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

Saturday, 29 June 2013

14 years of NMW & the enduring problem of low pay

According to a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report published yesterday, the national minimum wage (NMW) of £6.19 compares with a wage of £8.62 to £9.91 necessary to provide a socially acceptable standard of living.
     Alan Manning of the LSE acknowledges the enduring problem of low pay despite the existence of the NMW for the past 14 years and reports on an initiative to revitalise the minimum wage concept including possible sector specific strategies in areas like retail and social care where poverty pay is endemic:

Mathematics by Holly McNish

He says
“those god damn pakistanis and their goddamn corner shops

Built a shop on every corner took our British workers jobs

He says those godamn Chinese and their goddamn china shops

I tell him theyre from Vietnam but he doesn’t give a toss

I ask him what was there before that damn Japan mans shop

Friday, 28 June 2013

Austerity - 'worse than a crime, it is a blunder'

'Austerity has failed. It turned a nascent recovery into stagnation. That imposes huge and unnecessary costs, not just in the short run, but also in the long term: the costs of investments unmade, of businesses not started, of skills atrophied, and of hopes destroyed,' writes Martin Wolf in a scathing critique of the fiscal and political policies which have led to economic retrenchment across Europe:

Local Government hardest hit by austerity cuts

Once again local government was the big loser in Wednesday’s 2015/16 Spending Review. DCLG funding grants to local councils will be reduced by £2.1 billion down to £23.5 billion, a cut of 8.2% excluding inflation. The TUC points out that as not all council spending comes from central government, this is expected to result in an overall reduction in local government spending of 2.3%

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Spending Review - What about us?

The latest Spending Review does not need a particularly detailed analysis to reach an inescapable conclusion - the current government has no economic agenda but it does have an ideological one.
   Only a Tory optimist could believe that this country is in any way approaching “recovery”. For the coalition at the receiving end of public spending cuts - those who have seen their wages and salaries plummet in the past five years, those working households whose wages are on poverty level and who depend on tax credits, families who rely on child benefit, those who rely on disability benefits, there is no recovery. For all those dedicated public workers whose jobs have been slashed there is no recovery. There is only more of the same for us.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

2015/16 Spending Review - an ever tightening noose around Labour’s neck

There’s much media hype today about the Chancellor’s announcement of spending plans for 2015/16. As Professor Colin Talbot notes on his Whitehall Watch blog, given that every previous such announcement since 1998 has been adjusted in subsequent budgets they might be taken with a pinch of salt.
    But now that the Labour leadership is signed up unconditionally to the Coalition spending plans if elected in year one - following the May 2015 General Election (as Ed Balls and Ed Miliband both confirmed at the weekend) - then this is a win-win day for the Tories and Lib Dems.
   Snuff out any alternative to their cuts programme and lock in austerity well into the next Parliament. As yesterday's FT editorial said about the spending review - 'the Tories are setting the parameters of the political debate ahead of the election':

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Fortress UNISON - the way forward?

The Democracy Journal contains a fascinating and provocative article about what the author sees as the failure of union led organising campaigns to stop the decline of Labor (sic) Unions in the USA. Rich Yeselson cites the raft of anti union measures contained in the US Taff Hartley legislation of the 1940s as the hammer that broke the back of unions in the US - right at the point of their highest ever density and apparent power. From a density of around 50% US unions have steadily melted away to a current 7% of workers in a union:

Monday, 24 June 2013

Are unions missing the mark in low paid Britain?

David Goodhart, former FT employment editor, analyses the expansion of low paid employment in Britain - a product of a low wage flexible labour market - and notes that ‘unions have a particularly weak presence in the low-skilled and poorly paid one-third of the labour market where they are needed most, both from the point of view of individual workers and, arguably, from that of the British economy.’ We might take issue with his caricature of
UNISON and failure to acknowledge our sustained growth over the past 15 years (until 2012) but otherwise a challenging read for all trade unionists who oppose wage exploitation and a wake up call for rebuilding union strength in the private sector:

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Save our NHS - all roads lead to MCR on 29 September!

#undc13 The Con Dem coalition poses the biggest threat to the existence of the NHS in its 65 year history - a theme which ran through many debates at conference and was fully addressed by Composite D on NHS Campaigning. The motion was moved by Debra Turner (pictured) of Central Lancashire health branch who called on members to 'work with other trade unions, patient groups, community organisations to fight for the future of the NHS. We need to take our message and our vision to our communities'.  Debra's full speech can be read below...

Strong support at NDC for UNISON's organising agenda

#undc13 The conference debate on organising and recruitment was the most comprehensive in the 20 year history of the union. NEC member Sue Highton moved motion 1 which confirmed that workplace activity is essential to recruitment and emphasised the importance of developing new activists if the union is to adapt to new employer structures.
   In a similar vein, Diane Kelly (pictured) North West regional delegate moved amendment 1.1 stating that ‘if we are to fight back, it’ll be with one hand tied behind our back. Because less than four out of ten local government workers are in a union. Less than six out of ten health workers are in a union. And the picture just gets worse in the other services.'

A better and fairer way than austerity

#undc13 Scotland NEC member Gordon McKay tore into the ConDems' failed austerity policies as UNISON Conference set out a detailed and evidence alternative. "We need an end to job cuts and the dogma driven pay cap in the public sector. Giving people work and paying a fair wage will promote spending and growth" he told delegates. The full text of his speech is below along with Jane Carolan's response to the defeated amendment.

NDC reaffirms UNISON support for Palestinians

#undc13 An extended debate led to Conference overwhelmingly passing motion 79 which called for peace and justice for the Palestinian people including a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The union will be circulating the final report of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine which was held in March 2013.

GS sets out priorities for year ahead - Pay, Organising and Fighting Austerity

#undc13 Dave Prentis restated the absolute importance of pay campaigning following the poor 2013/14 settlements in health and local government (except Scotland) - ‘we must break the pay policy and we must build our members’ resolve' - calling on GMB and UNISON to join in the 2014/15 pay campaign.

Life is Fine by Langston Hughes

I went down to the river,

I set down on the bank.

I tried to think but couldn't,

So I jumped in and sank.