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

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of 2011 - Celebrate the Successes... It’s going to be a Long War

UNISON can look back on 2011 as a year in which our public profile was paraded effectively on a variety of streets and boulevards up and down the UK, leading to a good few column inches in newspapers and a position at the top of the hour news bulletins.

I am the daughter by Reeti Roy

I am the daughter
of this vast wooden land
where unspoken myths
lie buried in the sands.

Friday, 30 December 2011

A flawed attack on UNISON

Author Owen Jones uses a platform on the Union News website (reprinted by Labourlist and the Morning Star) when previewing the challenges faced by unions in 2012 to make an ill founded attack on UNISON:

UNISON activist meets Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma

UNISON has long had solidarity links with Burma. National Delegate Conference recognised Aung San Suu Kyi's achivements for speaking up for democracy and awarded her honorary life membership to show solidarity for her tireless campaigning work. In the Northern Region there are strong links with activists who have dedicated their energies to making that solidarity support something real and practical. Anne Stokle, a healthworker, is one such activist.

Job losses continue despite over £10bn in English Council reserves

The reserves held by local authorities in England will remain in excess of £10bn at the end of the 2011/12 financial year – a sign that many Councils are cutting back on jobs and services as a first resort rather than using reserves to balance budgets and offset reductions in Government funding. A full list of reserves is available at the DCLG website:  http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/2059125

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cuts to local authority causing a Social Care crisis

Age UK is warning that Britain faces an "absolute crisis" in social care for elderly people as a result of cuts to services. The Guardian reports on concerns from Michelle Mitchell, the director of Age UK, that increasing numbers of older people with considerable care needs were "getting absolutely no support at all, or poor quality and limited support" as a result of cuts to local authority provision. Research by the King's Fund shows that the number of older people who need significant care support but receive no assistance will reach almost 900,000 in 2012, rising to 1 million by 2015. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/28/care-elderly-crisis-charity-warns

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Bread and Roses Strike – Centennial Video

2012 marks the centennial anniversary of the Great Lawrence Strike of 1912 in Massachusetts, USA - popularly known as The Bread and Roses Strike. With original footage, the inspiring video "Collective Voices" tells the story of this important moment in the collective history of the working class:

Scrapping of private patient limit will create a two tier NHS

Government moves to lift the cap on the funds that NHS Foundation Trusts can raise from private work, in most cases less than 5%, to a maximum of 49%, comes as no surprise to UNISON which has waged a long campaign to defend the NHS in England from creeping privatisation sought by Foundation Trust lobby groups and successive Governments: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16337904

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Manchester ravaged by Con Dem austerity & cuts

A recent survey carried out by the Manchester Business School has concluded that by 2015 spending cuts will have taken £10bn out of the economy of Greater Manchester. Other key findings include:

• The regional economy lost 34,000 jobs and £1.5bn from the 2008 recession, even before the spending cuts began.

• Another 15,000 public sector jobs in Greater Manchester have since been lost or are under threat.

• There has been an 80% reduction in regional economic aid. http://www.mbs.ac.uk/about-mbs/news/view/?guid=f89bed32-50c8-43d6-9619-71a6fbdafdab  Two reports on the Manchester economic survey were broadcast on Radio4's PM programme on 22 and 23 December and can be heard at the following link within the next three days http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qskw

Monday, 26 December 2011

Industrial action to hit cleansing services in Chester

Joint action by the local government unions, UNISON, GMB and Unite, is about to hit cleansing services in Cheshire West and Chester City unitary council where a contract dispute has rumbled throughout 2011. Action short of action in the form of an overtime ban in the Streetscene service will kick in over the Xmas bank holiday in response to the Tory led authority imposing inferior contracts such as a 7 day working week rota system which would include removing the enhancements for working weekends and bank holidays, and involve staff having the majority of their annual leave days fixed by management.
A branch wide ballot for industrial action is expected to be held by UNISON early in the New Year:

Sunday, 25 December 2011

"The voice of weeping" by Felicity Currie

“The voice of weeping shall be heard no more.”*
The land that cradled mercy, justice, peace
Became for Zionists an “empty land”,
Birthright and home for Israel alone.
Birthright? No. Death-rite. Site of genocide;
Non-people’s slaughter easily denied.
A holocaust designed and coolly planned
Before the Nazi model. Now they own
An Israel whose bounds will never cease.

Bedlam—no lamb-child’s bed in Bethlehem:
A truth that so few care or dare to tell.
What is a Palestinian child to them?
At best the “if” at its frail heart of life.
At worst Christmassacre—ungodly strife
Until we give a home instead of hell.

* The title comes from Isaiah, a quotation also embedded in Milton's poem "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity".

Saturday, 24 December 2011

#N30 - Treasury briefing on the £500mn Damp Squib

Following a Freedom of Information request to the Treasury, a breakdown of the Government's £500 million estimate of the cost of the 30 November strike in defence of public sector pensions is available on line:

LGPS agreement is a victory - Socialist Unity blog

Andy Newham takes issue with those who claim that this week’s LGPS deal constitutes a defeat - ‘given the comment from some on the left, it might seem surprising to claim that this result is a victory, but I think they have both misunderstood the specific arguments about the LGPS, and also misjudged the political and industrial situation. Unfortunately, pension arrangements are an inherently complex and technical topic’

Christmas Legend by Bertolt Brecht

On Christmas Eve today
All of us poor people stay
Huddled in this chilly stack
The wind blows in through every crack.
Dear Jesus, come to us, now see
How sorely we have need of thee.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Tory campaign against union reps belies their contempt for democracy

Solomon Hughes, writing in the Morning Star, juxtaposes Tory MP Priti Patel’s support for the tyrannical Bahraini regime with her crusade against the workplace rights of trade union representatives:

