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

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Crowd Sourcing Political Funds - A Strategy for opening up the Union?

Political Funds and donations to the Labour Party are all the rage this week. The Falkirk selection process and others much like it have been thrown like a beach ball into the middle of a football pitch. So at a time of grinding poverty and misery, with lives and communities in utter turmoil we are being pulled into a debate about the selection of Labour candidates and the role of unions in that. Miliband has been fronted and his instinct was to say `you`re half right`.

Unity by Pablo Neruda

There is something dense, united, settled in the depths,
repeating its number, its identical sign.
How it is noted that stones have touched time,
in their refined matter there is an odor of age,
of water brought by the sea, from salt and sleep.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Shock Horror. Private companies rip off the state!

Is anyone really surprised by the audacious scale of ‘over-billing’ and ‘phantom offenders’ that have led to G4S being referred to the serious fraud office? It looks pretty damning that at worse this is serious fraud and at best downright incompetence on the part of G4S unable to get their invoicing married up to work actually carried out. But this unveils the real problem with outsourcing.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Remember who caused the economic crash?

Remember when nurses, teachers, firefighters and municipal workers crashed the economy and took billions in bonuses and bailouts?. No? Me either.

'We do our bit and hand it on' - Bick

Last weekend Rodney Bickerstaffe, UNISON's first elected General Secretary, gave an inspirational and entertaining speech at the UNISON Eastern Region's 20 years Birthday Celebrations. Watch here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWCv5VhPZtA

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Labour - Fiddling while Britain burns

Statement by Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary: 'UNISON has always given its members the choice of opting in to its affiliated political fund, that gives them a say in the democratic processes of the Labour Party, or of opting in to the General Political Fund, independent of any political party. Our processes are democratic and transparent. UNISON has never operated the arrangement whereby we pay Labour Party membership fees for new members.

A campaign for Labour Party democracy?

To those of us who remember when the local Labour Party CLP when it was the basis of Labour Party democracy, recent events in Falkirk are like Madelines. They send us a la recherche du temps perdu....
   BB (before Blair) the important decisions about local matters, about how the party should organise , about the policies that should be followed, not just in the local arena but nationally were the subject of intense debate in a CLP management committee.

Swindled at the checkout

I purchased some insurance the other day and when the invoice came through the company had deducted a £1.20 donation to the Conservative Party. I tried of course to opt out and get my £1.20 back but they said I had no choice. The same happened on a trip to Top Shop where I bought an overpriced skirt for one of my teenage daughters. This time they took off 80 pence for the Tories.

Nothing 'bold and brave' about Miliband's mess

Following Ed Miliband's announcement that individual trade unionists will be required to opt in to Labour Party contributions various journalists (FT gossip columnist Jim Pickard) and union leaders (Len McCluskey) are spinning that all is intact with union political funds and that opting out will remain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Miliband's unilateral announcement and its aftermath not only demonstrated the subordinate position of affiliated unions. It also paved the way for implementation of the Sir Christopher Kelly review (notably titled 'ending the big donor culture' as per Coalition Agreement) - of which legislation to introduce opting out of union political funds was the major sticking point to the extent that Margaret Becket produced a dissenting report.
    As GMB's Paul Kenny has correctly indicated, following yesterday's panic measure Labour is set to lose the lion's share of union funding. Now it will have no alternative but to sign up to the Kelly recommendations - having sold the pass on the principle of opting out how could it do otherwise when the Con Dem’s decide to legislate? State funding is the ultimate aim of yesterday’s statement. Everyone needs to face up to that fact and the historic implications for unions being pushed out to the margins of party politics as in the USA.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The core issue - killing off the Trade Union collective political voice

'There'll always be a place for unions, but not as part of a political party' said former Tory MP Matthew Parris on Radio 5 Live this morning. Eloquently summing up the historic change about to take place in the Labour Party - which Parris of course commended.

Political fund opt in will be a multi-million windfall for union general funds

Securing individual agreement of union members to opt in to a Labour Party political levy (presumably with periodic renewals) will not be a priority of any union hard pressed by austerity, employer restructuring and privatisation. The requirement for individuals to opt out meant that a default position of a union's rule book political affiliation would apply. Problems of inertia and complex administration favoured affiliation as individuals opposed to the union's collective political stance were required to be proactive.
   Under Miliband's new proposals the reverse will be the case. Most trade unionists will cease to pay the levy. Their erstwhile political fund contribution will be retained by unions and will be allocated to other priorities. Labour's loss will be our gain. Independent political organisation by unions will become a necessity and, in any event, the only show in town within trade union law given the imminent demise of affiliated political funds as we've know them since 1945.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Know your history - Opting in to political funds would be a Labour own goal

Throughout the various all-party attempts to review party political funding (including in the latest Kelly review) the Labour Party has stood firm on the issue of opting out of, rather than in to, political fund membership. For very good reason - last time around this resulted in a halving of political funds: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/nov/22/party-funding-shakeup-rejection-promises

Working people need a political voice

Excellent article in today's Guardian by John Harris placing the Falkirk situation in its proper context of a UK party political system dominated by elites, patronage and transactional leaderships. Ahead of Ed Miliband's well trailed speech coming up tomorrow which will announce reforms of the trade union Labour constitutional relationship, Harris cautions against a breaking of the link: 'if millions of working people do not have a dependable means of accessing mainstream politics, capital will have scored another win – and our democracy will be even more impoverished'

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Future of NHS on the line - fight we must and fight we will

#NHS65 High spirited events were held across the UK this weekend to celebrate Friday's 65th anniversary of the NHS but nowhere was there any complacency about the danger posed to the NHS by the Con Dem Coalition Government. UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis assesses the myriad threats to the country's most treasured institution and issues a rallying call for redoubled efforts to save the NHS:

Union Numbers Game

The reporting of the Falkirk firestorm has made countless references to Unite as ‘Labour’s biggest donor’ and ‘Britain’s biggest union’ - the former is certainly the case given that two thirds of UNISON members pay a political fund levy to the union’s General Political Fund rather than Labour Link. However a recent independent analysis of Unite’s finance and membership data confirms that Unite’s full (working) member count is 1,101,255 – some 185,000 fewer full members than UNISON’s 1,286,000 full (working members) – making UNISON by a substantial degree Britain’s biggest union of working trade unionists:

Minimum Wage as the going rate – it wasn’t meant to be like this

The UK is at risk of creating a two-tier labour market in which growing numbers of workers earn little more than the legal national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour. A report from the Resolution Foundation has found that almost one in ten jobs (2.4m) now pays within 50p of the minimum wage as the labour market has become increasingly bottom-heavy. George Bain, the founding chair of the Low Pay Commission, has warned in a Guardian article that ‘in a way the policy has been a victim of its own success. The wide support means the policy has settled down into a premature middle age, with little thinking about how it could do more to tackle low pay’

The gift by Kona Macphee

Sometimes the recompense arrives
so far ahead of what you'll give
that you will fail to recognise
the reciprocity, the love

that circles in the universe:
this life a grace advanced, its knack
to meet requital with its cause —
the offering up, the giving back.