Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Unison Regional Secretary breaking UNISON Rules for Dave Prentis in election-rigging scandal

Here is the link to a recording of a briefing for Regional Organisers at UNISON’s Greater London Regional Office which took place at Congress House in London. Those attending were paid UNISON staff, attending in the time for which they were paid by the Union (at 2pm on Wednesday 21 October). Every UNISON member in Greater London – and every trade unionist who cares about democracy in our movement – should listen to this recording (be warned – it lasts more than twenty minutes and is mostly a monologue).

The person who does most of the speaking is the Union’s Regional Secretary (staff say this is normal at such briefings…)  In clear contravention of the election procedures, which instruct staff that they should not in work time “carry out any activities intended or likely to … …affect the election or candidature of any person“, she gives detailed instructions to staff, as their manager, about campaigning for Dave Prentis. She makes clear she is speaking as a manager to staff by repeatedly referring them to Regional Managers.

“You clearly cannot be caught out saying ‘vote for Dave'” she says, and warns staff to be careful that, if there are witnesses to conversations in which they are lobbying for Dave Prentis to be sure that they are “friendly witnesses.” She names the official in whose (UNISON) office Dave Prentis’ election leaflets will be kept but advises staff not to mention this by email.
This is unequivocal evidence of the most blatant disregard for UNISON Rules on the part of the Greater London Regional Office. Careful listeners will also pick up clearly just how much respect the office has for the Regional Convenor and her team (and it’s not much). Paid officials joke about using the name of the Regional Convenor to justify distributing election leaflets for Dave Prentis – and about how to distract branches which they describe as “the opposition.”

UNISON must now take immediate action against the members of the Regional Management Team who were present at the briefing – and that is only the beginning of what may need to be done as the integrity of the General Secretary election (or at least of the campaign for Dave Prentis) is now plainly undermined.

This report  is reproduced from https://uniondemocracyblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/rogue-unison-regional-secretary-breaking-unison-rules-in-election-rigging-scandal/

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Lambeth UNISON Call For a Branch Based Right to Strike Campaign

The Tory's new anti-strike laws would require a 50% turnout threshold in a ballot and an additional 40% yes vote requirement in “core public services” (health, education, transport and fire services). Essentially outlawing all national public sector strikes.

The laws also go after funding of political parties by trade unions, making it a requirement for union members to “opt-in” to a union's political fund rather than “opting-out”. 
Lambeth UNISON are working with other labour movement organisations to initiate a Right to Strike campaign. A model motion for union branches is below.

This branch notes:

1. The plans announced in the Queen's Speech to limit even further our already very limited right to strike.

2. The plans to force unions that affiliate to political parties to operate a system of members “opting in” to pay a political levy, rather than “opting out”, further limiting the labour movement's ability to maintain a political voice.

3. That Lambeth Unison is initiating a Right to Strike campaign

This branch believes:

1. That it is entirely possible these attacks can be stopped or pushed back, particularly given the government’s small majority and its obvious hypocrisy when it was elected by less than 25 percent of the electorate – but only if there is an urgent and determined public campaign. Letting this go without a fight would be disastrous.

2. That all the indications are that the initiative for such a campaign will have to come from the rank and file and local branches, in order to push the whole movement into action.

3. That there is a crucial wider struggle to repeal the existing anti-union laws, but the best way to pursue that is to defend ourselves, win this fight and then pass over to the offensive.

This branch resolves:

1.       To support Lambeth Unison's initiative; delegate comrades to be responsible; publicise as widely as possible to get support from other branches and organisation of the unions; and work with Lambeth to host a campaign meeting soon.

2.       To make an important focus of the campaign a push for the unions, the Trade Union Freedom Campaign, etc, to organise a national demonstration in London, marching to Parliament, early in the autumn.

3.       To make an important focus of the campaign, working within our communities to explain the right to strike is a democratic right which should be used to fight on issues beyond the workplace around issues such as welfare, health, housing, and liberation politic

4.       To organise local campaigning, including a leaflet, stalls, a public meeting with the trades council and others, information and a petition to circulate among members, and calling for the council and local Labour MPs to publicly condemn the Tories’ plans and advocate Labour repeals them when it comes to office
5.       That this campaign should include discussions about the importance of and openings for unions being willing to defy the law.