24 hour public sector strike in Belgium

Yesterday Belgian trade unionists shut down schools, post offices and the national rail network as part of campaign to stop the new ‘socialist’ led Government from putting public sector pensions on a par with the private sector. Trade unions are involved in fighting attacks on workers living standards all over Europe. International links between unions are needed more than ever: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/

Trade union rights are human rights – John Hendy QC

Union News interviews John Hendy QC on the occasion of Liberty bestowing him with a well deserved lifetime achievement award. Asked how difficult it is to represent unions given the anti union laws prevalent in the UK, Hendy characteristically replies that ‘it’s not particularly difficult. Compared to the risks faced by lawyers and trade unionists in Colombia it’s child’s play really’ http://union-news.co.uk/2011/12/video-john-hendy-barrister-to-the-unions/

Thursday, 22 December 2011

4 Community Budget pilots confirmed – time to organise

The Government has announced that in 4 large areas public bodies are to be given the chance to pool budgets across all local public services – thus posing a major organising challenge to UNISON over the next 10 years – building workplace power to secure in house service delivery as the public service structures in England are transformed:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/22/councils-local-public-services-budgets The local authority areas selected for the pilots are:

LGPS impasse over – union consultation begins

Following the withdrawal of Tuesday’s letter by DCLG Minister Eric Pickles - which was seen as undermining the framework agreement for taking forward negotiations on the LGPS, UNISON will be consulting on the proposals - which ward off the 1.5% pension contribution increases due to commence next April: http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2559

Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy

Book launch with Ben White - author and activist Thursday, 26 January 2012, 6.30pm – 8.00pm at Amnesty International UK, The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA. Discussion followed by Q and A and reception - signed copies will be available to buy The event is free and will start at 6.30pm - please ensure you book to reserve your tickets http://www.amnesty.org.uk/benwhitebooklaunch

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

NHS Pension Scheme: final proposals published

Details of the Government’s final offer to NHS unions has been published with confirmation that 70% of UNISON members will not pay increased contributions in 2012/13 (thus avoiding the 1.5% increase due to be implemented next April under previously agreed ’cap and share’ arrangements’).
Key points of the offer are set out below: http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=7505

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

LGPS – ‘Deficit Tax’ Increased Contributions Averted

In October the DCLG commenced a formal consultation on increased employee contributions for LGPS scheme members in England and Wales - proposing increased contributions for all scheme members in posts with FTE salaries over £15,000 - rising from 1.5% for those earning under £21,000 to a maximum of 6% for ‘high earners’. Negotiations on the LGPS have successfully averted the DCLG’s proposed increases – which were due to be phased in between April 2012 and April 2014. http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/pensionconsultation

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tax Avoidance: Finding who's not paying what

An NAO report shows about a third of the UK’s largest companies paid no corporation tax at all. But they won’t tell us who they are. http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/0607/management_of_large_business_c.aspx

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Ultra left sows disunity as pensions negotiations enter critical phase

It is a sad reflection on the lack of integrity of certain unions present at Thursday's TUC Public Services Liaison Group (PSLG) meeting on public sector pensions, that lies and misrepresentations emanating from their ranks have been allowed to go unchallenged. Two basic facts about the PSLG meeting need to be stated:

Union bashing 'Nazi stag party' MP is sacked

Aidan Burley, the disgraced far right Tory MP who is leader of the anti- union Trade Union Reform Campaign has been sacked as PPS to the Transport Minister. A welcome development but surely this proto-fascist should be removed from Parliament? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nazi-stag-party-mp-is-sacked-6278863.html

How marginalised are trade unions in the UK?

Jerry Latter of Ipsos/MORI has written a short article on surprising opinion survey findings that the public view the public sector strikes as relatively unimportant in answering the question 'what are the most important issues facing Britain today?' Whilst the article doesn't give the alternative answers that the public gave, it does help us to reflect on the findings: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/blogs/thepoliticswire/962/Igniting-the-squib-public-opinion-on-strikes-and-trade-unions.aspx

The 20179th by András Mezei

Like ink on the blotting paper, the number
tattooed in Auschwitz splinters and spreads
on the inside of my lower left arm
when I ride the tram in the summer
and, forgetting myself, I happen
to reach up in my short-sleeved shirt
to hang on to the strap.

* * * * *

May I never lift my right arm
if I forget the mark on my left.


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Possible breakthrough in LGPS negotiations

A joint local government union statement issued yesterday reports that a “very positive framework" has been agreed with employer representatives which would enable full negotiations on a reformed local government pension scheme (LGPS) to start in January:  http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/C7500.pdf

Local Government jobs haemorrhaging as Con Dem cuts kick in

LocalGov.co.uk reports on Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures which show the local government continues to bear the brunt of public sector job losses, accounting for a phenomenal nearly nine out of ten redundancies across government. In the third quarter of 2011 alone, 59,000 jobs were lost of 67,000 overall in government:  http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=news.detail&id=104436
Full ONS report available here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/december-2011/index.html

The Desert by Arthur Coleman

Cope with alienation from
the person who has driven you
to this desert to walk through
without shade in the hot blaring sun.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Con Dem austerity is creating a ‘lost generation’- Prentis

As unemployment among women and young people rises inexorably, UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis accuses the Government of ignoring the human cost of its cuts in public services - ‘it is shameful to see that women, who make up the majority of low paid public sector workers, have had an unemployment hike of 45,000, to 1.1 million, the highest figure since 1988. Youth unemployment has also risen by 54,000, creating a lost generation of young people struggling to afford education, or find work, which the government will struggle to curb. Women and young people first in the government's jobless queues!’

