Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Rising unemployement and recession is a price we had to pay to keep inflation down but that is a price well worth paying"

Tories: Norman Lamont in 1991 explaining that rising unemployment and recession is a price well worth paying to keep down inflation.

Did the unemployed agree? No doubt the wealthy did....

Can everyone remember this is what the Tories are really, really like and vote Labour on Thursday?

Hat tip Captain Swing

Turning Point Strike Lobby & Rally: Manchester and London

Picture collage from demo and rally by "Turning Point" Unison members in Manchester and London during last Friday's strike. 

The national "Charity" Turning Point is trying to slash and burn its staff terms and conditions without even bothering to talk to UNISON.

All of the 2600 Turning Point staff face dismissal notices while their senior management team pay themselves huge and obscene amounts of public money.

It does make you wonder what on earth is going on in this organisation?

In the collage we see amongst many others Isobel McVicar, the UNISON Community National Executive Committee (NEC) member, National UNISON officer Simon Watson and West Midlands Community branch secretary Chris Durnall.

I love the Turning Point UNISON members with their banners on the merry-go-round!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Reality Check

So true
"A banker, a public sector worker, and a private sector worker are sitting round a table. 

On the table is a selection of 10 biscuits. 

The banker takes nine biscuits for himself, then turns to the private sector worker and says to him, "watch out mate, I think that public sector worker is after your biscuit".

hat tip Teamsters

Hands Off our Union! Stop the hijacking of our democracy

(Guest Post from Toni Collins). UNISON branches from across the country are reporting that local members of the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party - who are not members of UNISON and in some cases active members of the NUT, PCS and Unite - are leafleting workplaces in support of the so called "reclaim our union slate".

Whilst there is some logic in these actions - given that most candidates on the list are members of the SWP/SP even though it is fronted and held together by sycophantic patsies who are Labour Party members - their involvement is undemocratic and an unacceptable interference in UNISON's democracy.

Here's where those two organisations stand on the NEC elections and no UNISON member should be under illusion that it is the SWP/SP who are out to claim our union. It is time this blatant hijacking of our democracy is stopped once and for all and the election rules are revised to stop interference by outside organisations:



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Suspended Coffee - Forest Gate style

Check out this link to a BBC news report on this scheme in a Forest Gate cafe which is just down the road from where I live.

Customers can when they buy themselves a coffee at the same time pay for another, which could be claimed later by someone who couldn't afford it.

h/t tweet on http://forestgate.net/

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Workers Memorial Day - The cost of cheap clothes is paid for in blood & why we are all guilty

Tomorrow is Workers Memorial Day (WMD). An international day of remembrance for those who have been killed in accidents at work or who have died of work related ill health.

As I type this rescuers are still trying to save workers trapped for days in the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The BBC report that at least 336 people have died and 600 are missing.

WMD is also a campaigning day to fight for the living as well as remember the dead.

We all have to take responsibility for the dreadful events in Dhaka. The ridiculous cheap prices for clothes at discount stores such as Primark or Matalan is paid for in blood. Shoppers need to understand this and demand responsible and accountable ethical sourcing.

But the problem is wider than this. No doubt the middle class John Lewis brigade will be shaking their heads in disgust at the thought of all these chavs buying their cheap clothes - while at the same time their pension and insurance policies are profiting from the world wide exploitation of the same workers.

Pension trustees need to raise their game and make sure that the companies they invest in have pro active and vigorous supply chain inspection regimes and that all their sub contractors truly respect workers rights and safety. 

We also need to make sure that that the huge contract pension and insurance funds that don't have any trustee oversight are brought into the responsible investment fold. If you pay into any product that invests in any part of this supply chain you can't wash your hands of your responsibilities as a owner and a beneficiary of what is done in your name.

Why don't we make UK companies and investors legally responsible for the reckless mass deaths of companies they invest in as they are for the manslaughter of workers they directly employ in the UK? 