6.       To continue to call for the repeal of all the anti-union laws and the introduction of positive legal rights, including rights to strike, picket and take solidarity and political industrial action.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Unison Special Conference and winning rank and file control of our Unions

In the aftermath of the Unison Local Government Special Conference, Unison activists are rightly discussing where next, how can we build on this policy victory and make it a victory for low paid workers in our re-opened pay battle. In this contribution Ed Whitby (Unison branch activist from Newcastle - in a personal capacity) discusses how we continue to reclaim not just this pay battle, but also the structures of our union from the workplaces and branches upwards.
(the article is cross posted from workersliberty and is also partially a response to comrade Rogers posts at his blog see here

The momentum for last month's Special Conference came from the anger of many members across the country, but significantly in the North West, about the failure of local government unions to lead a serious fight to defend our pay, terms, and conditions. In Unison's largest region, where density is highest and strikes most solid, this anger, and the desire to hold the Unison leadership to account, was strongest. This region is also one of the worst-hit by government cuts.

This mood is in many ways a culmination of successive failures: the 2011 pension battle, the false starts and eventual capitulation in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 pay campaigns, and the failure to lead a serious fight against five years of severe cuts in local government.

Those campaigns failed, in part, because of the huge democratic deficit inside Unison. Campaigns are “led” (although, in fact, not led) from above, with the membership treated as a passive stage army to be marched up the hill of one-day strikes, and then demobilised when the union leadership decides the membership has exhausted its will to fight. That conservatism and defeatism is projected back onto the membership itself, who then feel too demoralised to do anything other than vote for shoddy deals, and the employers win.

The decision of the Special Conference to resume the 2015/2016 pay fight is a huge victory, but it does not, by itself, redress that fundamental power imbalance within the union. It does not create rank-and-file control. It does not erase the very real demoralisation (more-or-less engineered by the leadership) that still exists amongst much of the membership.

Some left-led branches, with the powerful North West Region acting as a lever, have been able to coordinate and achieve something significant within the union structures. But what happens next? What happens in Northern Region, in Wales, in the South East Region, where those wanting to carry out the policy of the Special Conference are in smaller numbers and have less influence in branches or regions?

How do we win the fight to open up and democratise branches and regions? How do we transform our union structures – not winning mere changes of personnel on national committees, but fundamental transformation of the way our union is run?

At present, the far left in Unison seems unable to think beyond ensuring a few left-wing individuals get elected / re-elected to national committees. But having left-wingers on national committees is of limited use if there are no rank-and-file structures to discuss what they do, and to hold them to account.

The frequent incompetence of the existing bureaucracy shouldn't fool us into thinking that all we need to do is win a few more seats on the NEC, or the SGEs, or win a few more policy debates at NDC, to turn things round. The experiences of “left-led” unions like PCS and NUT, who have suffered heavy defeats with similar failures to fight in a sustained and coordinated way, should give us pause. There's more to winning reform in unions than electing better people to committees.
Genuine rank-and-fileism means, fundamentally, union members being self-organised in strong branches, with as little distance between the structures of the union and the workplace as possible. It means transforming union structures to get rid of the corps of highly-paid, unelected, unaccountable officials and ensure that all union officials who have any direct role in the day-to-day running of the union are elected and paid no more than an average workers' wage. In the immediate term, before winning such reforms, it means strong, militant branches organising horizontally, not “outside of union structures”, but in grassroots networks within the union that can discuss and plan strategies for action. Building rank and file organisation is key but is not counter to using official structures. A decent rank and file organisation would fight for good policy at every level, stand accountable reps and would fundamentally transform the union because it would have the ability to argue for and in practice to carry out those policies.

