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

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Humanity - a poem for refugees by Joy Johnson

Packing up her school books
Laughing with her friend
It only took a moment
For her school days to come to an end

“We’re only kids in school”
Her voice was pained but clear
Bodies charred and disfigured
She was defiant in a time of fear

Sepia soldiers in the trenches
Skin blistered, bandaged eyes
Clinging to their comrades
In agony a generation dies

Winter froze the Arab Spring
Targeted for slaughter
Children no longer protected
Someone’s son, someone’s daughter

Pitiful souls crammed together
Clinging to flimsy protection
Abandoned to treacherous water
A flotilla of desperation

Over the Aegean Sea
T. shirts, trainers images haunt us
A testament to life’s fragility
Would be scientists, doctors, nurses

Hands reach out and clasped
Out of tyrants clutches free at last
But razor wire greets the huddled masses
And says No to the new colossus
Read Emma Lazarus’s famous poem which is engraved on the Statue of Liberty

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

UK unions must stand with their Turkish and Kurdish brothers and sisters at this time

The trade union confederations in Turkey, KESK and DISK, along with the Engineers and Architects Association and the Medical Association organised the demonstration and rally in Ankara on Saturday which was attacked by two bomb blasts which have resulted in the death of over 100 people with many hundreds more being injured. The demonstration was called under the slogan of ‘Labour for Peace’, writes Stephen Smellie, branch secretary of UNISON's South Lanarkshire branch and depute convener of UNISON Scotland

The progressive trade unions decided to call the demonstration in order to provide a focus point for all those in the country who are opposed to the policies of conflict promoted by the Turkish government of President Erdogan and the AKP (Peace and Development Party) and the increasing violence targeted mainly at the Kurdish community by state forces.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Women in UNISON

When national newspapers (Gender And Unity In The Labour Movement - Guardian 17 Sept) are used to urge that its time for 'a woman' to lead UNISON perhaps its time to look at where women are in the union.

The leadership of UNISON, as national newspapers may not be aware, lies in the lay membership. At its pinnacle is the National Executive Council, of whom at any point in time two thirds will automatically be women, due to an election process that awards seats at every level on the basis of proportionality, reflecting the proportion of women in the membership. The presidency of our union is guaranteed to consist of at least two women out of a structure of a president and two vice presidents. This means that in the last eighteen years since the merged union elected its own president, only six men have ever held that office.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

We have a moral and legal obligation to help refugees: Jane Carolan full #TUC15 speech

“We have a moral and legal obligation to help refugees”, UNISON NEC member Jane Carolan told delegates today in a moving speech backing a statement committing the General Council to campaign for Government policy to:
- recognise that the UK must play a full role in supporting refugees and fulfil its moral and legal obligations to significantly upscale its resettlement programme
- participate fully in a continent-wide response to the refugee crisis
- make welcome tens of thousands of refugees whether from camps in the Middle East or already in Europe
- .fully fund refugee resettlement, avoiding the exploitation of refugees and avoiding extra pressure on poorer inner-city communities, whilst ensuring that the international development budget is only used in line with OECD guidelines on official development assistance.

"Jane’s full speech is below.

This motion refers to events that everyone in this hall must be aware of, from the images that have been beamed into our homes on a nightly basis. I would hope that no one in this hall watches them with anything other than compassion and pity.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Pay - doing nothing is not an option

On Thursday a national pay summit was held at UNISON head office with representatives in attendance from all regions and service groups. Co-chaired by President Wendy Nichols and NEC Policy Chair Jane Carolan, the seminar was opened by General Secretary Dave Prentis who set out a context of Government long term 1% pay restraint, relentless public services cuts, vicious attacks on tax credits and the huge threat posed by the Trade Union Bill. https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2015/09/special-unison-summit-plans-to-tackle-pay-freeze/

In a speech outlining the challenges facing UNISON branches and members in local government, SGE Chair Glen Williams posed the big question to delegates - 'Does anyone here think doing nothing is an option in terms of a pay campaign?' With national pay disputes progressing in further education and probation, the local government NJC claim recently submitted as well as an all member consultation on a 2.5% two year offer in Scotland, that question will be answered soon enough (full speech below).

