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

Saturday, 20 December 2014

What workers read in 1909

The discovery of a time capsule left in the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh by joiners in 1909 has thrown a fascinating insight into where the workers of the day got their news. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/

It contained a copy of ‘The Labour Leader: A Weekly Journal of Socialism, Trade Unionism and Politics’, a paper set up by Keir Hardie in 1888. Stories covered in the 19 March 1909 edition included the Paris Strike of postal and telecoms workers, ‘The Liberal Betrayal’ (what’s new?), ‘Welsh Notes’ on the threatened coal strike and the Russian Azeff Affair.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Phoney Deficit Mania

Since the publication of the Con Dem Autumn Statement a new reverse paradigm has been introduced into the economic debate in Britain - cutting the deficit versus borrowing. Self serving Tory assumptions about the need for permanent austerity rule the roost. The deficit must be solved, taxation on big business and the wealthy must be minimised, public services outsourcing should be extended to everything but core functions and, of course, public sector pay should continue to be held down despite 6 years of wage stagnation.

Seumas Milne, writing in today's Guardian, challenges this new orthodoxy using the ample evidence of failed austerity policies since 2010: 'where Cameron, Osborne and their friends have succeeded, of course, is in convincing large numbers of people that Labour spending was somehow responsible for the crisis – which it wasn’t – and in turning the budget deficit into the central issue of economic policy – which it isn’t. In reality, the deficit was below 3% when the crisis was triggered by a financial crash – and up to that point public spending under New Labour, at 38.7% of national income, was lower than under every other government since the 1950s. And the budget deficit is only a reflection of the real problems in the economy and cannot be controlled by the government, as Osborne has demonstrated so comprehensively'

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Brendan McCarthy - a union man with a big heart

Brendan McCarthy former Joint Regional Convenor for UNISON Northern Ireland and Branch Secretary of the NUPE North & West Belfast Health Branch and the UNISON Royal Hospitals Branch died last week.

Brendan was a member of NUPE and UNISON for most of his life. He loved the union. He met his late wife, Frances, while working in the Royal Victoria Hospital. His mother, his brother George and many of his family members worked there too. His son Conor McCarthy is the current Joint Chairperson of the Branch. He loved his family.

Throughout his long service as a trade unionist Brendan helped thousands of members and they, in turn, consistently elected him as their chosen union rep. In the 80’s and 90’s he led some of toughest strikes we have ever experienced, including the longest strike in the NHS in Northern Ireland, which we won. Brendan went on to work for the union as a Regional Organiser.

Brendan believed passionately in the dignity of working class people. His service to the members is a matter of record. He also had a big heart. Few people know that he worked quietly to bring some joy to lonely pensioners in his community. He was our friend and colleague and we will miss him.

Patricia McKeown

Monday, 15 December 2014

Police Chief disregards compelling evidence

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, writes in today's Guardian and calls for 'radical structural reform' to deal with the impact of Government funding cuts. His solution includes proposals for force mergers and predictably the 'opening up all but core policing functions to competition'.
    Clearly Hogan-Howe has not applied his detective skills to the track record of outsourcing companies in the criminal justice sector. Barnet UNISON has compiled a useful list of private sector commissioning failures. Maybe the branch should contact Crimestoppers?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Italian unions stage General Strike in defence of workplace rights

Yesterday Italian unions staged a General Strike in protest at the Jobs Act which seeks to deregulate employment rights by weakening national bargaining and removing protections against unfair dismissal.

CGIL leader Susanna Camusso addressing a strike rally in Turin said: 'The government has to change its policies on employment. The Jobs Act and the budget do nothing to revive the economy and create jobs' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30447158

An Account of Despair by Volker Braun

When she entered
And set down her empty bags on my tabletops
I felt caught out in my
Missed deeds.

The evening news dripped bloodily from the screen
And the bed stood encircled
Aside in the uninhabited zone.

She approached and embraced me
At once as though she could not be wrong

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A welfare state for corporations not the people

An extensive article and research by Kevin Farnsworth on the Renewal website examines the extent to which UK public policy is skewed in favour of private companies – placing business tax cuts, deregulation, privatisation and a weakening of employment rights etc in the context of a corporate welfare state. ‘Direct and indirect public provision that is aimed at private companies accounts for a significant share of state expenditure. During these times of austerity and public sector cuts, a detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of corporate welfare is essential to weigh the direction, emphasis and trade-offs associated with corporate welfare’

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Institute for Fiscal Shock Therapy

The past week's debate sparked by the 2014 Autumn Statement has confirmed the marginalisation of trade unions from British current affairs. Even in the recent past the trade union response to Government policy announcements on economics and public finances would be prominent in media coverage and commentary.
    These days hacks from unrepresentative lobby groups and 'think tanks' dominate the airwaves with none more ubiquitous than the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Long held to be of neo liberal bias and a consistent advocate for lower business taxes, the partisan views of this organisation have been used to reinforce the austerity paradigm - ramping up future cuts projections (ludicrously presenting the Tories as deficit deniers) rather than questioning the absence of measures to boost growth and public revenues including raising Corporation Tax on the profits of already cash rich businesses.
    Unless trade unions quickly raise our game and voice in the public debate then the new cross party orthodoxy on 'solving the deficit' (aka permanent austerity) will become irreversible.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Austerity - Just Say No!

‘Even if the government/OBR forecasts for the scale of the cuts prove to be unworkable they amount to a plan for permanent austerity, of ever deeper cuts. They are also a Tory trap for Labour, which has said it will also aim to balance the budget without challenging the framework that it is the investment strike and weak growth that causes the deficit’ warns the Socialist Economic Bulletin in its analysis of last week’s Con Dem Autumn Statement. A rare and welcome antidote to the ramping up of 'inevitable' austerity cuts which political commentators and parties have rammed down our throats in recent days:

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

16 years is too long. Justice for the Miami 5 Now!

Tonight many UNISON members and other trade unionists will attend the annual Candlelight Vigil for the Miami Five outside the US Embassy starting at 6pm. Speakers include a special guest from Cuba Aleida Guevara, daughter of Ché, and UNISON AGS Roger McKenzie. Aleida attended Saturday’s Latin America 2014 conference where she spoke at a packed session on Cuban internationalism. She graduated as a doctor whilst on a medical mission in Nicaragua, served in Ecuador and Angola and recently volunteered to go to Africa as part of the Ebola mission.