Thursday, July 24, 2008

Electoral suicide?

Sam Coates in The Times writes,

"more than 100 demands that many Cabinet ministers see as electoral suicide.

Key items on the wish list include a new agreement on public sector pay with the Treasury, internet balloting for strikes, changes to the way that the oil market works, tax deductions for union membership subscriptions and the extension of the full minimum wage to younger workers."

These are hardly controversial ideas? Maybe some simple steps to get the millions of trade unionists back on the streets campaigning for Labour, whould be of huge electoral benefit!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Supporting the local goverment strikes

I'm sure that everyone is now aware that UNISON is leading a strike of our members who work for local government (and those with NJC based pay & conditions who have been balloted) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this Wednesday and Thursday (16th/17th).
UNISON are pulling out all the stops to make the action as successful as possible and to ensure the public are behind us. Staff from across the union, including all service groups, are being diverted into supporting the action. As blogged below, the GPF have funded a massive advertising campaign.

I myself have been doing what I can to support the action through the medium of facebook. Through the UNISON group there is an event set up to promote the action.

I will be on a course on both these days but will be doing what I can to get to picket lines before I start.

What you can do to support local government workers taking action:

1. Visit a picket line - members will really take heart from your support

2. Give a message of support via our website

3. Speak up for our low paid local government members taking action. There will be plenty of stories about self interest and greed, so whenever you hear them speak up for our members struggling to get by with soaring prices.

Most important if you come into contact with local government workers in your job make sure you don't undermine their action by doing the work of striking workers (and remember it is illigal for agency workers to be used to do the work of striking staff), and if you can't please avoid crossing the picket line.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A new year for young members

I’m on my way back from Croyde Bay (which is amazing by the way and well worth a visit) having been at the National Young Members Forum AGM. Being the AGM we had a number of new members which was really great, but of course very sad that we no longer some really great people who have dropped off (mostly through age).

I have to say a huge thank you to Sarah Lewis who has served us well as Vice Chair and Emma McLoughlin who has often been my partner in crime.

I’m glad to say that Stuart Reeves (Eastern) was re-elected at Chair of the forum and he is joined by Carrie Milligan (Scotland) as Vice Chair.

The forum decided to focus it’s work around two strands this year, obviously the National Minimum Wage’s 10th Birthday was always going to be key but the forum will also be looking to work on Gun & Knife Crime.

We also had a variety of elections for conferences; I will be going to the TUC Young Members Forum on behalf of UNISON, as well as representing the forum at the Health Service Group Conference.

Age limit should stay the same

We also had a discussion, at my request, on the age limit for young members. I requested this debate not because I believe there should be a change, but because there is always a great deal of debate and strong feeling about this within the young members’ events and that debate should be had by the National Forum. The forum was unanimous in its support for the current age limit. However there remains concerns over the NEC decision (before I was on it) that to hold any position within young members you must be under 27 for the whole of the term of office (whereas people previously did part of their term and stood down as they turned 27). This causes a number of issues, especially at a regional level. The forum decided to refer this to the NEC to reconsider. I will try and follow this up (though I do not sit on the Development & Organising Committee in which this will be dealt with).

London calling – GPF, PDCC and TUC Delegation

On Tuesday the GPF met in London. As always a number of bids were approved, part funded or rejected. Two really key items (with big price tags) were local government pay dispute and taking forward our general publicity work.

On local Government pay the GPF approved a bid for significant funding to support the strike. This includes newspaper advertising in a number of nationals (excluding Scotland) as well a targeted number of regionals. We also funded these billboards to drive around on both strike days and to be directed by regions to pickets and rallies etc. The GPF decided to allocate at that point further funding for advertising in Scotland to encourage turnout (and a yes vote) in their ballot.

GPF had previously the Strong Yet Caring campaign, more commonly known as Lions, Tigers and Bears. This had been hugely successful and popular with branches and members (and has been duplication in unions internationally). It was decided to extend the funding for this as it had been so successful. The GPF also agreed to fund the next stage in the campaign, which focuses more on real members having been helped by real stewards. We saw some examples and these will be a really strong campaign

The Policy Development & Campaigns Committee met on Wednesday. UNISON’s submission to the EHRC Inquiry into the Human Rights Act and public services makes a compelling case for public services from a human rights perspective, highlighted our concerns with regards to the human rights act’s lack of coverage in areas of privatised services (such as residential homes) and highlighted the important human rights issues within healthcare of disabled and LGBT people.

We were disappointed that we still hadn’t had view of a cross union anti-racism strategy which we have been asking for. We hope that this will be circulated to the committee over the summer.

UNISON’s response to the Energy Bill is being developed and UNISON will be promoting an amendment which would change to way the tariff’s work. Currently as your usage goes up the cost of the energy unit decreases, our proposal would make that the other way round so that higher usage would attract greater cost.

UNISON will be feeding into the review of Housing Revenue Account, which redistributes rental income between councils. This is an important consultation.

The results of the NHS Constitution Survey were presented, which you can find at

We noted a consultation submitted by UNISON Scotland on devolution and agreed to hold significant discussions on the union’s position on and response to devolution and regional governance at our next full meeting.

TUC delegation met on Wednesday afternoon, and I was glad I’d not just come down for this one hour meeting. The delegation approved 3 motions, one on Public Services, one on Public Sector Pay and one of the NHS. The Young Members Forum had asked for inclusion of text on the National Minimum Wage, I hope we can try to get this at the amendment stage.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Visited by the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister for my Birthday.

Friday and Saturday was Labour Link Forum, so I spent my 26th Birthday in Gateshead (which is not the same place as Newcastle I have been reminded).

The National Labour Link Committee met the day before to deal with forum business. We also had a detailed discussion on the implementation of motion 63 from National Delegate Conference and the resulting review of the effectiveness of our political funds. At the conference this was developed further with workshops for delegates on the matter.

There were a number of motions, nearly all lacked contention. One was defeated on limiting the group of UNISON MPs based on our policy and setting regional criteria for trigger ballot votes (which decide whether we just reselect an MP or have a full selection procedure again).

This years forum had very prominent speakers. David Miliband as well as being Foreign Secretary is a local MP in South Shields. David spoke well on the important but difficult role the UK is playing in supporting the democratic movements in Zimbabwe, but mostly focussed the rebuilding the party and the support Labour enjoyed in 97.

Gordon Brown paid the forum a visit to launch UNISON’s Nye Bevan awards for excellence in the health service. He spoke at length about a number of issues before the gathered press, but then had agreed to answer questions (though I don’t think that’s what he advisers wanted). I missed much of this (sadly including his answer on public sector pay and the local government dispute) because I was being ‘interviewed’ in the loosest sense of the word by a very odd journalist who was out of the closed session with the PM. I was impressed by how Gordon was received by delegates, who while disagreeing with him on much felt that he ‘came across much better than he does on the telly’ and that he really wanted to listen and engage with members. This was shown by his desire to stay with us, having to be practically dragged out of there by Anne Keene MP, a Health Minister.