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

Monday, 31 December 2012

Lessons of historic Skye PFI victory

The 2004 victory against the Skye Bridge tolls was “a genuine victory and if we are to profit from it we need to learn the lessons. The fight was part of our historic movement", writes Malcolm Burns in the Morning Star. But the unjust PFI system still saw a £20m PFI bridge cost the public up to four times that including polls, subsidies and buy out. Burns reviews the story as told in ‘An Drochaid’ (The Bridge Rising) on BBC Alba at 8.05pm tomorrow or on iplayer until Saturday. http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/12775

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The ‘Second Job’ Propaganda Trick

In a contribution to the Tory Plebgate fightback, the Mail on Sunday is runnng an article on the 'scandal of 23,000 police who have two jobs.' In doing so the newspaper is recycling its despicable attacks on firefighters during the 2002 national FBU pay dispute and more recently in the 2010 London FBU shifts dispute. The real scandal of course is that so many public service workers are being forced to take part time second jobs (and third jobs in some cases) to make ends meet in an era of protracted public sector pay freeze, pay/tax credit cuts and an ever rising cost of living:

Con Dem cuts bias widens North South divide

A letter in today's Observer by Labour leaders of Northern English councils about the 'unfairness of the government's cuts' is a belated but welcome protest about the shameless bias in favour of Conservative voting areas in local government grant reductions since 2010:

For Salvadore Allende And Pablo Neruda by Alan Britt

I crawled from a lily pad
ripped by the claw of a caiman
gliding Zen-like down the muddy Amazon.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Low Pay endemic in Britain

45% of the workforce in Britain takes home two-thirds or less of the national median hourly wage and are therefore officially classed as low-earners according to a European Commission report published last week. Low pay in Britain is 27% above the EU average:

Everything Changes by Bertolt Brecht

Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Roadmap to Apartheid

Last week the African National Congress voted to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, declaring it was "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel." Democracy Now previews a new documentary film "Roadmap to Apartheid" - about the apartheid analogy commonly used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Sunday, 23 December 2012

2012 - beginning of the end for the NHS?

In 2010, when the then, Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley published his cynical government White Paper, titled ‘Liberating the NHS’, he set out the coalition government’s plans to systematically destroy the NHS in England. Initially it was the trade unions who recognised the reality behind Lansley’s sophistry. Meetings and rallies were organised to explain the government’s real agenda for health. This was a blueprint for privatisation, and the removal of health provision from the responsibility of government. The unions were castigated by the coalition as doom-mongers and dinosaurs who opposed change. Now that Lansley’s vision has been enacted through the Health and Social Care Act, it is little consolation to say “we told you so”:

Must we destroy or create? You, what do you think? by Andrea Raos

Must we destroy or create? You, what do you think?
this very monticule of sand, the accumulation of a few days
and a little wind, our eyes have seen it, is it now
a human creature, does it come from the chance play of my intention
or from some more vast
play of chance? You only have to look at a leaf for it to be transformed
into a leaf: you press your face against the moss
nothing happens. This sand once fixed
we call sand while without mentioning its name the ant-lion
did what it had to do, what it does constantly and what it will cease doing
one day. Thus, as I see
debris of ineternity this ancient rock
swallows me up and hates me. Destroy, create . . . hatred
was not made for man, it is I.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Another Country by Sean O'Brien

Get there if you can
– W H Auden

Scattered comrades, now remember: someone stole the staffroom tin
Where we collected for the miners, for the strike they couldn't win,

The Hillsborough Archive - UNISON NEC calls for a public enquiry in 1996

The Independent Panel on the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has published all disclosed material on-line and it includes correspondence from UNISON's National Executive Council - sent in 1996 by former General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe to the then Conservative Prime Minister John Major in support of a public enquiry:

Disabled People facing an Austerity Double Whammy

Across Europe austerity driven attacks on the welfare state are hitting disabled people particularly hard and 'reversing any gains made by disabled people in rights, access to employment and accessibility' writes Steve McGiffen:

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The undeniable case for Council Tax increases

Even the Tory led LGA accepts that local government has taken the brunt of funding cuts. The slash and burn approach to revenue support grants mean the cuts are now exceeding a third of all council spending by a further 5%, taking the cuts from 28% to 33%. The council tax freeze is only exacerbating the problem.

There must be 50 ways to save your council...

Well it’s not quite as tuneful as Paul Simon's ‘50 ways to leave your lover’ but bless his rather large cotton socks Eric is trying so hard to be popular he has delved deep down to the lowest common denominator amongst the blue rinse brigade – and yes you have guessed it – he has once again attacked the trade unions under the guise of 50 ways to save your council.

