Sunday, December 31, 2006

Think Globally...

Good news for the New Year – the report in today’s Observer about the arrangements to be made between AMICUS, IG Metall and two US unions to organise on a global basis. This could turn out to be a more significant step even than the forthcoming merger with the TGWU.

Public service unions can probably continue to operate on a national basis, because the public sector is by its nature organised nation state by nation state – although there is certainly scope for further cooperation such as that between UNISON and Ver.Di

But the private sector is no longer organised nationally – does it even make sense to think of separate national capitals any more I wonder? The other side are organised on a global basis and our class needs to do the same. Derek Simpson foresees a multinational union organisation within the next decade. The quicker the better I should think.

The challenge we face is how to maintain democracy and lay control as our unions get larger and more remote. One of the US partners in the discussions with AMICUS and IG Metall, the International Association of Machinists, has faced criticism from union democracy campaigners.

Bigger unions are not necessarily stronger and more effective just by virtue of their size. We also need to ensure that our unions are under the effective control of rank and file members.

Maybe there is a New Year's resolution here somewhere...

Friday, December 29, 2006

2020 vision for the LGPS?

Will it be a Happy New Year for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS)?

I guess we will have to wait (in spite of pressure from the unions) for the New Year to see what if any concrete outcome has emerged from the talks which Phil “bumbling” Woolas allowed time for after his earlier hasty attempt to impose a settlement. (From which he had to back down in the face of union pressure),

The key factor behind the massive strike action in March was that LGPS members were being denied the lifetime protection for existing scheme members which was offered to members of other public service pension schemes in October 2005.

The official position is still that full protection is only available to those existing scheme members who will be 60 by 31 March 2016 – with limited protection for those who will turn 60 up to 31 March 2020.

It would be no great shock if the Government brought the proposals for England, Wales and Northern Ireland into line with the slightly more generous protection proposals applicable in Scotland – where the rights of all those current scheme members who will turn 60 up to and including 31 March 2020 are being protected. This would not meet the objectives of the trade unions in relation to protection, which is for full protection for all existing scheme members.

We didn’t go on strike to secure protection for some and not for others. With pension fund deficits falling on the back of a rising stock market, lifetime protection for existing scheme members is possible. The governance of the dispute needs to be firmly in the hands of those who are affected – union members who are members of the LGPS.

I hope that the Standing Orders Committee for UNISON Local Government Conference, which meets on 4 January, will agree a sensible timetable for the Special Conference which has been called in the light of the well supported requisition initiated by the Kirklees branch. The handful of malcontents who still oppose the call for a Conference may yet attempt some sabotage – but that would be ill advised.

Protection to 2020 is not good enough. The membership need to take control of this dispute.

Update on 4 January - in fact I was wrong (there is a first time for everything dear reader ;p) - the Government tabled the draft Regulations for formal consultation late on the afternoon of Friday 22 December. Isn't it always the way that you find a present still wrapped up about now when you take the tree down, but when you open it it is a big disappointment? I'll blog about this tomorrow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

What’s wrong with this?

"Regional Council Recognises that UNISON’s direct input into the election of the new leader and deputy leader is the preserve of UNISON’s Labour link Levy Payers. In the Meanwhile, However, Regional Council urges our NEC to encourage the National Labour Link Committee to help find labour Leadership candidates who are committed to promoting public services in the interests of our members and to pursuing the implementation of the policies agreed by both UNISON and Labour party Conferences."

This is an extract from a motion from St Mary Paddington, Branch of UNISON to London Regional Council AGM on the 1st February. The rest of it prior to this paragraph notes some of the victories in the past at Labour party conferences e.g., for a Forth Option in council housing, it also note’s that these are not being implemented because of the current leadership of the Labour Party.

Unfortunately this motion appears to have been ruled out of order and does not appear as part of the agenda for the Regional Council AGM. Strangely the body currently charged with deciding if motions are in rule or not is in the hands of the Regional Committee which I am a member and which has not discussed this motion as it has not meet since the motion deadline. Therefore I can only assume that the Regional Convenor and Regional Secretary have once again, see post by Jon, taken action outside their remit.

