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

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Contrived. Corrupt. Corrosive

Ken Livingstone’s ego was always going to be his (and arguably Corbyn’s) undoing. But the contrived charges of anti-Semitism would have been landed on the Corbynistas regardless of whoever it was within the ranks daring to challenge the pro-zionist right wing of the Labour Party. And this saddens me deeply.

There is a powerful alliance at play which is seeking, quite perversely, to distort facts to accommodate the eventual slaying of a democratically elected leader – one who has a huge mandate within the Labour party membership at large.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

STUC opposes Trident as 'an extravagance and an irrelevance'

The STUC has renewed its call for Trident replacement to be abandoned and will revisit setting up Trade Union CND, focussing on job diversification for workers employed on Trident.

In a debate with major UNISON contributions from the union itself and several trade union councils, delegates rejected a GMB motion calling for Trident replacement as the ‘only game in town’ to defend jobs.

UNISON NEC policy chair Jane Carolan, in a rousing speech, supporting a Clydebank TUC motion, dubbed Trident: "An extravagance and an irrelevance" (see full text of her speech below).

UNISON activist Tom Morrison had moved the motion for Clydebank TUC, seconded by Arthur West from Kilmarnock and Loudon TUC. Both made reasoned, evidenced and devastating critiques of moral and economic case against Trident.

Kate Ramsden, speaking for Aberdeen TUC’s motion slammed the arms trade that sells weapons to repressive regimes.

She said: "Remember the bombardment of Gaza in 2014? The devastation wrought by Israeli bombs and missiles whose component parts were made at the Raytheon factory in Fife.

"Arms sales fuel conflict, support repression and make the world a more dangerous place for all of us, but especially those who through accident of birth, live in war zones or under oppression.

"And in the process, very rich people are becoming even richer on the backs of the suffering they create and care little for. It’s immoral, it’s obscene and it has to stop."
Jane Carolan’s speech to STUC against Trident Renewal

UNISON has a proud record of defending quality employment, defending high paid skilled jobs.

But we also have a record of standing up for international peace and solidarity, and believe that both on practical and principled reasons that the impact of Trident replacement would be catastrophic.

Practically it was the late Robin Cook of this parish who pointed out that the justification for Trident was at least 25 years out of date. The old cold war enemy of the Soviet Union has disintegrated
It is deceased
It is in fact a very dead parrot.
No other credible threat has emerged.

The world has changed and the threat that we now face makes nuclear weapons hopelessly irrelevant.
Indeed their very existence is futile - None of our wars has been won by them and none of our enemies deterred by them

And they are worse than useless in the terrorist threat we now face. How could our rented rockets ever have been deployed against outrages in Paris or Brussels?

Yet while we spend on Trident, conventional forces that contribute to peacekeeping security and
stability are cut.

Why then would we want to continue to build and hold nuclear weapons, when there are realistic alternatives?

The motion asserts that however defence diversification is too vague and not credible

But government figures that show that even if Trident were cancelled it would be 15 years before any jobs would go due to decommissioning.

15 years is a long time in employment terms. Ask any local government worker.

But there a wider principle here. Trident competes directly for public spending with our priorities as a movement. The further impact of cuts on public services should Trident be replaced would be catastrophic.

How many jobs in health in care in education would be scrapped?

And what of the 62,000 jobs that could be created if the annual running costs alone of Trident were used to build social housing and an energy efficient low carbon economy?

Politics is always about choices. Trident represents an excessive diversion of resources

UNISON has no qualms at all about saying that socially necessary spending that promotes quality of life for the majority is the principle that we stand for. We already see the consequences of major cuts in public spending and the effects that has in our communities and are campaigning to persuade our politicians to think again.

For the cost of Trident we could have 100,000 more firefighters
120,000 nurses
120,000 teachers

It is a gross misallocation of taxpayers' money, our money where there are so many more vital and constructive ways in which it could be spent. We need to highlight that Trident, a system designed never to be used is not only an irrelevance but an extravagance that will destroy our public services.

When the social fabric of our society is being torn up, it is impossible to justify support for the expensive and rather useless toy that is Trident.

Congress please oppose

Friday, 25 March 2016

Brian Bilston’s ‘Refugee’ Poem

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or I
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(Now read from bottom to top)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Cameron’s EU Deal... What’s So Special?