UBS corrupt payments exposed as bank pays £940m to settle Libor claims

From drug money laundering to fixing interest rates - crashing the economy and causing mass unemployment... yet NO ONE goes to prison. The fabric of our society is completely corrupted by banks, bankers and debt based money.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

An early Christmas present for the big 4 banks

Not content with robbing us blind, laundering drug money for the world's most dangerous drug gangs and fixing interest rates for their own trading and bonuses - now we learn that the UK's biggest "too big to fail" banks are to receive a big fat Christmas present in the form of £34bn subsidy from us! http://www.newstatesman.com/economics/2012/12/early-christmas-present-britains-biggest-banks-%C2%A334bn-taxpayers

Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale

An economics primer written and directed by Fred Glass for the California Federation of Teachers. An eight minute video about how we arrived at this moment of poorly funded public services and widening economic inequality. Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don't want to pay taxes anymore. They tell the people that there is no alternative, but the people aren't so sure. This land bears a startling resemblance to our land. © 2012 California Federation of Teachers

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

You want to be a Baron, Brother?....Err No thanks

Kevin Maguire in The Mirror salutes film director Danny Boyle's refusal of a knighthood and notes that he becomes a member of 'an exclusive rebel band' who have rejected knighthoods or peerages including former UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe:

We face big challenges, we have the mandate, now we need action

Rosa Pavanelli, the newly elected General Secretary of Public Services International, has written to all affilaited unions with a call to action.
'Congress mandated PSI to do many things, too many things. We will have to make some choices. Our resources are not unlimited and our staff complement is not huge. In order for us to fulfil the Durban mandate, we must prioritise better, be more flexible and more focused, and combine our capabilities more closely with your strengths and your priorities. I am convinced that PSI will rise to the challenges when we can better integrate and include our unions in all that we do'

Monday, 17 December 2012

Austerity a time of opportunity for trade unions?

The FT interviews TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber who is retiring this month and surprisingly attributes a comment to Brendan that austerity is a “time of opportunity” for trade unions. It's a well known cliche that a crisis or disaster can present an opportunity. But the loss of 1.1m public sector jobs over six years is certainly analagous to a tsunami:

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Final Offer - the art of collective bargaining

An award winning 'fly on the wall' film made in 1985, Final Offer takes an inside look into the 1984 contract negotiations between the Canadian branch of the UAW and General Motors. It is a unique insight into corporate power, the dynamics of negotiations, solidarity and union governance. It captures the tense events which led to the birth of the Canadian Auto Workers Union - by parting company with the US based international union:

Fukushima by Nazih Abou Afach

1. Tsunami

Wave after wave, wave upon wave.
The dead are not seen and their screams not heard.

Listen! Don’t listen! Listening without end.
No one can hear what the dead shriek.
Only the dead are able to hear their own screams.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Unions & Union Rights under fierce attack in USA

Amongst the news reports on Jimmy Saville's serial sex crimes, the Royal rush to hospital with morning sickness and the continued denigration of the poor, you may have noticed that union members in Michigan USA were demonstrating over something called the `Right To Work` Bill (RTW). Far from being a progressive statute to increase employment rights and terms it is designed to finally break trade unions:

The Guardian takes the pulse of UNISON

As the Con Dem Government passes the halfway mark in its term of office, Andrew Sparrow, the Guardian's political correspondent, has conducted a wide ranging interview with Dave Prentis which includes strong criticism of Labour's front bench - "They are avoiding all the big issues. There's no doubt whatsoever they want to avoid a discussion on privatisation. They want to avoid a discussion on public service pay. We won't let them"

No pride in Israeli apartheid

A group of delegates at the UNISON LGBT conference in November took part in a short film telling Israel they are not fooled by its attempts to woo them over by presenting Israel as a gay-friendly destination. Pinkwashing, a PR technique, aims to use opposition to homophobia to legitimise Israel and undermine support for Palestine:

M.A.D. by David Harsent

It will be the rat, he told her, the rat that first emerges
from the crud
and crap after the infinite rapture of the megaton strike,
its head
slick with what it burrowed through, what fell, what kept
it fed.

Friday, 14 December 2012

69% support state benefits increasing with inflation or more

The political elite and media collude in the myth that public opinion is hostile to state benefit claimants. This is the win-win assumption driving Con Dem attacks on the welfare state and so called benefit dependency.
 A new poll by Ipsos MORI confounds this myth. 69% of those polled oppose Chancellor Osborne's plan to cap benefit increases at 1 per cent for the next three years - 59% said they should increase in line with inflation and 10% said they should rise by more than inflation.
The Parliamentary Labour Party must oppose this draconian attack on the poor:

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Trident tangle and CND conundrum

Malcolm Burns' Morning Star criticism of Scottish CND's decision to throw their lot somewhat naively in with independence, has provoked a wee tizzie in the letters page from John Cox, CND vice-president. accusing the paper of 'giving comfort to the warmongers'. Those of us who are suspicious of independence and the SNP, but also opposed to Trident, are a wee bit insulted at this intemperate language. It is often the kind of language that surfaces when people find themselves in a mess of their own making.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Neither the Shadow State nor the Micro State but Universal Public Services

A new report by Social Enterprise UK correctly identifies the emergence of a ‘shadow state’ in which a small number of large companies providing outsourced public services are 'becoming too big or complex to fail'. Yet the report's call for 'a more level playing field for social enterprises and charities to bid alongside traditional private sector providers' is not the solution to the problem. Third sector organisations run on a shoestring are no substitute for democratically accountable local authorities and public bodies. The Con Dem Open Public Services agenda is a breeding ground for Sharks. And Sharks come in all sizes!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Where Have All The Wages Gone?

