Thursday, December 10, 2009
For me this meant the rare experience of being asked to right an article for progress, the shall we say 'loyalist' Labour website. Now with promises of caps on our members pay and pensions, my reaction to the PBR was never going to be a glowing endorsement of the Chancellor (though of course on the important issue of spending he gets it absolutely right that spending cuts now not only would damage those services but also the economy). As what one of our officers said to me, it's the difficult audiences not the easy ones that are the most important to get to.
Which is fitting given some of the debate around the Million Voices Campaign at the NEC meeting. I had to intervene after another member of the NEC criticised us for allowing Labour MP's to sign up to the campaign, when surely they are a key audience we need to influence? I posed the question of who they think will make the decisions, and will any other political party come to our defence? And I also pointed out that getting the MP's to sign up couldn't be the end point, but that now they (and particularly the Cabinet members) have signed up to a clear statement against cuts and privatisation it is our job to hold them to that.
Ultimately, that's the difference between those of us who want to campaign and win with our members, and those that want to posture and grandstand.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Public Sector Unions fighting AIDS in southern Africa (PSUFASA).
Sunday, October 4, 2009
The exhaustion however come from earlier in the week at Labour Party Conference (as well as the hell of a shift I did at work on Friday when we were so short staffed I had the Matron working on the ward).
As I posted earlier this was a key conference it being the last one ahead of a General Election, and with public spending at the heart of the political debate UNISON needed to ensure our members' voices were taken right in there.
That's what UNISON's Million Voices For Change is about.
Speaker after speaker in the Conference, in policy seminars and fringe events spoke saying the were 'One of UNISON's Million Voices' with the clear message that a million voices is a million votes. Not just the UNISON delegation, but UNISON members from CLP delegations taking that agenda forward, challenging the spending cuts consensus and the privatisation dogma.
That message seems to be getting through, at least to the Health Secretary who reiterated his recent important announcement that the NHS would be the preferred provider, with other providers only being used when the in-house provision had failed to meet the requirements over a lengthy process of improvements.
But we've still got plenty to do especially on the cuts agenda. Labour's welcome commitment to protect 'front line' services is welcome - but the message needs to get through that our 'back office' staff are essential to allow those on the front line to do our jobs.
I pressed the Andy Burnham on who was a front line service in the health policy seminar, with loads of our delegates speaking up for the backbone of our NHS.
But a key message I got from the week was how important it is to keep a Labour Government after the next election. The Sun front page brought home to me how real the possibility of a Tory Government is, making me worried for my job, the services we provide, and the future of my family. We need to look at how we mobilise support for our public services and the Don't Wait part of the Million Voices Campaign is a brilliant start.
We need to make sure our activists know why this political work is important. Speaking to a fellow Branch Chair this weekend, who chairs a police staff branch, she told me how she's turned off by politics. So I spoke about the massive threats there are to Police Staff after the next election. The Tories won't want to be seen to cut police officers for fear of the public reaction so police staff will bear the brunt. We've already heard what the Tories think of PCSO's (Cameron singled them out for criticism in a previous Conference speech)will they survive a Tory Government?
It's these honest and frank conversations we need to be having with all our members, especially our activists. Not singing Labour's praises from the roof tops like they've done nothing wrong, we all know the deep disappointment and anger we feel at many Labour policies. But we need to make the choice clear - Do you trust the Tories with you job and your services?
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This is a really important conference given the economic circumstances on top of it being the last before a General Election.
For UNISON we will will be taking UNISON's Million Voices into the heart of the party and making sure we are heard. Our primary issue, and the contemporary issue UNISON has submitted to the Conference, is the public finances and how we can protect public spending and head off damaging and wasteful privatisation.
The mission for the delegation, as highlighted in Dave Prentis's speech to our National Delegate Conference in the same hall at the beginning of the summer, is to make sure that the Labour Party goes into the next election with policies our members can support.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We seem to be saving the controversy for the end of the week, the likely flash points being Palestine (where the General Council didn't agree to a suggested more moderate statement), and political representation (which I'm sure will be the most reported).