Also, before we get too smug, don't forget the 20,000 plus Brits who die prematurely every year in this country because of their work.

Check the TUC website for list of local events to mark Workers Memorial Day.

Consultation on final pay offer for all on Local Government terms and conditions

This email was sent out by UNISON Community National Office yesterday. Many workers whose pay is linked to Local Government rates (NJC) do not work directly for Councils.

I represent these workers (my pay is also subject to this agreement) at the UNISON NJC Committee on behalf of Community Executive.

Dear colleagues,

Please find below the final offer from NJC employers to joint local government trade unions.

After our rejection of the two ‘options’ in their first pay offer, the Local Government Employers (LGE) came back to us with a final offer in writing on 25 April (attached).

The revised offer is:

·                     1% on all pay points from 1 April 2013

·                     Deletion of scale point 4 (the bottom pay point) from 1 October 2013

There are around 28,000 employees – mostly women working part-time - on scale point 4, who would move onto the revised scale point 5 in October. This would mean a 1% increase for them between April and 30 September and a further 1.4% increase on 1 October. Overall they would move from £6.30 to £6.45 – a 2.4% increase.

UNISON’s NJC Committee will be meeting on the 7 May in the morning to discuss the final offer and agree its recommendation for the branch consultation which will start as soon as possible after 7 May. The Joint Trade Union Side will meet in the afternoon and will hopefully agree a joint way forward.

John Gray is the Community Service Group Executive representative on the NJC Committee.  If branches or regions have the opportunity to take soundings with members on NJC conditions before 7 May, please pass on any comments to John at johnDOTgray2012ATBtinternet.com.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Trident: What's it for? Luke Akehurst & Dr Kate Hudson Compass/Newham Fabians Debate

This should be an interesting and topical debate! It is just a shame that Luke and Kate are so notorious for being quiet, reserved and consensual about such matters that things may be just a little flat....


Turning Point Strike against massive pay cuts and refusal to talk

Today there is a strike by UNISON members who work for the National health & social care "charity" called Turning Point in Stoke and Staffordshire. They are holding demonstrations in Manchester and London.

While I think everyone understands that the voluntary sector is facing enormous pressures due to government cuts, it is completely unacceptable for the senior management of so called socially responsible organisations to decimate their employees wages and conditions while refusing to recognise or even negotiate with their trade union. This is at the very least a fundamental breach of human rights.

I have also seen some really inappropriate, threatening and nasty communications from Turning Point's Senior management which makes me wonder what are earth is going on in this organisation?

The London solidarity action will be taking place during lunch time outside Turning Points’ London main office at:Standon House 21 Mansell St E1 8AA Friday 26th April 12.30 - 1.30pm. Nearest tube Aldgate. 

This is from West Midlands Community Branch "Members at Turning Point, who are former NHS employees, feel particularly betrayed as they are having hard earned TUPE protections swept away, including redundancy rights. The organisation has denied UNISON recognition although it transferred over by law under TUPE

If the cuts to their pay and other terms and conditions are allowed to go ahead then Turning Point workers will be put on the poverty line. Some are facing reductions in their pay of up to £10,000 per year. All staff will be hit by the changes depending on their individual contract terms. The cuts to terms and conditions include:

• cut to all overtime pay
• cut in ‘sleep ins’, ‘on calls’ and other out of office payments
• stripping all staff of any enhanced redundancy payments
• cut in all unsociable hours payments meaning care staff will now be paid basic whether they work nights or days
• refusing to pay any future pay awards agreed by the NJC or Agenda for Change increments.

Its Chief Executive is Lord Victor Adebowale, who paid himself £165,000 and his three Assistants another £473,000 in 2012. Turning Point does not appear to be in financial difficulty as their most recent published accounts demonstrate with reserves of over £5M.

Please contact Lord Victor Adebowale by e-mail at victor.adebowale@turning-point.co.uk asking Turning Point:

1. to withdraw the dismissal notices and new contracts that workers are being pressured to sign;

2. to enter into negotiation with UNISON to find alternative solutions".