There is no basis for ruling this motion out of order indeed similar motions have been allowed on the National Conference agenda before now. I can only assume that this action is meant to provoke those who support lay led democracy in the union. I will be arguing strongly against this action for this motion to be placed back on the agenda, as I am sure many others will also do.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Unions and Labour's chances of a second century?

The decline in trade union membership seems to have bottomed out in the last couple of years, but the membership of “our” political party is in freefall. After 100 years, who is betting on a second century?

What is the New Labour response to this crisis? Why it is to set up glorified focus groups to create the illusion of popular involvement in decision making. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of “consultation” from an employer knows just how real and meaningful that popular involvement will be.

This top down “loyalty card” politics purports to be about asking people what they want and then giving it to them, but since it is combined with an attempt to remake centre-left politics by those who believe we live in an age in which the state can achieve almost nothing of substance, it will inevitably come to be about shaping people’s perceptions around the choices already made by leaders incapable of believing that they are wrong.

Party membership should be the route for informed and committed supporters of left and centre-left politics to take an active role in shaping Party policy and thereby influencing the practice of the Party in Government. Now that victories at Party Conference (such as on health and housing) are not just routinely ignored by the Government but provide a justification for attempts to restrain further union influence in the Party, it is clear that the last thing the Labour Party leadership want is an active and engaged membership giving them direction (reminds me of some union officials I know to be honest...) ;)

That is why we need to build rank and file organisation across the Party and the unions. I know that there are many in the leadership of the unions who think that we will isolate ourselves from influence if we line up with the hard left. If their caution was ever justified it is not now.

It is not just that we have so little to show for our influence over the past year. New Labour is marching towards a political future in which membership based political parties are a thing of the past, and in which any democratic channels for rank and file influence by the organised working class over a Government have been closed.

We have the opportunity to support an alternative – but only if those Members of Parliament who choose to be associated with our Union use their power to nominate leadership candidates to ensure that our members are given a choice. If the union leadership choose to abstain from this democratic process for fear of losing their influence over a future leader who is our most dangerous adversary we will be perilously close to the end of the road for the union-Labour link in any useful form.

I should have thanked Daniel for pointing me in the direction of the news stories btw. Thanks comrade and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Xmas

I was going to post a seasonal greeting – but cannot beat this one.

It made me laugh (Ho Ho Ho...)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Party funding and the union link

Sorry for the reduced rate of posting recently – I am laid up in bed with a cold but, having had to prop my computer on my lap to send a couple of Emails I thought I ought to share a worry about (Labour) Party funding.

The threat to the current regime for union funding of the Party could do great damage to the Party, but also to the political influence of the unions (such as it is). However, this threat could also provide an opportunity to those who would like to restrict union influence over the Labour Party.

One supposed friend of the unions (Alan Johnson) has suggested further reductions in the share of the Party Conference vote taken up by the unions. This would, in recent years, have saved the Government from defeat on all manner of contentious issues.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that those within the Labour Party who wish to restrict trade union influence will take a chance to restructure the relationship so that we can go on providing the funding (perhaps repackaged somehow) without being in such a strong position to win support for union policies within the Party.

I did read in the Independent that “Dave Prentis, the leader of the biggest union, Unison, is expected to back the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson (in the race to be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party).” So I understand why some UNISON members have expressed worries to me that our Union might not be in the forefront of resistance to attacks on the effectiveness of the union-link. These worries cannot be well founded if UNISON is going to pursue our agreed policies.

UNISON’s National Labour Link Committee has rightly come out against limits on donations to political parties – we need to be equally robust in our resistance to Johnson’s anti-trade union plan to limit union voice within the Labour Party. As long as the National Committee implements the policy it is bound by then we shall. It is the clear policy of our National Labour Link Forum that “that the UNISON and trade union share of the vote at Labour Party Annual Conference should not be reduced any further.”

