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

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The ballooning pay of New University Fat Cats

In recent years the higher education workforce has experienced an erosion in in real earnings and a rising threat to job security due to a toxic combination of funding cuts and falling demand from courses because of economic recession, rising student fees and limits on overseas students. Yet a strata of senior management has never had it so good. According to an analysis of 2011-12 university financial statements by Grant Thornton for Times Higher Education (THE), almost two-thirds of the UK’s vice-chancellors and principals - 98 in total - received increases greater than the derisory £150 rise awarded to higher education staff nationally:

Defend Alfamir Castillo

Colombian human rights campaigner Alfamir Castillo's son was murdered by the Colombian army, and now she and her family are facing death threats and persecution. In this short video published by War on Want, she talks about her son's murder and the situation she is facing. Please take action today to support her at www.waronwant.org/alfamir

On Iqbal Centenary by Habib

When we arise to wake the poor, the have nots
A beeline to the police station they make, these wealthy sots
They say that God this wealth to them allots
Oh these trite excuses, oh these dusty plots
Night and day the working men’s blood they suck, o poet of the East
These congenital liars, with the vileness of a beast

Friday, 5 April 2013

The formation of the Labour Party – lessons for today

The negative critique of the Labour Party in debates linked to Ken Loach’s acclaimed film ‘The Spirit of ‘45’ has led to yet another attempt to form an alternative political organisation on the left. Much has changed since the TUC decided to form a Labour Representation Committee in 1899 to give a political voice to the working class – not least that these days most workers are not in unions and most TUC unions are not affiliated to Labour – yet ‘the early development of the Labour Party has relevant lessons for today's labour movement’ says former Labour General Secretary Jim Mortimer in an informative paper on the formation of the Labour Party (first published in 2000):

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Pavlovian Pickard excited by General Strike talk

It’s a sign of the times when the big business paper of record, the Financial Times, gets itself excited by an ‘exclusive’ leak of internal TUC consultation documents on the ‘practicalities of a general strike’ which have been doing the rounds in affiliated unions for weeks. You can only imagine the paper's reaction if far-fetched talk about practicalities became actualities - an editorial calling for Martial Law?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Unions must focus on social justice in constitution debate

It is a bit of a leap to extrapolate that less intense opposition means Scottish trade unions are ‘shifting in favour of independence’. Nevertheless James Maxwell’s New Statesman article does, perhaps inadvertantly, put a finger on the difficulty trade unions face in getting their issues across when both referendum camps might be happier with a more simplistic debate.

Zero hours, Zero pay, Zero rights

The Guardian reports on the findings of the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study which found that the proportion of large employers (100+ staff) with employees on zero-hours contracts rose from 11% in 2004 to 23% in 2011. The ultimate in labour market flexibility, the growth in this abusive retainer system is attributed to the rise in public sector outsourcing and employer avoidance of equal rights for agency worker workers:
   For a previous UNISONActive report on agency workers in the NHS read here:http://unisonactive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/zero-hours-contracts-are-undermining.html

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Hands Off the National Minimum Wage

14 years ago this week, on 1 April 1999, Labour introduced the UK's first ever national minimum wage (NMW) with an adult hourly rate of £3.60. Today it stands at £6.19 and is uprated annually on the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission. Now the Con Dems are insisting that the supposedly impartial body changes its terms of reference to consider the impact on ‘employment and the economy’ before agreeing future increases - leading to press speculation of a freeze or cut in the adult minimum wage rate (the 18 to 20 rate was frozen last October):
TULO has responded quickly and launched a petition calling on the Government to back off from its plans:

Grimmer up North

Crisis loans to help the most desperate cease today but as revealed in the Manchester Evening News things will be far grimmer up north where already struggling councils will have to pick up the pieces. If there is one way to drive desperate people towards loan sharks this is it! Yet the disciples of Thatcher have the audacity to try and justify such grotesque attacks on the welfare state in the name of ‘fairness’:

Anna Rose

Austerity ratchet turned up on poor as rich receive cash windfall

This week marks an escalation in the Coalition Government’s war against the poor in Britain. Passed off as ‘predictable criticism’ by well heeled Chancellor George Osborne MP, there is growing public outrage at the imposition of the bedroom tax on low income social housing tenants at the same time as the richest 1.5% of earners receive a 5% tax cut with 13,000 millionaires getting a tax cut of £100,000 per year:

Monday, 1 April 2013

Gender politics - from individual empowerment to collective power

More high-quality, better paid part-time jobs are required to address flexibility and the concerns of older women, according to an Institute for Public Policy Research report into gender equality. A focus on ‘women at the top’ or 'women who've made it' detracts from a strong political voice for the collective demands required to transform the majority of women’s lives: http://www.ippr.org/images/media/files/publication/2013/03/great-expectations-gender-equality_Mar2013_10562.pdf

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Working for the rebirth of Canada's labour movement

The pattern of union membership in Canada is a mirror image of the UK’s. Since the 1970’s a sharp fall in private sector membership has been offset by growth in unionisation of public sector workers, which in turn is being undermined by outsourcing and privatisation. An interesting feature article in the Globe and Mail examines efforts to revive Canada’s trade union movement which, according to an internal union report, ‘faces an enormous and historic moment of truth. If unions do not change, and quickly, we will steadily follow U.S. unions into continuing decline’

The Fool by Hugh MacDiarmid

He said that he was God.
'We are well met,' I cried.
'I've always hoped I should
Meet God before I died.'

I slew him then and cast
His corpse into a pool,
--But how I wish he had
Indeed been God, the fool!