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.