Of course, if we want to convince an increasingly sceptical UNISON membership of the efficacy of the link with the Labour Party in promoting the interests of trade union members we probably need to make sure that there is a candidate on the ballot paper for Leader who backs our policies.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Well Done, Nick

Congratulations to Nick Holden, he has been elected, in a by-election, to the East Midlands seat on UNISON's Health Care Service Group Executive. I know Nick and I am sure he will be a great asset to as member of that executive. The by-election was caused because the person previously elected resigned three weeks after the election to take up a full time Job in UNISON.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Merger Mania?

So AMICUS are clearly hoping for a new Union – and the question has to be whether the TGWU recalled Biennial Delegate Conference will agree.

Then again, I don’t think you would get very long odds on this.

Given the illogical structure of our trade union movement there is as much industrial logic in this proposed merger as you could hope for.

From experience I would say that activists in both Unions need to watch out for factions within the full-time machinery trying to grab power out of a merger. Also it has to be essential that the groups of activists in the merging Unions get together as soon as possible.

That means the AMICUS Unity Gazette and the TGWU Broad Left (whose lack of a public website may indicate a certain weakness?) need to get together to organise the rank and file of the new Union.

Certainly in the merger that created UNISON we failed to bring together the left across the different Unions and let the officials make the running. I hope that comrades in AMICUS and the TGWU will want to learn from our experience.

(About which I have a lot more to say if anyone is interested)

Update on 20 December (from the Morning Star this morning) the TGWU recall BDC did indeed back the merger, but - as per Louise's comment on this post - there seems to be no agreement about the name of the new Union!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Normal service will be resumed shortly

Apologies for lack of blogging over the weekend. I was away. But also sometimes, when one thing happens at the same time as another, words fail even me.

Surely it would have save a lot of bother if they had bribed the arms dealers with peerages?

Then the Party wouldn’t need the union-link any more and could even raise enough money to subsidise our Leader’s expensive and deadly obsession.

So, normal service will be resumed shortly, unless they offer me a bribe or a peerage in the mean time...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wealthy Tories insult the poor

It is always good to be reminded that however awful New Labour are (and they are) – the Tories are worse. This website (which is not new, but I had not visited it before now) shows them at their worst – it sets out to offer help to people in debt (but then it describes debtors as “tossers” which is hardly the non-judgemental approach necessary for good advice work). There are better places to go for advice.

Debt is a major social problem – and it is not down to people having “inner tossers”. Scapegoating debtors and the poor won’t help to understand or resolve the problem. As Councillor Bob Piper pointed out a while ago – this approach is hardly appropriate for a Party so much in debt itself. Even Liberal Democrats can work out that this is stupid.

Since low wages mean that work is not necessarily a route out of poverty – if the Tories really want to help they should back the living wage campaign. It is because the Tories really would be worse even than New Labour that we need Labour to sort itself out and to back policies which will appeal to our core supporters.

Trouble at t'Committee...

I was very disappointed with the way in which this morning’s meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Council was handled. We had a number of good and constructive discussions – but there was more that we could have done. Had the meeting not been closed when it was I would have asked that we discuss how to support the TUC lobby of Parliament on 23 January, but also about support for those ripped off by Farepack.

I was pleased to be advised that the Regional Women’s Committee had pledged £500 to UNISON Welfare to help UNISON members let down by Farepack – but had the Regional Committee discussed this we could have doubled that (I hope the Regional Finance Team thought to do this later).

So why did the Regional Committee wind up early?

Well, there was a difficult discussion prompted by the Regional Secretary – backed by the Regional Convenor – advising the Regional Committee that a previous Committee decision was to be overturned by administrative decision (about which the Convenor refused to allow a vote!) The issue was around a couple of motions from the Haringey branch both of which concerned, in different ways, the imminent change of Prime Minister. The Regional Secretary had previously advised the Committee that these ought not to be discussed by the Regional Council, but should be referred to the Regional Labour Link Committee. The Regional Committee had, quite reasonably and properly, refused to accept this advice.

The Regional Secretary told the Committee that, following discussion with the General Secretary’s Office she was advising the Committee that their previous decision was outside the Rules and therefore had to be overturned. This, she said was a matter of application rather than interpretation of our Rules and could therefore be decided by paid officials rather than being referred to elected NEC members. The Committee was told (just before the Convenor refused to take a vote) that, had we disregarded this advice, the Regional Secretary had been instructed to withdraw all the staff from the Regional Council meeting.

Of course there is no requirement in Rule for paid staff to be present in order for a Regional Council meeting to transact business. However, the majority of the Regional Committee would almost certainly not have wanted to respond to such a confrontational approach in kind, so it is a shame that no democratic decision was permitted. It is inexplicable that the Regional Convenor and Secretary had not sought an interpretation of the Rules on this point in the appropriate way. Since that could easily have been done it almost appears that a difficult and unnecessary confrontation was sought – it is almost as if the left on the Regional Committee were being set up to get angry!

(Of course I am sure this was not the case, and – as it happens – the disappointed majority of the Regional Committee behaved with exemplary and impeccable courtesy in the face of what could so easily have been seen to have been deliberate provocation).

Underlying this dispute is the long standing difficulty which UNISON’s Rules have created for us by creating UNISON Labour Link as a quasi-autonomous part of our Union. There are those who will fight hard to maintain the freedom of the Labour Link from accountability to the wider Union.

I suppose they feel that the great success of UNISON Labour Link in (for example) preventing the privatisation of NHS Logistics and guaranteeing full protection for all members of the Local Government Pension Scheme justifies the vigour with which they defend the status quo in our union…

I am pleased to say that there were some far more constructive contributions made by speakers at the Regional Council, about which I shall report here when I have the chance.

23 January - speak up for Public Services

I’ll post a full report from today’s meetings of the Regional Committee and Regional Council of Greater London Region UNISON later (best not to blog when angry…). I am sorry to report that, for the second time in a row there was not a quorum present at the Regional Council. It is some years since we had two out of three inquorate Regional Council meetings in a year and it is a sorry statement about the organisation of the Union by the Regional office that we have ended up in this predicament.

Amongst the constructive points which I would have liked to have had the time to make at the Regional Committee meeting this morning, had it not been terminated early by the Chair, would have been a call to all London UNISON branches – and members – to support the TUC Lobby of Parliament on Tuesday 23 January 2007 to “speak up for public services!”

Whilst it is a shame that this message was not conveyed to the 92 voting delegates who did turn up today, I hope that we can get the message across to UNISON members in London that we need a unified, joint union campaign against privatisation, I am sure that we can mobilise significant support from 130,000 UNISON members in Greater London for our public services (in line with the views of a large majority as expressed in a recent opinion poll).

UNISON Regional Council

Today is the new date for the meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Council which was moved from 1 November because it clashed with the NHS Together lobby of Parliament.

I hope we have a quorum of members present, although given the proximity to the holidays and the needless confusion created about whether and when the meeting would take place I have some doubts.

I’ll post a report later today.

Locked up for not being a threat...!

This is prompted by something in today’s Morning Star about Omar Deghayes, a Libyan born British resident held without trial in Guantanamo Bay for the past four years, whose case I have mentioned here before. Aside from the horror of detention without trial and with no access to justice – and the appalling refusal of our Government to speak up for those British residents who are not British citizens – Omar’s case has reached a point even Kafka couldn’t have made up. The US would be prepared to release Omar but only if the UK kept him under a level of surveillance that the UK authorities, not considering necessary, refused. So if Omar really was deemed to be a threat to the UK he could have been released, but because he is not he remains detained without trial on another continent with no hope of release. This is an outrage and, if you can spare a few minutes to help a campaign against injustice visit the campaign website the next time you get a chance. Omar, is a father, a brother and a son - what if he was your father, brother or son?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Better than nothing?

I have been looking for an appropriate way of making up a hat trick of defeats, having secured probably the lowest ever vote in an election for UNISON General Secretary in 2005 and then having been defeated earlier this year in the election for Regional Convenor for Greater London UNISON to replace Geoff Martin.