A new TUC report examines the reduced share of wages in the UK national income over the last 35 years. Data from the Office for National Statistics show that between 1977 and 2008 the wage share fell from 59 per cent of national income to 53 per cent, while the share of profits in national income rose from 25 per cent to 29 per cent. If wages had kept pace with growth in overall UK output between 1980 and 2010, median annual earnings for full-time workers would now be around £7,000 higher than they actually are:

Monday, 10 December 2012

Icelandic Parliament investigating stopping banks creating money!

Is Iceland – the island with just 300.000 citizens – going to be the first country seriously questioning the privatised money creation and considering Full Reserve Banking proposals (the requirement to hold £1 on account for every £1 lent out)? It seems that it might well be the case:

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Support Early Day Motion 773 - Private Healthcare Companies & Freedom of Information

Grahame Morris MP has placed an important motion before the Commons demanding that 'all private healthcare companies be subject to freedom of information requests under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in the same way as existing NHS public sector organisations.' So far only 35 MPs have supported this demand for greater accountability and transparency from predatory companies - whose unscrupulous business practices such as submitting loss leader tenders and poaching of NHS staff require much greater public scrutiny: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/773

How I love the world, the air, its breath by Franco Loi

How I love the world, the air, its breath
How I love the world, the air, its breath!
the trees, the grass, the sun, those houses, the lovely streets,
the ever-changing moon, the ivy over the houses;

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Autumn Statement confirms that Austerity economics doesn't work

John Cassidy, writing for the New Yorker website, analyses the Autumn Statement of Chancellor George Osborne and concludes, without doubt, that austerity policies are not working: 'At every stage of the experiment, critics have warned that Osborne’s austerity policies would prove self-defeating. Any decent economics textbook will tell you that, other things being equal, cutting government spending causes the economy’s overall output to fall, tax revenues to decrease, and spending on benefits to increase. Almost invariably, the end result is slower growth (or a recession) and high budget deficits. Osborne, relying on arguments about restoring the confidence of investors and businessmen that his forebears at the U.K. Treasury used during the early nineteen-thirties against Keynes, insisted (and continues to insist) otherwise, but he has been proven wrong'

Photograph, Art Student, Female, Working Class by Liz Lochhead

Her hair is cut into that perfect slant
– An innovation circa ‘64 by Vidal Sassoon.
She’s wearing C&A’s best effort at Quant
Ending just below the knicker-line, daisy-strewn.
Keeping herself in tights could blow her grant
Entirely, so each precious pair is soon
Spattered with nail-varnish dots that stop each run.

Friday, 7 December 2012

UNISON fights North Lanarkshire cuts

UNISON, Unite and community groups demonstrated yesterday in atrocious weather against £73 million in cuts proposed by North Lanarkshire Council. Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary, told the rally "This determination we have seen today has been reflected at communities across Scotland. As the councils focus on budgets for next year, people are saying we have had enough.” One of the groups was the Save Abronhill Highchool group, who are fighting to save the Cumbernauld school made famous by the movie Gregory’s Girl. For videos of speeches and STV report see http://unison-scotland.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/rally-at-north-lanarkshire-council.html

We Own It: public services belong to us

The government's Open Public Services policy aims to 'open up' all public services to a 'range of providers' including private companies, to increase choice and competition. Of course, the reality is that public service users don't get a look-in when it comes to the tendering process, and we get a seriously bad deal when private companies take over services. But we're fighting back: We Own It is a new campaign against privatisation on behalf of public service users. We want to support campaigns that exist already, make links between old and new battles and shift the debate on public ownership.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Lies, damned lies and Osborne’s statement

To deflect outrage from the OBR’s horrendous forecast that 1.1m public sector jobs will be lost by 2018, in his Autumn Statement Chancellor George Osborne repeated the Prime Minister’s claim from September that ‘1.2m new jobs have been created’ in the private sector since the Coalition Government was elected – a claim which doesn’t stand up to examination with the true figure being 874,000: http://fullfact.org/factchecks/million_private_sector_jobs_PMQs_David_Cameron-28124

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Unions and social movements

The current edition of the Economist carries an article on union decline and claims that social movements such as London Citizens are 'in some ways... taking the place of trade unions - which these days have programmes but little power.' This superficial theory ignores the fact that unions such as UNISON have been and continue to be integral to Citizens, and in the case of its forerunner TELCO, East London UNISON branches and the UNISON General Political Fund were instrumental in putting it on the map:

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Council care services ravaged by closures & outsourcing

'Cuts passed on to local authorities by central government since the last spending review have caused a raft of closures, and outsourcing of the remaining council-run homes and day centres. Local authorities are shouldering the burden of austerity, and with it the backlash from unpopular decisions' writes Lorna Stephenson in a Red Pepper article documenting the crisis engulfing social care in the UK:

Monday, 3 December 2012

Idea for next Labour Manifesto? - UK Ratification of ILO Convention 94 labour clauses (public contracts)

Given the Labour Party leadership's backing for a living wage and growing support for inclusion of a living wage clause in public sector procurement processes, it is timely to raise the demand for UK ratification of ILO Labour Clauses (Public Contract) Convention No. 94. The UK was one of the first signatories of the clause back in 1950 until the Thatcher Government denounced it in 1982 - at the very time they were first introducing compulsory competetive tendering in the NHS and local government:

Latin America 2012: Courage, solidarity and inspiration

It is impossible to put in words the feeling I had listening to Aidee Moreno from Colombia’s Agricultural Workers Union at Saturday's Latin America 2012 event in London. You are in shock when she tells how her husband was murdered in 1994, her mother ten years later and then numerous other members of her family. On top of this you are numb listening to tales of the thousands of members assassinated, disappeared or in prison. Living with two bodyguards because she is a trade union leader, Aidee is a brave and unbelievably stoic individual who makes as powerful case for international solidarity as I have ever heard.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Austerity and gender equality at work

UNISON activist Angela Rayner writes on the Shifting Grounds blog about the impact of austerity on gender equality and calls on Labour to follow Scandinavian countries by adopting radical policies on affordable childcare and flexible working: 'For women this can be a greater challenge as we continue to struggle for equality in the boardroom, in education and in pay. We work to live not live for work. Without vital changes to the current system we will miss out on a more productive society and lost income from the ability for all women to be active equal members of the workforce':

Mass dismissals in Italy by UK Contractor Compass

Approximately 1,000 workers are in the process of being dismissed in Italy by the UK firm Compass. Demonstrations were held by trade unions in Rome against the decision, which leaves these workers and their families looking forward to a Christmas of misery. In an economy spiralling down the path of Greece at lightening speed the company claimed that it was a decision taken not because of austerity policies but because of a need to `restructure` its business:

For those annihilated in riots...by Dileep Jhaveri

For those annihilated in riots, enduring and upright,
to whom history has granted no justice whatsoever

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Why postcode pay doesn't add up

The TUC 'Payfair' campaign has produced a great infographic showing why regional pay is unfair, bad for the economy, isn't backed up by the evidence, isn't what the private sector does, would be impractical and is unpopular.


How Fortunate The Man With None by Bertolt Brecht

You saw sagacious Solomon
You know what came of him,
To him complexities seemed plain.
He cursed the hour that gave birth to him
And saw that everything was vain.
How great and wise was Solomon.
The world however did not wait
But soon observed what followed on.
It's wisdom that had brought him to this state.
How fortunate the man with none.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Industrial action warning on redundancies

As Scottish local government branches meet in Glasgow today, UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby has warned of industrial action across Scotland if local councils implement compulsory redundancies as part of Government enforced cuts.

How the world voted on Palestine

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leadership and South Africa beyond Marikana

It’s one thing winning the revolution. It is another thing implementing its vision. That was the theme of veteran ANC activist Denis Goldberg at a meeting of ACTSA Scotland in Glasgow on Tuesday.

Billed as a speech about the Marikana massacre, it turned into a disarmingly honest and at times painful analysis of the challenges of building a fair and just South Africa in just 18 years after centuries of constitutional oppression.

PSI supports Palestinian statehood and BDS against Israel

#PSIcongress2012 Chris Tansley, UNISON President, intervened in the Congress debate on Palestine in support of the Palestinian people. Delegates backed Resolution 42 which referred to Israel as an apartheid state and called for a global policy of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and a composite motion, submitted by UNISON, PCS and PSI Africa region which called for action against companies complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation. In the lunch break before the debate South Africa's Coalition for a Free Palestine - supported by SAMWU (South African Municipal Workers Union), NEHAWU (National Health Education and Allied Workers Union) and other COSATU affiliates - had lobbied Congress delegates in a show of solidarity with Palestine.

Quality education is not possible on the back of an exploited workforce

#PSICongress2012 Jane Carolan, UNISON NEC, intervened in a debate on union organisation in the education sector (particularly the non-teacher workforce) and called on PSI to build capacity, skills, bargain locally and internationally (taking on the multi-nationals). Also to facilitate networking by members in education and build solidarity with teaching unions by exposing the myth that quality education is possible on the back of an exploited workforce:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

UK Government persists with Outsourcing to disguise economic failure

The West Coast Rail franchise debacle,G4S, Southern Cross, Connaught. The list goes on – how many more failures of public procurement and contracting out do we need in order to nail the Government’s obsession with outsourcing? Even senior Tory figures admitted during the G4S debacle that big outsourced contracts fail and the risk is far too great to the public sector. And yet the Cabinet Office continues to promote the involvement of private contractors in public services.