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Cameron tells porkies on private sector job creation under Coalition

Excellent analysis by the TUC's Nicola Smith in challenging the Prime Minister's misleading spin on private sector job creation at PMQ's. The Prime Minister's claim that the private sector has created 581,000 jobs since the coalition came to power, with 336,000 being lost in the public sector over the same period is not supported by the facts: http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2011/12/pm-is-wrong-more-public-sector-jobs-have-been-lost-than-have-been-created-in-the-private-sector/

UNISONActive Analysis - We are ruled by the banks for the banks

Running this government are two sons of bankers. Cameron's father was a stockbroker, Clegg's is still chairman of United Trust Bank (and famously helped his son get some work experience). For its part, Labour spent so long outsourcing all economic thinking to Gordon Brown and Ed Balls that it has long lost the ability to argue against the orthodoxy of giving the City what it wants.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lehman Brothers: financially and morally bankrupt

Lehman Brothers was the first domino to fall in the collapse of the great ponzi scheme that banking is. That collapse, despite efforts by central banks and governments, continues to threaten to spread and places us in the state of austerity that we find around us. The courtroom drama ruling over the collapse of Lehman Brothers has concluded and Professor Richard Woolf reports in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/dec/12/lehman-brothers-bankrupt

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Record number of Palestinians displaced by demolitions as Quartet continues to talk

Twenty aid agencies and human rights groups report that Israeli authorities have stepped up unlawful demolitions in the West Bank including East Jerusalem over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families from their homes. The statement comes as the Middle East Quartet meets in Jerusalem in its latest effort to revive peace talks. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19857

General Strike in Italy against Euro-Austerity

Yesterday millions of Italian trade unionists took part in a general strike in protest against plans by the unelected Italian government to impose drastic austerity measures against working people, including attacks familiar to UK workers such as raising the retirement age to 66 by 2018 and reduce inflation indexing for pensions and other benefits: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/113068

Party Funding - no equivalence between trade union levy payers & corporate largesse

Scott Hill, writing in the Huffington Post UK blog, makes a spurious case for increased state funding for establishment political parties - by putting a few hundred Tory donor City millionaires on a par with the millions of Labour supporting trade unionists who make modest political fund levy contributions:

Monday, 12 December 2011

IS THAT A CRACK IN THE COALITION? The Truth about the Bust Up

Even those for whom weekends are for more popular pursuits, like watching Celtic beat Hearts, or voting for Harry from McFly in the ‘Strictly’ semi finals, there has been no escape from the Big Euro Bust Up.

TURC- heir to a long tradition of union busting in Britain

The Trade Union Reform Campaign led by the disgraced Tory MP Aidan Burley, is the latest in a long line of business-funded union busting organisations in Britain. The most notorious being the Economic League, founded in 1919 by a group of industrialists and a Tory MP under the name of National Propaganda. It was wound up in 1994 after its McCarthyite activities in blacklisting workers were exposed: http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Spies_at_Work

1911 Centenary Lecture - Tony Benn

Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke Central, (and also a lecturer in modern History) gives an excellent lecture on the BBC Parliament web site on Tony Benn - a reminder of what a radical Labour MP is and what an inspiration to wider action they can be. Nice also to see the ubiquitous Bick sat on the front row next to Tony Benn: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Burley Tory union basher joins Hooray Henry mates on pro-Nazi bender

Aidan Burley, the right wing Tory MP who is fronting the anti union TURC campaign's attacks on hard working trade unionists, is badly exposed by today's Mail on Sunday. It reports on his presence at a Nazi themed stag party in France last weekend. By their friends you shall know them... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?s=&authornamef=Matt+Sandy

'We teach life, sir'

Rafeef Ziadah is a Canadian-Palestinian spoken word artist and activist. Her debut CD Hadeel is dedicated to Palestinian youth, who still fly kites in the face of F16 bombers, who still remember the names if their villages in Palestine and still hear the sound of Hadeel (cooing of doves) over Gaza. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKucPh9xHtM&sns=fb

EU Funding - matching finance scandal in English regions

The UK Treasury has cut off the means for supplying match funding for EU money (previously provided via the soon to be abolished RDA's) and so £1bn earmarked for regeneration will be unspent. Not just that, but the Treasury can then pocket 2/3 of the unspent money. An absolute scandal! See a report from the Industrial Communities Alliance (formed in 2007 to represent local authorities in the industrial areas of England, Scotland and Wales) at http://www.industrialcommunitiesalliance.org/uploads/2/6/2/0/2620193/eu_funding_briefing_nov_2011.pdf  .

Broken by Polar Bear

To those of the broken homes
x-rays showing up close two broken domes
they sip cans while they’re smoking cones, but
always shows respect with well spoken tones
family moans,

Saturday, 10 December 2011

NHS Atlas of Variation confirms postcode lottery

Con Dem plans to break up the NHS in the name of "localism" will exacerbate existing regional disparities in patient care in England. The Guardian highlights tension between the Government's proposals for a "localised" health service and the need to impose basic minimum care standards: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/09/nhs-lottery-survey-uk-disparities

Unequal UK

Tribune reports that Britain has become one of the developed world's most unequal societies according to a recent OECD report. The widening inequality is caused by the growth in incomes at the very top - the share of the highest one per cent of earners rose from 7.1 per cent in 1970 to 14.3 per cent in 2005. :

Working at Last by Hugh MacDiarmid

He wouldn't do a hand's turn
As long as he lived, she said,
So I had him cremated
           Once he was dead.

He's been of more use since,
For you see, my dear,
These are his ashes
            In the egg-timer here.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Tory posturing on EU Treaty is to shift attention from economic failure

The bespectacled BBC political editor Nick Robinson (nicknamed ‘blue robbo’, reflecting his stint as chairman of the young conservatives) could barely contain his excitement as he gushed that the consequences of Cameron standing up to Europe "could scarcely be greater for Europe and for Britain's relationship with Europe".