Monday, 24 August 2015

Can the leadership debate re-engage Labour supporters?

It is sad to see process overtaking politics in the Labour leadership debate, especially because the campaign had at least contained something about visions and policies and how best to deliver on them.

That is what has engaged the thousands who have turned out to hear Corbyn. Many of them are young and have been enlivened by a political debate on austerity that has been completely missing from the mainstream (except perhaps in Scotland but even there we detect a gradual awakening that SNP rhetoric and policy on that issue are two different things).

Engaging so many people in that debate surely can’t be a bad thing. So has it re-engaged disaffected Labour supporters?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Labour ballot: The curious case of the Tory and the vote

Andy Burnham has expressed concerns that Tories may have been given votes in the Labour leadership election and many in Corbyn’s camp have been quick to dismiss this as scaremongering, or as means to invalidate the election outcome. Parking politics to one side this election has turned into a very curious way to run a ballot.

I work with an former Tory councillor who has received several mail shots from candidates as a ‘registered supporter’. He hasn’t been mischievous about this but his name for one reason or another over the years got onto Labour mailing lists. He jokingly quipped that he could have registered three votes using different email addresses, family names and accounts if he could be bothered – because it really is that easy to register as a supporter.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Kenny Bell remembered

On the 4th anniversary of his death, Colombian human rights organisation Nomadesc has produced a video tribute to the late Kenny Bell, Newcastle UNISON Branch Secretary and deputy Regional Convenor Northern Region.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

UNISONActive on facebook

See our new facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/UNISONActiveblog We've had problems with the existing facebook page that we are trying to sort out.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

4 October National March & Rally - programme confirmed

#4Oct British trade unions are facing a full frontal attack. Government spending on public services and the welfare state is being rolled back decades. It has never been more important for trade unionists to protest. The TUC has published details of the upcoming demonstration at the Tory Party conference in Manchester on Sunday 4 October:

Click here or on the graphic for leaflets and posters to download and print.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

A windfall for Fat Cats - Labour must oppose Corporation Tax Cuts in Finance Bill 2015/16

In the immediate aftermath of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s failure to oppose the Welfare Bill, its MPs with the sole exception of Dennis Skinner abstained on an amendment to decline a second reading to the Finance Bill 2015/16. As well as insuring income tax rates will not rise in the next 5 years, the Bill proposes a raise in the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million and further cuts in Corporation Tax (reduced in 2 stages to 18% by 2020). All of these measures will deplete public finances and intensify the squeeze on public services. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-07-21&number=52&showall=yes#voters

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

What will the Tory Trade Union Bill mean for YOU?

Headlines on the new Trade Union Bill and subsequent blog postings have concentrated on the threat to strike action, through the new thresholds on ballots, and on the new laws regarding picketing and strike breaking. The ability of workers to exercise the right to withdraw their labour is under threat as never before, and opposition to the bill is rightly unanimous throughout the trade union movement. The current anti trade union laws in this country are outwith international law as defined in the ILO conventions and the changes make a bad situation worse.

As local stewards however it is easy to share the outrage and then assume that the impact on the way that we go about the everyday activities that we take for granted will be minimal. The grievances and disciplines, the representation over reorganisations, the local campaigning will all still continue as long as the members still have problems and we represent the workforce. The truth unfortunately is that our role will be significantly changed, and as UNISON is based primarily on lay organisation at a local level, we will be drastically curtailed in our ability to act on behalf of our members. The devil, as always, is in the detail.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Swimming through vomit

The debacle created by interim leader Harriet Harman on welfare has created Tory accusations of a split when we should have been putting clear red water between Labour and the Tories. Their vile attack on the poorest families and kids in the country is dog-whistle politics and all the more galling to allow the narrative to go on Tory territory as this is also an attack on the working poor – many thousands of UNISON members amongst them.