Rosa Pavanelli elected PSI General Secretary

#PSICongress2012 In a landslide election victory (7,022,114 to 2,793,646 votes), Rosa Pavanelli of Italy's progressive FP-CGIL union federation was today elected General Secretary of Public Services International (PSI). Rosa is a vastly experienced trade unionist and stood on the following platform:

PSI must fight for quality public services - Dave Prentis

#PSICongress2012 Introducing the PSI Programme of Action for 2013-2017 yesterday, Dave Prentis said: 'Our goal is to achieve Social Justice through Trade Union Rights and Quality Public Services. It is a plan for us to work together – smarter, faster and more effectively – to achieve a more just, more equal and more civil society in every nation. Our job as trade unionists is to lead – to give inspiration and hope that by working together we can create just, equitable and civil societies'

Is the Tide Turning on Public Service Outsourcing?

The TUC recently held a seminar reviewing a positive trend whereby many public services are returning in house in the face of market failure and a renewed confidence of public bodies in direct service provision. Videos of the 6 excellent presentations can be viewed at:

Lift the blockade of Gaza - Sign Oxfam's urgent action

With a ceasefire in place, call on the UK government to do all that it can to lift the blockade and end the suffering of Gaza's people:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

UNISON backs Rosa Pavanelli in PSI GS election

#PSICongress2012 The UNISON delegation has agreed to support the leadership challenge of Rosa Pavanelli, of the Italian FP-CGIL union, in the General Secretary ballot which will take place tomorrow at the Durban World Congress: http://www.rosapavanelli.net/

Privatisation is not a one way street

In countries in the grip of austerity measures, pressure is on for privatisation of public services but, as Tom Gill writes in the Morning Star, ‘despite this new privatisation bonanza, recent research shows that the trend in Europe over the past few years has actually been the other way - towards bringing private assets back into public ownership’

Monday, 26 November 2012

The revolving door betwen Whitehall and Big Business

The Observer reports on leaked documents which reveal how private health firms worked with Downing Street to ensure the Health and Social Care Act went ahead. This is the latest example of how the public services industrial complex has a firm grip on elected policy makers:

COSATU Welcomes PSI World Congress to South Africa

#psicongress2012 Public service trade unionists from every continent are assembling in Durban, South Africa, for the five-yearly Congress of the Public Services International (PSI) - the global union federation for public service workers. Host union federation COSATU has issued a fighting welcome to delegates: 'Congress is taking place at a critical moment in the history of the struggle for a new and just world order, quality public services and the fight against neo-liberal globalisation, particularly ravaging our continent and the working class as a whole' http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=6727

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Thousands protest at Lewisham hospital closure plan

An estimated 10,000 turned out yesterday in driving rain to protest at Lewisham A&E closure plans. A new UNISON campaign banner and posters were to the fore on a rally that brought a huge turnout from the community with an encouraging presence of young people. Some reports said the demonstration against this 'attack on the NHS' was the biggest Lewisham had seen for 30 years.

Far right and xenophobic UKIP members deserve no sympathy

Now just in case anyone is jumping on the bandwagon to argue the wrongs of Rotherham Council ...read the two links below and then change your sorry little minds.... give those social workers a medal not a beating:
Anna Rose

In our thousands, in our millions, we support the Palestinians

Yesterday over 15000 marched through London from Downing Street to the Israeli Embassy in solidarity with the people of Gaza. UNISON members from many regions of Britain took part in the protest. The Stop the War Coalition has published a detailed report of the march and the rally in Kensington:

The public sector pay premium – something worth defending

Unions have long advanced the concept, based on sound evidence, of a Union Advantage - foremost of which is the union wage premium. According to the TUC, on average union members earn 12.5% more per hour than non-members. Given that union membership density in the public sector is 56% compared to 14% in the private sector it is perhaps self evident that a wage premium should exist in the public sector.

House of the Poor by Mzi Mahola

When I was a little boy
I never questioned why
A solitary path
Led from a poor man’s hut.

Why it zigzagged
Like the trail of a wounded beast.

Now that I’m a burdened man
I know why the rich are troubled
When we grumble.


Saturday, 24 November 2012

'Benefits stigma' and undermining of the Welfare State

In recent years sections of the tabloid press and politicians across the political spectrum have sought to justify benefit cuts by demonising claimants as undeserving and workshy. The British policy and politics blog at LSE examines public attitudes to the benefits system and finds public support for the welfare state is holding up despite the 'toxic combination' of negative press coverage and (unjustified) public perceptions of widespread benefit fraud:

Tommy McGhee, Corby Works by John Burnside

He had been there since '55,
his lungs thick with smoke
and urea, the wicks of his eyes
damp, like the walls
of the furnace he tended for years,
till they laid him off.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Unions call on police chiefs to arrest employment rights slide - UnionNews

UNISON, Unite and GMB are calling on newly-elected police and crime commissioners and chief constables to sign up to a new ‘Police Staff Employment Charter’. In signing up to the charter, police and crime commissioners and chief constables would agree to prevent a two-tier workforce, by ensuring the same terms and conditions for staff, regardless of where they are employed.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

UNISON members escalate strike action in Mid Yorkshire NHS

Hundreds of clerical and administrative workers employed by Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust in Dewsbury, Pontefract and Wakefield hospitals are today completing a three day strike in opposition to 70 job losses and the threat of pay cuts to many more staff. This follows an initial day of industrial action three weeks ago. Messages of support can be sent to midyorksunison@aol.co.uk.