Well, BBC Breakfast this morning has wall to wall coverage of the UK’s Special Status in the EU. Cameron has triumphantly marched back from Brussels telling us he has secured a deal that lets us stay in, while there is speculation about what Boris Johnston will say.... Don’t all yawn together.

But it is difficult to contain excitement about this deal.

Wording changes about European integration and further cuts to benefits for “migrants” are difficult to get excited about. Let’s look at what the renegotiation doesn’t say:-

• Nothing about job creation across the EU where youth unemployment in particular is at worrying levels
• Nothing about workplace democracy and collective bargaining
• Nothing about modernising labour laws to cover zero hours contracts
• Nothing about challenging corporate tax evasion (but more protection for the City of London)
• Nothing about the Robin Hood tax on financial transactions
• Nothing about the protection of quality public services in Europe, while privatisation continues running amok

So the EU remains exactly the same as far as its workers are concerned.The same EU that has dictatorially imposed austerity across Greece, Spain, Portugal, drastically cutting living standards, watching as unemployment rises and wages fall, cutting pensions, slashing public services, privatising public assets at knock down prices for private profiteers. But of course protecting the banks.

Maybe as workers the question has to be, what is in the EU for us?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Tories to block Public Sector boycotts of Israel

The Tory government announced on Monday (15/2/16) that from now on only government approved boycotts will be tolerated. So much for local democracy.

Through a guidance note published by the Cabinet Office, without a debate, statement to, or a vote in parliament, the government has effectively banned public service organisations, which includes, local authorities, NHS Trusts, universities and students’ unions from adopting ethical procuring policies and supporting boycotts of Israel.

Although couched as guidance the statement makes it clear that public bodies will face severe penalties if they introduce or continue with boycotts on ethical grounds.

Despite the note being written in general terms, it is clear that the policy is a crude attempt to block the increasingly effective Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, (BDS) campaign against the Israeli apartheid state. In fact the announcement was made while Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock was on a trade visit to Israel.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

TU Bill attacks human rights. Manchester Rally.

UNISON's North West Region hosted an anti trade union bill rally at the Mechanics Institute Manchester tonight with Angela Raynor MP, Paula Barket, NW Convener, Kevan Nelson, UNISON North West Secretary, UNISON Policy Chair Jane Carolan and Carl Roper of the TUC, Here we cover Jane Carolan's speech in full.

"It was Catch 22 that immortalised the phrase just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not after you.

Even before the General Election last year we knew a Tory victory would put trade unionism at the forefront of an assault on working people

We didn’t have long before this abomination of a piece of legislation was published.

It attacks human rights, civil liberties, political freedom, the right to organise, the right to strike.

In short it is an attempt to kill resistance to the Tory project from the workplace or the electorate. We don’t fit into a Tory world view. In Thatcher’s famous phrase, we remain the enemy within.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

UNISON must get anti-austerity, workers' rights and anti-TTIP message into EU vote debate

UNISON's Jane Carolan, speaking at today's Institute of Employment Rights Conference outlined the history of the union's position on the EU and the referendum debate ahead. This is the full text of her speech:-

'What happened in Greece was not 
an aberration from EU policies but a 
logical consequence of them.' 
Jane Carolan
"UNISON has no policy from NDC (National Conference) on the issue of leaving the EU. That may surprise some who have seen our regular opposition to policies on the European Union proposed through TUC Congress but there is no contradiction here. Quite simply UNISON’s democratically agreed policies have consistently been ultra-critical of the EU institutions practices and policies BUT not one of the motions that we have passed has actually gone on to propose that as a result the union should commit itself to backing an EU withdrawal.

This goes back to the first national delegate conference of the union. When Nalgo, NUPE and Cohse came together to form UNISON the Nalgo left could see from the proposed rule book that the new union was to be pro public service, anti-privatisation.

However there were a number of policies that had been hard fought for in the old Nalgo that needed to be reiterated in the new union. One was Palestine, where support for the self determination of the Palestinian People had been initially narrowly won in the 80s. A second was opposition to Trident replacement and a commitment defence diversification that remains UNISON policy to this day.

What can I say other than plus ca change…

And the final one was opposition to the Maastricht Treaty.

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.