Piss ups and breweries spring to mind when a simple failure of the labour amendment would have been enough for the party to unitedly oppose these reforms based on being unable to support the bill un-amended – without the nonsense of asking for abstentions. Instead confusion ruled, Corbyn is being portrayed as a villain who created the split (utter nonsense but serves a purpose for Blairites and Tories to spin in this way) and we had just 48 MPs prepared to vote on the principles upon which they have been elected. This is the list of the Labour MPs who possess a pair.

Quote of the debate goes to John McDonnell MP ‘I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill and listening to some of the nauseating speeches tonight I think we might have to’. Given the cowardice of some of his colleagues I propose that as their fitting punishment.

Anna Rose

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Scotland after socialism?

Beneath the EU’s affront to democracy in Greece there is still the debate about whether Syriza reflects a shift to the left or whether it is just a singular reaction to a single issue which unites elements of left, right, middle and non-aligned. There is a mirror of this in Scotland as the debate around austerity always seems to end up as a debate about the constitution or national identity, as opposed to politics.
    The contradictions couldn't be more obvious. The words say: 'fight austerity, stop privatisation' and the actions bring privatisation upon privatisation and decimation of local government. Many are willing to excuse that as the result of failing to 'grasp independence' or because 'Labour did it before'. More worrying are those who actually support the service cuts, privatisations, tax freezes and business tax cuts as legitimate while still trumpeting an anti-austerity front.
   It makes for a difficult job for trade unions challenging these issues. Elements - sadly sometimes on the left - continue to try to characterise trade unions as part of the problem (the 'old order' or 'red tories') rather than the only realistic resistance we have to a mainstream political consensus that backs at least some level of austerity.
    In light of this, our attention was recently brought to a three paragraph blog from writer Ken Mcleod  which deserves wider distribution and will no doubt provoke some controversy but hopefully an interesting debate:

Monday, 13 July 2015

Local government workers in firing line of tax credit cuts

The outrage at Harriet Harman's refusal to oppose outright the Tory £4.5bn raid on tax credits is in contrast to the muted response to Labour front bench's equally unprincipled support for George Osborne's proposed 4 year 1% pay cap in the public sector. But there is good reason to be very angry at the latest capitulation to the Government's austerity agenda. A recent UNISON report highlighted that 'the proportion of local government workers receiving working tax credits at 11.2% is around two and a half times higher than the rest of the public sector.'

As John Tizard writes on the Home Start blog, there is now a compelling an urgent case for all Councils to pay a Living Wage and to ensure that they 'require all their suppliers of goods and services to pay the Living Wage'

Monday, 6 July 2015

Greece votes for democracy

Yesterday’s referendum in Greece on the terms of the bailout offered by the European Union offered a decisive answer to those seeking to continue with the route to austerity. By a margin of 62% to 38%, the Greek people voted no, on any terms a decisive result.

Most commentators had prophesied that the referendum would reveal a deep split in Greek society between those voting for continued affiliation to the EU and those rejecting the terms imposed by the IMF and the EU. This split did not materialise.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

UNISON #Lablink15 Day 2 'Meet the Newbie MPs'‏

Day 2 of the National UNISON Labour Link Forum in Manchester started with a Parliamentary Panel of MPs and MEPS (see picture). It was inspiring to see three new MPs who come from our movement sitting for the first time alongside longer serving panel members. Former UNISON NEC member, Dave Anderson MP, spoke first about the risk to the union from indiscipline and how we must remain loyal and united to fight off Tory attacks on the union and the cuts.

Friday, 3 July 2015

UNISON #Lablink15: Day 1. 'We will never walk away from the Labour Party'

The UNISON political fund representing members who have decided to affiliate to the Labour Party began its annual forum this morning in Manchester.

