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

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.