Update: check UNISON press release

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My UNISON NEC 2013 Ballot Paper for Greater London & Community

"Defamation Bill agreed by Parliament" Hip, Hip Hooray!

Great news! I received this email this evening. Well done to everyone involved in getting rid (mostly) of this nasty, vindictive, unjust, unfair and horrible stain on the whole British judicial process. 

I hope they are celebrating:)

"Dear Friends

We have some great news to share. The Defamation Bill has been agreed by Parliament and is now just waiting for Royal Assent, which will probably happen today, before becoming an Act of Parliament. This is undoubtedly down to all of your hard work with us over the last few years and you all deserve a huge thank you!

Below are some of the reactions from some of the Libel Reform Campaign supporters. You can read more here: http://www.libelreform.org/news

Tracey Brown, Director, Sense About Science said: “A campaign of small organisations, thousands of individuals and good parliamentarians has achieved changes that were denied to citizens for a century. We can now decide to publish based on ‘is it true’, not ‘will they sue’.”

Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship said: “We now have a Defamation Bill that will strengthen freedom of expression, end the global chill from libel tourism and restrict corporations from suing citizen critics.”

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN said: “This has been a remarkable campaign that has united politicians and campaigners to reform a law that had become an international embarrassment. The chill has had an impact on anyone speaking out in the public interest - from scientists to bloggers - so this is good news for freedom of speech in the UK.”

Dr Evan Harris, Libel Reform Campaign parliamentary adviser said: “As someone involved the campaign from the start, and from inside and outside Parliament, I can see what an achievement it is to achieve this reform.”

Simon Singh, science writer and defendant in BCA v Singh said: “This is an extraordinary story of cross party collaboration, fired up by a grass roots campaign, backed by everyone from nerds to Mumsnet, which includes mums who are also nerds.”

Justine Roberts, CEO and co-founder of parenting forum Mumsnet said: “It's not perfect, and of course we don't yet have the full detail on how the regulations will deal with publication on the internet. But we applaud the hard work of everyone involved, and are very happy to have been a part of this much-needed reform.”

Charmian Gooch, Director, Global Witness said: “The passage of the Defamation Bill is a long overdue victory in the campaign to reform the UK’s outdated and repressive libel laws.”

You can also read our initial analysis of the Bill (PDF)
We're going to arrange a bit of a gathering to get supporters and champions of the campaign together to celebrate this wonderful accomplishment and let you know what needs to happen next. We all still need to keep the pressure on to make sure the new law is enacted as soon as possible, clear and robust regulations are published, new Civil Procedure Rules are issued and most importantly we need to tell those who try and silence free speech through that libel they can't get away with it any more.
We'll be in touch with more details soon!
Síle & Mike

Information: www.libelreform.org"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Greater London UNISON WEET Seminar April 2013

Picture is from the Greater London Regional Water, Energy, Environment and Transport (WEET) seminar last week in Glorious Croyde Bay (UNISON's very own award winning holiday resort).

I was there to lead on a workshop on "Communications and social media". Many UNISON branches in WEET have similar organising challenges as in the Housing Association and voluntary sector.

We share the problem of a fragmented work force spread over a very large geographical area. Members and activists can feel isolated and "out of the loop". Non members are not aware of the union and all the things that the union can do for them. Traditional means of communication are difficult to carry out and very resource intense.

In the workshop we looked at the pros and cons of setting up branch Websites, blogs, FaceBook groups, Twitter, Video conferencing and mobile texting (amongst other things).

This is to supplement and not totally replace traditional trade union communications such as face to face meetings, newsletters or telephone calls.

London WEET are a great bunch of dedicated union activists and I really enjoyed the workshop and their questions, ideas and general enthusiasm (even from Sid who had been banned from speaking to me or anyone else about pensions!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

UNISON NEC Elections 2013: Please vote for the pragmatic left and centre left!