The forum was opened by Dave Prentis who promised delegates that as long as he is General Secretary, unison will never walk away from the Labour Party. The unions formed the Labour Party and we need the Party to make a fairer society.

Following the defeat in May and the party leadership elections it was decided to cancel the usual workshops and hold hustings of leadership candidates.

The New Health and Social Care Economy – Dexter Whitfield

This ground-breaking 96-page report puts the health and social care sector at the centre of importance to achieve sustainable economic growth. Commissioned by New Directions, the definitive analysis covers Sefton MBC, Liverpool and Greater Manchester City Regions and the North West regional economy. It demonstrates the economic importance of the health and social care economy; sets out the terrain on which the integration of health and social care must take place including privatisation, inequalities, austerity, demographic change and quality jobs; and makes local and national 40 recommendations.
Full Report http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/publications/public-bodies/health-and-social-care/the-new-health-and-social-care-economy-dexte/the-new-health-and-social-care-economy-full-report.pdf

Executive Summary http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/publications/public-bodies/health-and-social-care/the-new-health-and-social-care-economy-dexte/the-new-health-and-social-care-economy-exec-summary.pdf

Friday, 26 June 2015

All roads lead to Manchester on 4 October

Building on last Saturday's larger than expected anti austerity protests in Glasgow, London and other cities, the TUC is calling a national demonstration in Manchester on Sunday 4 October to coincide with the Tory Party conference. Over 50,000 attended a similar demonstration in 2013.
    TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: “This October’s march and rally will allow thousands of ordinary people to show the government exactly what they think of their policies. The Conservatives’ planned attack on trade unions and extreme cuts are an assault on working people at a time when they should be focused on securing the UK’s fragile recovery and creating better jobs to boost productivity.”

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Europe - the dog that didn't bark at #uNDC15‏

As the clock ticked down on a bail out deal between the Greek Government and the Troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF – UNISON conference was debating emergency composite motion 2 on ‘UNISON’s political campaign after the General Election.’

However this omnibus composite (agreed between the NEC and 5 branches) was silent on Britain’s relationship with the EU - an issue which is central to the political agenda of the Tory Government and attracting growing concern in some parts of the British trade union movement (see below).

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

If we shy away no one can help us but if we decide to fight, no one can stop us

#uNDC15 A thumping speech from Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, hit all the right buttons with Conference with support for the Glasgow strikers and a pledge that 'an injury to one is an injury to all' as he backed sacked SECC worker Robert O'Donnell.

It celebrated victories, listed the challenges ahead and underlined that trade union rights are human rights and must be protected.

His full speech is below:

Monday, 15 June 2015

We have to get better organised - Glen Williams

#uLGC15 'I have tried not to focus on the doom and gloom, but to give you a flavour of the struggles that take place every day around the UK, struggles and resistance by you and our members that we need to build on. We have to get even better organised; we have to devise and work within the new structures of devolution and combined authorities, working across the usual boundaries of service groups' said Glen Williams, Chair of the Service Group Executive in moving the 2014/15 Local Government Annual Report.
Full speech below:

Sunday, 14 June 2015

We Belong To Glesga., Dear Ol..Glesga Toon...

#UNDC15 Well this week we all do. The National Delegate Conference hits the real* capital of Scotland (sorry Embra) where delegates can sample the best curries, the best pubs and the best hospitality that Scotland has to offer. Who needs sunny weather when you can drink all day, dance all night and play at finding the cormorants on the Clyde? And two of Scotland’s finest football teams play here, Celtic and Partick Thistle, while there are also representatives of the lower divisions on the South of the river.

Then there’s what happens in the Conference hall. The SECC itself has become controversial as a result of the policies pursued by its management, so has only itself to blame. And if UNISON were booking its conference now, perhaps we could take those policies into account. But it is worth remembering that the lead time between booking a conference venue and actually using it is about five years.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Early conciliation - only 1 in 8 cases are settled

'The most recent statistics from Acas (April-December 2014) show that nearly 59,000 workers have used early conciliation, compared to just under 2,000 employers and that the number of applications has risen from around 1,000 a week when conciliation was not mandatory to 1,800 a week in recent months' writes Sonia McKay in Labour Research. The new process has secured COT3 settlements in only one in eight cases with another 60% of claims being abandoned before reaching Tribunal.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Public Services are trapped in an EU market straitjacket

A much neglected aspect of the 'European debate' is the extent to which the EU is a driving force for the liberalisation and privatisation of public services. Judith Clifton writing for the LSE's British politics and policy blog, examines how local and national governments have lost power over key areas of public service governance to Brussels. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions has complained that the European Commission 'proclaims to be neutral but in practice veers towards applying internal market rules to public services in an overly-market focused way, eroding local democracy'

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Defend our right to strike

Tory proposals in the Trade Union Bill to impose new industrial action ballot thresholds for turnout (50%) and support (in 'essential services' 40% of all balloted) 'would make almost all strikes illegal, particularly in large and dispersed workforces where postal ballots rarely achieve this' writes Michael Meacher MP. http://www.leftfutures.org/2015/06/tory-trade-union-bill-is-an-attack-on-a-fundamental-human-right/
    The proposals if implemented (without a return to workplace balloting) will severely undermine national bargaining with union's unable to exert leverage in future negotiations on pay, pensions etc.
     The Trade Union Bill is a political attack on trade union rights as vicious as any law enacted during the Thatcher era. A major campaign inside and outside of Parliament is required to resist this draconian legislation.

Power Trio by Vincent P Richardson

A Statesman
once a revolutionary became a politician matures

A Politician
once a revolutionary aspires

A Revolutionary
never retires.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Proud, loud and UNISON! Angie Rayner’s Maiden Speech as an MP

Until a few weeks ago the North West regional convenor, and proud of her UNISON background, on Tuesday Angie made her maiden speech in the House of Commons promising to ‘always tell it like it is’ but be in no doubt if the Tories attack the NHS and public services Angie will punch like an ‘angry mother’.
   A breath of fresh air to the stuffy stale, male and pale stereotypes UNISON should be proud of our fantastic advocate in Parliament and the history making Angie; the only former care worker to become an MP. A reality check for the Westminster bubble is our North West firebrand. Get in there girl! http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/9061ea41-3778-4f99-b4bd-39ce38299801?in=15:34:55&out=15:50:00
Anna Rose

Friday, 29 May 2015

Queen’s speech: We may have lost a battle - There is still a war to fight

“Where there is discord may we bring harmony. Where there is error may we bring truth. Where there is doubt may we bring faith.  And where there is despair may we bring hope.” Remember that nauseating quote from a newly elected Margaret Thatcher on the steps of Downing St on her first day in office in 1979?

This was a woman who went on to put troops on the streets of the UK; who declared class war on trade unions and open war on the miners and mining communities; who presided over almost 15 years of police corruption, most of which is just now seeing the light of day through events like the Hillsborough inquiry; and who caused untold damage to British industry and those who worked in it.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Collins Review paved way for Tory attack on union political funds

Yesterday's Queen's Speech included proposals to require an opt-in to political funds (rather than the current opt-out) and the Guardian reports that 'trade union officers and the Labour party seemed to have been caught unaware of the reforms'.
    No one can say that they were not warned about this scenario as they rushed to endorse the Collins Review which effectively ended collective affiliation to Labour and removed automatic voting rights from union levy payers. In acquiescing to a two tier system whereby levy payers are required to opt-in to affiliate Labour party membership in order to secure voting rights, the pass was sold on opposing the same mechanism for payment of the levy. The consequences were foreseeable and will be disastrous for the Labour party. 

Friday, 22 May 2015

The funding sting in the tail of Devo Manc

UNISON North West has produced an excellent policy statement on Devo Manc. They are rightly concerned by the blurred lines of accountability, future funding and how services will be delivered or commissioned in the future.
    One of the key areas to be included in Devo Manc is health spending. Labour’s vision for greater integration of health and social care was a strong concept which the Labour Party placed as a central plank of its NHS policy. Devo Manc appeared to wrong-foot Andy Burnham pre-election and led to accusations of a policy rift with the regions Labour leaders. Whether this is true or not it appears to me that Andy Burnham is the critical friend who should be listened to.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

ILO issues global inequality warning

The warnings and predictions just keep on coming. Following the World Bank statement earlier this year that the rise in Global Inequality is partly due to the decline of trade unions, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has released its own warnings about accelerating global inequality. The report notes that the Global Labour Market and the nature of employment is changing significantly.
   Only 25% of workers currently have a stable, long term employment relationship with their employer. The other 75% (60% of whom do not have a contract) are exist in zero hours, self employed, part time, temporary or even intern contracts. Even in the so-called stable economies of Europe and North America over 33% of workers work in `precarious work` employment.

Friday, 15 May 2015

No right turn

I have previously referred to Ed the Moribund and I was openly critical of his circus act hustings at the last leadership contest surrounded by labour students – an earlier pre-cursor to Milifandom without the notoriety; he struggled to distance himself from the Blair/Brown era and, terrified of the ‘Red Ed’ label, appeared to be neither the darling of the left or the right, popping out like a weather vane to try and please both sides. His early leadership days were beset by waffly concepts – egged on by ill-advisors, like Cruddas, who still tinker with blue labour ideals of replacing public services with co-ops, mutuals and all things woolly rather than making a commitment on hard policy pledges that would capture the hearts and minds of voters.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Agitate, educate, organise!‏

In the aftermath of the general election, trade unions have a unique role in leading the fight back against the Tory offensive, writes John Stevenson of UNISON Scotland:
    'The Tories know how influential we can be and that’s why we are about to face attacks threatening our very existence. That means getting back to organising, recruiting, engaging, educating and agitating. We have a membership to represent and they are going to need us now more than ever'

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

2015-2020: a do-or-die period for UK trade unions

'Trade unions will now pay a heavy price for Labour’s defeat. Tory plans are set out clearly enough in their election manifesto, including the much-trumpeted proposals for yet more restrictions on strike ballots, most notably a requirement that strikes in certain sectors will need the support of 40 per cent of those eligible to vote, as well as a majority of those voting' writes Professor Keith Ewing in today's Morning Star.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

People’s Assembly Scotland: Greens top pledge against austerity followed by Labour then SNP

#GE2015 Most of Scotland’s election candidates who responded to the People’s Assembly Scotland’s petition against austerity have also signed up to it, pledging “to commit themselves to oppose all Austerity Cuts.”
   Top pledgers were the Greens (14), next came Labour (11) and surprisingly in third place was the SNP with only 9 of its 22 responders agreeing to sign up to oppose all austerity cuts while the others issued a statement which included “We believe we can manage the deficit down, but without destroying the social fabric that holds us together.”
   Phil McGarry, Chair of the People’s Assembly Scotland, said: “With austerity right at the front of so many parties’ election campaign, we are surprised more candidates didn’t take the chance to publicly confirm their opposition to austerity. Given the public campaigning, we are even more surprised at how few SNP candidates were willing to actually pledge to oppose all austerity.”

Monday, 27 April 2015

Surrendering to neo-liberal ‘fiscal discipline’

Keith Ewing suggests that Scottish independence may come sooner than the high-speed rail link, partly because of ‘Labour’s extraordinary proposal to give quasi-constitutional status to Austerity.’ Unfortunately, Labour is not alone in this as the SNP manifesto betrays. (UK Constitutional Law Association)

He is right that the proposed ‘Budget Responsibility Lock’ – at least without a miraculous and spontaneous economic recovery – would effectively make some level of austerity legally compulsory, if it could be made to work at all.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

TTIP needs international union response

#stuc15 UNISON NEC member Jane Carolan reminded the STUC in Ayr today about the need for an international response to the TTIP “assault on democratic government”.

