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

Saturday, 20 December 2014

What workers read in 1909

The discovery of a time capsule left in the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh by joiners in 1909 has thrown a fascinating insight into where the workers of the day got their news. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/

It contained a copy of ‘The Labour Leader: A Weekly Journal of Socialism, Trade Unionism and Politics’, a paper set up by Keir Hardie in 1888. Stories covered in the 19 March 1909 edition included the Paris Strike of postal and telecoms workers, ‘The Liberal Betrayal’ (what’s new?), ‘Welsh Notes’ on the threatened coal strike and the Russian Azeff Affair.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Phoney Deficit Mania

Since the publication of the Con Dem Autumn Statement a new reverse paradigm has been introduced into the economic debate in Britain - cutting the deficit versus borrowing. Self serving Tory assumptions about the need for permanent austerity rule the roost. The deficit must be solved, taxation on big business and the wealthy must be minimised, public services outsourcing should be extended to everything but core functions and, of course, public sector pay should continue to be held down despite 6 years of wage stagnation.

Seumas Milne, writing in today's Guardian, challenges this new orthodoxy using the ample evidence of failed austerity policies since 2010: 'where Cameron, Osborne and their friends have succeeded, of course, is in convincing large numbers of people that Labour spending was somehow responsible for the crisis – which it wasn’t – and in turning the budget deficit into the central issue of economic policy – which it isn’t. In reality, the deficit was below 3% when the crisis was triggered by a financial crash – and up to that point public spending under New Labour, at 38.7% of national income, was lower than under every other government since the 1950s. And the budget deficit is only a reflection of the real problems in the economy and cannot be controlled by the government, as Osborne has demonstrated so comprehensively'

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Brendan McCarthy - a union man with a big heart

Brendan McCarthy former Joint Regional Convenor for UNISON Northern Ireland and Branch Secretary of the NUPE North & West Belfast Health Branch and the UNISON Royal Hospitals Branch died last week.

Brendan was a member of NUPE and UNISON for most of his life. He loved the union. He met his late wife, Frances, while working in the Royal Victoria Hospital. His mother, his brother George and many of his family members worked there too. His son Conor McCarthy is the current Joint Chairperson of the Branch. He loved his family.

Throughout his long service as a trade unionist Brendan helped thousands of members and they, in turn, consistently elected him as their chosen union rep. In the 80’s and 90’s he led some of toughest strikes we have ever experienced, including the longest strike in the NHS in Northern Ireland, which we won. Brendan went on to work for the union as a Regional Organiser.

Brendan believed passionately in the dignity of working class people. His service to the members is a matter of record. He also had a big heart. Few people know that he worked quietly to bring some joy to lonely pensioners in his community. He was our friend and colleague and we will miss him.

Patricia McKeown

Monday, 15 December 2014

Police Chief disregards compelling evidence

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, writes in today's Guardian and calls for 'radical structural reform' to deal with the impact of Government funding cuts. His solution includes proposals for force mergers and predictably the 'opening up all but core policing functions to competition'.
    Clearly Hogan-Howe has not applied his detective skills to the track record of outsourcing companies in the criminal justice sector. Barnet UNISON has compiled a useful list of private sector commissioning failures. Maybe the branch should contact Crimestoppers?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Italian unions stage General Strike in defence of workplace rights

Yesterday Italian unions staged a General Strike in protest at the Jobs Act which seeks to deregulate employment rights by weakening national bargaining and removing protections against unfair dismissal.

CGIL leader Susanna Camusso addressing a strike rally in Turin said: 'The government has to change its policies on employment. The Jobs Act and the budget do nothing to revive the economy and create jobs' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30447158

An Account of Despair by Volker Braun

When she entered
And set down her empty bags on my tabletops
I felt caught out in my
Missed deeds.

The evening news dripped bloodily from the screen
And the bed stood encircled
Aside in the uninhabited zone.

She approached and embraced me
At once as though she could not be wrong

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A welfare state for corporations not the people

An extensive article and research by Kevin Farnsworth on the Renewal website examines the extent to which UK public policy is skewed in favour of private companies – placing business tax cuts, deregulation, privatisation and a weakening of employment rights etc in the context of a corporate welfare state. ‘Direct and indirect public provision that is aimed at private companies accounts for a significant share of state expenditure. During these times of austerity and public sector cuts, a detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of corporate welfare is essential to weigh the direction, emphasis and trade-offs associated with corporate welfare’

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Institute for Fiscal Shock Therapy

The past week's debate sparked by the 2014 Autumn Statement has confirmed the marginalisation of trade unions from British current affairs. Even in the recent past the trade union response to Government policy announcements on economics and public finances would be prominent in media coverage and commentary.
    These days hacks from unrepresentative lobby groups and 'think tanks' dominate the airwaves with none more ubiquitous than the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Long held to be of neo liberal bias and a consistent advocate for lower business taxes, the partisan views of this organisation have been used to reinforce the austerity paradigm - ramping up future cuts projections (ludicrously presenting the Tories as deficit deniers) rather than questioning the absence of measures to boost growth and public revenues including raising Corporation Tax on the profits of already cash rich businesses.
    Unless trade unions quickly raise our game and voice in the public debate then the new cross party orthodoxy on 'solving the deficit' (aka permanent austerity) will become irreversible.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Austerity - Just Say No!

‘Even if the government/OBR forecasts for the scale of the cuts prove to be unworkable they amount to a plan for permanent austerity, of ever deeper cuts. They are also a Tory trap for Labour, which has said it will also aim to balance the budget without challenging the framework that it is the investment strike and weak growth that causes the deficit’ warns the Socialist Economic Bulletin in its analysis of last week’s Con Dem Autumn Statement. A rare and welcome antidote to the ramping up of 'inevitable' austerity cuts which political commentators and parties have rammed down our throats in recent days:

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

16 years is too long. Justice for the Miami 5 Now!

Tonight many UNISON members and other trade unionists will attend the annual Candlelight Vigil for the Miami Five outside the US Embassy starting at 6pm. Speakers include a special guest from Cuba Aleida Guevara, daughter of Ché, and UNISON AGS Roger McKenzie. Aleida attended Saturday’s Latin America 2014 conference where she spoke at a packed session on Cuban internationalism. She graduated as a doctor whilst on a medical mission in Nicaragua, served in Ecuador and Angola and recently volunteered to go to Africa as part of the Ebola mission.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Giving Scotland a reason to back Labour for social justice

As the dust still swirls after the referendum, the challenge is to bring the focus back to the Scotland we want to see now. Of course the ‘neverendum’ campaign will continue but at some point we will have to address what we do with the powers we have now and will gain soon.

If, as advertised, it has all been about getting the powers to deliver on social justice, some have raised the question as to whether it really matters which party is in power in Scotland so long as it uses those powers to deliver.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Recovery bypassing workers in low-paid Britain

The LRD's annual earnings survey finds that average earnings growth is on the floor with little improvement in pay settlements over the past 12 months: 'Since the 2008-09 recession, the UK has experienced a “historically unprecedented” fall in the value of earnings compared with consumer price (CPI) inflation, even more compared with retail price (RPI) inflation. The latest figures show average weekly earnings growth of just 0.7%. The Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane described the current position as “an extended period of agony [that] is virtually unprecedented”.
    Part of the problem is that the minority of workers who’ve not been in continuous employment since the recession have seen little or no growth in their earnings, but that seems to be dampening down the wider labour market. As the TUC put it, the economy is proving to be “very good at creating low-paid jobs, but struggling to create the better-paid work”.'

Plight of a migrant worker by Khalid Hameed

wake up in the morning
head out to look
for work
stand in the corner of
the street
waiting for cars passing by
to pick you up
and take you to veg
as a day labor,
I am that forgiven one
that you need me
when you can’t find
as I fulfill your greed
of cheap labor
when I am not required
then you blame me
that I am a thief
stealing all the jobs
from a mythical
breed of workers
that no one has seen,

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

NHS Pay Dispute - Where Next?

On Monday thousands of NHS workers took to the picket lines for the second time in six weeks. Following the huge success of the action on 13th October, 9 health unions called their members out for a further 4 hours strike on 24th November.
    The action demonstrated a few important things.
     Firstly the public still remains supportive of the health workers case. Picket lines across the country received messages of support from the public with representatives of non health unions turning up in solidarity. Secondly the mood among members is still angry and determined, and thirdly the government does not yet feel sufficiently worried to try and resolve the dispute.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

LGBT conference builds fight against austerity

#ulgbt14 UNISON's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender members met this weekend in Blackpool for hopefully the last time under this Tory led Government.
   As always LGBT Conference debated a wide variety of motions, with austerity and cuts being a recurring theme. Housing, where young LGBT members are particularly suffering from attacks on their rights to housing benefit, risking them being in hostile private shared housing. Gender Services, where Trans members are struggling for support as services are cut. Of particular note this year was a number of motions around supporting older LGBT people, with the shocking state of our fragmented and mostly privatised social care where there is huge fear of discrimination.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Not too late to abandon austerity

'If Labour now repudiated austerity in favour of the far more effective way of cutting the deficit through public investment to expand the economy out of stagnation, generate real jobs, increase household incomes after a decade of steep decline, it would be a game changer at the election' writes Labour MP Michael Meacher.
    Trade unionists desperate to see the back of a Con Dem coalition which has slaughtered services and social security on the altar of austerity need to wake up to the economic prospectus being offered by Labour. 'Having rejected the option of extra borrowing, Labour will now need to meet all its promises through tax rises or spending cuts elsewhere. Austerity really is here to stay' wrote George Eaton in the New Statesman in response to this year's conference speech by Ed Balls in which he did a U-turn on borrowing to fund capital spending on housing, roads and other infrastructure projects.
   Meacher is right about the abject failure of austerity economics and UNISON should support for his call for Labour to abandon austerity. It is not too late.

Aiberdeen Street by Alastair Mackie

Ye were hyne awa fae Nuremberg o the flags,
the death-crap o the purges; Il Duce's
black-sarked legions heistin eagles…
Woolie's guns and gairden canes airmed oor wars
focht on your cassies, oor granite battle-field.
Paper planes whitent the gloamin-faa,
earth-bund swallas the scaffies sweepit up.
And quines were bobbin corks aneth the tow brigs
o their skippin ropes. Cairt horses snochert
and the shod wheels girned and dirded.
Here in this play-grun atween the tenements
– sea gulls on the lums – I breathed in Scots.
Years later I howkit up the street's kist
o memories and found amon the mools, deid words,
the affcasts o history, teuch as granite setts,
the foonds o my world.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Half measures will not stop TTIP from destroying the NHS

Today the Commons will debate Labour MP Clive Efford’s worthy bill to save the NHS from irreversible privatisation, which will aim to reverse the Health & Social Care Act 2012 and seek to exempt the NHS from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
   However, John Hilary of War on Want points out that ‘such national legislation would not be enough to save the NHS from TTIP. If health services are included in the deal, any future UK government will be bound by its treaty obligations as an EU member state over and above unilateral declarations such as the one envisaged in the bill. Even if the UK were to take the extreme option of leaving the European Union altogether, TTIP would still enable US health corporations to sue future governments for reversing NHS privatisation, thanks to the ‘survival clauses’ that ensure free trade agreements remain in force for years after a state has ceased to be a party to them’.
     Only outright rejection of TTIP will save the NHS.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Gaping gaps in Labour's proposals for enhanced workers' rights

#workplacepledge As next May's General Election draws closer, the outlines are emerging of Labour's proposals on workers' rights. Announcements on raising the minimum wage and the banning 'exploitative' zero hours contracts are welcome but fall far short of what is necessary. The least we should expect in Labour's 2015 manifesto is the reinstatement of collective and individual rights removed by the Coalition government, in particular a reduced qualifying period for unfair dismissal and other rights, the abolition of employment tribunal fees and a reversal of the reduction in redundancy consultation periods.
    A new campaign called 'a Pledge for every worker' sets out a useful framework for Labour enhancing workplace rights but, as any lawyer will tell you, precision matters in drafting offers and now is the time for specific commitments on fairness at work from Labour rather than abstractions or aspirations.

The ever-tightening vice of Council spending cuts

The cumulative effects of Con Dem cuts in local government funding (by 37% between 2010/11 and 2015/16) is bringing front line services in England to breaking point according to a National Audit Office report, which finds that ‘one in six councils are not expected to deliver services within budget this year, and more than half of all councils are at risk of financial failure within the next five years’

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Rank hypocrisy

Tax pays for Governments. Governments use tax to pay for international development and aid. There is of course a place for charitable endeavours and arguably tax will never be enough but the rank hypocrisy of would-be-saints ‘Bono’ and ‘Geldof’ with their warped views on taxation and fairness isn’t ‘bollocks’. It is at the heart of what is right and what is wrong with the super-rich believing they can say one thing and do another. When it comes to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable there is a direct cause between the West’s approach to tax havens and the worlds poorest being short changed. Ebola has been made all the worst by poor sanitation and crumbling healthcare. International tax fairness can resolve that.
Read these links and then you decide.
    And then perhaps make a direct donation to DEC as an alternative to massaging the egos of past-their sell-by-date rock capitalists.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Hamburg brings utilities back into public ownership - let's have some of that here