Thursday, 8 December 2011

UNISON NEC takes stock of #N30 & next steps in pensions campaign

UNISON's NEC meeting in London today held an extensive review of last week's #N30 national industrial action. As on 26 March with the national demonstration against austerity, the union had demonstrated its unrivalled organising power by delivering solid industrial action in tens of thousands of workplaces and mobilising vast numbers of members in nationwide demonstrations. An official report on the meeting is available here: http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=7483

In the bleak mid winter of public services

As the Audit Commission and LGA warn of further job losses, it is clear that the emerging picture in public services is one of winners and losers. There is a huge disparity in the volume of job losses facing local government compared to other areas of the public sector. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16060193

Solidarity with Unilever workers' pensions fight

A strike involving almost 3000 members of Unite and GMB will start on Friday – workers in the private sector striking to keep their final salary pension scheme. The significance is not lost on us as public sector workers. The Government has tried to divide us from private sector workers by claiming somehow we were better off than private sector workers and should take a hit because we are lucky to have jobs and pensions that no-one in the private sector enjoyed. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/unilever-staff-prepare-for-strike-6273374.html

GOODBYE BARCELONA - special offer to union members

Goodbye Barcelona, is a new musical inspired by the International Brigades, who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War - and union members a special discounted rate of £10 a seat for the run of the show.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Great #N30 solidarity video from UNISON’s Canadian sister union NUPGE
For more on NUPGE’s public service campaign go to: http://alltogethernow.nupge.ca/

Burley Tory union basher has nose in freebies trough

Aidan Burley Tory MP for Cannock Chase and founder of the Tory front Trade Union Reform Campaign is calling for the regular publication of “all public money, resources, paid and unpaid time off given over to trade unions” by officials and civil servants. But on checking the Parliamentary Register of Interests, it can be seen that this self styled guardian of public probity is himself very amenable to largesse from vested interests.

Union character and organising beyond the workplace

On a day when Unite released their handy all in one policy guide which sensibly says that the union is committed to the organising of workers and rebuilding of shop floor trade unionism, its General Secretary announced a cut price 50p a week deal for students and the unemployed calling for 'those on the margins to organise, to come together to challenge the decisions made by the elite in the interests of the few'

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Socrates - response‏

Good to see UNISONActive acknowledging Socrates. Here’s a shot of him with Lula in 1985 from Sao Paolo press. MS

Barometers of Voodoo Economics - A lowdown on Credit Ranging Agencies

A key part of the Con Dem austerity mantra has been the importance of preserving the UK's AAA credit rating at a time when some eurozone countries are running the gauntlet of the credit rating agencies. The Council on Foreign relations (CFR) think tank gives a lowdown on the "Big Three" global credit rating agencies – US based Standard and Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch Ratings - who have been under intense scrutiny since the 2007-2009 global financial crisis.  http://www.cfr.org/united-states/credit-rating-controversy/p22328

The Socratic method of football & life

Brazilian footballer Socrates was a qualified medical Doctor as well as an active and brave Socialist who campaigned on and off the pitch against Brazil's military Dictatorship. He led the Corinthians team in 1982 to wear pro democracy slogans on their shirts and proclaimed his heroes were Che and Fidel. What a fantastic contrast to many modern footballers. http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/entertainment/articles/2011-12/05/socrates-brazil-football-captain-tribute/world-cup

Monday, 5 December 2011

'Trade Union Reform Campaign' - a Tory front sponsored by 10 Downing St

On 30 November, the day of the Great Pensions Strike, Tory leader David Cameron said in a letter of support to a shadowy front group that ‘using taxpayers money to fund trade union activity cannot be sustained, either morally or economically.’ Cameron provided no evidence to support his assertion but then the ideologues in the gallery he was pandering to don’t need much convincing. The Zelo Street blog has brilliantly exposed the forces from the Conservative Party’s right wing who are staffing the latest anti union organisation: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2011/12/welcome-to-more-astroturf.html  

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Report of Latin America Conference 2011 - Adelante!

The annual Latin America Adelante conference never ceases to amaze. It is amazing that yesterday on the first Saturday in December, for the seventh year running, hundreds of delegates turned up in London at Congress House for a whole day of workshops and speeches. It is amazing because the breadth of speakers and topics constantly expands, as Latin America delivers more progressive governments and real examples of human progress.

Bleeding Britain

US economist Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, in a nutshell explains the crassness of the Con Dem austerity measures masquerading as economic policy:

‘And yet what’s happening in Britain now is that depressed estimates of long-run potential are being used to justify more austerity, which will depress the economy even further in the short run, leading to further depression of long-run potential, leading to …

It really is just like a medieval doctor bleeding his patient, observing that the patient is getting sicker, not better, and deciding that this calls for even more bleeding’

Power Pollution by Stephen Emmerson

                 Belief Galaxy
dark courtroom –

the Islam of galaxy

given started out as traditional quantum stupidity

Saturday, 3 December 2011

After #N30 - what next for the pensions campaign?

An interesting scenario analysis on the pensions dispute from Gregor Gall, writing on the Union News website. The extent to which the TUC public sector unions, FBU excepted, maintain Wednesday's unprecedented unity in action will depend on developments in scheme specific negotiations. Gall looks at the tactical options of smart strikes, mass strikes or intensification of action, but is seemingly oblivious to the emerging tactic of large scale work to rule disruption being advocated by PCS, teaching unions and by UNISON (now preparing a national ballot for action short of strike in the ambulance service):

Poverty by Radical Rooney

Poverty stalks my dreams in the night
As he walks on the beach, ’tween tides of time
He shelters in shadows, away from the light
And thou I can’t see him, he follows my line
And nothing I do will make him take flight

Friday, 2 December 2011

Solidarity across the pond on #N30‏

US trade unions staged protests outside the British Embassy in Washington and in Consulates in all major cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Orlando and Las Vegas.Mary Kay Henry, the President of UNISON's sister union SEIU, wrote to Dave Prentis saying: 'Whether in the UK or the US; it is time to confront those politicians, CEOs and corporate backed right-wing movements who seek to destroy the public sector. It is time for ordinary people to retake control of their lives. It is time to act with the courage of our convictions and the strength of our numbers’ Photos can be seen here http://www.flickr.com/photos/seiu and a report can be read at http://strongerunions.org/2011/12/01/us-nurses-backed-our-pension-protests/

Northern Region welcomes Colombian delegation‏

UNISON Northern received a visit from a prominent pair of Colombian activists in November. Trade unionist, Carlos Gonzalez, and human rights defender Berenice Celeita, were in the region from 11th to 15th November. Carlos is president of Sintraunicol, the Colombian university workers union, and Berenice is director of Nomadesc, a Colombian human rights NGO that works closely with trade unions, afro-Colombian and indigenous communities to help them to organise in order to resist human rights violations. The pair were in the North East to participate in the Better Way international forum at Newcastle Civic Centre.

