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

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Britain’s low pay epidemic

'Low Pay Britain 2014', the Resolution Foundation’s annual audit of low pay across Britain, has found that the number of people earning less than two-thirds of median hourly pay, equivalent to £7.69 an hour, rose to 5.2 million, an increase of 250,000 on the previous year and 22% of the national workforce:

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Italian trade unionists stand up in defence of workers' rights

In their biggest protest for a decade, up to one million Italian trade unionists mobilised in Rome yesterday in opposition to attacks on employment rights by the Democratic Party led Italian Government. Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL, the trade union centre which organised the protest, said: "We want work for everyone, and work with rights. This is a demonstration for those without work, without rights, those who suffer, who have no certainties for the future. We are here and we're not going away. We will strike and use all our strength to fight to change this Government's policies."

In This Light by Alan Dunnett

You sit with the others staring at the agenda.
Everything is in order and respectable.
The chairperson is venerated, the coffee
is not instant. The doorknobs are burnished gold
in this light.

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: