This article appeared in the Morning Star during the SW TUC conference. Joanne Kaye is regional secretary of Unison south-west.

Unions across south-west England gather in Devon this weekend at the annual regional TUC conference.

After a seemingly endless week of state-sponsored political broadcasting through the medium of Thatcher's funeral it is an ideal time to refocus our thoughts on how we tackle austerity and continue the fightback on behalf of our members.

The death of Thatcher has brought back bitter memories of the harm inflicted on workers and their communities and many of the comrades gathered in Croyde Bay will remember those years and the relentless attacks by her government on working people.

We often refer to Cameron and Osborne as inflicting worse cuts than Thatcher, but in reality they are simply carrying on where she left off. While she introduced the internal market into the National Health Service, the Health and Social Care Act has the potential to reduce it to a network of franchises run by the private sector.

Forty years ago we believed the removal of free school milk to be an outrage and now we are seeing the income of the poorest families, the sick and disabled being reduced below subsistence levels while prices rise and rise.

In the south-west there have been challenges specific to the region. The South West Pay Cartel which brought together 20 NHS trusts with the express aim of driving down NHS pay in the region has been resisted fiercely by Unison and the other health unions and so far, over a third of trusts have withdrawn entirely.

Of the remaining trusts only one is actively pursuing further changes to pay and conditions while others are currently dormant and remain a risk.

The pay freeze continues to heap more misery on our members across public services and their families and highlights the double whammy of austerity - how do you organise workers and inspire them to collectively resist the actions of employers and government when they are simultaneously struggling to make one week's wage packet last to the next and live in constant fear of redundancy?

While we are rightly angry as trade unionists, there is also despair and exhaustion among workers which all too often can engender hopelessness and despair rather than the determination and spirited fight we need.

What do we do? The TUC is not a decision-making body for individual unions, but a place to share experiences and plan joint campaigns.

In a climate where we are all working to retain and improve membership levels, inter-union solidarity is vital so that we do not end up fighting each other for the same members.

If we make different decisions about negotiations or action, we have to decide whether solidarity means respecting those differences or if solidarity only means taking the same decisions.

There will undoubtedly be discussions about a general strike, co-ordinated strike action or days of action.

The recent TUC Congress motion required all unions to consider what their long-term strategy of resistance against austerity would look like.

Unison welcomed this and concluded that any general strike should always be rooted in a long-term industrial strategy and is not a means in itself.

Too often we focus on one event - a demonstration or a day of strike action - and the complexity and diversity of all the unions makes it very difficult to agree more long-term plans on a joint basis.

But if we are to achieve a step change in the fight against this pernicious government we could do worse than to turn to the brilliance of the film which has cheered us all this week - the Wizard of Oz.

With a score written by Yip Harburg, a communist sympathiser blacklisted during the McCarthy years, the film is predominantly about overcoming oppression - and for that, you need brains, heart and courage.

We need strategy and tactics which are imaginative and flexible, and can learn a great deal from groups such as UK Uncut or 38 Degrees whose campaigns are innovative, responsive and clever.

Our values should inform everything we do and if we are serious about being a collective, comradely movement, we must behave as one and not descend to internecine conflict when individual unions disagree.

But most of all, there is a pressing need to convince our members that they can and they do have the courage to realise the truly transformative power when they think and act collectively.

At the moment too many union members believe there is no hope and that they cannot fight back.

Our task is to help them realise their own strength. There will be some who believe that will only come from a general secretary of the TUC or a large union calling everybody out on strike.

But just as Dorothy realised she had the power herself all along - she just needed to want it, rather than expecting a powerful man to make it happen - so too the millions of union members across the country need to realise that they can fight back, that they do have a collective strength and that they need to find the will to use it - because no one else will do it for them.