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

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Women are bearing the brunt of austerity

#unwc13 UNISON women activists from all parts of the UK will today conclude the 2013 UNISON national womens conference. Over the past two days a recurring theme at the conference has been the fight against austerity and its terrible consequences for women both at work and in communities. Keynote speakers yesterday included pioneering women labour movement leaders Frances O'Grady (first women TUC General Secretary) and Angela Eagle MP (the UK Parliament's first openly lesbian MP). Angela tore into the ConDems in a speech warmly received by the 700 delegates: "Women have been hit three times as hard by cuts even though they own less and earn less"

Energy security, Energy diplomacy, Energy wars

'The truth behind the War on Terror is that it is part of Western powers' imperialistic quest to secure natural resource reserves for their corporations. We should all fear for the peoples of energy-rich regions as the global resource grab plummets new depths' writes Patrick Kane of War on Want in an excellent analysis of the link between Western commercial interests (corporations) and militarism in Africa:

The Flyting o' Life and Daith by Hamish Henderson

Quo life, the warld is mine.
The floo'ers and trees, they're a' my ain.
I am the day, and the sunshine.
Quo life, the warld is mine.

Quo daith, the warld is mine.
Your lugs are deef, your een are blin.
Your floo'ers maun dwine in my bitter win'.
Quo daith, the warld is mine.

Friday, 15 February 2013

EU is driven by Thatcherite ideology - Kelvin Hopkins

'The reality is that the European Union is a neoliberal capitalist construct, imposed upon most of the peoples of Europe' writes Kelvin Hopkins MP, long term joint Co-ordinator of the UNISON Group of Labour MP's, in an assessment of the options open to the left in the European debate:

Horse-trading in school meals

A timely APSE briefing highlights the measures already taken by local authority caterers to ensure the food safety of school meals in light of the horsemeat scandal. It also references the fact that these measures have been put in place by local authority caterers who retain control over food procurement.

Petition launched against food safety sell-off

As the meat scandal deepens, Barnet activists have launched a timely petition against privatisation of environmental health and trading standards. Sign it at http://www.avaaz.org/

  Meanwhile UNISON has published far-reaching investigation called 'The Damage' into the impact of the government’s austerity measures on both services.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Banking on safety?

Retail banks aren’t safe: Politicians fool themselves and us to think otherwise.
Day after day more and more scandals erupt from our banks, RBS the state owned bank, has been fined £390m for involvement in interest rate manipulation. In the face of scandals like these, the political debate about structural banking reform has intensified. Last week, George Osborne committed to forcibly breaking up banks if they do not ring fence “risky” investment arms from their “safe” retail divisions.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Putting the dignity (and radicalism) back into social care

A UNISON seminar of members working in social care and home care has called for dignity for service users and dignity for the staff who serve them.
  The call came 24 hours before UNISON warned that the home care system is in crisis following a Care Quality Commission Report into homecare services in England which found that as many as a quarter are failing to meet quality and safety standards.

The State of the Unions in the United States

The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, a progressive global network linked to Germany's Left Party, has published a report on how the US trade union movement has come to terms with neo-liberalism, union organising strategies as well as internal divisions including the split in the national trade union centre. Sean Sweeney, Director of the Global Labor Institute at Cornell University, analyses these recent historic development as well as the current state of US trade unions:

Walmart Victimises Union Strikers

Walmart is one of the biggest companies on the world, if it was a country it would have the 25th biggest economy in the world with 2.2 million workers. It is a giant and is exporting American labour practices around the world - De unionization, casualisation, low wages and the destruction of local alternatives. For every 2 jobs it creates it destroys 2.8 in the local economy according to labour researchers. For public service workers it gives us a terrible glimpse of the future.

Only 45,000 out of 5 million low paid workers benefiting from a Living Wage

'Beyond the Bottom Line -The challenges and opportunities of a living wage' is a comprehensive new report from the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Public Policy Research. It highlights the enormous scale of in work poverty in the UK, particularly in private services such as leisure and retail, and the very limited implementation of Living Wage initiatives to date:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A policy of solidarity to counter the forces of austerity‏

@USILive Union Solidarity International has podcasted an informative web conference with Professor James K Galbraith on the global economic crisis, in which the progressive economic thinker makes a compelling case for a higher minimum wage and stronger collective bargaining ... ‘as part of a strategy to counter the forces of austerity with a policy of solidarity and mutual support’:

Monday, 11 February 2013

Union Density - The Only Measurement of Union Power?

The recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report in the US has revealed another downwards turn in union density. It is now at 11.3% the lowest level since 1916. By any stretch of the imagination this is bad news. It generally means less income, less influence less power and less relevance. No one would argue that lower union density is evidence of anything other than a continuing problem.

A spoonful of sugar helps the tax go down...

It is becoming almost a daily occurrence to discover the scale and depth of tax avoidance by multinationals but this latest one I hope makes you think twice before buying Silver Spoon sugar, Kingsmill bread, or Twinings teas. These household brands are produced by Associated British Foods and, in their Zambian operations, have been found by Actionaid to weave a web of tax avoidance on such a grand scale they have paid virtually no tax in spite of multi-billion dollar operations:

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Irish Unions - from 'social partnership' to mass protest

#feb9demo The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) mobilised over 110,000 people in a massive protest against austerity. Marches and rallies under the ICTU slogan of 'Lift the Burden - Jobs not Debt' were held in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford:

'Density bias' and a glass half empty mentality

Chris Maisano analyses the latest US trade union membership figures and provides a refreshing antidote to those who are pessimistic about the strength of organised labour because of declining membership numbers. 'Density bias' is used to describe the commonplace tendency to judge union strength by the proportion of workers who are union members. Maisiano makes a good point that 'density in itself does not translate into power if members are not actively engaged in building the capacities of their unions or the working class more broadly. What’s the point of organizing new members if unions aren’t going to effectively use the ones they’ve already got?' He goes on to argue that today's unions are still massive social organisations and mobilising only 5% of members would create an activist base numbering hundreds of thousands:

The United Fruit Co. by Pablo Neruda

When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
the Jehovah parcelled out the earth
to Coca Cola, Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
The Fruit Company, Inc.