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

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Hands off a nurse's right to strike

UNISON has responded robustly to the outrageous interference of the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) in the pensions dispute. On Thursday the NMC issued a statement (ahead of next week's ballot) implying that nurses taking industrial action would breach their professional code of conduct. Dave Prentis said “we have taken legal advice, and in our view, the NMC’s threatening statement was wrong. If members choose to take lawful industrial action they will not be in breach of the Code of Conduct". UNISON will be launching legal action on Monday:http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2474

Mission accomplished for International Brigade cycle tour

East London Advertiser reports on the National Clarion Cycling Club’s­ reception in Cable Street last weekend following a 645 mile cycle ride in honour of the International Brigade - which had set off from Edinburgh on September 19:

Rushlight by Elizabeth Rimmer

Perhaps at the damp end of a dour day,
when whey-thin clouds clot and curdle
against a washed out sky, and the puny wind
sharpens the rain in my face like teeth,

Friday, 7 October 2011

Low paid cleaners protest on World Day for Decent Work

Today is World Day for Decent Work and is being marked by a great initiative by UNISON members at London South Bank University who are calling on the Vice-Chancellor to pay them the living wage by holding a protest rally. More than a hundred cleaners, who are employed by Interserve get paid £6.08 an hour, and do not receive sick pay. The current London living wage is £8.30 an hour.

Mervyn the Money Magician Exposes How It Really Works

Is all the pain of recession and public sector pension attacks really worth it? Surely not when we have the ability to create money out of thin air and spend it into the economy!

Southampton City Council - selective action sustaining pressure on an intransigent employer

Yesterday's 24 hour strike by UNISON and Unite members in social work and street cleansing respectively was the latest phase of joint union action in a long running dispute against pay cuts. As public sector unions consider strategic industrial action beyond the one day national pensions strike planned for 30 November, the fighting example of Southampton merits consideration:

Thursday, 6 October 2011

UNISON's Iron Lady

The Belfast Telegraph published a profile of Patricia McKeown, UNISON Regional Secretary, following yesterday's successful 24 hour strike against the cuts. It claims she has a 'tenacity which has led some critics to characterise her as prone to being “hot-headed” - for her part Patricia says UNISON is “a trade union which is a real agent of social change, both at home and on [an] international basis.” http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/patricia-mckeown-tenacious-union-boss-who-called-the-action-16059765.html

Dissent & Devolution

Interesting reflections on yesterday’s UNISON strike in Northern Ireland by Lorcan Mullen on the Slugger O’Toole blog. Large scale strikes against cuts in devolved administrations are relatively unchartered waters and very complex given the cause and effect of austerity measures. There is political divergence between the hard line cost cutting UK Government and the administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales which since devolution have been generally pro-public services and less hostile to workforce interests but nonetheless operate within Westminster imposed financial straitjackets:

Cameron’s speech - a translation for trade unionists

UNISONActive apologies for the delay in posting this, but simultaneous translation from Tory to trade union English is fraught with the same difficulties as translating from Klingon.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

UNISON NEC debates upsurge in protest & strike action as whole union mobilises against austerity

The national industrial action ballot on pensions - involving 1.1 million UNISON members and over nine thousand employers - was the dominant issue at today's NEC meeting in London. General Secretary Dave Prentis gave a comprehensive report on negotiations and preparations for the industrial action, supplemented by reports from national officers responsible for communications, mobilising in regions and planning at UNISON Centre. http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=7264

Catgate – The Trivialisation of Human Rights

Cats tend to stink a fair bit and there is something very smelly and unpleasant about Teresa May. Many within the Tory party were concerned about her aptitude for gaffs and failure to grasp the most basic of issues but she excelled even her own stupidity by her calculated call to Sun Reader mentality with her ‘he only got to stay because of his cat’ speech to Tory conference.

Cameron's bankrupt monetary policy

Today the Guardian previewed prime Minister Cameron’s speech to the Tory Party conference. It exposes the complete lies and confusion that sit at the heart of the government’s economic policy. Cameron demonstrates a complete lack of basic economic understanding, either this is done on purpose to lull people into a false understanding or it is frightening example that the Tories in power really are quite stupid.

Bin this Tory rubbish!

Eric Pickles caused enough concern in Manchester when environmentalists scratched their heads wondering how a beached whale had arrived in Manchester but lo and behold it was merely Eric being kept wet by the tears of the thousands of workers he has laid off.

UNISON members strike against cuts in Northern Ireland today

In the largest industrial action to hit Northern Ireland for 30 years, a 24 hour strike against cuts is being staged by 26,000 UNISON members working in education, health and social care. Patricia McKeown, regional secretary, said: "recent reports indicated that we don't have a health service which is meeting its targets in critical areas such as accident and emergency. The workers are facing some of the worst cuts in their history. They have not been well treated or well served by the government and that is contemptible”

What has happened to workplace photography?