Now in the Bloggers4Labour awards this blog has been narrowly defeated in the category of “best trade union blog” by “None of the Above”!

I am hoping that the run of bad luck is over now – and that I have enough good luck to spare some for the union negotiators meeting the Local Government Association and Phil Woolas to discuss the Local Government Pension Scheme. Lobbying by the unions is making itself felt and sympathetic MPs have been talking to Woolas. I hear that there may be some movement from the Government, but I don’t think we are going to be offered full and equitable protection for existing scheme members which is what we want.

Still, any movement from the other side in an industrial dispute is generally (unlike this blog apparently) better than nothing!

Equal Pay dispute leads to legal action

Following the successful settlement between UNISON and Glasgow City Council, UNISON and the GMB are now taking judicial review proceedings against Falkirk Council who are seeking to impose a pay and grading review.

Equal Pay is the submerged nine tenths of the iceberg of all the discussions since I have been on the UNISON National Executive. The determined struggle being waged by UNISON members in Coventry looks set to be joined by any number of disputes up and down the country.

Legal and industrial disputes are an inevitable consequence of a Government willing the end (closing the gender pay gap) without willing the means. Gordon Brown won’t stump up the cash that is required – and has been criticised by UNISON for this failure – but will the unions use their political voice to back a candidate for Labour Leader who would do what needs to be done…?

The NHS - safe in Labour hands?

Yesterday evening I experienced the excitement that is the Enfield and Haringey Fabians – enjoying the hospitality of Andy Love MP. Although the turnout at the meeting was not impressive in terms of quantity, we had an interesting chat with the talkative Kevin Barron MP who was expecting to be on the Today Programme later this morning talking about a report from the Select Committee on Health (which he chairs) about NHS Deficits.

I was more than a little worried that Kevin Barron seems to think that it is a bad thing that some of those opposing NHS cuts are politically motivated. Is it a bad thing to be politically motivated? What better motivations are there?

Andy Love seems better to understand the potential consequences for MPs in marginal constituencies of the Government’s current approach to NHS “reform” – I suppose that comes of being an MP in a marginal constituency…

I fear that, on the evidence of this meeting, we have yet to convince Labour MPs of the self-evident case against private provision of our public services. Time, I think to follow advice from UNISON and go on the TUC lobby of Parliament on 23 January!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lobby Camden Council against cuts!

I have just spoken to over 300 members of the Camden UNISON Branch at Camden Town Hall. I was pleased to follow John McDonnell MP, who was well received as he offered his support, as a UNISON member and Labour MP, to the branch - which faces over 300 job cuts.

I was down to speak on the pensions dispute (which I did) - the meeting went on to consider the cuts which Camden's new Tory/Liberal Council are pushing through. These are very severe attacks on public services, and I will post further details later.

Anyone who can get along to Camden Town Hall at 6pm tomorrow (Wednesday 13 December) should do so in order to support UNISON in lobbying the Council against cuts. Anyone reading this blog who works in Mabledon Place WC1 will know how easy it would be for them to get along...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Good riddance to bad rubbish

So General Pinochet is dead. Good riddance. Shame he cheated justice. Still, one less reactionary in the world. Under Pinochet Chile was a testing ground for what we came to call Thatcherism. We are all still living with the consequences.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blair is intolerable

I never was much of a fan of Tony Blair – but today’s speech doesn’t just take the biscuit, it takes the entire tin and hands it back with just half a custard cream with the cream licked off.

It is a shame that when Tony came to disrupt this year’s TUC with his reactionary drivel he didn’t pay attention to TUC policy on Islamophobia;

“Congress is anxious to counter the growing culture of Islamophobia as another manifestation of racism, which is borne out of a transatlantic agenda for the Middle East and the consequent terrorist atrocities of recent years. In the workplace the impact of this can be corrosive on relationships and it impacts on Asian communities as a whole. Fear and ignorance breeds prejudice and prejudice is undiscerning. Many innocent people suffer as a result. It is every bit as important that we combat racism, fear and prejudice as it is that we combat terrorism.”

