Sunday, November 18, 2007

LGBT Conference 07

Well I'm blogging from the Airport on my way back from Glasgow and UNISON's National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Members Conference, the annual gathering of LGBT members from across the union to set the agenda for the next year's LGBT Group activity. I attended the conference as a delegate from the National Young Members Forum.

I have to say (as I promised Louise I would on my blog) that the highlight of the weekend was finding out that the actor that played Alf Stuart (the very macho husband to Elsa in Home & Away) is an out gay man, and whats more does a lot of work with the trade unions on LGBT rights.

It was also an interesting conference for coming together and agreeing our policy on issues that LGBT members care about. We were completely united on what we want to achieve, the contention came at times about how to achieve it. In a rare occurrence for UNISON conferences, or most conferences, we completed all the business and even finished a little early.

There was also some unjustified criticism of the National Executive Council, which seemed to stem from someone getting some very dodgy information from somewhere. The NEC was accused of blocking work on blood donation and gay/bi men, which is an issue I really care about but, especially as I sit on the policy committee, can't see how the NEC has been stopping it. I did try and find out where this came from unsuccessfully, if disinformation is there it needs to be challenged.

I'm glad to say that the conference adopted our motion on recruiting and organising young LGBT workers, with some helpful amendments. And also adopted an amendment to the conferences standing orders allowing the NYMF to submit amendments as well as motions.

As with any UNISON event, a key and enjoyable part of the event was the social activities. Friday night started with a Civic Reception thanks to Glasgow Council, where there was a music from a choir (though lovely there was a bit of tension between those that wanted to talk and those that wanted to listen) and then off for a lovely buffet and karaoke at Glasgow's LGBT Centre before dancing to the wee hours at a local club. Saturday I was delighted to join the Eastern Region for a lovely meal with some enlightening conversation and then plenty of drinking followed by some impromptu singing (though sadly between us and international guests we couldn't remember the words to the Internationale, shame on us).

I have really enjoyed the weekend and it was enlightening to see the workings of the LGBT group, I'm sure I'll be back.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An afternoon at Westminster

After shooting across London from PDCC at Mabledon Place it was time for Labour Link Committee, which met in Parliament as the guests of the conveners of the UNISON Group of MPs.

It was our first meeting since the regional reps elections so it was election time for our Chair and Vice Chair. Steve Warwick was re-elected as Chair. For Vice Chair I was proud to nominate Rachel Voller from the Greater London Region, who was elected. Rachel is a strong activist in UNISON and the Labour Party and I'm sure she will do a wonderful job for us.

We heard from Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party as well as being Party Chair, Leader of the House and Secretary of State for Equality. She spoke about the importance of working together on our common agenda, with an emphasis on equalities and set out her vision for the next manifesto to have a focus on equality. She spoke of the importance of attracting more women into the party, and as the union with the largest number of women members the role for us in that. Harriet only had time to answer one question before having to litterally dash into the Commons for some important business but committed to meeting with the committee in future.

Dawn Butler, Vice Chair of the Party with responsibility for youth, also came to speak to us. She spoke about the launch of the £1 youth membership rate which will be launched at an event I will be at in December. She also spoke of some plans for a mass consultation of young people next year, aiming to consult 60,000 young people. We expressed our desire to support this and encourage our young members to get involved.

We also had extensive discussions about our work against the BNP and how we take that forward. We discussed the important role of getting the Labour vote out in order to defeat the BNP.

There was also a discussion about the importance of our activity in supporting Labour locally and improving our influence within the local party, a topic we will be returning to.

Wonderful Wales and Exciting Equality

It was a fleeting visit to policy this morning as I had to dash off to Parliament for the National Labour Link Committee, so I only managed to stay for two items. However, those two items were substantial and important.

We heard about the Welsh Assembly Government's programme agreed between Labour and coalition partners Plaid Cymru. It was a very positive agenda for Wales, with a strong link to UNISON policy, so congratulations to UNISON Cymru/Wales. It must also be said that it is very, very close to the Labour manifesto.

We also had a report from the Membership Participation Unit (which supports the Self-organised Groups, Young Members & Retired Members) which covered ongoing equality policy work. This was a really interesting report cutting across all of the equality areas, including young members.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Karen Reissmann Sacked!

You may be aware that Karen Reissmann, Branch Chair at Manchester Community & Mental Health UNISON and member of UNISON's Health Service Group Executive, has been subject to disciplinary action by her employer.

I came to light yesterday that she has now been dismissed - not for any problems with the care she delivers to patients as a psychiatric nurse, but for speaking out against cuts and privatisation. Sacked for trade union activities!

Now, within UNISON Karen isn't someone I will always agree with, particularly on tacktics and our relationship with the Government. But she is a strong trade unionist, attacked by her employer for being that. The whole of UNISON needs to continue to support Karen and the members of her branch taking industrial action to defend her.

With everything these days there is a facebook group and a website. I have today also e-mailed Karen to express my support.

It's important that whatever your politics within the labour movement, we unite to defend this activist under attack.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I love NHS Demo

What a great day!
It was fabulous to see so many people celebrating and defending the NHS. It was great to march with others from National Young Members Forum under the Young Members Banner.

Our chants went down very well, with some fool lending me his mega phone! The MRSA one went down particularly well.

After the demo was a rally in Trafalgar Square where we heard from Dave Prentis as TUC President and a host of other union leaders as well as front line staff, patients and NGO's like Breakthrough breat cancer and Oxfam.

Now this has all been very possitive, and I have been wanting a national demo for a while, but there does have to be some sober reflection. Having searched through the sites of the major papers and TV news websites, the media impact was very disappointing. Despite a great deal of effort by the press office there was very little coverage and what we did have was a little flat & dissapointing (much of it being the same). The demonstration was at great cost and great effort across the union, and overall I think it was worth it. However I do feel that the impact demonstrations can make has decreased over the past 5-10 years, to the point were you only get mass coverage if it's an issue the media is already covering anyway. Our ability to shape me media's agenda with events like this has been significantly diminished. We need to remember this in the future, as much as we remember the fun had on the demo.

National Young Members Forum 02/11/07

This was an incredibly packed meeting with three guest speakers, with incredibly interesting topics to discuss.

A speaker from TUSDAC (Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee), a joint Trade Union/Government body talked about greening the workplace issues and the broader policy issues around climate change. It was good to hear what trade unions are doing, and there was plenty of experience in the room from young members trying to tackle green issues in the work place. It was also interesting to here the important role of internationalism, particularly with American trade union having originally pressured their Government not to ratify Keyoto.

The National Young Members Forum will be jointly hosting an event with Yorkshire & Humberside for Young Members in the region on organising around green issues. This is particularly important as we haven't had much participation from that region in the young members structures.

We also had Stephanie Peacock the Young Members rep on the Labour Party NEC spoke about her role representing young people within the Labour Party and what she's been up to since she got elected onto the NEC at Labour Youth Conference last year.

Deborah Littman spoke around Minimum/Living Wage issues. It was intersting to here how UNISON has been working on these issues, and with next year being the 10 year annaversiry of the national minimum wage's introduction. The NMW has made a huge difference to workers in the UK, especially women. But there are still issues with the lower youth rates and exemption for modern apprentices. On the Youth Rates, UNISON has once again made a submission calling for those rates to be fased out with the adult rate from 18 then being extended to 16. I believe the anneversary year gives us another opportunity to challenge this discrimination. On the issue of apprentices, this is going to become a much bigger issue within the public sector in the future. The Forum agreed to submit a motion to health conference I had drafted on apprenticeships and I hope similar motions can go to the other service group conferences. We also agreed to submit it as one of our issues for TUC Young Members Conference.

On the issue of TUC Young Members Conference we will be looking to appoint delegates in a different way this year, subject to approval by the NEC's Policy Development & Campaigns Committee. We have previously had difficulties in filling our delegation from within the forum, as we have a delegation of 12. The proposals will ask regions to put people forward, with different regions given preference in alternate years.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Forum meeting today

Just a quick note for now.

I'm down in London for the National Young Members Forum meeting. It's Stuarts first as Chair (having not been able to attend the AGM) and I'm sure he'll do a great job.

We've got a packed agenda with guests form TUSDAC (Trade Union environmental group), our Bargaining Support Department on young workers stuff, and the Young Members rep on the Labour Party NEC, funnily enough about the Labour Party.

With a whole host of other debates I'm sure it will be a great meeting, and of course we're all ready to defend and celebrate the NHS tomorrow

Friday, October 26, 2007

More preparations for the demo

At our Branch Committee we unfurled our new Branch Banner (it's very great cos it's really light and airated to it won't blow like a sail).

It got thinking about the demo and possible chants, here's three early ideas

(to the tune of Daphnie & Celest U.G.L.Y song)
That is why you gotta pay
More cleaners!
More Cleaners!

(to My Bonnie lies over the ocean)
I went to my local hospital
I wanted it to be clean
the domestic tried their hardest
but the private contractor was mean

I love, I love, I love the N H S
I love, I love, I love the NHS

(to London Bridge is falling down)
I love the NHS, NHS, NHS
I love the NHS
Keep it Public!

[Some space for a second verse here]

So, what do you think? Any more ideas?

I've started a topic about it on the discussion board on the UNISON Facebook group so why not post some better ones there or feel free to leave a comment here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Get ready to Celebrate & Defend the NHS on 3rd November

With November 3rd a little over a week away I'm starting to get really excited about our demonstration. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all that is good about our health service and defend it's principles against the attacks from the market and privatisation.

UNISON called the demonstration in Trafalgar Square and are proud to be joined by the NHS Together Coalition which brings together all health trade unions/staff associations and the TUC.
The National Young Members Forum will be meeting on the Friday and staying overnight to attend the demo, and will be proudly carrying the UNISON Young Members Banner. For any young members who would like to join us and march with our banner we will be meeting at 11.15am outside the entrance to Somerset House on the Strand. Go to for a map. The main assembly point for the march is in Arundel Street, about 2 minutes walking East along the Strand from Somerset House. The main march will move off at 12 noon.
If you're planning to come along drop me an e-mail and I'll send you my number (or it's in the UNISON diary)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Protesting outside the Saudi embassy

It's hard to comprehend in a Britain which has made so much progress on LGBT equality since 1997, that homosexuality is still a crime in countries around the world. Not only that but one that takes horrendous punishment, including death.

On Friday afternoon (conveniently after GPF in the morning) I took part in a demo organised with LGBT Labour and NUS LGBT Campaign outside the Saudi Embassy in London.
In Saudi Arabia, two men were sentenced to 7,000 lashes simply for expressing their love to each other. At the demonstration Peter Tatchell, LGBT and Human Rights campaigner, graphically outlined the affects that these lashed could have on those men, easily leading to death.
Michael Cashman MEP, sent an important message of support to the demo.

As we achieve greater and greater legal equality here in the UK, our LGBT campaigning must increasing look beyond our borders to defend LGBT people across the world.

GPF Committee

It was my first GPF Committee meeting, which administers the GPF money members contribute through their subs.

We discussed some interesting proposals. With funding being awarded to some really great stuff including Abortion Rights (via Women's Self Organised Group) and some great campaigning on the NHS proposed in the North West Region.

We also ratified the decision made via e-mail to fund the Vote Yes campaign in the local government pay ballot.

Not all applications were accepted, and some were deferred. It's important that applications consider the guidelines for applications.

It was also great to hear from Gloria Foran, National Officer (Disability Policy) about the work the GPF has funded for our activities at Liberty 2007; Disability Rights Festival. It was great to hear back on activity the GPF had funded, and it sounded like a great event.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

My 2nd NEC meeting

Today was our second full NEC meeting, and this time it got paperless. Well they didn’t send out papers anyway. Sadly I couldn’t find any paper so I couldn’t print any of them off and had to use one of the helpfully provided packs of spares. In another effort to help save the planet (we are THE green union after all) we decided to reduce our travelling by pegging the majority of our strategic committee meeting next to an NEC meeting.

I sadly missed Policy & Campaigns Committee yesterday because they were desperate for staff at work. But I've been volunteered for some work an my absence so that'll teach me.

A big priority is always recruitment, but never more so than at the moment with the real potential for a fall in membership for the first time in UNISON’s history. I’m sure all members reading this will get out there and get recruiting. We heard of a special package of measures that are being put in place across the regions to target branches where we have lower density (members per potential members).

We heard more about equal pay, always a key and sensitive issue. Despite the positive outcome of the Allen Vs GMB case we still face a significant threat as the no win no fee lawyers open up other fronts. This means we must regrettably continue with caution about any discussion about equal pay.

We heard an update about the local government pay dispute, with the ballot period likely to be extended due to industrial action by CWU as the ballot papers are due to go out. It is essential that we get a good turn out and a yes vote for industrial action and I’m sure all young members will give our support to local government at this difficult time.

In health plans are going full steam ahead for the 3rd November. Materials have been sent out and regions should be sorting transport so get in touch with your branch or region.

You may or may not know that UNISON is looking to build a new head office in central London at the site of an old hospital in Euston. We were updated on progress including budget and planning.

In the General Secretary’s report we heard about a number of issues across the union. We heard about the union’s response to the situation in Burma and UNISON will be supporting a demo on Saturday

There was also a discussion about the response to Police Community Support Officers that didn’t jump into a park quarry to rescue a child they couldn’t see. They have been treated awfully in the press, particularly John Humphries on the Today Programme, and UNISON is doing all we can to stand up for these members. After the meeting I discovered what David Cameron has to say about it

Cameron attacks public service workers - obviously

So we shouldn't be surprised by the same old Tories attacking public service workers . This time it's our members, Police Community Support Officers (PCSO's).

In his conference speech today David Cameron said,

"I think over these last 10 years we have seen responsibility sucked away from people, sucked away from our public servants and taken away from our public services.
And it ended with that extraordinary farce of two community support officers standing by a lake after a boy had drowned, feeling that because the rule book said they couldn't intervene, they shouldn't. Well, we've got to start tearing up the rule books and allowing people common sense, initiative, and responsibility in the jobs that they do." (Epolitix,

Yes Dave, that would be the PCSO's who attended the scene when the boy was already out of sight under the water in a quarry. If a PCSO had gone in and drowned himself then it may have been a more heroic story but i doubt that would have been much comfort for the family left behind.

So Dave, when you insult our members don't be surprised if we do all we can to condemn you and your party to perpetual opposition.

Minimum wage increases

Good news for all workers, and as always affects many women and young workers.

Basically the new rates are:

Full minimum wage will go up from £5.35 to £5.52 an hour
18 to 21-year-olds rate will go from £4.44 to£4.60 an hour
16 and 17-year-olds rate will go from £3.30 to £3.40 an hour

There's no doubt that those meeting in Blackpool this week won't be celebrating the increase (or for that matter the increase in annual leave entitlement) and will do their best to destroy the rights we have won since 1997.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Well I've appeared on Channel 4 and BBC today!

Proudly singing The Red Flag at Labour Party Conference.

So if you see a youngish chap singing along on the news that would be me!

Proud to be Labour

Supporting the Labour Party can sometimes feels like a dirty secret, and it’s no secret that I have had some significant policy disagreements with the Labour Government.

But after a week at Labour Party Conference, a Labour Party Conference full of Labour activists committed to equality and social justice and where speech after speech has given real commitment to progressive policies many of which we in the trade union movement has been calling for, I’m certainly proud to be Labour.

From education, where school support staff have finally got a national pay structure to housing, where we not have a consensus about the way forward which includes local authorities being able to build new council houses.

Policy seminars were a good opportunity to put forward our point of view, which is then fed into the policy forum process. The first one I went to was in the sustainable communities section, where I was able to ask Hazel Blears about reviewing how effective the two-tier workforce code of practice had been and she gave commitment to working with UNISON to review the implementation and see what more can be done. In health I asked about bringing cleaning staff back in house to help improve our hospital cleaning. I was able to follow this up with her at our reception later in the week and they are seriously looking at cleaning contracts to see what can be done. I also attended the crime a justice seminar, where Pat Heatherton (Vice Chair of the National Labour Link Committee) was able to ask about the appalling statistic that around 95% of prisoners have a mental health issue.

Fringe events were really interesting. A highlight was the Women in Work fringe organised by UNISON where the Minister for Women spoke very encouragingly about what we want to see from the Single Equalities Act.

And the week has also been a great opportunity to talk to politicians in an informal setting. Talking to Anne Keen about contract cleaners in hospital, or discovering Alan Johnson’s cousin is married to my dads cousin (small world). I had a very useful conversation with Dawn Butler MP, the Labour Party’s new Vice Chair Youth. She seems to be a real activist at heart and we will be following up about supporting young trade unionists within the party.

There's a lot of speculation with the success of the conference as to whether Gordon Brown will call a snap election. I really don't know what he'll do, but whenever a General Election is called I'm sure UNISON will be right behind Labour delivering the 4th term.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On my way to Bournemouth

The National Young Members Forum get to send two lucky people to Labour’s Annual Conference every year, and this years lucky people are Emma McLoughlin and me.

I’m currently about half way through a 4 hour train journey. Much time has been passed by reading the 200+ page document that is the National Policy Forum report which comes to Conference for ratification. Like everything with our relationship with Labour I agree with the vast majority (and there are clear bit when the trade unions including UNISON have had key influence). There are also those things we disagree on, such as ‘diversity of provision’ seen in the raft of new types of school and the drive for private providers in the NHS.

As it stands it’s difficult to see what the week ahead will bring. A key issue is party reform measures being proposed by the leadership which I’ve already blogged about. Since my last blog there has been compromise reached which many of the unions have signed up to. I’m still rather sceptical, and those Labour Link Committee members such as myself who are available will be meeting to discuss UNISON’s position later today.

Another interesting part of the week will be what could be a last hurrah for contemporary motions. UNISON’s motion covers issues within local government and the single equalities bill, especially around equal pay. This has already had some attention in the media, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

But more than anything this conference seems to be about the fringes and the receptions. I’m particularly looking forward to the LGBT Labour do tonight (for obvious reasons) and the Labour Students party on Tuesday (which promises to be a haven of youthfulness in the conference). UNISON’s own reception is on Wednesday, the last night, and is sure to send us out with a bang!

Not sure if I’ll get chance to blog during the conference but I will certainly do one reporting on the whole thing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Giving power to, or taking power away?

That's the question when addressing the party reforms being put forward by the new leadership of the Labour Party.

The Partnership in Power process focuses on engaging members on policy issues and coming to a consensus across the party. The reform proposals rightly point to the need to do more to engage with members locally which is welcome.

However there are some key issues which are problematic. The proposals would change the way that so called 'contemporary issues' are dealt with. At the moment affiliates (such as UNISON) and CLP's (the labour party in your constituency) can submit motions to the annual conference on issues arising after the policy forum process has been completed. It's these contemporary motions that has seen the government defeated on health last year and council housing before that. Under the new proposals we would still be able to submit things but instead of being voted on they would then just go into the forum process for the next year. This takes away the only real opportunity we have as the membership to democratically decide what the policy is.

The other issue is the proposal to put the final manifesto out to a ballot of all members. This take it or leave it ballot has few benefits and would create many problems. From our point of view it would cost us a fortune to conduct a ballot, and just before a general election this would be just what the party doesn't need. There are also some real risks for the party, what if there was a significant 'no' vote? Or even having the manifesto rejected? And what if groups of members or affiliates campaigned for a no vote, with a mass vote a messy row would be much worse there than at conference!

We really need to avoid a messy argument this year at conference, so I hope ongoing negotiations come up with a solution which avoids that. If we don't and it comes onto the conference floor it will make for an interesting time.

TUC Congress thoughts

Well, I’m on my way back from TUC Congress feeling quite tired it has to be said.

I used to watch some of congress on the TV, admittedly when nothing else was on, but it was quite different being there. It was interesting to hear Gordon Brown speak, the first time I’ve heard him as prime minister. I thought he gave a solid performance which spoke directly to his audience, whereas Tony Blair would be more focussed on talking to the media. The news of his speech seemed focussed on public sector pay, describing it as the ‘main thrust’ whereas actually it was mostly about skills.

Amazingly for the diversity of the trade union movement we agreed on nearly everything, great for the movement but not so great for our entertainment.

Wednesday afternoon’s session brought a couple of contentious debates, on child care and the EU constitutional treaty. On the EU treaty, we have a clear policy in unison supporting call for a referendum and a no vote in that, not because we’re anti Europe, but because we want a social Europe, rather than a Europe based on economic liberalism and undermining our rights to good public services. We supported a motion calling for a referendum from the GMB and a motion from the RMT which also called for TUC to campaign for a no vote. The only speaker that spoke directly against the RMT motion was from community. In fact both Unite’s General Secretaries spoke in favour of the GMB motion on the basis of opposition to the treaty spinelessly avoiding speaking against the RMT motion, then voting it down.

On childcare we opposed a motion from TUC women’s conference calling for the TUC to offer crèche facilities outside of formal business hours. Speakers rightly pointed to the importance of fringe and social events at Congress, and how people with child care responsibilities shouldn’t be excluded from those opportunities. However, UNISON opposed the motion on the basis that crèche facilities aren’t the most appropriate form of childcare out of hours and that other unions should take more responsibility in funding tailored rap around childcare for their members, because if they can’t do that at TUC how do they engage women in their own conferences the other 51 weeks of the year?