#DEMO2012: Educate, Employ, Empower

Yesterday’s demonstration by the NUS brought 10,000 students from across the country on to the streets of London to show their anger towards the government’s attacks upon young people and education. Marching from Temple to Kennington Park the crowd, populated by a much bigger proportion of FE students than NUS demos of previous years, made their voices heard throughout the day.
  Students travelled overnight just to get down to London - the group I travelled with comprised of 250 students from Edinburgh College and Edinburgh University.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Growing Privatisation threat to UK Universities

#demo2012 A central demand of both education unions and student movements worldwide is for state funding and provision of higher education. Yet in the USA 'For Profit' Universities are the third fastest growing industry - having grown on average by 13.6% each year since 2002 - with extensive use of TV programmes and the internet as low cost alternatives to the classroom. A recent University and College Union (UCU) report revealed how private equity funds are taking over post-secondary education and Luke Martell, writing this week on the Open Kingdom website, highlights the unprecedented threat of privatisation to the UK's universities:

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

National Demonstration 24 Nov - End Israel's War on Gaza‏

Assemble 12.00 Saturday 24 November at Downing Street, London and march to the Israeli Embassy. The demonstration is being organised by The Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Stop the War Coalition, CND, British Muslim Initiative and Palestine Forum in Britain. For more details and transport from outwith London see www.facebook.com/

Monday, 19 November 2012

Not Labour's finest legacy - increased private provision in the NHS

'It was Labour that built that bridges the Tories now march over. That laid the foundations for the privatisation of the NHS' said UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis in his speech to UNISON conference in June. A report in today's Guardian confirms that the policy of the last Labour Government to allow private health firms to be paid from public funds has resulted in their share of NHS patients increasing massively:

Sunday, 18 November 2012

LGBT members, Stronger Together in UNISON

#ulgbt12 UNISON is the only union that brings together such a large gathering of LGBT activists, Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary pointed out in his address to UNISON's LGBT conference in Brighton this weekend. His impassioned speech captured the mood of conference, which has spend much of the time discussing the devastating impact of the Tory led Government's austerity and attacks on workers. Roger highlighted not only where UNISON is fighting but where we are winning such as Edinburgh, Southampton and Cornwall.

Public Services are fundamental to community well-being

A recent conference organised by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU) examined how public services – which constitute 26% of the European Union’s GDP and 30% of its workforce - play a fundamental role in promoting well-being:

Organising campaigns empower workers & transform unions

Elaine Bernard, a union educator based at Harvard, makes several excellent points about the importance of an active, informed and committed union membership who ‘understand that they are the union and that the power of the union rests with them’.

Meeting Walt by George Szirtes

The year of Cuba and Sleeping Beauty, it was
my third year to heaven in a London Primary
with Mrs Haynes on dinner rounds, her summary
justice a smack with the spoon, reminding us
of virtue and the starving multitudes.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

General Strike call – a premature proposition?

This week saw general strikes in several European countries which represented a powerful trade union response to austerity, finding its most militant expression in Greece where over 20 national stoppages have been called in the last two years. A demand for similar action has surfaced in Britain in recent months and the TUC is reviewing the practicalities of a general strike within the straitjacket of UK labour law. An effective national strike across the whole economy is desirable but not a serious runner in the short term according to Professor Gregor Gall in examining the whys and wherefores of such action: ‘What would make the holding of a general strike much more probable and potent would be if the general level of strike activity was much higher. If there was then there would a more palpable sense that a general strike came out of and feed back into a rising level of more confident struggle by workers where their sectional and class consciousnesses were of a higher order’

In Hell by Najwan Darwish

In the thirties of the past century
it occurred to the Nazis
to put their victims in gas chambers
Today’s executioners are more professional:
They put the gas chambers
in their victims.

To Hell, 2010
To Hell, you occupiers, you and all your progeny
And may all mankind go to Hell if it looks like you
May the boats and the planes, the banks and the billboards all go to Hell
I scream, “To Hell . . .”
knowing full well that I
am the only one
who lives there.

So let me lie down
and rest my head on the pillows of Hell.


Gaza Violence - UNISON statement

Commenting on the escalation of violence in Gaza, Chris Tansley, UNISON President, said: “The escalation of violence following the assassination of Ahmed Jabari by Israel on 14 November will only lead to the loss of more innocent lives in both Gaza and Israel and will do nothing to lead to a lasting peaceful resolution of the conflict in which a viable, independent Palestine exists alongside a secure Israel.
"In fact, the so-called Operation ‘Pillar of Defence’ is further proof of the failure of Israel’s 6 year blockade including the brutal attack on Gaza in 2008/9. UNISON calls for an immediate cessation of violence and an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.”

