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

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

UNISON must get anti-austerity, workers' rights and anti-TTIP message into EU vote debate

UNISON's Jane Carolan, speaking at today's Institute of Employment Rights Conference outlined the history of the union's position on the EU and the referendum debate ahead. This is the full text of her speech:-

'What happened in Greece was not 
an aberration from EU policies but a 
logical consequence of them.' 
Jane Carolan
"UNISON has no policy from NDC (National Conference) on the issue of leaving the EU. That may surprise some who have seen our regular opposition to policies on the European Union proposed through TUC Congress but there is no contradiction here. Quite simply UNISON’s democratically agreed policies have consistently been ultra-critical of the EU institutions practices and policies BUT not one of the motions that we have passed has actually gone on to propose that as a result the union should commit itself to backing an EU withdrawal.

This goes back to the first national delegate conference of the union. When Nalgo, NUPE and Cohse came together to form UNISON the Nalgo left could see from the proposed rule book that the new union was to be pro public service, anti-privatisation.

However there were a number of policies that had been hard fought for in the old Nalgo that needed to be reiterated in the new union. One was Palestine, where support for the self determination of the Palestinian People had been initially narrowly won in the 80s. A second was opposition to Trident replacement and a commitment defence diversification that remains UNISON policy to this day.

What can I say other than plus ca change…

And the final one was opposition to the Maastricht Treaty.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Humanity - a poem for refugees by Joy Johnson

Packing up her school books
Laughing with her friend
It only took a moment
For her school days to come to an end

“We’re only kids in school”
Her voice was pained but clear
Bodies charred and disfigured
She was defiant in a time of fear

Sepia soldiers in the trenches
Skin blistered, bandaged eyes
Clinging to their comrades
In agony a generation dies

Winter froze the Arab Spring
Targeted for slaughter
Children no longer protected
Someone’s son, someone’s daughter

Pitiful souls crammed together
Clinging to flimsy protection
Abandoned to treacherous water
A flotilla of desperation

Over the Aegean Sea
T. shirts, trainers images haunt us
A testament to life’s fragility
Would be scientists, doctors, nurses

Hands reach out and clasped
Out of tyrants clutches free at last
But razor wire greets the huddled masses
And says No to the new colossus
Read Emma Lazarus’s famous poem which is engraved on the Statue of Liberty

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

UK unions must stand with their Turkish and Kurdish brothers and sisters at this time

The trade union confederations in Turkey, KESK and DISK, along with the Engineers and Architects Association and the Medical Association organised the demonstration and rally in Ankara on Saturday which was attacked by two bomb blasts which have resulted in the death of over 100 people with many hundreds more being injured. The demonstration was called under the slogan of ‘Labour for Peace’, writes Stephen Smellie, branch secretary of UNISON's South Lanarkshire branch and depute convener of UNISON Scotland

The progressive trade unions decided to call the demonstration in order to provide a focus point for all those in the country who are opposed to the policies of conflict promoted by the Turkish government of President Erdogan and the AKP (Peace and Development Party) and the increasing violence targeted mainly at the Kurdish community by state forces.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Women in UNISON

When national newspapers (Gender And Unity In The Labour Movement - Guardian 17 Sept) are used to urge that its time for 'a woman' to lead UNISON perhaps its time to look at where women are in the union.

The leadership of UNISON, as national newspapers may not be aware, lies in the lay membership. At its pinnacle is the National Executive Council, of whom at any point in time two thirds will automatically be women, due to an election process that awards seats at every level on the basis of proportionality, reflecting the proportion of women in the membership. The presidency of our union is guaranteed to consist of at least two women out of a structure of a president and two vice presidents. This means that in the last eighteen years since the merged union elected its own president, only six men have ever held that office.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

We have a moral and legal obligation to help refugees: Jane Carolan full #TUC15 speech

“We have a moral and legal obligation to help refugees”, UNISON NEC member Jane Carolan told delegates today in a moving speech backing a statement committing the General Council to campaign for Government policy to:
- recognise that the UK must play a full role in supporting refugees and fulfil its moral and legal obligations to significantly upscale its resettlement programme
- participate fully in a continent-wide response to the refugee crisis
- make welcome tens of thousands of refugees whether from camps in the Middle East or already in Europe
- .fully fund refugee resettlement, avoiding the exploitation of refugees and avoiding extra pressure on poorer inner-city communities, whilst ensuring that the international development budget is only used in line with OECD guidelines on official development assistance.

"Jane’s full speech is below.

This motion refers to events that everyone in this hall must be aware of, from the images that have been beamed into our homes on a nightly basis. I would hope that no one in this hall watches them with anything other than compassion and pity.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Pay - doing nothing is not an option

On Thursday a national pay summit was held at UNISON head office with representatives in attendance from all regions and service groups. Co-chaired by President Wendy Nichols and NEC Policy Chair Jane Carolan, the seminar was opened by General Secretary Dave Prentis who set out a context of Government long term 1% pay restraint, relentless public services cuts, vicious attacks on tax credits and the huge threat posed by the Trade Union Bill. https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2015/09/special-unison-summit-plans-to-tackle-pay-freeze/

In a speech outlining the challenges facing UNISON branches and members in local government, SGE Chair Glen Williams posed the big question to delegates - 'Does anyone here think doing nothing is an option in terms of a pay campaign?' With national pay disputes progressing in further education and probation, the local government NJC claim recently submitted as well as an all member consultation on a 2.5% two year offer in Scotland, that question will be answered soon enough (full speech below).

Monday, 24 August 2015

Can the leadership debate re-engage Labour supporters?

It is sad to see process overtaking politics in the Labour leadership debate, especially because the campaign had at least contained something about visions and policies and how best to deliver on them.

That is what has engaged the thousands who have turned out to hear Corbyn. Many of them are young and have been enlivened by a political debate on austerity that has been completely missing from the mainstream (except perhaps in Scotland but even there we detect a gradual awakening that SNP rhetoric and policy on that issue are two different things).

Engaging so many people in that debate surely can’t be a bad thing. So has it re-engaged disaffected Labour supporters?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Labour ballot: The curious case of the Tory and the vote

Andy Burnham has expressed concerns that Tories may have been given votes in the Labour leadership election and many in Corbyn’s camp have been quick to dismiss this as scaremongering, or as means to invalidate the election outcome. Parking politics to one side this election has turned into a very curious way to run a ballot.

I work with an former Tory councillor who has received several mail shots from candidates as a ‘registered supporter’. He hasn’t been mischievous about this but his name for one reason or another over the years got onto Labour mailing lists. He jokingly quipped that he could have registered three votes using different email addresses, family names and accounts if he could be bothered – because it really is that easy to register as a supporter.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Kenny Bell remembered

On the 4th anniversary of his death, Colombian human rights organisation Nomadesc has produced a video tribute to the late Kenny Bell, Newcastle UNISON Branch Secretary and deputy Regional Convenor Northern Region.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

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