Following a public referendum, Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city has voted to take all available steps to re-municipalise the electricity, gas, and district heating networks. The Guardian reports that Hamburg has 'joined a growing number of cities worldwide deciding to end their experiments with privatisation. Since 2007, 170 municipalities in Germany alone have brought energy services back into public hands. Globally, at least 100 cities have done the same with privatised water services over the past 15 years, including dozens of municipalities in France – once seen as a growing focus for water privatisation'

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The votes of blue collar workers cannot be taken for granted

3.5m (1 in 4) children in the UK live in poverty yet remarkably Labour has committed to a two year freeze in child benefit if it forms a Government next May. Do such reactionary policies have electoral consequences? An article in the Fabian Review suggests that 'between 2005 and 2014 Labour has seen dwindling support from a wide range of blue-collar working demographic groups'. The recent Heywood by-election highlighted the threat posed by UKIP in Labour's electoral heartlands. Labour's best antidote to UKIP's politics of despair and xenophobia is to give working people hope that their lives will improve for the better with a change of government - by pledging to end the public sector pay freeze, improve front line services such as home care and to halt the rolling back of the welfare state (including a rethink of the disgusting proposal to freeze child benefit).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Pickled Eric knows the cost of everything & the value of nothing

Tory union basher Eric Pickles MP has stepped up his war against local government unions. In March 2013, dancing to the tune of the Taxpayers Alliance, Pickles issued advice to local authorities on reducing trade union facility time. Now he has ratcheted up the attack with new requirements on councils to publish the cost of trade union facility time and numbers of union representatives involved. His so called transparency code will not require the benefits and purpose of trade union facility time to be published. The rabid right winger has previous form for union bashing. Back in September 2013 he failed in his attempt to end union subscription check off in his own DCLG department - when PCS won a legal challenge – Pickles’ obsessive anti trade unionism costing the public purse £90000.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Brussels sprouts resistance to austerity

Over 100,000 workers protested against austerity in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday in a growing campaign that will include national strike action on 15 December by public and private sector workers. Union leader Marie-Helene Ska said: 'The government tells us and all of the parties tell us that there's no alternative. We don't contest that they have to find 11bn euros we've been saying for a long time that it's possible to find this money elsewhere, rather than in the pockets of the workers'

Camilo in the clinic hallway by Omar Pérez López

Camilo takes possession of the clinic hallway
in the photo that is too old for me
and too new for him who can still take more
even in this type of place.
Camilo is laughing alone in the clinic hallway
and he who laughs alone
remembers a clearer and simpler time
he who laughs alone
deposits an intelligible heart
in a washbasin as credit.
Camilo laughs alone
it is clear that for me there is just one way out,
I imitate him
and as if I were a slightly pampered saint
and as if I were a slightly awkward saint
I start to chew the smouldering ashes from a more difficult time,
he imitates me.


Thursday, 6 November 2014

Unions can be driving force for improved public services

How can an incoming Labour Government lift Britain out of the swamp of austerity, privatisation and run down public services, especially given the conventional wisdom that further spending cuts and job losses are required beyond May 2015? David Coats and John Tizard, in a timely New Statesman article, see a key role for public service unions as 'agents of change, fostering workplace cultures where employees understand their role in the process of continuous improvement' and advocate 'collective agreements (to) set the employment conditions for all workers involved in public service delivery – including those employed by the business, social and voluntary sectors and subcontractors.'

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Upping the ante on the Living Wage

In recent local government pay negotiations UNISON Scotland secured a commitment from the employers COSLA that the living wage will be the starting point for payment of the local government workers. Much work needs to be done to secure a similar breakthrough in the rest of the UK but a new report from the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign outlines the great potential of local authorities in challenging low pay beyond their directly employed workforce using procurement to the benefit of local economies: http://tinyurl.com/nrxxnrm

Monday, 3 November 2014

Private firms cash in on Probation outsourcing

Despite the exclusion of discredited big beasts G4S and Serco from recent competitive tendering for £450m of probation services contracts in England and Wales, the private sector has swept the board with two outsourcing companies - Sodexo and Purple Futures - leading 'consortiums' that were last week awarded a majority of the 21 regional, ten year long, contracts:

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Militant by Langston Hughes

Let all who will
Eat quietly the bread of shame.
I cannot,
Without complaining loud and long.
Tasting its bitterness in my throat,
And feeling to my very soul
It's wrong.
For honest work
You proffer me poor pay,
for honest dreams
Your spit is in my face,
And so my fist is clenched
To strike your face.