Today we heard from PM Gordon Brown. Lots of the speech was good stuff, very much ticked the boxes. However as expected the word cuts appeared, and we need to make clear that 'back office' is vital for supporting the 'front line' to do our jobs. The PCS are also concerned about announcements which seemed to be targeted at the highest earning civil servants but would have a damaging effect on their lower paid members.
I have to say I'm not enjoying Congress as much as I have previously, though that's mainly because of the social scene being poorer than usual because of a combination of being in a different city and the recession (unions are a lot less inclined to splash out on free food and drink).
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I was out for the leaving meal for one of my colleagues and another had come back for it, having left a few months ago to move to Manchester. She's moved up there to be close to her partner and got a job in a private hospital.
Her stories from just a few months make your toes curl, as a member of staff or a patient:
- The time taken working out how much nursing time you could justify for each patient, sat for hours with a calculator instead of caring for patients.
- The lack of any sick pay, leading to staff coming in when unwell, not just threatening their own health but putting patients at risk.
- The patient who came in the night before surgery only to be told that due to an error he'd been under charged, and would have to make up the difference for his surgery to go ahead. That was £3000 underpayment, having to be paid there and then otherwise surgery cancelled.
- The elderly man who because of complications had a long stay in ITU after his surgery, leading to a call from the insurance company saying that from midnight they'd stop paying.
Well as I told my friend, 'that'll make it into a speech' and they probably will.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Gerry Gallagher who represents Police and Justice staff on the NEC and has been Vice President for two years has been elected President.
Angela Lynes who represents members in Scotland was re-elected as Vice President and now becomes the senior Vice President.
Eleanor Smith who represent the West Midlands along with myself was elected as Vice President and becomes the first black Vice President of UNISON. I'm very proud of Eleanor as one of our own from the West Midlands and a health member who's Branch Secretary of Birmingham Women's Hospital which is across the road from my hospital.
I'm glad that I will continue on the Policy Development and Campaigns Committee which I have really enjoyed over the last two years.
The meeting continues tomorrow and then the TUC delegation meeting
Monday, July 6, 2009
It's a wide ranging campaign, covering supporting people through the recession and building a fairer economy rather than back to 'business as usual'
This is going to be a long term campaign, and the first this we need is for members to add their voices.
Go to www.unison.org.uk/million
Saturday, July 4, 2009
After Dave Prentis' speech at National Delegate Conference it was clear that Labour Link had a strong challenge ahead to shape Government policy.
The Forum looked in detailed workshops about how to take that agenda forward, particularly at a local level and the our future relationship with local Labour constituency parties.
And it would seem that we may be on to a winner, both Ministers present (Harriet Harman and Ed Milliband) got a grilling on about Transforming Community Services and in particular the 75% figure set for private sector provision. Both Ministers said that they were committed to public provision and it would seem that Andy Burnham wasn't aware of the guidance. Fingers crossed this can get sorted. Real evidence of the effectiveness our our Labour Link, which is only going to get better.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
As of 5pm yesterday I stopped being the Young Members rep and took up my new seat representing the West Midlands, which meant I felt it needed an update.
But the blog will continue to keep members up to date on what I do for them in the West Midlands
Friday, June 19, 2009
On the first day the General Secretary called for a major change of tack in our political work, which the Labour Link structures will be addressing over the coming weeks, particularly at the Labour Link Forum (the conference within the affiliated structures) in two weeks time.
Some real progress has been made on the unions structures, with the creation of the Police and Justice Service Group, the Community Service Group and the merger of Water and Environment and Transport Service Groups, now WET. Conference also redefined Sectors to be our bargaining units, and create Occupational Groups which will cover specific staff groups such as Nursing & Midwifery. It was disappointing that the rule changes that would have given members in sectors proper autonomy over their own pay and conditions fell but I’m sure this will be addressed in future years.
