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

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Manchester remembers Peterloo

Progressive actor Maxine Peake led yesterday's commemoration of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre by reading out the names of the 15 protesters killed by the army at the Manchester demonstration for political rights. The massacre was a seminal moment in the peoples history of Britain and Maxine backed a call by local campaigners for Piccadilly Station to be renamed Peterloo:

The UK's newest anti union law explained

A superb dissection of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill by Thompsons Solicitors who conclude that this proposed anti union law, which is being fast tracked through parliament, is 'contrary to international law and a serious infringement of the legitimate rights of millions of citizens'

The Masque of Anarchy by Percy Shelley


As I lay asleep in Italy

There came a voice from over the Sea,

And with great power it forth led me

To walk in the visions of Poesy.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Return the utilities to public ownership

Sick and tired of reading about the super profits of the big six energy companies? Sign the petition which calls for the renationalisation of water, gas and electricity utilities:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Getting members ready for action on pay

Why did a decisive ballot 3-2 rejection of the Scottish Local Government pay offer slide to a narrow 0.44% majority against taking action to do something about it? At times like these we remember the Michael McGahey quote when he was faced with a ballot going down. “They aren’t ready yet. It’s up to us to get them ready”.

What is the trade union movement’s core mission?

The announcement of the USA trade union centre AFL/CIO’s new strategy to form alliances with grassroots community organisations has been heralded as ‘a return to its 19th-century roots when the labour movement claimed to speak for, we call them ‘the 99%’ today.’ Similar transformative claims accompanied Unite’s launch in 2011 of a category of community membership for the unemployed and students beyond that unions established sphere of influence.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Political awakening at the newsagent's

Our local newsagent today said the attack on unions was about creating a low wage economy. He praised UNISON for backing workers and not being afraid to speak up on Palestine.

Another customer chipped in on the low wage economy. “Why can’t people see that is what it is about? Forcing though a low wage, low skill economy”. He went on to extol the Scandanavian approach, creating quality jobs and taxes to fund good public services. “You get what you pay for”, he said.

The problem of Zero Hours Contracts - What is the solution?

In recent weeks it has been good to see UNISON at the forefront of the campaign against zero hours contracts. As Dave Prentis said in the Guardian ‘the vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice. They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers and makes it hard for workers to complain.’ The key question is what is to be done by unions about this insidious problem which is now prevalent across the public as well as the private sector? On the IER blog Keith Ewing sets out practical measures for a new legal framework to end the abuse of zero hours contracts. While we wait for a worker friendly Government to amend the Working Time Regulations, Keith’s proposals make an excellent negotiating brief for union branches to challenge any employer who denies workers guaranteed working hours and pay.

UNISON deplores SDL festival march

UNISON's City of Edinburgh Branch has issued a strongly worded condemnation of the decision to allow an SDL march during the International Festival. Using its blog, facebook and twitter, the branch is campaigning to build the widest support among members, festival goers and artists for the counter demonstration this Saturday. The statement by Andy Barnett, branch secretary, is below.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The 12 week qualifying period for Agency Workers Rights - a shameful concession made in Britain

In the original version of his controversial speech yesterday the Labour shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant criticised Next PLC for hiring hundreds of Polish seasonal workers ‘to avoid Agency Workers Regulations which apply after a candidate has been employed for over 12 weeks’. The fact that agency workers are vulnerable to exploitation has nothing whatsoever to do with nationality (as a Next spokesperson was quick to point out) but everything to do with the shameful and unnecessary concession granted to employers by the TUC and Labour Government when adopting the EU Agency Workers directive in 2010.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Labour's trade union link - status quo is best option

Keith Ewing weighs up the options facing affiliated trade unions in the Collins review of the Union Labour link - making a strong case for the status quo with a fall back position of choice for political fund levy payers between contributing to 'parliamentary representation' (i.e. direct contribution to Labour) or to a general political fund - similar to the UNISON model:

The Crime? Privatisation The Criminals? Public Services Industry

Stephen Wilks considers the implications of private sector companies now delivering one third of public services provision according to spend (£80bn). The Public Services Industry now accounts for 6% of GDP with 1.2 million staff - almost three times the number employed in the civil service - yet these corporations are not subject to the disciplines, probity and regulations applied to the public sector:

Challenging the dominant narrative of public sector inefficiency & waste

Managerial and professional staff in public services continue to be highly unionised work groups. In recent years many Councils and NHS Trusts have deleted swathes of management posts leading to loss of specialist skills and increased stress levels for remaining staff including disciplinary action in some cases.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Into the Fire: The Hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece

Into the Fire is a powerful documentary which shows the plight of refugees and migrants in austerity riven Greece - increasingly at risk of racist violence from supporters of the fascist Golden Dawn party.

Absalom by Muriel Rukeyser

I first discovered what was killing these men.
I had three sons who worked with their father in the tunnel:
Cecil, aged 23, Owen, aged 21, Shirley, aged 17.
They used to work in a coal mine, not steady work
for the mines were not going much of the time.
A power Co. foreman learned that we made home brew,
he formed a habit of dropping in evenings to drink,
persuading the boys and my husband—
give up their jobs and take this other work.
It would pay them better.
Shirley was my youngest son; the boy.
He went into the tunnel.