Friday, 16 November 2012

Support Palestinians Under Attack in Gaza

Protests are being organised across the UK against Israel’s inhumane bombing campaign against defenceless Palestinians blockaded in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign website provides details of the many protests taking place today and tomorrow: http://palestinecampaign.org/

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A neo-liberal EU will collapse - Frances O'Grady

Yesterday's co-ordinated protest action across European Union member states was a resounding success particularly in Southern Europe where general strikes paralysed the economies and transport systems. In London a solidarity rally held outside the European Commission building was addressed by TUC General Secretary elect Frances O'Grady who said:
  'Those in the corridors of power in Brussels and Frankfurt need to understand this - that if ordinary European workers feel that the EU is about little more than cuts, open markets and privatisation, then the European project will collapse just as surely as night follows day. It's time for change, it's time for a workers' Europe. In place of austerity, we need policies that promote decent jobs, decent wages and decent services. In place of cuts, we need tax justice so the super-rich pay their fair share at long last. And in place of attacks on our rights, we need to get tough on the bankers who caused this mess.'

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Across Europe workers say No to Austerity

#14N As the EU political elite and national governments impose ever harsher austerity measures on the working people of Europe, those bearing the brunt of pay cuts, jobs losses and tax rises are taking a stand today with co-ordinated strike actions and protests across several countries. General strikes and national stoppages are being held in Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

PCCs - 'making the best of a bad job'

UNISON members working in police services in England and Wales have a lot at stake in Thursday's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections. Imposed by the Con Dem coalition in the face of Labour opposition, PCCs will set the agenda on issues such as deployment of PCSOs, privatisation, shared services etc in a framework of 20% budget reductions (£1.5bn by 2014/15). With turnouts expected to be at an all time record low for a national election, it's important that UNISON branches mobilise votes for candidates pledged to support the union's campaign aganinst police privatisation:

Monday, 12 November 2012

Speaking up for Libraries

Saturday's 'Speak up for Libraries' conference was a resounding success. UNISON is a member of a national coalition of organisations campaigning against library closures and privatisation. National Officer Helga Pile was a keynote speaker and libraries campaigner Alan Wylie has blogged an excellent report on the London event:

Sunday, 11 November 2012

NHS Jobs Carnage - Time to Resist

Up to 200,000 NHS jobs could be at risk by the time of the next General Election in 2015, according to an analysis by Dr Éoin Clarke. The summary of announced NHS redundancies in their tens of thousands highlights the urgent need for increased campaigning and workplace action to halt the job losses:

Thinking Imperially by Hugh Owen Meredith

In London docks the sails are furl'd
Of ships that come from all the world:
Piston and screw find rest at last,
That over every sea have pass'd.

Here are delivered by the crews
All things a nation needs to use:
They bring us meat, they bring us drink,
They bring more thoughts than we can think.

If England holds the world in fee
And tribute draws from every sea-
is every shore, is every wave,
More free thereby, or more a slave?

Published 1911

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Osborne's Austerity Exposed As Lies - Treasury Stops Paying Interest on QE bonds

In a move of enormous cheek and deceit the Treasury has changed its accounting rules so it does not have to pay the Bank of England £35bn in interest payments on the government bonds the Bank bought, by creating electronic money, for its Quantitative Easing (QE) programme.

Small Cogs by Louise Wilford

the days wind on,
the teeth of small cogs
driving the larger one
but there are other rooms
where pirate men in ties
cut out our hearts,

Friday, 9 November 2012

Pay the Piper, Call the Tune

A report in the Health Investor magazine is a text book example of the Public Services Industrial Complex at work. A new research study ‘Partnerships for healthy outcomes’ finds that NHS commissioning is 'not fit for purpose' and that 'too few services are delivered by private companies or voluntary sector organisations'. Given that the report was funded by SERCO the outcome is not surprising. What is appalling however is that the panel endorsing the report included not only private sector vested interests but senior NHS managers and the Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation - a body which purports to 'speak for the whole of the NHS':

Thursday, 8 November 2012

National Minimum Wage should rise to a Living Wage - UNISON

UNISON's submission to the Low Pay Commission for 2013/14 on National Minimum Wage rates states that in October 2013 there should be a 'substantial increase to reflect the increased cost of living' and beyond 2013 'the National Minimum Wage should move in stages towards a living wage for all workers' - in current terms this would mean a £1.26 increase in the rate outside of London

Tories hand in glove with SW NHS Employer Cartel

Steve Walker has blogged an interesting account of yesterday's two Parliamentary debates on regional pay in the NHS and the South West NHS employer cartel plotting to break away from the Agenda for Change national agreement. Steve reports on two responses from Anna Soubry MP, the Tory Under-Secretary of State for Health, in which she let slip advanced knowledge of the machinations of the South West employers - comments conveniently omitted from the Hansard record of the debates.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

