‘Momentous decision’ has been made
"A momentous decision," was how assistant general secretary Karen Jennings described the moment when UNISON members voted for strike action to protect their pensions.
Speaking at UNISON's disabled members' conference in Brighton, she praised the members "saying to this government, 'we're going to make a stand'," and compared the 80% voting in favour of action to the 36% who had voted for David Cameron's Conservatives and asked: "How dare they say it doesn't count, that it's not supported?"
She asked members to remember the bankers, the cause of the crisis that "is costing our jobs, our public services, our pensions."
Ms Jennings talked of the impact the austerity measures would have on disabled people as disability living allowance, housing benefits, independent living, anti-discrimination rights and Access to Work are threatened, while on top of this, George Osborne has instructed officials to look at scrapping the inflation link for benefits.
She told conference "this government's policies are not working".
Since the election, over 100,000 jobs have been lost in the public sector, which hadn't been replaced by the private sector. And she continued: "The government tell us that there's no alternative, but clearly there is. A plan B is possible.
"It's possible to stop this by investing in low -arbon infrastructures, in housing, in benefits ... paid for by closing tax loopholes, quantitative easing and a Robin Hood Tax."
"And what do we do in the meantime?" she asked. "We fight." She reminded delegates of battles that the union had won: negotiating for disability leave agreements, stopping institutional discrimination in recruitment policies.
And of course, she said "the battle continues to stop disability discrimination in capability procedures."
Zero hours is "a dangerous threat to the livelihood of disabled members," she reported, and linked it to the pensions issue, saying: "if you can't be sure of your hours, your pension ... the one thing you can be sure of is poverty in old age.
"I think we can equate zero hours with poverty," she said, but "it is a battle we can win."