Thursday, February 21, 2008

GPF approves funding for anti-BNP election campaigning

I went to the GPF (UNISON’s General Political Fund) Committee today where we agreed funding for a number of things to tackle the BNP in the run up to the local and London Assembly elections in May. The BNP are a threat to all of us in society, particularly our members who work for those local authorities where they are an electoral threat. UNISON has stood against fascist parties since our formation and has a proud record of exposing them and mobilising the anti-fascist vote, and this year will be no different.

The GPF have funded work in partnership with Searchlight and The Mirror newspaper taking the Hope not Hate message out to key target areas as well as a supplement in the Mirror. UNISON will be supporting these events at a regional level and funding for this will be approved by the GPF when more details are known.

The GPF will also be funding national anti-BNP literature, and the committee looked at possibilities that have been put together for leaflets/posters. This will be agreed by the Chairs of GPF and PDCC (Policy Development & Campaigns Committee) and should be available for regional and branch use shortly.

The GPF will also be funding regional activity across the organisation, but as one of our branches in the West Midlands rightly points out leaflets etc. don’t deliver themselves. So as well as resources it’s important that we get UNISON members out delivering leaflets, knocking on doors and getting the anti-fascist vote out in the elections on May 3rd.

We also approved other bids for political funding and sent some back for further work.

Pay Matters and Motion Sickness - NEC meeting 13/02/08

Afraid this is being posted over a week after the event but I've been busy with some workplace issues, sorry!

This was a slightly unusual meeting of the NEC, which started with a presentation on the environmental provisions of the design for our new head office building (which is in the planning process at the moment). Safe to say it will be VERY green!

We also had visitors from Southern African trade unions who addressed the NEC. They have been brought together by UNISON to look at the trade union responce to HIV/AIDS and help to help UNISON plan it's significant help for their efforts.

It was also the meeting where the NEC decides which motions we are submitting to National Delegate Conference, which come from the committees. Most of the motions had been developed by PDCC which I sit on so most weren't new to me. The motions agreed where on Education and Skills, Employment Rights, Green UNISON, NHS at 60, Housing, Local Services and Public Services. I very much hope that the Education and Skills motion gets prioritised as this is a debate we seldome get to and one which is vital. We also have an extra one on the economy, which I'm sure everyone agrees is vitally important to our members at the moment.

We had strong motions from International on Palestine (which was built on by amendments about working with palistinians and isrealis across the borders) and South Africa and the region (which I'm glad to say the NEC didn't accept amendments to critisise the ANC as we should take our lead from South African trade unionists). We also had motions from Development & Organising on Organising, and Equality through Learning.

We also heard updates from both Local Government and Heath on this years pay round. Both service groups were expecting details in March, though the barganing machinary is quite different between the two groups. The Pay Matters campaign is up and running with a large amount of information having gone out to members.

The union remains in a sound financial footing, with membership income having increased again last year. However there are significant financial risks which is why we have put in place the standstill budget for this year.

This meeting was interesting, but it has to be said very long. It was quite draining and lots of NEC members had to be off for their trains home before the meeting ended which was a shame and led to some members attempting some shenanigans!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Supporting striking workers at Birmingham City Council

Today I stopped off on my way home from nights to give my support to striking workers at Birmingham City Council. UNISON members are striking along with members of Unite, GMB and UCATT, over an enforced deal which cuts the pay of some workers by thousands and not delivering what is necessary for others, while at the same time attacking the terms and conditions of all staff (apart from the most senior managers of course).

I joined the picket outside the Council House in the city centre (which is on my way home). It was great that Labour Councillors joined the pickets today. The mood of the members I spoke to was upbeat and determined to win, with many on strike motivated by the desire to support their colleagues who would be loosing out. Early report look that the Birmingham Branch have been very successful in getting their members out. I wish I could be there at lunchtime in Victoria Square as thousands of members will rally outside the Council House, but sadly I have to get some sleep before my shift tonight.
Further strike action is on the cards if today fails to force an agreement and our members in Birmingham deserve our support and solidarity.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

National Young Members Forum meeting

Today we had a very productive meeting of the National Young Members Forum, the forum agreed in principle to campaigning around the national minimum wage in the run up to the 10th anniversary of its introduction. We can now start work on putting together the plan for this campaign so watch this space. We also agreed to submit a motion on this to National Delegate Conference and Labour Link Forum.

On NDC motions we had some discussion around rule changes to propose. We have decided to submit a rule change to add environmental sustainability into the union’s objectives in the rule book. There was also some discussion about whether to submit a rule change to bring the length of time you need to be a member of UNISON before you are entitled to protection down from 13 weeks to 4 weeks. This has been debated at NDC before but has failed to get a two-thirds majority. This is a crucial issue for young members who may well be new to the union and to the workplace. On the basis that we know that other branches will be submitting this rule change to NDC this year we have decided not to submit it but the forum will be actively supporting it at conference to try and get the two-thirds majority required for the change.

And of course we talked about pay and the Pay Matters campaign, I have asked the regional reps to go back to their regional young members forums and get them to consider how they can support the campaign in their regions.

Young Members Go Green

Yesterday I attended an event that the National Young Members Forum organised together with the Yorkshire and the Humber (sorry just can’t call it Humberside) on the union’s green agenda. It was a great day with young members from across the region engaging in the issues and looking at how we can get our workplaces to reduce their impact on dangerous climate change.

We were lucky enough to have the Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs speaking (helped by the fact that it was in his constituency on a Friday). He spoke well and is clearly passionate about the issues, and we can rightly be proud of the UK Government for the leadership we have shown the world on climate change. There is still much more to be done and the young members at the event pressed Hilary to do more.

I had a little slot in the afternoon to talk about young members in UNISON and how we work.