Tomorrow (Monday 22 April) the ballot begins for the biannual UNISON National Executive Committee Elections. I was re-elected unopposed this time (the results will not be confirmed until 10 June).

As promised here I have set up a blog (see above) to support NEC candidates who will represent the interests of ordinary members and NOT the ultra left.

Please click on this site before you vote.

Many thanks


Workers Memorial Day: 28 April 2013

This collage of trade union posters on Workers Memorial Day (WMD) is from the collection on the Hazards Website.

Check out the TUC website to find out details of local events.

Also the UNISON website's health and safety page on WMD. It lists real people whose lives have been ruined by accidents or violence at work. 

Made by the Many

Watch Ed Miliband's vision of an economic recovery made by the many and find out more at http://www.labour.org.uk

Saturday, April 20, 2013

London Labour Housing Group Policy Conference April 2013

Last Saturday (April 13) I went to the London Labour Housing Group policy conference in Paddington. This event was sponsored by UNISON.

I was a little late since I had my Council surgery in Newham first. By coincidence I had 3 people come to me with separate housing related issues and was presented with a petition!

So I missed the key note speaker Jack Dromey MP and arrived during the first workshop.  I did manage to have a very quick word with him about the possibility of Council Pension funds investing in Social Housing. 

The workshop was on "London’s changing tenures: what are the implications for policy?" The report backs from the workshops on policy implications included the need for a mansion tax; a London "not for profit" letting agency; we need new build since 93% of money spent on housing is spent on housing benefit and not on new housing investment; need to build communities; leaseback of right to buy properties if owners unable to maintain; build more homes is the solution to bedroom tax.

Newham Council was praised for its Local Space Housing company which has bought private homes for temporary lets and for its Borough wide Private Sector licensing project.There was also mention of the need of a concordat with local authorities and the more democrat and responsible housing associations. After lunch there was the 2nd workshop on "Housing policies: what should Labour’s key promises be in 2014?"

Key promises from the report backs included the regulation of landlords across London and a "Fair Deal" for the private sector; stop fraud and tax evasion by landlords; no eviction for non payment of bedroom tax (but you cannot write off the debt); pledge to build more homes at affordable rents; CPO abandoned properties and bring back into use; increase Council tax on empty properties; green our existing stock; look at balance sheets of Housing associations that are not building; support TRA and instead of "right to buy" what about a "right to build" for homeless or overcrowded residents in every borough?

Finally (see picture) there was a plenary and panel discussion, Chaired by Karen Buck MP on "Campaigning on housing in 2014".  On the panel was Sir Steve Bullock, Jacky Peacock OBE, Councillor James Murray and myself (in my UNISON capacity).

Karen in her introduction praised Tory Secretary of State for Communities, Eric Pickles, as being "brilliant" for the way he tries to justify his despicable policies by antidote e.g. inferring that if only Councils did not pay their CEO's so much then no cuts would be necessary. She pointed out that Government by antidote is a disaster but perhaps we should learn from the Tories how to campaign with antidotes.

Steve gave a measured but powerful speech about how our policy and values towards housing defines us as a London Labour Party.  In Q&A Jacky reminded us all of the vital campaigning role that tenant and residents groups had played in the past and how they must be part of any housing solutions future.

James stressed how we must be pragmatic in our campaigning. When Labour took control of Islington Council in 2010, they announced that they will build new homes on spaces in Council estates but were taken back at the hostility to this idea by existing residents. The solution was to promise that any new tenancies would firstly be offered to any residents in need on the existing estates that they were planning to build upon.

I pointed out that we must have a living wage plus in London Housing. Not only a living wage but to defeat poverty, a living pension and sickness benefits for all workers - whether directly employed or sub-contractors.  Also we need to change the debate about taxes in this country. We will not be able to do what we want to do with regard to the provision of housing unless we spend more money. The rich must play their fair share but all of us will also have to pay more in taxes to get decent housing for all.