Tolerance is what makes us British Blair says, therefore anyone arriving here must integrate (because if they won’t we won’t find that tolerable…?)

He wants to define "common values" all citizens are "expected to conform to".

It strikes me this bloke isn’t living up to our British values of tolerance – can’t we deport him somewhere?

Just a minute...

I nearly forgot to report on a moment of what could have been light relief at the end of Wednesday’s meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC). Yorkshire and Humberside NEC members, John McDermott queried the minutes of the October meeting, as the section dealing with the report back from the TUC did not record the discussion which had taken place about the running of the delegation and the decision of the Presidential Team to send three delegates home because they walked out when Tony Blair got up to speak.

I stayed in the hall suffering Blair’s awful speech and blogging. I remembered that discussion at the October NEC – and reported it here on this blog.

However, the President stated that no such discussion had taken place and that the minutes were accurate. John (rightly in my opinion) moved to challenge the accuracy of the minutes (which did not and do not accurately record the relevant discussion at the October meeting – but when this was put to the vote only a handful of NEC members voted against the President and in favour of the accuracy of the minutes.

It would be over the top to compare this episode with the falsification of history – but I think it illustrates quite well just how uncomfortable most of my NEC colleagues are with critical contributions (indeed with critical thought). This does not make our union stronger.

I wonder whether the minutes of the December meeting will record the detail of this discussion when we consider them in February…

General Secretary's report to UNISON NEC

Dave Prentis pointed out that the main issues with which the Union was dealing (equal pay, pensions and the NHS) had already been discussed at the meeting. He dealt with a number of other important issues.

Expulsion of BNP supporter

Dave thanked those involved in expelling a supporter of the racist British National Party from UNISON. The NEC members and officials involved in the case had had to face up to intimidation from the BNP and had implemented the Union’s Rules.

Farepak

The NEC agreed a donation of £5,000 to the fund established to compensate those who have been ripped off by the collapse of the “Farepak” Christmas hamper company. it was also agreed to urge the TUC to use its links with the bankers involved to put pressure on them to provide more funds (and to reconsider our relationship with the bank, which provides TUC credit cards, if they do not).

White ribbon campaign against domestic violence

Dave reported on a launch of this campaign in North Wales. Domestic violence is one of the topics on which we are considering inviting a guest speaker to next year’s National Delegate Conference.

Community organisations

The General Secretary expressed his support and admiration for TELCO and particularly praised the role of Jean Geldart of the Tower Hamlets branch in working with this community organisation from which he said we had much to learn.

Pink Paper nomination

It was reported that the Pink Paper had nominated UNISON as a contender for an award as a gay friendly organisation.

Trident nuclear submarines

Dave reported that UNISON was working closely with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to develop details of the alternative better uses to which the billions which the Government wants to waste on new nuclear submarines could be put.

Chancellor’s pre-budget statement

UNISON were hoping for funding for equal pay, pensions and the NHS in the Chancellor’s pre-budget statement. In the event we were disappointed.

TUC lobby of Parliament on Public Services

Following on from the very successful lobby of Parliament last summer organised by the Public Services Not Private Profit Campaign (to which UNISON sent a message of support) the TUC are organising a lobby of Parliament against privatisation on 23 January. This will be an important opportunity to alert MPs to the risks of further privatisation inherent in the Local Government White Paper.

Although we have lots to do in terms of pensions, equal pay and defending the NHS it is very important that we support this joint trade union lobby against privatisation – the Government’s attacks upon our public services are across all the services and we need to respond in an equally coherent way.

UNISON NEC prepares for Conference 2007

The NEC noted a report on preparations for next June’s National Delegate Conference. Likely topics for NEC Conference motions include;
Inter-Union Relations
Public Services funding and the Comprehensive Spending Review
Marketisation
NHS
Pensions
Impact of elections
European Union Public Services Directive
Employment Rights
Housing
13 week rule
Legal Services Bill

Consideration will also be given to the Structures Review and Branch Funding.

The NEC also received the annual report of action taken in response to motions not taken at last year’s Conference and therefore referred to the NEC – this is circulated to branches (as required by Rule).