A composite from four unions and four local TUCs called on the STUC to campaign against TTIP, support an international protest in Paris in December and to call for politicians who have an interest in the privatisation to declare an interest and abstain on voting on TTIP.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Oppose TTIP in principle – it has no redeeming features

#A18DoA #NoTTIP Today is a Global Day of Action against free trade and investment treaties. Over 25 protests are planned in Britain including a major event ‘Democracy vs TTIP’ at Shepherds Bush Common, London:
     Many trade unionists will have been disappointed to see Labour include in its General Election manifesto support for the 'principles behind the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Treaty (TTIP)’. Although it goes on to say that a Labour Government ‘will hold the European Commission to account on issues of concern, including the impact on public services and the Investor to State Dispute Settlement Mechanism. And we will ensure the NHS is protected from the TTIP treaty’, this is a massive and unacceptable capitulation to the competition and deregulation agenda of the EU and US:

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tory guns loaded and targeted on trade unions

#GE2015 David Cameron's cocksure comment in last night's BBC interview that the Tories are 'only 23 seats short of a majority' should make every trade unionist reflect on what's at stake in next month's General Election. A look at the Tory Manifesto confirms an intention to outlaw public sector strikes and introduce a further raft of repressive restrictions on union freedom to organise:

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Half a work manifesto is better than none

On Monday Labour launches its 2015 General Election manifesto but the 'work manifesto' A Better Plan for Britain’s Workplaces published on 1st April, provides an early insight into the party's proposals for employment rights. Strong commitments include an apprenticeship guarantee, outlawing the use of agency workers to undercut permanent employees (but not removing the 12 week qualifying period for equal rights), banning 'exploitative' zero hours contracts and raising the national minimum wage hourly rate to £8 within the next five years.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

ISDS - a corporate power grab

#NoTTIP One of the most pernicious measures in the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which empowers corporations to go to secret tribunals to attack the laws we rely on for public services, a clean environment, safe food and decent jobs etc.

A new resource has been launched for campaigning on ISDS -www.ISDSCorporateAttacks.org – a website that outlines the basic facts/threats of ISDS; provides summaries of ISDS cases organized by issue area: health, environment, financial stability, etc.; gives stories of inspiration of governments and government officials that opposing ISDS; and includes a basic petition.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Why TTIP is bad for workers

#NoTTIP The recent War on Want Manchester conference - ‘TTIP: Building the Fightback’ - included a presentation by Jeronim Capaldo of TUFTS University in the USA. Capaldo’s study, ‘The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: European Disintegration, Unemployment and Instability’, provides conclusive evidence that contrary to official assessments, TTIP's intensification of market competition and deregulation will have negative effects on European workers including falling levels of employment, lower incomes and a reduced labour share of national wealth. A summary of the study can be read here:

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Why Workers Won't Unite: That is the question

In her review of two US books on the decline of unions in the States, Kim Philips Fein of NYU takes us through a hop, skip and a jump of US Union history and then dives into a complex seeming summary of the current state of the American Trade Unions. It's a familiar journey, 100 years ago unions were oppressed but we worked in occupations that lumped us together and now this has disappeared and is being replaced by jobs that are almost wholly precarious and involves mainly service workers in solo occupations.
   So far, so familiar. But let us pause. US union density now stands at about 12%. In the private sector it is 7%. Any explanation for this will have to include the play of certain factors that may not apply in the UK. Or anywhere else in the world. So an examination of the US labour movement is not necessarily very useful when looking at the UK.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Will conference words of unity translate to reality?

Calls for unity from both platform and floor were welcome after a sometimes bitter special local government conference in London on Tuesday - and unity is essential if anything positive is to come out of this costly exercise.

Really important stuff about how we organise, how we consult clearly and transparently and how we engage members, was battered through with little debate as the conference voted time after time to move the business on.