LLHG secretary (and Red Brick blogger) Steve Hilditch closed the conference and then Karen thanked him and all members of the Executive for their hard work in organising such a successful event.

Some of us then retired to the nearest pub to continue putting our London housing world to rights.

(picture Cllr Ross Houston)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rowenna Davis "What could One Nation Look like under Labour?"

I've been catching up on a back log of blogs based on my twitter feeds from events I have attended. This picture is of journalist, author and Labour Councillor, Rowenna Davis, speaking to West Ham Labour Party General Committee last month on March 28 at our Stratford HQ.

Each month the GC invites a political guest speaker to address the committee and take questions.  Rowenna wrote the book "Tangled up in Blue: Blue Labour and the Struggle for Labour's Soul".

Rowenna started off well by describing how she got her Labour values while on the play grounds of a South London state school but she showed her sarf origins by getting her East London geography slightly wrong and thought she was on the other side of the River Lea.

She rightly attacked the disgraceful Curzen Cinema chain for lauding middle class lefty films while treating its workforce like dirt, with poverty pay and zero hours contracts. New Labour was wrong to push the market so that the State provides less. Labour now has to collectivise and organise to change society.

What “Blue Labour” is really about is decent jobs and homes. There use to be a social contract that if you worked hard at school you would end up with a decent job. This has now gone.

She thought that the bedroom tax is so unfair since it is a symptom of an economy dominated by London with its desperate shortage of housing while there is rows of empty homes in the north.

She supported the German regional bank model with worker reps on company boards as the best way to raise wages, improve sick benefits and pensions.

In the Q&A I thanked her for being in affect the first speaker on the West Ham Ward and UNISON Housing Association motion on a “Living Wage Plus for all in Newham”. Which was later passed by the GC with a large majority (including even Newhams own "Red Tel").

Thursday, April 18, 2013

UNISON London Community Service Group AGM & Seminar 2013

If you are UNISON and work for a Housing Association or Voluntary organisation in Greater London region then please attend this AGM and Seminar on Saturday 18 May 2013. Contact your branch for further details.

  • What the future holds for the Community Sector
  • The impact of public spending cuts
  • New legislation
  • Organising to win

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Al Gore speaks at "Harnessing Capital Markets for a Sustainable Future"

This post is about the speech that former US Vice President Al Gore gave at the ShareAction (formerly Fair Pensions) annual lecture on March 15 in the City of London Guildhall.

By coincidence I was sitting next to UNISON Assistant General Secretary, Liz Snape and her eldest daughter.

The Lord Mayor of London welcomed the (packed) audience to this historic site. Catherine Howarth, the CEO of ShareAction spoke about the dominate role that finance plays in our economy and the impact on democracy. Also what impact pension auto enrolment will have when many millions of people will become shareholders for the first time.

Then “The Al Gore” came onto the stage. I must admit that I didn’t know that much about Al Gore but you have to admire the massively impressive, articulate, passionate, old fashioned barn storming 30 minute speech he gave. He put nearly all UK political speakers to shame.

I hadn’t realised either that he had started off life as a Tennessee farmer and he gave a typical folksy small town America tale (“I’m feeling fine – don’t shoot me”) which I have heard before but never said so well, which was to amuse and relax the audience.

He then praised capitalism as the most efficient and superior economic system there has ever been, then tore it down by reminding us of its many failings such as its inability to measure what is truly important such as social well being and climate change. He asked why is the atmosphere used as a carbon sewer?

He discussed the fiduciary duties of pension funds and the mandates and incentives given to fund managers. Why do pension fund managers only concentrate on the short term? – because that is what the pension fund trustees pay them to do!

In the Q&A I asked him as a UNISON trade union pension trustee if the failure of pension funds to make long term sustainable investments is due in part to the decline in recent decades of organised Labour. In the past workers and managers worked together as partners. He said he had never been asked that question before but would think about it (which meant he either thought it was a brilliant unique insight... or that no other idiot had ever asked such as stupid question before). He did say that union nominated trustees can make a real difference to the way their funds are managed.