NHS Together report at NEC

The NEC received a report on the work of NHS Together following the successful lobby of Parliament on 1 November. The focus of the campaign was currently on local activities. The Health SGE had agreed to consult health branches about whether or not to go ahead with a national demonstration on 3 March or to have a day of local activities.

Following suggestions from a number of NEC members (including myself) it was agreed to extend this consultation to all UNISON branches, on the basis that the future of the health service is an issue for all members and we would hope that all members and branches would support a national demonstration in defence of the NHS.

LGPS Dispute update from NEC

The NEC received a tabled report from the Head of Local Government. Following the decision of the local government minister, Phil Woolas, to allow further time for negotiations, further talks between the unions and local government employers are expected to commence this week. There appear to be no grounds for optimism about the outcome of these talks.

It is now expected that the Regulations will be published at the end of next week, and meetings of Service Group Executives will take place on Monday 19 December and of the Industrial Action Committee on 20 December. Branches involved in the dispute should be preparing for a strike ballot commencing at the end of January with industrial action commencing in early March. It is very important to lobby MPs now and during the formal consultation period on the new Regulations, which will run for twelve weeks once the draft Regulations are published. The website is regularly updated.

There was some confusion about the status of the decision to call a Special Local Government Service Group Conference, though this was eventually resolved on the basis that the previous NEC meeting had agreed to delegate authority to approve the previous request of the Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) for such a Conference to the Service Group Liaison Committee and Finance and Resource Management Committee and that these bodies had approved this request.

The Head of Local Government confirmed that, at the time of the decision of the Service Group Liaison Committee to approve the request for a Special Conference it was believed that the requisition for a Conference initiated by the Kirklees branch had already attracted the support of branches representing more than 25% of the membership of the Service Group. However, as at that time the two month deadline for receipt of valid requisitions had not expired, and as the Service Group Liaison Committee (on behalf of the NEC) had approved the request of the SGE for a Conference before the expiry of the deadline this therefore took precedence over the requisitioned Conference.

It may or may not be worth spending time exploring this questionable logic. The Standing Orders Committee for Local Government Conference will meet on 12 December to consider a request from the SGE for a timetable of less than sixteen weeks leading up to the Special Conference and to determine the date for the Conference. Louise Couling took issue with those who were critical of the conduct of the dispute and claimed that it was being run by officials. Jon Rogers took a different view and pointed out that if our activists and branches were confident in the governance of the dispute there would not have been such a strong response to the call for a Special Conference.

The key issue on which we now need to focus is rebuilding the momentum of the dispute with a view to intensifying our political lobbying and preparing for strike action.

Equal Pay discussion at the UNISON NEC

The NEC received a comprehensive report, the contents of which were confidential and legally privileged. The issue of equal pay is now taking up the majority of the time of our senior national officials. It is not possible to go into detail about the report received at the meeting. Further briefings will be arranged for branches in the Region and the website will be updated.

The good news of a recent settlement between UNISON and Glasgow City Council was reported to the meeting, although details were awaited. This settlement appears to have achieved an important breakthrough in protecting the earnings of those who may lose out in a pay and grading review.

Sad news at the NEC

I am going to post here some of the proceedings of this week’s meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC). Any UNISON member in Greater London who would like a full copy of my report of this week’s NEC meeting – please Email me at j.rogers@unison.co.uk. I am only going to blog about some of the main items from the meeting – but will start by expressing great regret about the sad and untimely death of my fellow NEC member Diane Shepherd, NEC member in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region. Her funeral takes place in Wakefield on Monday 11 December. This was very sad news indeed.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

UNISON NEC meeting

Today is that most auspicious day, the date of the December meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC). Having omitted to attend the drinks reception last night (much against the normal run of play) I am hoping not to be bleary eyed for important discussions about equal pay, pensions and the future of the NHS.

I shall blog bits of my personal report of the meeting once it is written – and will then know whether or not I am currently wasting my time reading and rereading UNISON Rules D1.9 and D3.4 (with particular reference to Rule D3.4.11) concerning the requisitioning of Special Service Group Conferences and the necessary timetables.