Another big disappointment was loosing the rule amendment which would have allowed the union to expel BNP members within the context of the new employment legislation. This was strangely mobilised against by the left with who seemed paranoid that it was about them and that their own parties could fall foul of UNISON’s most basic objectives of equality. A damming indictment of their own organisations!
After the conclusion of the Conference the old NEC change to the new (so I no longer represent Young Members specifically and now represent the West Midlands), and with all up for grabs the NEC meet briefly at the end of conference to elect the Presidential Team. Unfortunately this meeting could not go ahead because someone who is not a member of the NEC was present, with the support of our far left colleagues. I hope it was a coincidence that in all likelihood we would have been celebrating our first black Vice President tonight and that this had nothing to do with their wrecking actions!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Young Members meeting and social
Young Members get the opportunity to meet other young members at the Conference, hear from the delegates of the National Young Members Forum about things the forum are interested in on the agenda, and get raise any issues.
Young Members meeting 8pm Tuesday in the Buckingham Room at the Hilton Metropole
Followed by the 'Secret Gig' Young Members Social at 9pm with The Perils (but you have to come to the meeting to find out where)
Having decided to shelve our newsheet last year we instead have a social, and this year promises to be amazing! A 'secret gig' with the band The Perils as well as a DJ. But to find out about the venue you have to come to the meeting!
Young Members business
The NYMF have submitted 2 motions and 2 amendments all of which will hopefully get heard. First up will be 'Developing our commitment to apprentices' which highlights the work that has been done and what needs to be done in the future. The other motions (which is quite high up what's known as the 'snake' or remaining order of business) is 'Young and Active: in our workplaces, in our union, in our society' which looks at the importance of involving young people in those different aspects including Votes at 16.
The two amendments have been brought within composites (where similar motions and amendments are mixed together into a new 'composite motion') on the Economy and Housing, which takes the specific needs of young members forward on those issues.
As I see it here are some of the key issues for debate:
- The Economy - How should UNISON respond and what does it mean for us and our members?
- Tackling the far right - particularly in the light of the recent Euro elections, there is also a rule change to ensure we have the provisions to lawfully exclude and expel members of far right political parties from UNISON
- UNISON's Structures - with important changes to make sure our union is relevant to all our members, especially in relation to bargaining.
It was hard not to have an eye on what was happening in the UK - what with Gordon Brown fighting off attacks from the right in the Labour Party, our own NEC election results, and of course the Euro election results and the shame of electing fascists in Yorkshire and the North West.
But it was an interesting conference to hear the experiences of other union in Europe. I spoke in the health debate for UNISON, outlining the good things about our NHS, how it has been attacked and the threats to our NHS from EU free-marketeers. The currently proposed cross boarder health directive would seriously damage the NHS's core principles. What was interesting was that in moving the debate our own Karen Jennings (Chair of EPSU's Health & Social Care Committee) was joined by a representative of the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers Association (HOSPEEM) who expressed the employers support for the unions position and their opposition to the marketisation on healthcare.
Just a few days at home now before off to Brighton for National Delegate Conference!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
And it's going to be an important and difficult time with the continued impact of the recession and tighter public spending, and the very real threat of a Tory Government which would be disastrous for our services and our members.
So the hard work continues. I'd like to thank all those who supported my election and particularly Graeme Horne who stands down in this seat. He's been a great NEC member to work with and I hope I can keep up his good work here in the West Midlands.
It's been a mixed bag of results but overall sensible seem to have made gains, particularly in the Health Seats where the 'trots' have been wiped out. Though some really brilliant NEC members won't be joining us next year and I'm really gutted to have lost some amazing colleagues.
Congratulations must go to Lisa Waldock who's been elected with a much clearer margin for the Young Members Seat.