NHS Unions can make Con Dem's pay for reneging on PRB pay rise

Following last week’s health service group executive and subsequent liaison with other NHS unions, UNISON has confirmed that our members working in the NHS in England will stage a further four-hour stoppage between 7am and 11am on Monday 24 November. This will be followed by a week of action short of strike action between Tuesday 25 and Sunday 30 November when members will work to rule and not do any unpaid overtime. The stakes are high and it’s vital that the next strike (now joined by radiographers) builds on the impressive action taken on 13 October.  The Con Dem decision to unilaterally reject the recommendation of the independent NHS pay review body for a ‘1 per cent increase to all Agenda for Change pay points from 1 April 2014’ was compounded by the decision to award non consolidated 1% cash payments only to staff on the top of pay bands, thus discriminating against the 60% of staff receiving contractual increments this year. Public support is overwhelmingly with NHS workers and if the joint action can be sustained into 2015 the Con Dem’s can be forced to pay a heavy political price for this unprecedented attack on health workers.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Britain’s low pay epidemic

'Low Pay Britain 2014', the Resolution Foundation’s annual audit of low pay across Britain, has found that the number of people earning less than two-thirds of median hourly pay, equivalent to £7.69 an hour, rose to 5.2 million, an increase of 250,000 on the previous year and 22% of the national workforce:

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Italian trade unionists stand up in defence of workers' rights

In their biggest protest for a decade, up to one million Italian trade unionists mobilised in Rome yesterday in opposition to attacks on employment rights by the Democratic Party led Italian Government. Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL, the trade union centre which organised the protest, said: "We want work for everyone, and work with rights. This is a demonstration for those without work, without rights, those who suffer, who have no certainties for the future. We are here and we're not going away. We will strike and use all our strength to fight to change this Government's policies."

In This Light by Alan Dunnett

You sit with the others staring at the agenda.
Everything is in order and respectable.
The chairperson is venerated, the coffee
is not instant. The doorknobs are burnished gold
in this light.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Protest to Survive?

'Since 2011, the trade union movement has focused on building A to B marches and ‘co-ordinated strike action’, bringing together multiple sectors of the economy for a set of largely symbolic and defensive one-day strikes. This strategy has since witnessed a slow death by repetition' writes Michael Chessum on the New Statesman's blog reflecting on last Saturday's Britain Needs a Pay Rise march in London and simultaneous protests in Belfast and Glasgow.
     Over the conference season and in UNISON's In Focus magazine a much needed 'Autumn of Action' was launched to defeat public sector pay restraint but even before our clocks were turned back this strategy foundered as the NJC unions, first GMB and Unite (a crucial fact omitted by Chessum) and then UNISON, suspended the 14 October local government strike. Treasury claims that since 2010 pay restraint has removed £12bn from the pocket of public sector workers with minimal union resistance provides hard evidence to support Chessum's polemic that unions will need to raise our game if we are to defeat the 'entrenched Thatcherite consensus' which promises us further austerity and pay freezes regardless of next May's General Election outcome.

It’s also fine by Mourid Barghouti

It’s also fine to die in our beds
on a clean pillow
and among our friends.
It’s fine to die, once,
our hands crossed on our chests,
empty and pale,
with no scratches, no chains, no banners,
and no petitions.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How the UK's privatised electricity industry mutated into (foreign) state owned corporations

The widely acclaimed 'Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else’ by James Meek is, according to the FT's reviewer, ‘a book to read if you want vivid details of what went wrong’ in the aftermath of the Conservative Party’s orgy of privatisation in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The book's stand out essay, on the sale of UK electricity, charts the changes in ownership which have left foreign but state owned corporations dominant in the sector. It was first published in the LRB and can be read here. It highlights the contrasting approaches of UNISON and the French union CGT, with the latter bemused at the lack of resistance shown by UK unions to privatisation and foreign takeovers.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Unions and the 'Post Political Labour Movement'

For decades union activists across the world have argued the case for or against alliances between trade unions and social democratic parties, or with other parties with political and organisational links to the trade unions.