Thursday morning contained debates around education. I spoke for UNISON in a debate around participation in education or training post 16, with the Government proposing increasing the compulsory age. It was nice to see UNISON release this! I was proud to be speaking out against compulsion. The real show down on this issue had been avoided through the compositing process, with the word compulsory being removed. This left the composite supporting participation, rather than compulsory participation. But then the mover from the Association of College Management (ACM) spoke in favour of compulsion, the seconder from University & Collage Union (UCU) went a bit mad attacking the ‘manager’ for not knowing what it’s really like in FE colleges. This led to UCU voting against their own composite.

I did really enjoy the week, especially the social events (as they often offered free drinking opportunities) next stop Labour Party Conference.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Well with new pay offers in both of our largest service groups (health and local government) I thought I would blog on pay, though as an industrial issue this is really for the service group execs rather than the NEC.

Within my own service group our pay offer is still way below inflation, and in England is still staged so that it is 1.9% over the year rather than the 2.5% in the rest of the UK. But it has been speckled with some little treats, such as funding towards professional registration costs (which have risen astronomically in recent years) or a tiny amount of new money for training those that aren't registered, a flat rate increase for the lowest payed, and agreement to negotiate on terms and conditions issues such as the removal of band 1 from the pay scale and moving towards a 35 hour week.

Now lets face it, this is still a crap offer - especially as staging still stands in England. But it does open some avenues which have previously been closed to our negotiators, namely addressing low pay at the bottom of the scale and the length of the working week. There has been some criticism of the Health Service Group Executive for not making a recommendation in the consultative ballot. But I can understand, on such a crucial issue, wanting to give the facts to the members and asking them their view. We will need a decisive vote to reject the deal for there to be momentum for industrial action. It is interesting to note that both the Unite - Amicus section and GMB are balloting their members recommending acceptance so it's looking more and more likely that any action our health members could take would be alone without our sisters and brothers in other unions.

I personally have not decided how I will vote in the pay ballot in health. It's clear that if we reject at this stage we would have to be able to mount successful industrial action and that will play an important part in my assessment when I make my cross in the box.

Within Local Government the issue is very live, and I don't think our lay structures have had chance to consider it and decide what to do.

The main point to drive home to members is to get your voices heard in the ballot and other consultations over the pay offer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

V Festival success

Well I'm now clean and rested after a muddy and tiring weekend at V Festival in Staffordshire.

UNISON West Midlands Regional Young Members Forum has traditionally attended a summer event to promote the union to young people (having had stalls at Artsfest in Birmingham and the Shropshire Youth Games). This year we decided to go to V Festival. It was our first year there (though Eastern Region have been at the Chelmsford site for some years) so a lot of lessons were learnt, like we had to set up on Wednesday and wear good wellies!

The low point was being stuck in a traffic jam on the way up on Friday afternoon for eight hours! At one point on the motorway it took us two hours to travel one mile, with the light relief of witnessing people dancing and doing handstands in the middle of the motorway!

Our stall was really successful, our petition supporting UNISON's 6 Positive Futures for the NHS

  1. Revive the NHS
  2. Review value for money
  3. Cooperate not compete
  4. Empower NHS Staff
  5. Involve the public
  6. Celebrate achievement – The NHS is 60 years old in 2008

received around 700 signatures over two days and people there were really positive about defending the NHS and other public services.

We had plenty of freebies to tempt people to the stall, most popular were the UNISON/Positively Public glowsticks, we even had ques for the stall at some points.

We had literature about a number of the unions campaigns and the importance of trade unions, and we managed to recruit a few new members on the day and gave out lots of membership forms to public service workers who visited the stall.

And of course there was time for seeing bands. The Kooks were brilliant, I've been wanting to see them for ages, The Killers were great, Snow Patrol were brilliant and it made my festival when Martha Wainwright came on for a duet. Beverley Night was great as well, with Ocean Colour Scene being the top for atmosphere and singing along both in the JJB tent opposite our stall.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

V Festival - Positively Public campaigning

So I'm really excited because next weekend I'll be at V Festival in Staffordshire promoting UNISON and our positively public campaign.

We'll be using loads of different positively public materials supplemented with our specially produced UNISON/Positively Public glow sticks which I recon will go down really well and will get our message to an audience we don't normally reach.

We're also doing a petition on the NHS working campaign and talking to people about the national demo on the 3rd November.

Lets face it I'm also excited about being at the festival and seeing some great bands but it'll hopefully be a great opportunity to talk to young people about the importance of public services.

So if anyone's a V come an say hello (I believe the Eastern Regional Young Members Forum are at the Chelmsford one).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

TUC 2nd Delegation Meeting

So having discussed in the morning at PDCC what we would recommend to the delegation I had already had a warm up for the afternoon's meeting of our TUC Delegation.

