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

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Protest to Survive?

'Since 2011, the trade union movement has focused on building A to B marches and ‘co-ordinated strike action’, bringing together multiple sectors of the economy for a set of largely symbolic and defensive one-day strikes. This strategy has since witnessed a slow death by repetition' writes Michael Chessum on the New Statesman's blog reflecting on last Saturday's Britain Needs a Pay Rise march in London and simultaneous protests in Belfast and Glasgow.
     Over the conference season and in UNISON's In Focus magazine a much needed 'Autumn of Action' was launched to defeat public sector pay restraint but even before our clocks were turned back this strategy foundered as the NJC unions, first GMB and Unite (a crucial fact omitted by Chessum) and then UNISON, suspended the 14 October local government strike. Treasury claims that since 2010 pay restraint has removed £12bn from the pocket of public sector workers with minimal union resistance provides hard evidence to support Chessum's polemic that unions will need to raise our game if we are to defeat the 'entrenched Thatcherite consensus' which promises us further austerity and pay freezes regardless of next May's General Election outcome.

It’s also fine by Mourid Barghouti

It’s also fine to die in our beds
on a clean pillow
and among our friends.
It’s fine to die, once,
our hands crossed on our chests,
empty and pale,
with no scratches, no chains, no banners,
and no petitions.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How the UK's privatised electricity industry mutated into (foreign) state owned corporations

The widely acclaimed 'Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else’ by James Meek is, according to the FT's reviewer, ‘a book to read if you want vivid details of what went wrong’ in the aftermath of the Conservative Party’s orgy of privatisation in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The book's stand out essay, on the sale of UK electricity, charts the changes in ownership which have left foreign but state owned corporations dominant in the sector. It was first published in the LRB and can be read here. It highlights the contrasting approaches of UNISON and the French union CGT, with the latter bemused at the lack of resistance shown by UK unions to privatisation and foreign takeovers.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Unions and the 'Post Political Labour Movement'

For decades union activists across the world have argued the case for or against alliances between trade unions and social democratic parties, or with other parties with political and organisational links to the trade unions.

In the UK it has raged around the links to the Labour Party, now reformed (or `deformed` depending on your position) once again by the fallout from the Grangemouth and Falkirk  episodes involving Unite and the Labour Party. UNISON retains its still superior (in the light of those 2 incidents) options of Labour Link or the attractive option of the Political Fund, or even `none of the above`.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Building the fight for fair pay in the NHS

#NHSpay This week has seen UNISON lead the NHS trade unions into industrial action over pay for the first time in 32 year, the first time coincidentally since the year I was born.
    Monday's four hour stoppage by UNISON, Unite, the GMB, and most notably the Royal College of Midwives, saw disruption across the health service. Appointments and operations delayed or rearranged, wards and departments not cleaned, non-striking managers pushing beds around instead of porters. But more importantly perhaps it got huge and mostly supportive media attention and a huge amount of public support, be that people coming and talking to the picket lines, on radio phone-ins or social media.

Thou shalt always kill by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Thou shalt not steal if there is a direct victim.
Thou shalt not worship Pop Idols or follow Lostprophets.
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer,
Johnny Hartman, Desmond Decker, Jim Morrison,
Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barrett in vain.
Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30
That plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile.
Some people are just nice.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Public service strikers are standing up for the real Britain

'After years of real pay cuts public service workers are fighting back' writes Seumas Milne of the
Kingston UNISON midwives on NHS strike
Guardian in an article taking stock of the upsurge in public sector strike action since July. Milne rightly identifies the toxic mix of austerity and privatisation as the key factors in the squeeze on the pay and job security of Britain's public services workforce:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

European Commission offensive against workers' rights

The TUC's Stronger Unions blog reports on the final report of the European Commission's so called 'High Level Group on Administrative Burdens' which recommends a range of deregulatory measures including 'calling for targets for reducing regulatory costs, ensuring that any new costs are balanced with reductions elsewhere and a “think small first” principle exempting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from EU obligations as far as possible.' Alongside the Commissions REFIT programme which is blocking any new health and safety directives and the UK Tory EU reform agenda, the neo liberal direction of the 'European project' is becoming clearer by the day:

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Still the Enemy Within reviewed - remembering the lessons of 1984/85 Miners Strike

#stilltheenemywithin In yesterday’s NHS strike, soldiers were deployed to ambulance stations in some parts of the country, as England’s Chief Nursing Officer claimed that ‘robust plans’ were in place to counter the industrial action. Such a disproportionate state response to a 4 hour stoppage in public services shows that nothing much has changed in the industrial landscape since the 1984/85 miners strike.

The new documentary film Still the Enemy Within is a powerful reminder of the extraordinary struggle of the National Union of Mineworkers to defend their communities and livelihoods in the face of a calculated attack by a ruthless Tory Government. Using a combination of personal testimonies, archive footage, photographs and re-enactment, the film reflects on what the strike achieved in terms of solidarity and struggle but perhaps more importantly why it ultimately resulted in defeat. An important fact highlighted early in the film is that only 16,000 of the NUM’s then 160,000 membership were active on the frontline during the strike.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Solidarity with the NHS workers strike!

#Oct13 #NHSPay Monday 13th October will see the first national pay strike in the National Health Service in England for over thirty years. UNISON, RCM, Unite and GMB members across the country will take strike action for 4 hours from 07.00 until 11.00.
   Nurses, Health Care Assistants, Paramedics, Midwives, Occupational Therapists, Porters, Security, Technicians, Administrative and Clerical staff will stand shoulder to shoulder to show their anger at Jeremy Hunt’s decision to single them out for the worst pay settlement in the public sector. Hunt rejected the miserable 1% recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body and instead imposed an unconsolidated 1% only for those on the top point in each pay band.