In the UK it has raged around the links to the Labour Party, now reformed (or `deformed` depending on your position) once again by the fallout from the Grangemouth and Falkirk  episodes involving Unite and the Labour Party. UNISON retains its still superior (in the light of those 2 incidents) options of Labour Link or the attractive option of the Political Fund, or even `none of the above`.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Building the fight for fair pay in the NHS

#NHSpay This week has seen UNISON lead the NHS trade unions into industrial action over pay for the first time in 32 year, the first time coincidentally since the year I was born.
    Monday's four hour stoppage by UNISON, Unite, the GMB, and most notably the Royal College of Midwives, saw disruption across the health service. Appointments and operations delayed or rearranged, wards and departments not cleaned, non-striking managers pushing beds around instead of porters. But more importantly perhaps it got huge and mostly supportive media attention and a huge amount of public support, be that people coming and talking to the picket lines, on radio phone-ins or social media.

Thou shalt always kill by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Thou shalt not steal if there is a direct victim.
Thou shalt not worship Pop Idols or follow Lostprophets.
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer,
Johnny Hartman, Desmond Decker, Jim Morrison,
Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barrett in vain.
Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30
That plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile.
Some people are just nice.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Public service strikers are standing up for the real Britain

'After years of real pay cuts public service workers are fighting back' writes Seumas Milne of the
Kingston UNISON midwives on NHS strike
Guardian in an article taking stock of the upsurge in public sector strike action since July. Milne rightly identifies the toxic mix of austerity and privatisation as the key factors in the squeeze on the pay and job security of Britain's public services workforce:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

European Commission offensive against workers' rights

The TUC's Stronger Unions blog reports on the final report of the European Commission's so called 'High Level Group on Administrative Burdens' which recommends a range of deregulatory measures including 'calling for targets for reducing regulatory costs, ensuring that any new costs are balanced with reductions elsewhere and a “think small first” principle exempting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from EU obligations as far as possible.' Alongside the Commissions REFIT programme which is blocking any new health and safety directives and the UK Tory EU reform agenda, the neo liberal direction of the 'European project' is becoming clearer by the day:

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Still the Enemy Within reviewed - remembering the lessons of 1984/85 Miners Strike

#stilltheenemywithin In yesterday’s NHS strike, soldiers were deployed to ambulance stations in some parts of the country, as England’s Chief Nursing Officer claimed that ‘robust plans’ were in place to counter the industrial action. Such a disproportionate state response to a 4 hour stoppage in public services shows that nothing much has changed in the industrial landscape since the 1984/85 miners strike.

The new documentary film Still the Enemy Within is a powerful reminder of the extraordinary struggle of the National Union of Mineworkers to defend their communities and livelihoods in the face of a calculated attack by a ruthless Tory Government. Using a combination of personal testimonies, archive footage, photographs and re-enactment, the film reflects on what the strike achieved in terms of solidarity and struggle but perhaps more importantly why it ultimately resulted in defeat. An important fact highlighted early in the film is that only 16,000 of the NUM’s then 160,000 membership were active on the frontline during the strike.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Solidarity with the NHS workers strike!

#Oct13 #NHSPay Monday 13th October will see the first national pay strike in the National Health Service in England for over thirty years. UNISON, RCM, Unite and GMB members across the country will take strike action for 4 hours from 07.00 until 11.00.
   Nurses, Health Care Assistants, Paramedics, Midwives, Occupational Therapists, Porters, Security, Technicians, Administrative and Clerical staff will stand shoulder to shoulder to show their anger at Jeremy Hunt’s decision to single them out for the worst pay settlement in the public sector. Hunt rejected the miserable 1% recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body and instead imposed an unconsolidated 1% only for those on the top point in each pay band.

An Ode to a Committee by Anon

Oh give me your pity, I’m on a committee
which means that from morning to night,
we attend and amend, and contend and defend
without a conclusion in sight.

We confer and concur, we defer and demur,
and reiterate all of our thoughts,
we revise the agenda with frequent addenda,
and consider a load of reports.