Philip Wolmuth, a freelance photographer, writes about the lack of representation of people at work in contemporary union journals, citing the example of the former NUPE Journal which frequently used photographs of members at work which ‘were very often unposed, documentary shots taken in workplaces – something that is now rare’. He cites as the main reason for the demise of ‘privatisation of so many services – from the railways and other public utilities, to hospital porters and school dinners – has made access difficult’ http://londonphotographers.org/2010/09/what-has-happened-to-workplace-photography/

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The government is burning the money that could save public services

George Monbiot exposes the profligate spending, waste and hand outs to the rich by the Con Dem Government which confirm the ideological nature of the relentless attacks on public services and the welfare state - all done in the cause of 'reducing the public sector deficit'... http://www.monbiot.com/2011/10/03/more-cuts-please/

Tory Ministers play to the right wing gallery

Few trade unionists were deceived back in 2009 when David Cameron's 'envoy' to the trade union movement Richard Balfe claimed that employment law in the UK was now a "matter of national consensus. After 11 years of Labour, the Thatcher legislation remains on statute. We have no plans for any major labour law reform" http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2009/01/15/48985/interview-richard-balfe-conservative-trade-union-envoy.html

NHS changes will cause 'irreparable harm' say health experts

As the House of Lords prepares to debate the health and social care bill next week, 400 public health experts have written to peers calling on them to reject the changes as pose a risk to patient care and safety: "it ushers in a significantly heightened degree of commercialisation and marketisation that will lead to the harmful fragmentation of patient care; aggravate risks to individual patient safety; erode medical ethics and trust within the healthcare system; widen health inequalities; waste much money on attempts to regulate and manage competition; and undermine the ability of the health system to respond effectively and efficiently to communicate disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies,"

Council Tax freeze is an attack on local democracy

Heather Wakefield, UNISON head of local government, writing on the public finance blog, makes a connection between the additional pension contributions being levied on council workers and the announcement by Con Dem Chancellor Osborne that council tax in England will be frozen in 2012/13 (by an injection of £805m of government funds) - which will disproportionately benefit wealthy property owners. At a time of massive budget cuts, the removal by central government of the autonomy of councils to levy local taxes to fund discretionary services is also an attack on local democracy:

Monday, 3 October 2011

Scandal of social care worker exploitation

The Guardian reports on research by King’s College which reveals that a least 150,000 workers in the UK social care sector may be getting paid less than the minimum wage. The research will be reported tonight on BBC1’s Panorama programme: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/oct/03/social-care-workers-pay

Cable Street 75 years on - No Pasaran!

"History is too often about Kings and Queens, Dukes and Duchesses. But here (Cable Street and the International Brigade) this, this is our history. Take pride in it. Racism and Fascism have many heads. Every day, like a farm or a marriage, you have to start afresh (in the fight). Learn our history. Cherish our history. Use our history" said former UNISON GS Rodney Bickerstaffe in a stirring contribution to the Cable Street 75 anniversary rally held yesterday in East London. http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/110246

Massive anti-Tory mobilisation in Manchester

A large UNISON contiingent was at the forefront of yesterday's 35,000 strong TUC organised March for the Alternative at the Tory Party conference in Manchester. UNISON Deputy Regional Convenor Rena Wood addressing the rally condemned Con Dem attacks on pensions which were 'paving the way for privatisation of public services' and called for a Yes vote in the ballot for strike action planned for 30 November: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/02/protesters-manchester-conservative-conference

Sunday, 2 October 2011

UCS concert hits the note for the future as well as the past

The mournful moan of a cello, and the sharp clang of hammers introduced Work-in at UCS, the premiere of a brass and traditional instrument suite written especially for this 40th anniversary concert, by prominent scottish composer, Eddie McGuire. The eclectic mix of instruments signalled the variety of the concert put together by Musical Directors, Rab Noakes and Hilary Brooks.

Tory plan to remove employment protection must be opposed

In a fawning pre-conference feature in Murdoch's Sun, Chancellor George Osborne MP signals his intention to block workers from taking employers to employment tribunals for unfair dismissal until after two years of continuous service — it currently stands at one year. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/3847683/Chancellor-George-Osborne-strikes-back.html

The Conservative Party is a partly-owned subsidiary of the Banking elite

Discredited hedge funds, financiers and private equity firms contributed more than a quarter of all donations to the Tory Party in the past year according to research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. These ill gotten gains added to donations from other City of London firms made up over 51% of Tory party donations, leading the report's authors to conclude that 'the City’s financial influence over the Tories has deepened in the past 12 months':  http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/09/30/hedge-funds-financiers-and-private-equity-tycoons-make-up-27-of-tory-funding/

Empowered workers are best antidote to fast buck economics

'A post-Thatcher, post-Blair economics requires a break from the hostility and contempt for organised labour that has been one of the continuities of government in these destructive decades' argues Hilary Wainwright on the Comment is Free blog. If Labour leader Ed Miliband is to realise his vision of valuing the labour of "every man and woman who goes out and does a day's work" then organised workers must be empowered in the workplace: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/30/ed-miliband-economics-taboo-1970s

Ultradian rhythm by Pam Brown

     I think that’s
  Finnish for ‘made up’