UNISON has again produced our own materials aimed primarily at our members and their families, with a focus on the BNP and their affect on public services as well as their general nastiness. These have gone around the two hospitals I work in and seem to have gone down well. And as with last year we are the major supporter of the Hope not Hate campaign with Searchlight and the Daily Mirror. This activity gets out beyond our own membership and into the community and is really excellent campaign with brilliant materials and an excellent and intelligence lead anti-BNP strategy.
The fight this year was always going to be a tough one, which UNISON has been planning for a long time, but the events in politics over the last weeks and months have made our fight all the more difficult.
I’ve spent some time this week on the phone to UNISON members in the West Midlands. My region is a high target for the BNP and they came closest here in the last Euro’s. I’ve been asking members whether they’re likely to vote tomorrow and I’ve often heard that people aren’t planning to vote this year because they feel they’re all as bad as each other. Now hopefully these members have been talked round and will get to the ballot box tomorrow (I gave up on the one women that was about to leave the country to go on holiday, bit late to arrange a postal vote). But there will be many others feeling just like that.
I have been motivated this year by the real fear that I will wake up to a BNP MEP (not literally wake up to one you understand), representing me in Europe with their vial racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, disablist hate.
But that won’t happen if anti-racists turn out in numbers at the ballot box and defeat the fascists.
If you’re not going to vote BNP then you need to vote for someone. Obviously that you’ve voted is great, but who? I make no secret about my Labour Party membership, but I genuinely believe that a vote for Labour in Europe is a vote for people who genuinely represent the interests of our members. From equalities legislation to protection for agency workers, from help to reduced maternal mortality to fighting for the right of LGBT people to celebrate their identity in Pride events, Labour MEPs have shown they are on our side.
Don’t let racists speak for you – Vote in the Euro (and county elections if you live in one) and reject the racist BNP
Thursday, May 14, 2009
And the key message from all of these meeting is that in the light of all of the different thing going on in the world, things need to change. At PDCC we agreed the next steps for our response to the global economic crisis, being building a significant campaign around the ‘Putting YOU First: a million voices for change campaign’, the leaflet that has been produced already puts across the message that the PDCC has developed around building a fairer society and the importance of public services in a recession and the recovery. PDCC decided that this would be UNISON’s key campaign priority for at least the next year, if not three.
The Campaigns & Recruitment meeting then had the job of looking at the campaign in more detail. Key issues were raised about how we make this campaign real and meaningful for our members and how we support branches to deliver the campaign locally. It was agreed that materials wherever possible would be adaptable to local circumstances and issues. We also wanted to make sure that the campaign would go along side existing activities branches are being asked to do, so that we don’t increase the burden on branches – activities such as recruitment, talking to members, e-mail and other online communications. We also want it to be a campaign that all the different parts of the union can support, so well be looking for this to be discussed in each region, service group, self-organised group, retired members and of course young members.
Today was the Labour Link Committee and as well as the important topics of European/Local Election and Anti-BNP work, our parliamentary campaigns such as the Equality Bill and the Health Bill, arrangements for Labour Link Forum (where we are supporting every motion!), and Labour Party Conference, there was of course a big issue of expenses (MP’s not mine – I don’t have a moat to clean even if I could claim for it). The anger in the room reflected that in the public, but was also accompanied by disappointment and betrayal. There was a feeling that lessons should be learned from the European Parliamentary Labour Party, who in the light of problems with that expenses system agreed to their own extra provisions for transparency and decency. I put forward that the structures of the Labour Party should take control of this, and our members of the Labour NEC should take that strongly to their next meeting, including provisions for de-selecting MPs where necessary. Only bold action can help Labour recover from this, and I think that we in the party ourselves need to take that action to try and regain some credibility with the public, and recognise that our party and its membership are fundamentally decent despite what our representatives sometimes portray.