We compose and propose, we support and oppose,
and points of procedure are fun
but though various notions are brought up as motions,
there’s still very little gets done.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Workers’ rights under attack in Italy

‘We want to eliminate the poison that kills investment’ said Italian politician Giuliano Poletti in a debate this week in the Italian senate. Poletti, the labour minister in the supposed centre left Democratic Party led Government, was referring to redundancy protection and other employment rights long enshrined in Italy’s labour code. The main Italian union centre CGIL is pledged to fight the so called Jobs Act and will be holding a national demonstration in Rome on 25 October:

Never Forget by Attila the Stockbroker

I remember my stepfather moaning
In the first strike in ’72
‘Miners holding the country to ransom…..’
I was fourteen. I thought about you.
You worked underground, often in danger.
Hewed the coal we depended upon.
He earned more checking tax forms in Brighton.
I knew then just whose side I was on.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Individualisation of the work relationship

'Among the most striking features of the new forms of work organisation, in both the public and the private sector, we draw attention to demand-driven supply networks (DDSN), to management’s increased detachment from the practical aspects and details of work performance, and to an intensification of labour that contributes tremendously to the isolation of employees.' Articulating and representing the individual and collective views of workers in this new environment is a major challenge for trade unions writes Philippe Davies on the ETUI blog:

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) - promoting the interests of services corporations

Public Services International (PSI) and Our World is not For Sale have launched a new report, written by Ellen Gould, on the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). The report outlines the way the TISA, the radical extension of GATS, will restrict democratic government’s ability to make laws that protect us. It will tie the hands of governments to deal with important issues such as health care, water, energy, education and climate change. The agreement will stop public services returning to state ownership if privatisations fail and will undermine data privacy laws. Shockingly it will restrict the rights of government to regulate the financial markets, as if nothing has been learned from the financial crisis:

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Time to deliver for working people in Scotland

In the wake of last month's independence referendum, Lilian Macer, Convenor of UNISON in Scotland, has called for maximum unity in the struggle 'to create decent jobs, tackle low pay, end poverty - and deliver for working class people.' Speaking at a Morning Star labour movement conference last Saturday, Lilian said 'the outcome of the independence vote was about change — whether you were in the No or the Yes camp. People have demonstrated that they value public services, they don’t want more cuts, they reject privatisation and they want a fairer and more equal society.'

Monday, 6 October 2014

People's Assembly calls on Scotland to unite for more powers to defeat austerity

The People's Assembly has called for the energy both sides put into the referendum campaign to be channelled into ensuring that powers are delivered for Scotland that can be used to "reverse the austerity agenda".

The call was made as community activists, trade unions, trade union councils, politicians and other campaigning groups met for the People's Assembly Scotland AGM in Glasgow on Saturday 4 October 2014.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Tell your MP: VOTE to recognise Palestine

On October 13 MP's will have an opportunity to recognise Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Please urge your MP to vote for Palestine. Even if your MP is not usually supportive please do take the time to send them an email by using this link: http://act.palestinecampaign.org/lobby/Palestine
See more at: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/pscupdatevoterecognisepalestine/#sthash.83BHxNSE.dpuf

Standing Up by Ike Gittlen

Standing up
Don't' want your hatred or your greed
Say it clear
You don't speak for me
Raise my fist
Put me on your list
You are wrong
I'll fight until you're gone

Saturday, 4 October 2014

As TTIP danger looms larger - take action on 11 October

#noTTIP Discussions between EU and US officials on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are ‘making progress’ according to a BBC report. Widespread opposition to the inclusion of public services appear to be yielding concessions although the final outcome remains to be seen as the talks are clouded in secrecy and texts of the draft treaty are not available for public scrutiny. On Saturday 11 October there will be a European day of action against TTIP with protests organised in many places across Britain.

Wasteland by Sarah Lipton

Skyscrapers pierce the sullen sky,
Smoke from factories chokes the air
Settling on houses making their bricks black,
A weeping willow hangs with despair
Over a pond the color of coal,
There are no longer any birds to feed,
Instead rubbish floats on the pond,
And a dustbin lid lies by the road.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A pay ‘proposal’ so bad it’s unbelievable

#njcpay2014 UNISON has called on the employers side of the local government National Joint Council (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) to reconsider their current pay proposals and come forward with ‘improved ones which begin to tackle the hardship facing all of our members.’