UNISON and the Great Pension Strike 30 November 2011

UNISON's members did us proud in the strike action to defend our pensions on 30 November 2011. www.unison.org.uk

Thursday, 1 December 2011

BBC must sack Clarkson for his #n30 anti union hate crime

Jeremy Clarkson is well known for discriminatory and xenophobic utterances, notably his offensive comments in 2009 about the then Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown. And it was no surprise back in August that the mass murderer of 69 Norwegian young  socialists quoted approvingly Clarkson's right wing nationalist views. However his comments yesterday on prime time TV about 2 million striking  trade unionists - that he 'would take them outside and execute them in front of their families' is tantamount to a hate crime against trade unionists:

#N30 – Turning the tide of a generation?

Seumas Milne writes in today’s Guardian about yesterday’s national industrial action across all public services. Despite hostile rhetoric from Tory leaders ‘up to two million public employees, from teachers and nurses to dinner ladies, ignored them and staged Britain's biggest strike for more than 30 years.... a powerful demonstration of democratic workplace strength – which offers a chance to begin to turn the tide of a generation’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/30/strike-turns-tide-of-generation

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bick: You have a legal right and moral duty to stand up to bullies

Upwards of 10,000 public service workers were treated to a barnstorming performance by Rodney Bickerstaffe today outside the Scottish Parliament. #unisonscotn #N30. Reaching out to the young people on the rally, he was cheered as he urged them, “You wonderful young people, you have a legal right and a moral duty to stand up to bullies and diktat or they will walk all over you”. see full story at http://unison-scotland.blogspot.com/2011/11/bick-you-have-legal-right-and-moral.html

Nothing more beautiful than organised labour #N30

So once said a wise colleague when just 20 of us were on strike. Try millions! keep up to date with strike day reports at
Solidarity from UNISONActive.

Pic: UNISON President and Birmingham Women’s Hospital nurse Eleanor Smith begins striking at midnight earlier today

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

OBR predicts public sector job losses will exceed 700,000 over next 5 years

OBR predicts public sector job losses will exceed 700,000 over next 5 years‏ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/budget/8922416/Autumn-Statement-2011-latest-OBR-forecasts.html

Con Dem's signpost permanent austerity

The Chancellor’s stubborn determination to stick to his plan despite the evidence that it is not working and won’t work in the future means that we are locked into permanent austerity’ commented TUC General Secretary on the Autumn Statement by George Osborne MP in which he confirmed further cuts in services, two more years of 1% pay restraint and signalled an introduction of local bargaining:

Unilever Workforce Votes For Strike Action Over Pensions

Private sector workers who produce Marmite have left a nasty taste in the mouths of the Government and their bosses by voting to take action over Pensions. Instead of swallowing Con Dem propaganda about public sector pensions they have shown in the most dramatic way that far from being separated from them - they agree and are ready to take action to defend theirs too: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/97075178-19d2-11e1-ba5d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1f6q7h5zw

UNISON membership surges as whole public services workforce gears up for #N30 strike

Yesterday Dave Prentis told a packed eve-of-strike press conference that there has been an unprecedented 126% increase in recruitment to UNISON over the corresponding time last year – with 81% of those new members being women. On one day last week, more than 1,200 new members joined through the union's website: http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=7407

Miliband: I don't support strikes‏: But UnionNews‏ reports Labour politicians give backing to strikers

Hopefully the New Statesman is mis-reporting Ed Miliband's views on the #N30 strike in defence of public service pensions. Over the next 48 hours we shall see? http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/11/labour-strike-miliband. But elsewhere in UnionNews, Labour politicians are reported as backing the strikers http://union-news.co.uk/2011/11/labour-politicians-give-backing-to-public-sector-strikers/

Monday, 28 November 2011

Write off the debt, bankrupt the banks, nationalise the financial system, and start all over again

On BBC Hardtalk Sarah Montague talks to Steve Keen, one of the few economists to have predicted the global financial crisis, about the possibility of another Great Depression, and how to avoid it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018ksby/HARDtalk/

The scandal of in work poverty

The Fair Pay Network (TUC, Citizens UK, Unite, Oxfam, CPAG and 12others) has posted a new viral film on the scandal of in work poverty and the need for living wage, presented by Tony Robinson and starring Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas, Polly Toynbee and the LUSH cosmetics chain. http://bit.ly/t1Vgpl

Claims don't match reality of 'strategic partnerships‏'

As Edinburgh's unions fought off a bid last week for partnership (privatisation) of the council's Environmental Services, the latest European Services Strategy Unit/PPP Database shows "evidence of a large credibility gap between the claims of strategic partnerships in procurement and the reality of high-cost, high-risk, and low performance contracts", according to Dexter Whitfield. http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/ppp-database/

Spot the bible bashing, union bashing Con Dem Minister on picket duty?

MP Michael Gove in case you don't recognise the wee soul. Click photo for more.