The Local Association National Action Campaign (LANAC) in the National Union of Teachers is a useful model. LANAC is based on union structures, and is made up of delegates from affiliated NUT branches (with observers from NUT workplace groups). As such, it aims to transform both the culture and structures of the union by fighting for democratic reform and more radical industrial strategies. It is a quite different model from the moribund “Broad Left”-type approach, which merely seeks to cohere left-wing individuals to intervene in union elections or conference policy debates.

The victory at the Special Conference shows that battles of policy can be won within union structures. But while those structures remain under the control of the same bureaucracy that sabotaged the pay fight in the first place, independent rank-and-file organisation (beginning at branch level) will still be necessary.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Consultation on prospective pay claim for 2016/17

We should welcome the move by our Head of Local Government and Service Group Executive to bring pay claim discussions earlier, so that we can give employers a deadline to respond, which allows us (if the employers fail to meet our claim) to put in place a serious strategy to win our claim and time to convince our members that we can win, and achieve a strong ballot for such a strategy.

So consulting now our members this early this year (and hopefully every year) should mean that we know what the employers response is by the end of the summer, unlike last year where employers hadnt made an offer just a month before its implementation date.

But what should such a claim be, when we have just held a special conference successfully winning a strategy of re-submitting a claim for the present year from April 2015.

So with this in mind, the proposal from the leadership: "Deletion of NJC pay points which fall below the level of the Living Wage - £7.88 per hour (scp 6-10) - and a flat rate increase of £1 per hour on all other pay points" leads us with some problems.

If we are successful in this years 2015-16 pay campaign, which we must go into every pay dispute intending to win it for our members, then would the claim remain for a flat rate £1 per hour increase?
Or should we propose that 2016-17 claim should be removal of the next 5 spinal column points, rather than naming the specific ones.

Or should we in reality see the time is right for a flat rate starting salary of £10 per hour? If Labour are fighting this election with a commitment to bringing the minimum wage (note not the Living Wage) to £8 per hour by the end of the parliament, then our aim for our members must be greater than £7.88, or even £8.88 an hour, especially since we are talking about our claim for 2016/17.

At local government worker blog, we'd be keen to hear what other branches, regions and activists are proposing in the consultation which is taking place in the next 2 weeks.

Please post any comments below

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What was passed at Special Conference

The important vote was on Comp C - with 62% supporting on a card vote

Composite C A Decent Pay Increase For Local Government Members
(Motions 5 and 21)
Member and activist confidence in the relevance, integrity and mutuality of the NJC bargaining machinery on a „sector-wide‟ (cross-nation/whole nation) basis and UNISON‟s role within it is at an all-time low.
In light of all the above this Special Conference agrees it is imperative that proactive engagement, campaigning and negotiations on NJC pay are reinstated now if we are serious about seeking to secure a fair and decent real term pay rise for NJC workers.

This Special Conference instructs the UNISON National Joint Council (NJC) Committee:
1) To formally submit the following to the NJC Employer‟s body with immediate effect as an additional NJC Pay Claim for the 2015/16 pay round (to be implemented from the settlement date of 1 April 2015);
2) The full-time equivalent (FTE) Living Wage rate to be the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine;
3) An equivalent flat rate pay increase to be applied to all other NJC pay scale points.
4) To communicate our position to the other NJC Trade Unions;
5) To work with NJC branches and regions/nations to identify and submit, as soon as possible, equivalent local, regional or national pay claims as appropriate for groups of members who have previously transferred out of local government and are currently outside the NJC pay bargaining machinery or other collective bargaining arrangements that cover pay awards.
This Special Conference believes all these measures are necessary to ensure UNISON demonstrates to all Local Government members this union, with our members support, is prepared to take strike action to secure fair pay no matter which Government is elected in May 2015.
5 North West Region
21 Manchester Branch