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Vile and pernicious Tories

At the Tory party conference yesterday the fringe was awash with Tory delegates – scoffing the free food and wine amply provided by their corporate sponsors. To be fair it is the same at all party conferences – what was particularly appalling though was this spectacle of excess was played out just minutes after Iain Duncan Smith played to the docu-soap stereotype of a feckless under-class swigging away their benefits on cider and squandering the kids teas on a packet of fags.
    The reality for the poorest families is many are working but subject to in-work benefits because successive governments have pandered to industry and supressed worker rights and wages. Poverty will never be solved by denying a few fags and a glass of cheap plonk to anaesthetise the pain of life on the bottom. Radical progressive policies, addressing child poverty, worker rights, a decent living wage and full employment costs a few quid more in tax but then again if we attack the spivs and speculators who will fund those nice Tory lunches? These proposals are utterly vile and pernicious. The nasty party is back with a vengeance.
Anna Rose

Local Government employers lose trust of workforce

A new report published by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) paints a damning picture of employee trust in local government. And the challenge for trade unions – to raise and restore pay levels – is a factor.
The September ILM report, “The Truth About Trust”, measures employee trust in their organisations through a methodology that charts positive opinions minus negative opinions to produce a net high trust figure. In simple terms, if there are more positives than negatives then an employee, on balance, trusts their organisation. If it’s the opposite then an employee, on balance, does not trust their organisation.  

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Enough is enough - why Britain needs a pay rise

National industrial action on pay in both health and local government is only two weeks away. Labour Research examines the backdrop to the upcoming TUC demonstration - hard on the heels of the pay strikes - on 18 October in support of the demand that Britain Needs a Pay Rise: ‘In what is one of the slowest recoveries on record, earnings have fallen in value to an unprecedented extent. And, as TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady points out, the economy seems to be very good at creating low-paid jobs, but is struggling to create better-paid work. Action is needed to make work pay’  http://www.lrdpublications.org.uk/publications.php?pub=LR&iss=1735&id=idp2221712&fromopp=y

Would you buy a second hand war from this man? by John Tomlinson

Want to buy a second hand war?
Want to buy the war in Iraq?
We went there for oil, made Iraqi blood boil
now we’re asking what for
and wondering how we ever get back.
The profits have gone and hope is forlorn
it’s preloved, it’s used and we feel abused
want to buy a second hand war?
We killed Saddam, it was a great plan
want to buy a second hand war?
We’ve bombed the people, the mosques and the steeple,
we’ve displaced many poor as we wage this war.
We had a great dream but now it would seem
that we are bereft of ideas.
We’ve bombed Shiites, Sunni and Kurds
we killed mothers and left children in tears
want to buy a second hand war?
We’ve murdered at will or just for the thrill
want to buy a second hand war?
We have oil leases but the country’s in pieces
our soldiers are dying, their mothers crying
please buy this second hand war!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Crimes against humanity in Gaza

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s Emergency Session on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge held last Wednesday in Brussels has found evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.
    The Jury [1] reported: ‘The cumulative effect of the long-standing regime of collective punishment in Gaza appears to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.’ http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/

For Tony Benn by Peter Branson

You told it how it is, a money world
that doesn’t work for most, all double think
and spin. My question, did you go too far
or not half far enough? A lifebelt in
a sea of sharks, what use is that? They love
you now. Their Fool, you never stood a chance.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Labour's misguided embrace of austerity

Not only do Balls’s austerity gestures fail to appease Labour’s opponents while alienating its natural supporters still further. They also ignore the disastrous record of austerity in Britain and across Europe, even on its own terms. Osborne’s four-year squeeze delivered three years of recession and stagnation, a forecast deficit of £75bn instead of a balanced budget and the longest fall in living standards since the 19th century’, writes Seumas Milne in the Guardian, stating a plain truth that appeared to evade many delegates at the recent Labour Party conference:

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Labour will not deliver without a fiscal stimulus

#Lab14 Yesterday’s pro-austerity mantra of Ed Balls about ‘balancing the books’, ‘difficult decisions’ and ‘tough fiscal rules’ should send a shiver down the spine of every UNISON member. As Nobel Prize winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz said in the FT last week ‘the single most important policy is to improve the macroeconomic policy through a well designed fiscal stimulus’. Deflationary policies of austerity are the cause of wage stagnation.
Dave Prentis was right to point out in his Conference speech yesterday that working people have been ‘betrayed by privatisation, betrayed by the very people who crashed our economy’ and have suffered a five-year pay freeze while their pay has fallen in value by over one fifth’. But the economic prospectus set out by Balls can only lead to more of the same – continuing austerity means a continuing pay freeze and capping of benefits as well as further cuts in funding of public services. Unions working flat out for the return of a Labour government next May must challenge the Balls economic narrative otherwise we will be sleepwalking into a future of permanent austerity.