Windfall for local charities as Newcastle City Council refuses to cash in on #N30 strike action‏

Newcastle Council has pledged to hand over the wages it saves as a result of Wednesday’s national pensions strike - potentially up to £100,000 - to good causes.

North East women unite to Reclaim the Night

Hundreds of women gathered in Newcastle on the 26th November to take part in the first Reclaim the Night march and candlelight vigil to take place in the city centre. Women and men marched from the Haymarket to Eldon Square to mark the United Nations International Day to End Violence Against Women.

BBC poll confirms strong support for #N30 pensions strike

An opinion poll commissioned by BBC News suggests 61% of people believe public sector workers are justified in going on strike over pension changes - with greater sympathy for the industrial action amongst women - at 67% - compared to men, at 55%. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15910621

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Public sector pension scheme members singled out for 3% Deficit tax

Dave Prentis writes on the New Statesman blog about the Con Dem attacks on public service workers which have caused next Wednesday's #N30 strike. He highlights the under-reported and grossly unfair 3% deficit tax being levied solely on public service pension scheme members over the next 3 years - of which 'not a penny of the money raised will go towards pensions' http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/11/public-sector-workers-pay

Picketing on #N30

A UNISONActive reader reports that ahead of next Wednesday's action, some councils, including Harrogate in Yorkshire, are advising staff that picketing is limited to 6 pickets at any work location. This is not the case. The Government's Code of Practice on picketing states that 'pickets and their organisers should ensure that in general terms the number of pickets does not exceed 6 at any entrance to a workplace..' More information is available at appendix C of the UNISON Industrial Action handbook: http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/18193.pdf

The Comrades by Paul Summers

every season brings change: more empty seats for overcoats
& greasy caps, to prop up sticks.
their collars grow more loose,
their feet rattle in pristine shoes.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

'Quietly awkward' - The Independent profiles Dave Prentis

'...if he has an ideological worldview, he keeps it hidden behind the self-effacing exterior of a professional negotiator. His politics are to the left of the Labour leadership, but the views of the people he represents, all of whom work for the public sector, and most of whom are low paid, are to the left of the rest of the general public's' http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/dave-prentis-quietly-awkward-6268165.html

Postmistress by Lorraine Mariner

My friends laughed, when the computerised psychometric test
we took at school recommended I pursue a career
as a post office clerk, thinking of the battle-axe that sat
behind the counter of the post office we’d grown up with.
But at the post office this lunchtime there was something comforting
in the firm hand pressing ink stamp to paper; the air mail stickers
were bluer than any sky I’d ever seen and I could do worse
than find myself a sub post office to manage, where I could bestow
pensions and tax discs and at first light each morning
launch my very own fleet of postmen, the best sort of men,
the ones that know the only way to live this life is free in the afternoon.

Friday, 25 November 2011

LGPS - Funding Storms on the Horizon

The key question facing negotiators on both sides of the fence is this – will the reforms drive out the scheme members, because they impose too much cost on us? For if the members leave, both the government and the unions have a large headache to come. Why? Because as income falls, as scheme members leave, costs will rise dramatically and employers will foot the bill: http://www.professionalpensions.com/professional-pensions/feature/2125228/double-whammy-lgps  

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Why the test of 'adequate' should not apply to pensions

Should we accept the test of ‘adequate’ or like the living wage, we have campaigned for, shouldn’t pensions be about providing a ‘living’ pension rather than an ‘adequate existence’ in our retirement?

shadow Cabinet or a Cabinet of shadows?

It's time for Labour to make up its mind.
Does it support pensions justice for public sector workers or not?
A generation of workers will not forgive or forget if it doesn't.

EU competition law - the driver of privatisation

'Even our banks - bailed out by the tax payer - have to be reprivatised to meet the demands of EU competition law' says Carolyn Jones, making a case in the Morning Star for a better understanding of the neo-liberal, pro-big business DNA of the European Union and its institutions: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/

Deregulation doesn't work - will they ever learn?

Even the dogs on the street know that deregulation of the banking and financial sector caused the 2008 economic crash. In the UK alone £1,270bn private banking debt was bailed out by government, swelling so called public debt by 57% in one fell swoop. Now the TUC’s Touchstone blog reports evidence from an unlikely source – the IMF – that countries with the most deregulation have the worst performing economies and are hardest hit by the economic crisis: http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2011/11/debunking-the-deregulation-myth/

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

In-House: The Right Choice for the Right Reasons

Why the Edinburgh in-house option is 'best value'. UNISON has issued a briefing on why the In-House Environment Option is 'best value' and should be supported by councillors on 24 November: http://www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/citynotforsale/EnviroBriefng.pdf  . UNISON examines all the privatisation issues in a detailed briefing to councillors and urges a decision made on 'best value' for the people of Edinburgh. Check out the website for full details http://www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/

Con Dems to unveil Sacker's Charter

After 15 years of settled albeit inadequate employment rights in the UK, today the Con Dem coalition will unveil plans for a major attack on individual and collective workers' rights:

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Political environment & union density rates

A fascinating article on whether or not the political environment produces a correlation between union density and social democracy – that might explain why union density in neo conservative or liberal market economies like the USA and the UK continues to fall: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/changes-in-unionization-rates-in-rich-countries-1960-2010

Opt-in threat to trade union political funds

The long running inquiry into party funding by the Con Dem appointed Committee on Standards in Public Life is recommending that the clock be turned back 84 years and trade unionists be required to opt in rather than opt out of union political funds. Last time around this resulted in a halving of political funds:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/nov/22/party-funding-shakeup-rejection-promises

Con Dem NHS privatisation plans exposed

Last night Channel 4 News reported on Department of Health plans which show for the first time the scale of the involvement of private companies. The proposals are set out in a document called Developing Commissioning Support: Towards Services Excellence, which has been circulated to various health organisations. http://www.channel4.com/news/proof-government-plans-to-privatise-nhs

Monday, 21 November 2011

Irish government attempts to roll back Agency Workers rights

Unions in Ireland are resisting last ditch attempts to secure their agreement to a six month qualifying period for equal treatment for agency workers (ahead of the 5 December deadline for its introduction). Elsewhere, the EU directive has been applied from day one, apart from the UK where the TUC conceded a 13 week qualifying period in 2008 to the then Labour government: http://www.icem.org/en/73-Contract-and-Agency-Labour/4773-SIPTU-Fights-Attempts-to-Dilute-EU-Agency-Workers-Directive

Bored with Maude? Strike back on 30 November!