This post has been written especially for anoraks amongst the readership of this blog…

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is this the begining of the end of New Labour?


Blairite loyalist, Ann Clwyd MP has been ousted as Chair of the Parliamentary Party. Tony Lloyd not some one particularly of the left but an Anti war MP never the less, has been elected to the role. Apparently many MP’s did not feel Clwyd represented their views. Lloyd won by 169 votes to 156.

Clearly some Labour MP’s, previously loyal, are finally finding some backbone by voting against one of Blair’s (and Browns) chosen one. I hope they show similar independence in the nomination process for leader? It is in the same MP’s hands as to whether we have a proper debate about the future direction of the Labour Party by ensuring John McDonnell is on the ballot paper when the leadership election is finally called.

Glasgow pay protection settlement

Congratulations to the Glasgow City branch of UNISON, who seem to have won a significant victory in the fight to protect members’ earnings. The branch had threatened a three day strike in opposition to massive pay cuts threatening some members when protection arrangements expired in 2009. The employer had reacted angrily to the prospect of strike action – and UNISON had responded vigorously.

Now the militancy of our members in Glasgow seems to have paid off.

Glasgow seem to have come up with a formula to protect the earnings of “losers” in a pay and grading review by using job redesign to provide an objective justification for the maintenance of earnings. This is very good news for all local government workers, since it means that we have found an appropriate mechanism to protect earnings without perpetuating unequal pay structures.

Maybe there is a lesson here for those employers who imposed pay and grading arrangements without agreement…

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pensions - Government may be commencing retreat (or not)

So the Government have indeed delayed publishing the Regulations which would attack the pension rights of local government workers…

Good.

Not sure we should be patting ourselves on the back just yet though.

The Government may have learned from their errors. Or not.

We shall see…

Don't Spam me - I'm a vegetarian!

One (not very interesting) side effect of blogging is getting anonymous comments which try to promote various different ways to separate the foolish from their money.

I enabled comment moderation on my blog to ensure that I did nothing to help this nonsense (which had the pleasant side effect of freeing me from the anonymous and pseudonymous commentators who specialise in red-baiting, and who seem to have a particular affection for misogyny).

I would not let this discourage any trade unionist from blogging. This is a valuable new form of communication with our members which can do much good. There are sad parasites who will try to benefit themselves by making use of our use of these communication technologies - we just have to ignore them.

I particularly enjoy ignoring the red-baiting misogynists, but I put them very much in the same category as the people trying to sell me enlargements of bits of my anatomy - so I really just enjoy ignoring all the sad inadequates out there.

I shall continue to treat spam (unwanted email etc.) as any vegetarian would!

20% off megadeath?


So our new nuclear subs will only carry 160 warheads rather than 200. So that’s just 160 cities full of civilians we could wipe out if we wanted to – I wonder who the lucky 40 now off the target list are?

UNISON backs CND in its opposition to Trident replacement, as does the TUC. Public opinion is against Trident replacement and there is no rational argument in favour.

To those who argue that the possession of nuclear weapons is some sort of insurance policy I would suggest that they do some internet research on insurance. A variety of competitive products are on the market if you need some insurance – none of which involve spending billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Where are the draft pension Regulations?

I understand that the special meeting of the UNISON Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) due to take place on Monday to consider the dispute over the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) has been cancelled. The draft pension Regulations announced by Phil Woolas last week have not yet appeared.

I won’t be popping Champagne corks about this (unless the Islington UNISON branch Xmas drinks are going up market this year…) Unless the Government have a truly dramatic change of heart we are going to have to ballot for further strike action – and the SGE meet again on 14 December in any case. UNISON members need to step up our campaign to defend the LGPS. Labour MPs in particular need to be made to understand the political damage they will do to the Party if the Government does not offer equitable treatment to members of the LGPS.

Nevertheless, it is always good to see the appearance of hesitation and indecision on the other side in a dispute – even if it is only the appearance. Thanks to John McDermott for the information btw.