He asked us to think about what are the values in the boardroom you invest in, how does a company treat its employees and the communities where they operate. There should be a systematic investigation of sustainability factors as a necessary part of any investment process. The current system is functionally insane and incentives drive towards systemically irrational decisions.

(and I agree Mr Vice President).

George Osbourne - Benefit Scounger

hat tip https://www.facebook.com/si.farlow

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't Hate Donate - Be the Society that Thatcher said did not exist

This is the best response I think to the death and funeral of former Tory Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.  Hat tip Don't Hate Donate

"What are we doing?

Margaret Thatcher has died. We want to take the moment when our country is remembering her legacy, to remember the people her government hurt - people who don’t get pull-out supplements in national newspapers. People who don’t get ceremonial funerals in St Paul's Cathedral. The people her apologists forget, or want to forget.

Margaret Thatcher's last years were spent coping with dementia, a terrible illness. If, like us, you were disgusted by how she treated the least well off in Britain and around the world, the old line about not wishing something on your worst enemies still applies. We can’t help but think it’s pretty lousy to celebrate or gloat over anyone’s suffering and death and we don’t want anyone else to do it either.

We just want to place front and centre people who had no place in the Thatcherite worldview. And we want to do that in a way that can actually do some good. You can help us by donating to the excellent charities we have chosen to represent a fraction of them – the homeless, miners’ families, gay teenagers, Hillsborough survivors and South African victims of the Apartheid regime.
Nothing is stopping you doing more or taking the spirit of the Don’t Hate, Donate campaign in your own direction. Thank you so much for your support!

The Charities

  • Hillsborough Justice campaign

    Hillsborough Justice campaign

    Supporting the fight for justice for the 96 victims of the disaster.
    Find out more and donate here
  • Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign

    The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign - seeking truth and justice for all miners victimised by the police at the Orgreave Coking Plant, South Yorkshire, on June 18th 1984.
    Sign the petition here
  • Child Poverty Action Group

    Child Poverty Action Group

    We want a society where all children can enjoy their childhoods and have fair chances in life to reach their full potential. We campaign and lobby to make this a reality, and maximise family incomes through our welfare rights work, publications and training.
    Find out more and donate here
  • Stonewall


    Stonewall was founded in 1989 by a small group of women and men who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act.
    Section 28 was an offensive piece of legislation designed to prevent the so-called 'promotion' of homosexuality in schools; as well as stigmatising gay people it also galvanised the gay community.
    Find out more and donate here
  • Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation

    Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation

    CISWO is a National Charity which has a focus on the key role of delivering community and personal welfare services within mining and former mining communities.
    Find out more and donate here
  • The International Center for Transitional Justice

    The International Center for Transitional Justice

    South Africa’s experience confronting the legacies of apartheid has played a significant role in the development of the transitional justice field. However, accountability for many issues has yet to be achieved. ICTJ works there to support victims’ rights and challenge impunity for perpetrators.
    Find out more and donate here
  • Tutu Foundation UK

    Tutu Foundation UK

    The Tutu Foundation UK builds peace in fractured communities in the UK using a model inspired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s peace and reconciliation work all over the world. To successfully tackle the anti-social behaviour and violence in our communities, underlying attitudes and behaviours must first be addressed in order to build a lasting peace.
    Find out more and donate here
  • Shelter


    Shelter believes everyone should have a home. Our work won’t stop until there’s a home for everyone.
    Find out more and donate here

Africa For Norway - New charity single out now!

Excellent! Hat tip Foday Kabba from my branch who saw this video at the recent UNISON International Seminar at the wonderful UNISON holiday village at Croyde Bay.

"An Economy for One Nation: How Progressive can a Future Labour Government be"?

Picture of East Ham MP Stephen Timms and UNISON Head of Local Government Heather Wakefield (Chair Christopher Owens on right) at the Newham Compass & Fabians debate on how radical the next Labour Government should be.  This was held last month at West Ham FC supporter’s club.