But it did back the motions. Sound and considered templates from Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Service Group and others on strategies for consultation, including using electronic communication, more political lobbying and developing union wide strategies on pay. All very positive, although tying negotiators’ hands when it comes to consulting on last minute offers may yet come back to bite us.

The real challenge for the lay and full time leadership is how they implement the mandate to re-open the pay claim in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – which was clearly what it was all really about for most delegates. The technicalities of that are not simple; members will no doubt be a bit confused as will the whole bargaining structure, so it will test the pronouncements on unity to the full.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Public services - more austerity carnage ahead

#Budget2015 The cuts to public services projected in yesterday's Budget speech by Tory Chancellor George Osborne are unprecedented and a timely TUC analysis confirms that 'departmental spending is set to fall by 5.4 per cent in 2016-17 and 5.1 per cent in 2017-18. That’s a rate of spending cuts that is 2.4 percentage points more severe than in any year of austerity to date. Even in 2011-12, when service cuts were at their most significant, spending fell by 3 per cent of GDP.
   The cuts the Chancellor has planned for 2016/17 and 2017/28 are 80% greater than those we have seen before.' Rather than embrace austerity-continuity in 2015/16 and austerity-lite thereafter, Labour must offer a clear alternative to the destruction of public services. And all UNISON branches must get behind the union's strategy of encouraging members to vote out the current Government on May 7:

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Prof Prem Sikka on 'How to Defeat Austerity?' Video now online

'There was absolutely no need for anything to do with austerity. It is really a political project which has been carried out in the UK for the last 30 or 40 years. It has eroded the purchasing power in the hands of ordinary people... it has resulted in concentration of wealth.. there has been an organised humiliation of normal people.' says Prem Sikka, Professor of Accountancy at Essex University, in a video from a recent Morning Star conference in Glasgow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqAtj3ZsFRM

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Northern Ireland says NO to Austerity

#M13 Over 50,000 public service workers, including UNISON members, across Northern Ireland took 24 hour all out strike action against austerity cuts yesterday. Education, health, transport and council services were brought to a halt in response to the cross-party Stormont House agreement which will cut 20,000 public sector jobs over the next 4 years. A well supported march and lunchtime rally was held in Belfast and 10 other towns.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Joined up public services - how do we unscramble marketisation?

Progressive, people centred reforms of public services by an incoming Labour Government will require more than good intentions writes Eunice Goes on the LSE blog. Decades of funding cuts, marketisation and the embedding of 'thousands of private sector providers' present an enormous challenge yet to be addressed by Labour party and trade union policy makers. Is it time to end the contracting out culture?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Rising inequality caused by weaker unions

A new study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has tracked three decades of income (1980 to 2010) and found that as unionisation declined, the wealth of the richest 10% in advanced countries showed a continuous increase. The decline in unionisation explained about half of the rise in incomes for the richest 10% and half of the increase in the Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality).

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Outsourcing fails service users and workers

The outsourcing of public services provision to private providers has a detrimental impact on the workforce and a knock-on effect on the quality of care, says a new TUC report published today. The research, conducted by the New Economics Foundation on behalf of the TUC, looked at the scale and scope of outsourcing in five key sectors – social care, health care, offender management, local government and employment services. The report also examined the effects of outsourcing on staff working in a variety of public service jobs, such as care workers, nurses, prison officers and security guards.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

NHS Devolution - another Trojan Horse?

Greater Manchester is to take control of the region’s Health and Social Care spending. Yesterday George Osborne announced that from 2016 Greater Manchester’s combined authorities will take responsibility for the entire £6 billion health and social care budget. The deal is being hailed by council leaders across Greater Manchester but Andy Burnham is urging caution and warns that the proposals could lead to a break up of the NHS and an inconsistency across the country in the provision of health and social care.
     This is a massive change to the way health care is funded in England and the proposals need to be critically analyised to see if the argument that it will improve health outcomes for the people in Greater Manchester really do add up.