Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Young Members off to Cuba

The UNISON West Midlands Regional Young Members Forum along with our Education Committee and International Committee here in the West Midlands are supporting 5 young(ish) members to take part in a solidarity trip to Cuba with other young trade unionists.
To apply to be one of them then you need to fill in the application form and get the support of your branch. (I have to declare an interest as I will be applying myself)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pay Matters - Fighting for decent pay for public sector workers

There must be no doubt that Pay will be the big issue for the union in 2008, and will be the focus of much of our work. Yesterday I attended the Campaigns and Recruitment Working Group where we fed into plans for the pay campaign, which looks really exciting. We made it clear that we must use every opportunity to talk about our pay as it is linked to pretty much everything, whether it’s fuel prices or affordable housing or pensions or the quality of public services. The campaign website is now online at which I would recommend visiting.

We must not sit back while the Government attempt to limit our pay to 2%, a real terms cut in our standard of living as rents go up, fuel goes up, council tax goes up by higher amounts. The Government point to the CPI (Consumer Prices Index) as their preferred measure of inflation (well they would) because this doesn’t include things like house prices and fuel costs, but these are costs that our members still face. UNISON argues that the RPI (Retail Price Index) is what we need to use which is currently around double the CPI. Now the Government are happy to use the RPI to link student loans to, which means that the interest of my student loan last year was at a rate double my 1.9% I got as a health worker.

Many of our workers are low paid, and they are mainly women workers. If the Government is serious about it’s child poverty agenda then cutting the real terms pay of these women is not the way to do it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Support the opt-out for organ donation

In a brave move the Prime Minister has given his support to a review of the law on organ donation so that there would be a presumption of consent for organ donation.

As part of my day job I look after patients that are being assessed for or awaiting heart transplant. I've known people waiting for a suitable organ and dying in the wait and people getting the organ and having an amazing lease of life. There are currently 7,560 people are currently waiting for a transplant here in the UK. I wholeheartedly support changes to the law, too many people have their organs go to waist because they never got round to joining the organ donor register.
It's time to change the law so transplant can change more lives, but until then if you haven't joined the register do in NOW online, and please discuss your wishes with your family so they can support you to safe life when you've gone.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Apologies for absence!

Well sorry to those readers (there must be a couple) who have missed my regular blogging. I seem to have fallen out of the habit, and then there was the festive period.

And believe it or not I had plenty to blog about since I last posted. I had a festive three day stint in London with the NEC Christmas Drink prior to the December NEC meeting, a GPF (General Political Fund) Committee meal prior to that meeting and dropping into the Co-op Party Christmas drinks (as it was a very good comrade's Birthday drinks as well). But with all this socialising there was some work too!

The NEC meeting was an interesting one, in which we were delighted to hear about improvements in our recruitment, which is much needed. We heard an important update on equal pay (which I'm afraid we're still fairly restricted by the lawyers from sharing), look out for the roadshows making their way around the regions. We had an important discussion about the Pay Campaign 2008, which has kicked off since then. I contributed to say that we must avoid industrial action as part of the campaign being seen as 'bringing down the Government' or a 'winter of discontent'. This is language which drives people away from our course, and is the sort of thing many young members have told me put them off from unions. 2008 will be a key year for pay and UNISON will be working with others unions, especially within the sectors we organise, to co-ordinate our pay campaigns. It sees the possibility of industrial action in a number of our service groups, a possibility that all branches and members need to be preparing for.

So then it was GPF Committee, which approved some very good bids indeed, but sent back some others which didn't meet what we are asking for. We also had an interesting session with the GPF Contacts within each region. The biggest issue highlighted from the day was some misconception about political funds, and the need to be clear that political campaigning (which is campaigning which seeks to influence the voting public or elected officials) needs to be funded by our political fund, and that Branches and Regions could be acting illegally if using funding other than political funds. We also heard about the implications of proposals to limit donation to political parties would have on the GPF, not only the APF (Labour Link). It could even prevent the GPF from political spending during a general election, which would severely damage our anti BNP campaigning.

My third day in London was with Labour Link where I attended a meeting of Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Youth Officers along with other key young activists. It was a well attended meeting and showed the party is really looking seriously about including young people more. At the event both a new £1 rate for labour party membership for young people (which UNISON has been promoting) and a new Young Labour Toolkit for Young Labour Groups to use in building Labour's young members. I was asked to do a workshop with TULO on trade union's in the Labour Party and involving young members. It was interesting to hear real concerns about unions from young people, one who in the construction industry had been told if he was in a union he wouldn't get any work! It just shows that despite legal protection there is still so much more to do to educate people of their rights to union membership. This young member now works in local government and took away a membership form.

I have also become an uncle over Christmas! I'm sure he will be another good democratic socialist and trade unionist in the family. Those who are friends with me on Facebook will know how cute he is!

So there's a quick update, more to come soon!