The Battle Is Coming, Where Is Our Cheese?

I opened and spoke at a UNISON Organising Stewards course last week which London Ambulance UNISON Branch ran in-house. As Branch Secretary this is one of my responsibilities and we try to organise these courses on a regular basis. Mark Belkin, Branch Education Officer, works hard in arranging these and I would like to thank him here. I enjoy doing these and particularly liked the positive and open attitude of all the new stewards that were there. It was not all sunshine and roses though!

Whenever people from our Service get together you can be sure (as you all know) that issues and problems and frustrations and irritations and dissatisfaction spill out!

And so they did! The course tutor, Caroline, asked them to write on a post-it note a snap shot of issues within the Service that are of concern to them and the members they represent, and stick it up on a big grey mobile notice board.

I was not there when they did this, but when I returned, the grey notice board that I left had turned bright yellow! There was post-it notes on top of post-it notes next to post-it notes on top of post-it notes!

From afar, as the post-it notes gently swayed to and fro in the breeze, it looked like a golden field of corn.

The closer up I got to it, however, the imaginary field of corn soon turned into a factual field of scorn!

Every work issue you could think of – and more – was plastered on that board. It was great! They were real issues, well thought out and well presented.  By doing that exercise however, our stewards on the course had understood just what the Union (now with their help) has to deal with every day.

They understood also that the Union does not have a magic wand and the reality is that the big grey mobile notice board will never be empty. Issues that are resolved by the Union will be replaced with other new issues, and they in their turn will be replaced by other newer issues and so on and so on.

These important and serious day to day issues within the London Ambulance Service that UNISON stewards battle with daily, will, however, pale into insignificance when placed alongside the real battle that is coming.

As private ambulance companies bide their time, build up their fleet, recruit paramedics and technicians, pay them peanuts and deprive them of Agenda for Change terms and conditions, an attack is being prepared.

As they wait for the green light from this anti-Trade Union, anti-Public Service Coalition government (and Tory mayor) to cut deeper into the NHS Ambulance Service, let’s not be under any illusion that the battle will be fought on the outcome of this question:

“Who provides ambulance cover for the people of London: a publicly funded London Ambulance Service, or the Private Sector?”

Our Patient Transport Services are already a commodity for private profit.

Our Support Services are vulnerable, our Control Services are vulnerable, our Urgent Care Services are vulnerable and yes, the unthinkable is now thinkable, our Accident and Emergency Services are vulnerable!

When I talk about a real battle and a planned attack, I use the terminology deliberately. A war has been declared on our Public Services.

We have to stand together and defend them and not let ourselves be diverted into fighting on the wrong battleground.


Ireland’s (Eire)  economy has gone into free-fall. The Republic joined 11 other European Union nations in circulating the Euro on the 1st January 2002 (mistake number one!). Let this be a lesson.

An artificial financial bubble was created into which thousands on thousands of decent, hard working workers across the nation were sucked into.

They were urged to borrow more and more, and buy more and more. They were encouraged to be a part of this Euro zone magical land where jobs were plentiful and mortgages were cheap.

Oh dear! The bubble now has well and truly burst.

The people with the real money have got out and still have the real money. The predatory global banks and institutions are hovering over a proud republic, ready to take the country to the European Union pawn shop where they will share a shelf at the back with Greece!

It is disgraceful! And what will happen to all those workers who built the economy as all workers do?

Are they going to be bailed out by the banks and institutions who betrayed them in the first place? No.

Are they going to be let off the huge debts hanging around their necks? No.

They are going to be given free cheese!

Yes, it has been reported that the Irish government is to dole out free cheese to everyone.

Forget house repossessions: forget job losses: forget young people’s futures.

Have a lump of cheese!

“Be grateful for this slice of Irish cheddar and know your place” seems to be the message.. Talk about ‘let them eat cake’! 

I like cheese, don’t get me wrong, but, pardon the pun, this takes the biscuit!

James Connolly must be turning in his grave. Or should that be ‘churning’!


If you are reading this, work for the London Ambulance Service or are eligible to join, and are not yet a member of UNISON: Join Today!

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We are stronger together.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary