils at local level, look to see where they can cut back. It begins a downward spiral and effectively some of our more vulnerable services and workers are seen as an easy target.

‘It is despicable and disgraceful that it’s done in that way, but that’s the reality unfortunately of what we’re living with. But we’ve got to make it clear that we’re not prepared to stand by and let these valued workers stand alone.’