Stephen spoke first on the central policy of the next Labour Government must be to cut unemployment. The Tory cuts had failed and resulted in no growth. Many people now beginning to realise that the cuts are not working.

The deficit had not been caused by overspending but by the collapse in the economy due to the financial crisis. He enjoyed seeing even Tories criticising government policies. If Labour are elected then there are limits to what we can do. Employment is key to fighting poverty. Labour will offer a guaranteed job for 6 months.

Heather introduced herself as a Chelsea FC season ticket holder who was pleased to be at West Ham! She was going to be more idealistic and talk about values. Privatisation of public services had led to reduced wages and badly run, inefficient services and greater income inequality.

We need gender equality as well as satisfying and socially useful work. Real workplace democracy. We need a partnership at work, a new deal with unions.

There needs to be a new attitude to taxes, ask what the economy is for and who benefits from it? A Green investment bank to make Government offices and homes energy efficient. Deal with tax havens. Raise a Robin Hood (or rather Maid Marian) Tobin Tax. Reform Council tax. Make sure that there is a minimum income for all.

We have the most expensive child care in Europe apart from Switzerland. Women suffer the most in terms of jobs and pay from Austerity. There has to be a Keynesian economic programme, we could invest in new homes. Ask should we have low pay or a living wage. Why do we subsidise Tesco with tax credits?

Worse privatisation was in social care. Dominated by big companies making massive profits out of poor quality care and also schools meals.

In the Q&A I asked the question that in line with Heather’s remarks about rethinking our attitude to taxes, we ought to be pointing out that getting the unemployed into work will cost money and that we have to accept that all of us will have to pay more tax in return for quality public services. 

Heather was very positive in her reply while Stephen was a little more circumspect.

Monday, April 15, 2013

UNISON NEC elections 2013

I was away last week and was pleased to come home and find a letter from UNISON elections office telling me that I had been reelected unopposed again for the General seat on the National Executive Member (NEC) for the General seat of the Community & Voluntary Service Group. 

The results will not be confirmed until the end of the elections on 10 June 2013. Many, many thanks to all the branches that had nominated me.

Now I will need to do my bit to help the other NEC candidates representing the forces of light and reason in UNISON who are being opposed by ultra left (aka the miserablists).

Ballot papers are being sent out on April 22. I am creating a blog site detailing which candidates I recommend (personal capacity only). Which should be up and running this weekend.

Branches who have nominated candidates can remind their members who they have nominated by the usual way they communicate with them e.g. newsletter, email or mailshot.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Unions21 Conference 2013

This post is a little late but is about the excellent Unions21 20th Anniversary conference, which took place on International Women's Day 8 March last month at Congress House. I was there in my personal capacity.

The first speaker was its director, Dan Whittle, who reminded everyone that Unions21 was set up to support the miners during their strike in 1983.

Next was Jon Cruddas MP who gave his usual individual slant on the Labour movement. He pointed out that the Labour Party had always lost elections in the past after crisis's in capitalism.

He thinks that Labour has changed since 2010 and is now having a conversation about workers rights, board representation, reform of Banking, infrastructure, housing and having a real partnership with the unions.

As an aside he said that before he had been appointed to co-ordinate the Labour Party policy review there had been 40 different policy groups including one on combating loneliness which had been inquorate and had never quite manged to meet. Now there were only 3 groups.

New General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Frances O'Grady, described Unions21 as the Labour Movement equivalent of the Taxpayers Alliance, except they had more brains and less money. She called for a return of wage councils especially for sectors that can afford more than the minimum wage. Even the shock troops of capitalism such as the IMF recognise that we need to increase wages to increase demand in the economy.

The City has acted as one armed bandit in pushing up the pay of Chief Executives. There is no real checks and balances to hold them to account. Capitalism has reformed but the trade unions have not. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves. Strong trade unions are necessary for both wings of the Labour Movement to build one nation.

