Thursday, December 10, 2009

The NEC approves UNISON's budget but not the Chancellor's

Yesterday's NEC meeting (of which there is and excellent report elsewhere) coincided with the Pre-Budget Report. This meant that as me met and discussed the service and pay and conditions cuts that our members are facing and how we are responding through our Million Voices Campaign, the Chancellor was telling MP's what would be in the budget, and sadly not what was in UNISON's excellent alternative budget.

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

World Aids Day: Remembrance and Action

World Aids Day is an important time to stop and think, and an important moment to be open and honest, raise awareness and dispel the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

I will always remember the first time I wore a red ribbon on the 1st December. I was at secondary school, and I didn't think twice about proudly wearing it in support of people with HIV/AIDS. However it became a struggle to keep it on through the day as kids taunted me for wearing it, saying it meant I had AIDS.
I'd love to think this wouldn't happen today (this was well over a decade ago), but the fact is stigma and prejudice against people with HIV is still rife. That is why World Aids Day and the wearing of red ribbons are still so important, and why HIV/AIDS is still an important Trade Union issue. Like all discrimination, Trade Unions take a hard line. Unions and campaigners were successful in getting protection of people with HIV as part of disability discrimination legislation, but as with all such issues the law is only as good as how it is implemented on the ground. All Trade Unionists need to be continually vigilant against discrimination.

More than this, HIV has become a massive issue for workers across the word. HIV has devastated working people in many developing countries, damaging their ability to live and work and their ability to organise together to make things better. UNISON can be rightly proud of our response and our work with our sister unions internationally. This focuses on supporting Southern African unions in developing their response to HIV through the organisation
Public Sector Unions fighting AIDS in southern Africa (PSUFASA).

So today, lets remember all those who have suffered, think about those who are still dealing with HIV and re-double our support for all the work going on across the world.