For me both these issues are united by the increasing disconnection between a ‘political elite’ and those of us they are supposed to represent. But I don’t think that should put us off from politics, but it should make us get more involved and claim back our political power.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Minimum Wage - some increase better than none and apprentice recommendation some cause for celebration
- 22 and over can look forward to an increase from £5.73 to £5.80 an hour (7p! - 1.22%)
- The rate for 18 to 21-year-olds will also rise from £4.77 to £4.83 (6p! - 1.26%)
- For 16 and 17-year-olds, the rate will rise from £3.53 an hour to £3.57 (4p! - 1.13%)
Disappointingly there has been no movement on the age differentials, other than with the Government finally accepting the LPC's recommendation that the adult rate starts at 21, though this wont be implemented until 2010.
The real good news is the recommendation to include apprentices within the National Minimum Wage. UNISON, together with our campaign partners, have made strong arguments about the protection of these workers and the low pay commission has taken on board many of our arguments. The Low Pay Commission has asked the Government to ask them to look in detail at the arrangements for a rate to cover apprentices and its implementation in its next round. The Government has not yet accepted that recommendation and says it will respond in the summer when it sets the LPC's remit.
This means that there is now an important piece of work UNISON needs to do with our partners to make sure that the Government accepts the recommendation. Then it will be key to make sure that the provisions really support apprentices.
Monday, May 11, 2009
It was as always a brilliant weekend, and with record numbers of young members in attendance. One of the brilliant things about the Young Members Weekend is that the delegates range from the experienced old timers like myself to young members for whom the weekend has been their first activity within UNISON.
I helped to organise a fringe with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign were we showed the film which was made about our trip to Cuba last year.
For the first time this year we had a speaker from the Government, with Hazel Blears popping across from Salford. Government speakers at UNISON events are always controversial, and with all that's gone on Hazel was no exception. But she did really well, and it was really interesting to hear about what had brought her into the trade unions (NALGO at the time) and what had got her involved in politics.
A key part of the weekend is for regional groups to come up with action plans we're going to deliver back in our regions. This year these plans were presented back as 'Young Members Got Talent', with the best (though not the winner) was the West Mids with our song about our planned Hope not Hate activity.
As part of the close of the weekend I was asked to say a few words. I was surprised how emotional I got, particularly as I thanked those who have supported me to get more involved with Young Members and helped me get to where I am today. I particularly thanked Fiona Smith (Chair of the National Young Members Forum when I started on it and now NEC member for Scotland), Anne True (the NYMF Chair when I was Vice Chair and going on to be Asst. Regional Convener and then UNISON staff), and Angela Bowen (a fellow NYMF member when I started and now NEC member for the North West) and used them as an example of how getting involved with Young Members can then lead on to getting involved in the mainstream union.
I talked about three important elections and what we needed to do. The first being the NEC elections which close on Friday, emphasising how important participation in our elections are, making sure everyone returns their ballot. Secondly the European and local elections on June the 4th and the importance of voting against the BNP and helping to mobilise the anti-fascist vote. Thirdly, and most importantly, the General Election which is ahead in the next year. I emphasised the danger that the conservatives pose to our members and our services and the need to do whatever we can to keep them out of power; ultimately that means making sure we return the Labour Party to Government.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I was working while at college and knowing that I wanted to be a nurse and needing a flexible job that I could fit around my studies I got a job as a care assistant (or Personal Carer as we were known) with HICA a private sector provider which had taken over care homes across Humberside (as was). I was very much from a family where it came as naturally as anything else that if you had a job, you joined the union, and the only recognised union was UNISON.
Being a member 10 years ago was for different to my experience now. I think I was the only member in the home (though I may not have been), those staff that had been members told me how they left because they felt let down and abandoned when they were privatised. Now I'm sure the local Branch were working hard on behalf these members (though it was about 5 years before I worked there) but rightly or wrongly those staff felt that their union had let them down.
As someone who is now massively involved in the leadership of the union, both at a Branch and National level, I always try and remember that unorganised workplace and the experience of those staff.