Bungling Cabinet Office Minister and Con Dem lead pensions negotiator Francis Maude MP yesterday took advantage of an easy ride with sycophantic BBC journalist Andrew Marr to issue an ultimatum that strike action later this month could threaten the "real prospect" of a deal over public sector pension reform http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15810074

Sunday, 20 November 2011

LGBT members mobilise for action on 30 November

UNISON's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) members meeting at our conference in Glasgow have shown our commitment and resolve to fight for equality and to stick up for LGBT workers and the services we provide and rely on. In a historic moment the conference was addressed for the first time by an out gay woman Vice President of UNISON Maureen Le Marinel.

Stop cutting women out!

'Hey, Hey, Mister, Mister, Get your cuts off my sister' was the message loud and clear from yesterday's women's march against austerity which included a vocal contingent of UNISON members.The event was organised by the Fawcett Society in response to the government's cuts which will put the clock back on the advances which women have made towards equality since the 1950's: http://www.demotix.com/news/932387/women-march-london-against-turning-back-equality

Over and Under by Harriet Zinnes

Over and under,
beyond, of course.
Beneath is not disclosure.
Above is vision.
There is an arc.
There is a triangle.
There is a square,
even a rectangle,
and then the great mystery:
people people who swarm the earth,
disconsolate, searching, weeping,
occasionally loving,
more often in battle, in hunger and disease.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

‘Don't Turn Back Time' on womens equality

Thousands of women will march in London today in support of a Fawcett Society day of action - protesting at the impact of Con Dem economic policies on womens equality. The march starts 12 noon at Victoria Embankment and UNISON national secretary Heather Wakefield will be among the speakers at the 1330PM rally in King Charles Street:  http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

The Fawcett Society says that:
-Female unemployment is rising as jobs are cut in public services
-The benefits and services women rely on more are being slashed
-Women on low incomes are becoming poorer
-The pay gap looks set to widen
-Women’s access to vital support services is being undermined
-Increasing numbers of women are being forced to give up work as cuts to childcare support means their jobs no longer cover the family’s care costs
The government’s approach to cutting the deficit is turning back time on women’s equality. This can’t go on.

Short of luck on Short Street by Chris Hardy

In a little room at the top of the stairs

I was taken to see my grandfather.

Only his head was visible

framed by thin white hair,

a white beard flared over the sheet.

The head croaked like a worn-out frog

Friday, 18 November 2011

Can our Pension Funds reform Capitalism? Yes they can...

Pension funds can change the face of modern capitalism if their investment and governance structures are fundamentally redesigned. Rotman International Centre for Pensions Management's director Keith Ambachtsheer told guests at the FairPensions annual lecture - held at Parliament last Tuesday night - that pension funds were "inter-generational investors" who could revolutionise the economic system.http://www.professionalpensions.com/professional-pensions/news/2125463/fairpensions-annual-lecture-drivers-performance-schemes

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Greek people rally against neo-liberal consensus

A massive rally is expected today in Athens as thousands of students and workers will join together to oppose austerity measures and commemorate the 1973 student uprising which brought down the US backed military junta. Almost 40 years on, there is a stark crisis of political representation in Greece with the banker led ‘unity’ government winning a vote of confidence in the Greek parliament yesterday by 255 votes to 38 – final proof that the ‘socialists’ of PASOK lie prostrate before the altar of neo-liberalism:

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Pensions at the Women’s STUC

Following another set of positive ballot results for action on November 30th, the STUC Women’s Conference debated a composite on public sector pensions on Tuesday. The debate highlighted the usual issues of working longer, paying more and getting less but recognised the particular effects that the changes would have on women as public sector workers.

30 November will test Ed Miliband's 'irresponsible, predatory capitalism' theory

The TUC co-ordinated day of action in defence of pensions which takes place a fortnight today will pose a bigger test for the Labour leader than the Con Dems writes Kevin Maguire in today’s Mirror:

Market forces threaten public library services

John Pateman writes on the Bookseller website about the growing threat posed to public libraries by closures and outsourcing of services by local authorities across the country: ‘there are very strong parallels between the National Health Service and the Public Library Service. Both were designed as public goods to deliver high-quality services at the point of need. They are both highly cherished and valued public institutions which set the standard for (and are the envy of) many other countries. And they are both facing unprecedented "modernisation" and "transformation" which will open them up to market forces and allow private providers to put greed before need’ http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/passing-buck.html

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Academies two tier workforce - salary pay outs and wages cuts

The Guardian reports today that Charities that run chains of academy schools are using public funds to pay senior staff six-figure salaries, with some on £240,000 or more. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/nov/14/academies-pay-200k-salaries?CMP=twt_gu

Debt-infected PFI chickens come home to roost

Back in 2002 at Labour’s conference, UNISON inflicted a (then) rare defeat on the party leadership over the Private Finance Initiative – the union case being that the expensive leverage of private money to renew public services did not provide long term value-for-money (£267bn in repayments are due to be made to private companies over the next 50 years). Tragically, Labour didn’t listen to the unions when in power and there is a bitter irony that a decade later it has fallen to a Tory Chancellor George Osborne to announce a "fundamental reassessment" of the use of PFI contracts in a bid to cut costs: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15731755  See also We said 11 years ago PFI was a bad deal - at last they’ve got it http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/siu/aug10/4.html