Other speakers were Lesley Mercer, TUC President who pointed out that the Australian trade unions had managed during the last general election campaign to take employment rights from being a non issue politically to the 2nd most important and this was probably responsible for the narrow Labour Party victory.

Carl Roper from TUC spoke about the clear link between the decline in collective bargaining and greater income inequality and that the unique selling point of union reps is that they are independent of the employer. Union reps actually save employers money. The government is suppose to love volunteers but the voice of employers who value reps and the way we deal with everyday difficult problems is absent.

Community John Park attacked the SNP Scottish Government for failing to ensure that (tax dodgers) Amazon used the £5 million subsidy they received to open a new warehouse to create permanent jobs. Instead nearly all the new 800 jobs were subcontracted to 3 employment agencies who employ workers on poorly paid, insecure 0 hour contracts.

In a presentation on "The future for union image" by Dr Brian Walker & Lesley Jeffries. Linguistic media data from 1993 and 2012 were compared. In 1993 unions were linked with disputes and aggression. All references were male. While in 2012 unions were linked with money and pay. Unions are still labelled as being angry, aggressive with reference to “Bosses and Barons”. Press ignore the fact that individuals can be taxpayers and union activists. Will Frances O’Grady be labelled a Baron?
Christine Payne from Equity spoke about her union realising that instead of the union telling its members how good the union was that it is better to have members telling members their stories.

Scarlet Harris, TUC Women’s officer, reminded us that more women are in unions than men. Unions have changed but only 25% of General Secretaries are women. There is still lots wrong and there exists a macho culture in too many unions. Unless we can keep our own house in order we cannot change society.

Ian Lavery MP is the Chair of the Trade Union Parliamentary Group (I once stayed at the same B&B with Ian at Party conference and had some interesting conversations with him). As a former coal face worker, he was on strike for 12 months during the miner’s strike and took over as President of the NUM from Author Scargill. He still sees himself as a Trade Unionist first and his role is to reduce the gulf between the trade unions and the Labour Party.

How do we get back the millions of trade union members and Labour Party voters both parts of the movement has lost over the years. We have no divine right to demand people to join. Need to attract people, explain and reach out. Politicians must be seen on the side of working people. He still sees himself as working class even though as an MP he earns £65k per year. Class is not means tested. We want more people with actual work experience, from the shop floor into Parliament. No more elites parachuted into CLPs as MPs. It is essential that the Labour is not just seen as being less nasty than the Tories. Together the Party and the trade unions can reframe the political argument.

Journalist Owen Jones reminded everyone that while the numbers of members of trade unions is down to 50% in public sector and 14% in the private sector, trade unions are still by far with 6 million members the largest democratic organisation in the UK. Trade unions also need to follow changes in workforce. There are now more workers in call centres than use to work in the coal mines.

John Slinger from “Pragmatic Radicalism led a "Change the Nation: 10 ideas, campaigns & wider social concerns unions can make common cause". This was 10 ideas pitched by individuals in 90 seconds with a 90 second Q&A from panel and floor. This was great fun.

There was an UnionHome award on the best post on the blog which was presented by Tim Lezard of Union News to Simon Sapper.

The last presentation was a fringe by Polling experts Survation on unions who have used opinion polling to argument their campaigns.

This was my first Unions21 annual conference and I was really impressed. This was just the sort of stuff that all unions should be thinking about and debating. My question to one of the panels about "whether or not the traditional Anglo-American trade union model that all bosses are the enemy is broke but what do we do about those bosses who do think unions are the enemy" got a little lost in translation but my fault for being too wordy.

While Unions21 is not affiliated to the Labour Party and there was plenty of criticism (often justified) of the Party during this conference. It was largely constructive and aimed at improving the relationships of both wings of the Labour movement rather than just moaning and finger pointing. I shall look forward to Unions21 Conference 2014.

(apologies for missing out some contributers out since I had to dash out of the hall a few times to deal with member problems)