SEIU hails Obama victory

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry has hailed the re-election of Barack Obama as a 'victory for working people, whose voices were heard despite some of the most coordinated and insidious obstacles to their participation in our democracy in history. When the right wing flooded our electoral process with obscene amounts of money, working people mobilized to energise voters around a better vision for America. When extremist state legislators tried to suppress the votes of broad swathes of Americans, working people responded by standing up for their constitutional right to cast their votes.' Over 100,000 SEIU members took part in canvassing for Obama - making a decisive intervention in swing states behind a union agenda of 'creating good jobs now, requiring the rich and corporations to pay their fair share, to invest in healthcare, education and other vital services and by creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants'

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Con Dems' attack Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme

Tribune reports on Con Dem proposals to make massive cuts to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. Tory Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP is driving through the changes which will abolish or severely restrict compensation payments for victims of attacks at work ('including people with sprained wrists and those scarred by knife attacks'):

Monday, 5 November 2012

14 November 2012: European Day of Action and Solidarity

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is calling for a European Day of Action and Solidarity for employment and against austerity on 14 November.

Pay Freeze is a roadblock to a Living Wage in local government

Living wage week had a high impact launch with yesterday’s Observer article by David Miliband MP and UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, which stated that ‘poverty pay has no place in the 21st century’ and noted that 200,000 workers in local government are paid below the living wage of £7.20. There is a collective bargaining solution to this scandalous situation. The NJC pay claim submitted last month calls for ‘a substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the living wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point.’ What better way for politicians of all colours to institutionalise a living wage in local government by abandoning the pay freeze and holding meaningful negotiations on the union side claim?

Why is there so much debt?

Positive Money blog has uploaded a video which explains that there is so much debt because almost every pound in the economy has to be created by a bank and lent to us. There has to be as much debt as there is money, and the more we borrow, the more money there will be. It’s actually impossible for the public to reduce their total debt as long as banks are allowed to create money as debt. Watch here:

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The market cannot solve the UK's housing crisis

Islington Labour Councillor James Murray writes that the Con Dem Government's hands off approach to the housing crisis (in terms of affordability and scarcity) is failing and calls for state investment in social housing:
  'A comprehensive response means investing in new social housing, with councils – who in many places are landlords with huge stocks – helping to solve the crisis. Investing in new social housing, rather than spending on benefits to subsidise private rents, would help raise the number of new homes, of the sort we need in the places we need them. Regulating the private rental market should play a role in any solution, whilst potential home buyers could be helped through financial regulation, and by looking at new solutions like cooperative models of ownership'

The Knowledge By Dave Hall

And I have been
A Supply Teacher,
Yes, I have known.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Unions: Quote, Unquote

The Economist magazine’s A-Z of business quotations focuses on unions and includes the timeless wisdom of the late American Lawyer Louis Brandeis:
“Strong, responsible unions are essential to industrial fair play. Without them the labour bargain is wholly one-sided. The parties to the labour contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organised and that their organisations must be recognised by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace”

Public sector pay hits a nadir

The LRD pay survey for 2011/12 - which reviews the pay round and contains a detailed report of pay settlements - makes depressing reading for public sector workers. Although the weighted increase on the lowest basic rates was 1% (a quarter of employers paid the £250 to staff earning under £21,000), the weighted median across the whole public sector workforce was 0%.

Stones by Anick Roschi

Loving stone
Loved stone
Stone girl
Given birth to day,

Friday, 2 November 2012

Yorkshire NHS workers strike against pay cuts and redundancies

UNISON administrative and clerical members held a solid one day strike yesterday at 3 hospitals across the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust. Hundreds of members took action after 88% voted in a strike ballot to oppose over 70 potential redundancies and massive pay reductions as the Trust looks to make £24m cuts by next April: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-20157170

Thursday, 1 November 2012

What price Union Rights?

At last month’s Tory Party Conference Chancellor George Osborne announced his plan to strip workers of rights in exchange for shares: "You the employee: replace your old rights of unfair dismissal and redundancy with new rights of ownership.... with a capital gains tax exemption would cover shares valued at between £2,000 and £50,000.”
  It begs the question what price, if any, can be placed on fundamental trade union rights? £2,000, £50,000 or even £200,000? Many trade unionists would regard trade union rights as inalienable human rights – which cannot be bought, sold, or transferred from one individual to another.

Why Labour must reject Trident replacement

Michael Meacher MP responds to this week's announcement by Defence Minister Philip Hammond MP that the Con Dem Government is commiting £350m to funding design work on the next generation of Trident nuclear submarines. Meacher points out the futility of Trident replacement, which will cost the UK up to £100bn over the next 30 years. ‘What have nuclear weapons ever achieved or are likely to achieve? None of our wars was ever won by them, and none of the enemies we fought was ever deterred by them.’

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 years on - Rogues Gallery of the economic crash

The Guardian marks the 5th anniversary of the onset of the 'credit crunch' by reviewing the bankers, economists and politicians whose reckless commitment to neo liberal policies of deregulation, cheap credit and market manipualtion has caused and continues to cause untold misery for millions of working people worldwide: