UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

UNISON GS nails Radio 4's Any Questions


Last weekend UNISON General Secretary Christina McAnea made a strong debut on BBC Radio 4's 'Any Questions' panel discussion. The programme focused on the upcoming budget with Christina contributing well received answers on NHS funding, social care, public sector pay and levelling up. Listen here:

Any Questions? - Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Christina McAnea, Nick Timothy, Nadhim Zahawi MP - BBC Sounds


Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Turning our back on the world - UNISON NEC disaffiliates from ICTUR

On 23 September 2021 the NEC's international committee declined to reaffiliate to the International Centre for Trade Union rights (ICTUR), on cost grounds. 

This appalling decision ends over two decades of UNISON support for the London based organisation which defends and extends the rights of trade unions and trade unionists worldwide, including raising awareness of their violations. 


Friday, 15 October 2021

'Not in our name' - Police & Justice Conference condemns NEC rule breaking

UNISON's first in person conference for almost 20 months was held in Brighton over the past two days. https://www.unison.org.uk/news/2021/10/police-and-justice-delegates-stress-frontline-pandemic-role/

Police and Justice branch delegates gathered to debate pay, job security, displacement of support staff workers by police officers, the welcome insourcing of a majority of probation staff and other key issues.

Notably an emergency motion condemning last week's unconstitutional, unprincipled and unviable decisions by the NEC was carried overwhelmingly. Full text below.


Conference, there is great concern following a meeting of our National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Wednesday 6th October 2021.

At this meeting resolutions were put forward on the agenda for this meeting and our own legal department made representations suggesting that four of these resolutions were a breach of UNISON rules, unlawful and could possibly bring our union into disrepute.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Why UNISON needs to campaign on Integrated Care Proposals

On the face of it ICPs or Integrated Care Partnerships (or Services) proposed for England make a lot of sense. Anyone who has looked after an elderly relative or been in a carer role will know the frustrations of care falling between two stools. ‘Who does what?’ is often the question, and beneath a shallow surface, ‘who pays for what?’. But the model is flawed and lacks scrutiny. Like most ‘good ideas’ it has fallen into a bureaucratic framework which means ‘form’ is taking precedence over function.

The form in this case is the Health and Care Bill currently at Committee stage in Parliament. Whilst there are always concerns about the role of private companies in NHS provision some have sought to argue that the Bill in fact rolls back some of the damaging privatisation provisions from the 2012 reorganisation of the NHS.

A lot will depend on the new bodies who will inherit commissioning from the clinical commissioning groups, but there are few safeguards to prevent increased private sector involvement in NHS service delivery – though CCGs have hardly been the bastions of supporting in-house NHS or local authority services either.

At best the Bill is Janus faced. On the one hand it arguably removes some tendering requirements from NHS commissioners – something they have protested has been a costly waste of time – but on the other it could lead to unregulated procurement without tenders. Contracts for Cronies anyone?

Perceived wrongs don't justify undermining UNISON democracy

The NEC meeting on 6th October was, for me, a low point in my entire time as a UNISON activist, as the self styled “Time for Real Change” faction on the NEC forced through a series of “resolutions” despite independent legal advice deeming them to be ultra vires or beyond the scope of our powers.

On even a cursory reading of the “resolutions” it was clear to me and to anyone else that reads the rule book, that some were seeking to change or extend existing rules or were in conflict with the rule book.

A number also had implications for members of UNISON staff including the General Secretary, who was to be directed “from time to time as may be necessary” by the presidential team, conveniently forgetting that in rule it is only the GS that has the authority to act in between meetings.

It’s also worth noting that when it comes to democratic mandates, the GS was elected by the lay membership on almost twice the turn-out that many NEC members enjoy.

Friday, 8 October 2021

Black History Month – Mandela’s visit to Glasgow October 1993 video

To celebrate October’s Black History Month, the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation is launching a short video to mark the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s historic visit to Glasgow on 9 October 1993 to collect the Freedom of the City of Glasgow awarded to him in 1981 when he was still in prison. He also collected the Freedoms of eight other authorities, Midlothian, Aberdeen, Dundee, Newcastle, Hull, Sheffield, the London Borough of Greenwich and Islwyn.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Mandela famously said: “Whilst we were physically denied our freedom in the country of our birth, a city 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, declared us to be free.” Later he said that, while in prison: “it (the Freedom) made us realise that the world hadn’t forgotten us.”

Brian Filling, NMSMF Chair and Honorary Consul for South Africa in Scotland, said: “Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in Black history and it is important in Black History Month, and on the anniversary of his visit to Glasgow, that we remind people of his and the African National Congress’s struggle, and Scotland’s role in the fight against South Africa’s apartheid system, labelled by the United Nations as a crime against humanity.

“The apartheid system in South Africa was based on white supremacism and cheap black labour making vast profits for the West led and supported by Britain over decades”.

The six minute video will go online at 1pm on Saturday 9 October on the Foundation website at www.mandelascottishmemorial.org/9oct2021, Facebook www.facebook.com/MandelaScottishMemorial and YouTube https://youtu.be/tBo6v26ugjU It includes archive footage of Mr Mandela’s visit and a first-hand reminiscence from Michael Kelly, Lord Provost of Glasgow in 1981 when the Freedom was granted. Music comes from Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra playing “Nelson Mandela’s Welcome to the City of Glasgow” by Blair Douglas.

Monday, 1 June 2020

A new resource to keep Rodney Bickerstaffe’s legacy alive for current and future generations

First published (edited) in the Morning Star April 2020: Legendary Scottish miner’s leader Michael McGahey famously and often reminded us that, "We are a movement not a monument".

It was a quote that the late Rodney Bickerstaffe, ex UNISON general secretary and president of the National Pensioners Convention, kept returning to in his wonderfully crafted speech at the unveiling of a memorial to McGahey in Bonnyrigg at the 2006 Midlothian TUC Workers’ Memorial Day.

In light of that, what would Bick (as so many knew him) make of the new memorial website launched this week by friends and comrades to celebrate his life and learn from his legacy? rodneybickerstaffe.org.uk

We hope he would have welcomed it. He certainly put enough work in during his latter years to ensure that as much history, information and learnings were deposited in the archive at Warwick University.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Denis Goldberg: Making life better for people. Is that not what the revolution was about?

Tributes poured in across the world last month on the news of the death of veteran anti-apartheid campaigner and honorary UNISON member Denis Goldberg.

UNISON Scotland had a long friendship with Denis and we were continually inspired by him.

He was sentenced in 1964 in South Africa alongside Nelson Mandela for his part in the struggle against apartheid. On his release 22 years later, he continued to work to overcome the apartheid regime.

He visited us often and, in Glasgow at the launch of his book in 2008, he said of Scotland: “After being released from prison, my goodness, it was like being at home, of being enfolded by people wanting to help. Which is why I am here today”.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

STUC opposes Trident as 'an extravagance and an irrelevance'

The STUC has renewed its call for Trident replacement to be abandoned and will revisit setting up Trade Union CND, focussing on job diversification for workers employed on Trident.

In a debate with major UNISON contributions from the union itself and several trade union councils, delegates rejected a GMB motion calling for Trident replacement as the ‘only game in town’ to defend jobs.

UNISON NEC policy chair Jane Carolan, in a rousing speech, supporting a Clydebank TUC motion, dubbed Trident: "An extravagance and an irrelevance" (see full text of her speech below).

UNISON activist Tom Morrison had moved the motion for Clydebank TUC, seconded by Arthur West from Kilmarnock and Loudon TUC. Both made reasoned, evidenced and devastating critiques of moral and economic case against Trident.

Kate Ramsden, speaking for Aberdeen TUC’s motion slammed the arms trade that sells weapons to repressive regimes.

She said: "Remember the bombardment of Gaza in 2014? The devastation wrought by Israeli bombs and missiles whose component parts were made at the Raytheon factory in Fife.

"Arms sales fuel conflict, support repression and make the world a more dangerous place for all of us, but especially those who through accident of birth, live in war zones or under oppression.

"And in the process, very rich people are becoming even richer on the backs of the suffering they create and care little for. It’s immoral, it’s obscene and it has to stop."
Jane Carolan’s speech to STUC against Trident Renewal

Friday, 25 March 2016

Brian Bilston’s ‘Refugee’ Poem

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or I
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(Now read from bottom to top)