But also others were passed including
Motion 1

1. Aftermath of the National Joint Council (NJC) 2014 Pay Campaign
This conference notes:
1) The profoundly disappointing outcome of the 2014 NJC pay dispute, which effectively resulted in another real terms pay cut for the vast majority of members across local government and left tens of thousands of the lowest paid on hourly rates still below the current Living Wage.
2) The employers‟ proposal that was the subject of members consultation after the NJC committee meeting on 09 October 2014 bore no resemblance to the original flat rate, £1 an hour joint trade union claim and was not an appreciable improvement on the March 2014 offer of 1% from the then Tory-run local government employers‟ body.
3) The suspension of industrial action squandered the opportunity to create a „united front‟ in October against public sector pay restraint with fellow UNISON members in the NHS and other trade unionists in the run-up to the TUC‟s 18 October national demonstrations.
4) The NJC „deal‟ also appears to preclude any industrial action over national pay for the first 11 months of the next Westminster Parliament at a time when the Tory-led coalition has categorically restated its determination to enforce public sector pay restraint as a central component of an ongoing draconian cuts programme.

5) The commitment to adhere to Tory-dictated spending limits and pay restraint stated repeatedly by Labour‟s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who has even refused to reverse the current Government‟s veto of the NHS Pay Review Body recommendation for 2014.
6) Votes to reject the employers‟ proposal and resume industrial action in a clear majority of branches that exercised their right to campaign for rejection of the proposal.
This conference believes:
a) The outcome of the dispute has further imperilled the future of the NJC as the forum for collective bargaining on pay and conditions.
b) The dispute itself proved an effective recruiting tool in many UNISON branches, but the outcome risks demoralising activists and jeopardising the prospects for effective resistance both to further erosion of real pay and the assorted other attacks being unleashed on the local government workforce generally.
c) The dispute lacked a credible industrial strategy, with no clear commitment to build on the broadly successful action on 10 July.
d) In future, there should never again be a suspension of planned industrial action accompanied by moves to consultation in the absence of confirmed offer from the employers‟ side as opposed to a „proposal‟.
e) Members‟ interests should never be subordinated to the union‟s relationship with the Labour Party, or indeed any other political party.
This conference resolves to call upon relevant national bodies (such as the Service Group Executive, the NJC Committee and National Executive Council) to:
i) Ensure far greater transparency around negotiations with the employers‟ side with the dates/times and venues of any talks shared in advance and a „headlines‟ report from meetings to be sent to NJC committee members and to branches within 24 hours.
ii) Ensure that where a decision has been made to pursue discontinuous industrial action that there is a clear commitment to and timetable for escalation of action from the outset of the action.
iii) Encourage branches to either establish or expand industrial action/hardship funds.
iv) Identify and act upon feasible means of reopening the 2014-16 NJC deal.

and amendment:

In numbered paragraph 3, add after "industrial action":
", was contrary to the spirit of the Industrial Action Ballot, when members voted in the knowledge that more than one day of strike action would be necessary to secure an acceptable settlement, and"

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Local government workers pay fight is back on

This brief statement has been initiated to begin a discussion on "where now?", by some of the delegagtes after todays conference. Please post below to add names to the statement, suggestions/ additions / proposals. Thanks Or email locgovworkers@gmail.com

Local government workers in Unison today overturned the leaderships sellout of the pay dispute. Unison Special Conference voted on motions to re-open this year's pay claim and passed the motions by between 62% and 68%. The motions called for a fight for the living wage and equivalent flat rate increase for all workers, in the run up to the general election and the first year of a new government.

The leadership of our union will now have to act on these motions.

It is crucial now that those branches central to this and the left launch a campaign to rebuild branch activity around pay. We have to learn the lessons from the northwest organising against the bureaucracy and coordinate branches without fear of leadership backlash. Now is the time to build a branch based rank and file of local government workers not just in Unison but with other unions too.

Marshajane Thompson (Havering Branch sec /london region delegate)

Ruth Cashman (chair Lambeth unison/ delegate)

Andrew Berry (Islington unison / disabled member delegate)

Tim Nelson (North Somerset delegate)

Ed Whitby (Newcastle unison convenor/delegate)

Vicky Perrin (NEC and delegate)

Glenn Kelly (Bromley branc  sec / delegate)

Sarah Feeney (West Midlands regional delegate)

all in a personal capacity obviously