First off was discussing our policy on motions submitted to this years Congress. Most of this was uncontroversial so our policy is to support, with some were we are deferring our support so we can seek either further clarification from the submitting union or the view of UNISON bodies (such as women's committee on a women's motion).

There are two motions that we wish to oppose, one which would undermine the bargaining mechanism in local government and one which supports raising the compulsory education or training age to 18. The raising of the leaving age which is compulsory has been opposed by UNISON as we believe that 16 year olds should have full adult rights and responsibilities and our members working in education have concerns about the behaviour and motivation of those compelled to stay on.

We then discussed amendments to motions, with three amendments being put forward to motion 02 on the national minimum wage, motion 05 on agency workers and motion 21 on the Discrimination Law Review. All these amendments enhance motions which we felt needed some strengthening and some emphasis on important issues for UNISON. They where uncontroversial and approved with minor adjustments.

I'm really looking forward to my first TUC Congress - I'll let you know what I think of it once I've been.

Policy Development & Campaigns Committee

Today I attended my first Policy Development & Campaigns Committee (PDCC) today which is one of the NEC committees I sit on. PDCC co-ordinates the unions campaigning work as well as being responsible for things like policy submissions and responses to consultations.

Some of the key issues we discussed where the government's review of discrimination law with view to a single equalities act, issues around the national minimum wage and housing. We also discussed issues for TUC Congress but I'll leave that to another blog.

Discrimination Law Review
A framework for fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill

With the coming of the single body for all the equality strands the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, it important to harmonise the very different and complicated equality legislation that has been developed over the years. The last Labour Manifesto committed the Government to introducing a single equalities act.

UNISON are very keen on having a single equality act to harmonise and strengthen equality legislation. The proposals in the green paper are very concerning however, watering down existing provision and failing to address important issues particularly around equal pay legislation.

UNISON will obviously be making a submission and lobbying strongly on this with our partners. For more information check out the website

National Minimum Wage

By it's very nature young workers are often the ones in need of the minimum wage. I'm glad to see that the DTI consulting on ways to improve the enforcement of the national minimum wage and toughen up on penalties.

This is of course welcome and UNISON makes further representation about ensuring workers know their rights with regard to the minimum wage through putting the information on pay slips and compulsory posters for workplaces (in a similar was to the Health & Safety). This is something UNISON have been pushing for since the minimum wage was created.

More concerning is the DTI is also consulting on an exemption for participants in the National Framework for Youth, a volunteering programme. This would allow volunteers to be exploited as cheep labour while taking away actual jobs from young people and this scheme is set to expand into the public sector.

Homes for the future: more affordable, more sustainable

We were also briefed on the recently published green paper on housing. This issue was put right at the top of the agenda by the Labour Deputy Leadership election and the green paper has been welcomed. While we are really positive about the green paper, of course we want more, particularly around the role of local authorities and what affordable actually means. It was asked that details be put on the website becaue this is such an important issue for our members.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

TUC Delegation Meeting

Thursday afternoon after the NEC meeting was the TUC Congress delegation meeting. This is where UNISON's delegates to TUC Congress come together to decide what motions we want to be submitted to Congress on behalf of UNISON.

The TUC Delegation is made up of people from across the union with spaces for NEC, regions, self organised groups, service groups and of course the young members forum. There were about 80 people there so it's a big delegation.

The key thing to be decided was which two motions we should submit to be debated at congress (which is the TUC's version of National Delegate Conference). Motions were on Affordable Housing, Public Services and Public Sector Pay. When I first looked at the motions, submitting a motion on public sector pay seemed obvious. As the debate continued it seemed much more sensible to submit pay as an emergency motion because lots of things are going to change over the coming months. We would then be able to submit a stronger and more accurate emergency motion on public sector pay. In the debate I spoke in favour of submitting the affordable housing motion, citing young members problems getting affordable social rented housing or getting onto the property ladder.

I'm glad to say that when the vote was taken we decided to submit the motions on public services and affordable housing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

NEC meeting

Unfortunately I couldn't make the first half of the NEC meeting on Wednesday 11th because of problems getting time off work. This largely consisted reviewing this years National Delegate Conference.

The majority of the business was dealt with in the General Secretary's report, which was quite long and had discussions from the NEC in each section so this took a while.