I hope in my own Branch that we try and communicate well enough with our members, face to face as much as possible, for them to feel involved and know we're on their side. That challenge is even harder on a national level but the principle's the same.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The weather was the same as last year, but the climate of the conference couldn't have been more different. Last years conference came days after the three year deal came forward, a deal with some real benefits, having smashed the 2% pay cap and was one of the highest in the public sector, but all the same a deal that was well behind what our members deserved. Conference took the difficult decision to ballot our members on the deal, and our members accepted.
A year later world economies have collapsed and unemployment is ravaging lives, and it was clear that our pay this year is protected thanks to the deal, and as RPI goes negative and the Tories are calling for the deal to be unpicked, it was good to hear Alan Johnson tell the conference that the Government wouldn't bow to those demands and they would honour the deal.
The key debate of Conference was on whether UNISON looks to leave the PRB (NHS Pay Review Body) process. There are worthy principles in the debate, but my intervention focused on asking delegates to look past the passionate speakers and the rhetoric and to look to what is best for our members back in our branches, and that with what has happened in the economy any Government will be looking to hold back public spending, and then the prospect of a Tory Government bring about the prospect of dramatic cuts.
I was glad that the conference clearly voted to stick with the PRB process.
A key announcement was from Dave Prentis, announcing UNISON's new partnership with the nursing times, allowing significant discounts for our members as well as supporting each other with dedicated online space. This will really benefit UNISON's nursing membership (students, auxiliary and registered) and will really help us recruit even more within those groups.
On a personal note I was really proud of my own Branch Secretary who in moving our Branch's motion on the nursing workforce made her first conference speech and did a brilliant job.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
We all know how important elections are, they are an opportunity to choose our representatives and have our voice heard.
But UNISON's NEC elections are crucial as they decides who spends our money that we give the union every month (we know that money is becoming more and more difficult for many of our members as our families are hit by the recession). And it decides who speaks for you and builds your union, and whether that's about what's in the interests of us as members or in the interests of small political cliches and their revolutionary ambitions.
I've used my vote for candidates who will look after our subs, speak for us all and build a union with members at its heart.
If you're interested (because this is an instance where copying is encouraged) here's how I've voted
Annette Mansell-Green (Female Seat)
Eleanor Smith (Female Seat)
James Anthony (Male Seat) - yes that's me
Mary Locke (Low Paid Seat)
Clare Williams (General Seat)
Ann Moses (Female Seat)
Chris Sullivan (Female Seat)
Eric Roberts (Male Seat)
June Nelson (Female Seat)
Mark Clifford (Male Seat)
Young Members (the best one!)
Make sure you use your vote!
If you haven't yet received your ballot paper it might still be in the post - but if you haven't received it by the 21st April you should contact UNISONDirect on 0845 355 0845.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Lisa is currently Vice Chair of the National Young Members Forum, giving her an important experience of UNISON at a national level. I am always impressed by her absolute dedication and energy.
I believe Lisa is the candidate who will not only work hard, but will keep the young members she seeks to represent at the heart of what she does (not only during the election but throughout).
Now it's up to Branches to nominate, and I hope your Branch will nominate her her. For more information then get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, January 10, 2009
After the meeting I was able to go with a colleague from Equity to the Palestine demonstration. Getting there just as the last people were setting off I was eventually able to find the National Banner and march with fellow NEC members (including President Sue Highton and Chair of the International Committee Alison Shepherd) and National Officers. I also saw a fair few Branch banners there too.
The situation in Gaza is incredibly disturbing and worrying for the safety of the whole region. UNISON has consistently condemned the Israeli action called for an immediate ceasefire along with condemning Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
Outside the Israeli Embassy it was a real crush and we had to take the banner down to get through (with the help of some very nice police officers). I've just been reading some disappointing news reports about trouble there (thankfully after we'd got through). There had been some trouble earlier outside the back of the Embassy with burning placards and people climbing the gates. I also get disappointed by the treatment of Police Officers (who after all are just doing there job) and am saddened that officers were attacked and knocked unconscious.