Momentum builds for 30 November day of action

#30Nov Yesterday, another five unions announced YES votes in industrial action ballots in defence of public sector pensions. 3 small specialist health unions - the Physiotherapists union CSP (86%), Radiographers SOR (84%), and the Chiropodists SCP (85%) - were joined by 2 civil service unions for senior managers FDA (81%) and professional staff Prospect (75%) http://strongerunions.org/2011/11/14/its-a-yes/

Monday, 14 November 2011

GOODBYE BARCELONA World Premiere - special offer to Union members

Goodbye Barcelona, is a new musical which celebrates the International Brigades, who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War. Many of the volunteers in the International Brigades were trade unionists, including the great Jack Jones, and the unions supported the Brigaders against the prevailing tide of opinion, and were an integral part of the fight against fascism from the Spanish Civil War through to today.
Union members are being offered a special discounted rate during the run of the show as well as on the Gala night on 25th November. This is the World Premiere of the show, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Brigades.

International Action Day for Qantas workers: 16 November 2011

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is calling on trade unionists worldwide to show solidarity with the workers and families of Australian airline Qantas. In the UK a protest will be held at the Australian High Commission at Australia House, Strand, London WC2B 4LA from 13:00 to 14:00 on Wednesday 16 November: http://www.itfglobal.org/press-area/index.cfm/pressdetail/6679

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Exposed - Con Dems' plan for a tsunami of outsourcing

Over 1 million public service workers could be transferred from NHS and local government direct employment to mutuals or private companies operating under a regime of competitive tendering according to the Independent on Sunday: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cameron-seeks-to-push-one-million-workers-out-of-the-public-sector-6261605.html

Northern TUC Forum for an Alternative to Austerity

In opening this weekend’s 'Rally for the Alternative' Clare Williams said we meet at a time of global economic, social and political crisis which makes the Northern TUC Forum for an Alternative to Austerity well timed. There is a crisis across the Eurozone, where the policies of neo-liberalism are being seen to fail. The response of Government's to impose ever more oppressive austerity measures on ordinary working people is one which must be challenged.

Wembley remembers la Quinta Brigada

Last night during the two minute’s silence before the England v Spain international, it was good to see a fan’s poster commemorating the International Brigades on their 75th anniversary:

'tis a creepin' boozh-wah dictatorship by Jim Sharp

the roads are lined with the coppers forces
and yet! we must march ahead of our sea change.
why shud we fear walking thru heavy metal?
who says the workers has no thoughtful minds?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

How quickly angels turn to devils

"One day [health workers] are angels but when they exercise their rights, they are devils – how quickly angels turn to devils”, warns UNISON’s Patricia McKeown in the latest issue of the ICTU Union Post, as a 'hostile' press gears up for 30 November. http://www.ictu.ie/publications/fulllist/union-post-november-2011/

Maude's 15 minutes of fame

For the first time since his 30 June live mauling by PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, Cabinet Office Minister and Con Dem lead pensions negotiator Francis Maude is attracting media headlines - with a bizarre offer to public sector workers of 15 minutes paid time off for a token strike on 30 November:

LGPS Fund mergers - elephant in the room?

In reviewing the looming industrial conflict over public sector pensions, the Telegraph has picked up that there are 99 different local government pension funds managing well over £100 billion in assets: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/pensions/8872087/Government-and-the-unions-should-unite-against-the-pension-fat-cats.html

Russell Tribunal on Palestine summary of findings now available!

"...the Tribunal concludes that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid"
Summary of findings, pictures and letter sent by Russell Tribunal to South African government are available here: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/
Full findings, videos and presentations will be available shortly.
Frank Barat

More Anti-Union laws in the pipeline?

Tribune reports on growing indications that the Con Dem government may be hatching a new anti-union Bill - with coalition propagandists targeting for starters; industrial action ballot turnouts/strike mandates, DOCAS periodic re-authorisations, paid time off for union duties and union political fund contributions:

Clean War by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

They are calling this the cleanest war in all of military history.
                             --Tom Brokaw, April 2, 2003

Friday, 11 November 2011

Racism in football - a workplace issue

Bob Abberley, UNISON Assistant General Secretary, gives his perspective on the racism allegations involving footballers John Terry and Anton Ferdinand and comments on how it might be dealt with in other workplaces: http://www.srtrc.org/news/

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The current Euro bond crisis - worried?

Interest paid by the Italian government on their bonds just went to 7.4% more than the Greeks when they were bailed out…interest rates on bonds are not fixed – they rise and fall against the price banks will pay for the next or current issue of bonds – so if the price goes down the interest rate or yield goes up.

Ohio voters give resounding support for trade union rights

Voters in Ohio turned out in large numbers to support trade union rights giving a landslide victory for a referendum that overturned the state law stripping public sector workers of bargaining rights. http://www.uniglobalunion.org/Apps/

Grasping the independence thistle?

‘Which way will the unions jump?’ asks Chris Bartter in a debate on unions and independence as the clock starts ticking on a referendum in Scotland. Just how difficult will that debate be since most STUC affiliates are UK entities, with few of them reflecting internally anything like the political devolution that exists in reality?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The anti-democratic death spiral of austerity

Larry Elliot spells out the anti democratic reality of decision making in the European Union - by the Frankfurt Group, an unelected cabal made of up eight people. ‘In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that electorates have resorted to general strikes and street protests to have their say...’

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Flaw - on More4 tonight at 10PM

The Flaw is a documentary movie along the same vein as Inside Job….it may or may not explain the money system but it is still worth a look on More4 tonight at 10PM: http://theflawmovie.com/index.html In October 2008 a humbled Alan Greenspan admitted to the US Congress that he had been mistaken to put so much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and that he had failed to anticipate the self-destructive nature of wanton mortgage lending and the housing and credit bubble it generated.