Dave Prentis announced another first for UNISON, as the first trade union to achieve Investors in People status.

There was discussion regarding the recent flooding (my own family having been hit quite hard), it was highlighted that we must make sure people understand the role of public service workers in responding to these disasters and preventing them, and it was noted that the environment agency was loosing over a thousand jobs. The excellent advice and support to UNISON members through UNISON Welfare was highlighted.

With the single status lobby this week equal pay is as always on the agenda. It was reported at 75% of councils still haven't implemented single status and 20% haven't even started.

Pensions continues to be a big issue, with the Local Government Service Group balloting members at the moment. Issues around how the schemes are run have come to light in all of the attention that the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) has had in recent years. Basically members money is in the hands of employers who don#t always use their money to their best interests as well as investing in an unethical way. This is something that the union is paying more attention to over the coming year and I know is going to be discussed in the forthcoming issue of Next Generation our young members magazine.

It was also reported by Karen Jennings (Head of Health) that there has been huge difficulties getting a suitable venue in London for the NHS demo for the 13th October. In order to get a better venue the NEC supported a short delay but this should mean we have a bigger impact on the day. I was glad to speak in support of this.

With the 'pay restraint' of 2% forcing below inflation increases in pay offers across the public sector, this continues to be a key issue for UNISON. Dave Prentis reported that he is chairing a meeting of the public sector unions next week to look at co-operation in the fight for fair pay deals.

It was particularly nice to here the General Secretary praise the Northern Ireland Regional Young Members Forum on their community work around suicide. This is great and important work and it was good to have that recognised by the General Secretary.

It was a good first meeting and I hope you've found this blog useful

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Labour Link Forum

I've just got back home after UNISON's Labour Link Forum, where I was a delegate on behalf of the National Young Members Forum.

We were supposed start off with Hilary Benn as our Key note speaker, but unfortunately as the new Environment Secretary (and Sheffield MP) he was busy dealing with the devastating floods across Yorkshire. We had the last minute replacement of Hazel Blears, who is now in a key position for UNISON as Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities.
Hazel also has ties with UNISON having been a branch secretary and chair in NALGO, one of our founding unions. She said some good things about listening to staff and always comes across as a decent politician when you see her in person (though we obviously have some significant political differences). On equal pay she was clearly overwhelmed by the underfunding of single status for local government, I hope that she will be able to tackle this issue which is so vital for our local government members.
I moved a motion which the National Young Members Forum had submitted on Young People and Labour. The motion sets out UNISON's support for reforming Young Labour and the key principles that this reform should take; UNISON's continued support for Young Labour and Labour Students (with the possibility of funding a full time Youth Officer for the Labour Party); and a commitment for Labour Link to work with UNISON's Young Members Forums to engage more of our young members in Labour Link and the Labour Party. I am glad to say that this passed unanimously and I look forward to working with Labour Link and young APF levy payers on delivering this policy.

It was a good event, with a relaxed atmosphere which meant it was easy to get to know other delegates. It was disappointing that there were not many young members there, with just our current NYMF chair Anne True the only young member there as a voting delegate. Hopefully the work on engaging young members in Labour Link will mean that this improves in future years.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

1st NEC meeting

So on Friday I attended my 1st meeting of the NEC, the 1st of the 07-09 NEC. (I'm afraid I haven't had time to blog as soon as I'd like, but I've been working fairly constantly since).

It occurred directly at the close of Conference (which had the unfortunate consequence of not being able to go for a drink with other young members). The meeting was simply to deal with the elections of the President and Vice Presidents. It started off with Dave Prentis (General Secretary) in the Chair until the election of the new President. The Presidential election then took place, with Norma Stevenson elected unopposed. There was then a contested election for the two vice presidents with Sue Highton and Gerry Gallagher elected.

The task for me at the moment is considering my choices for NEC Committees. With the NEC having over 60 members the real work is done in these committees, so which ones you're on is incredibly important. My big decision is over Policy Development and Campaigns Committee or Development & Organising Committee

Policy Development and Campaigns Committee is the committee which deals with the unions external facing policy work and campaigning. Having campaigned in my election about putting young members views at the heart of our campaigning work this would be an important committee to take that forward.

Development and Organising Committee on the other hand deals with internal issues such as rules and how we organise our members. This is the committee were I could take take forward the issues I campaigned on around developing and supporting young activists.

It's definitely a dilemma, as you can only go on one of these big committees. And what I ask for still isn't necessarily what I'll get.