Monday, January 18, 2016

Don’t let them silence you – a message for UNISON activists

https://www.fbu.org.uk/don't-let-them-silence-you-–-switch-direct-debit-today

This is a link to the organising response of our sister union, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to the proposals in the Trade Union Bill to prevent public sector employers from operating deduction of union contributions at source (directly from our pay) - a long standing arrangement known as "DOCAS" or "Check-off."

The FBU are preparing to switch members to pay their subscriptions by direct debit in anticipation that the Trade Union Bill will make it through the Lords with the relevant clauses still intact.

UNISON is playing a leading role in lobbying the Lords to try to limit the damage to our movement by this pernicious Bill - and has not given up hoping that we may be able to defeat the attack on DOCAS, for which no one has been calling (and which was only added to the Bill in late amendments).

However, we need to be ready for the eventuality that the prohibition on public sector "check off" reaches the statute book - and for a campaign such as that being waged by the FBU. UNISON, with 800,000 plus members paying their subscriptions via DOCAS is at the sharp end of this particular attack.

Direct Debit is a far less satisfactory way to pay union subscriptions (particularly for low paid workers whose pay goes out of the bank account as fast as it comes in). However, we already have well over a third of a million members paying UNISON subscriptions from their bank accounts rather than their wages (a number which would be set to increase regardless of the Trade Union Bill owing to the increasing fragmentation of the public service workforce).

UNISON activists have no choice but to prepare for an increasing number of members paying by direct debit - and a campaign along the lines of that being organised by the FBU seems unavoidable.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lambeth Library staff vote to strike over library cuts

http://lambeth-unison.org/2016/01/12/lambeth-library-staff-to-strike-over-library-cuts/

I'm pleased to be able to link to the new Lambeth UNISON website which carries the positive news of overwhelming support from UNISON members in Lambeth libraries for the leadership from their shop stewards.

Libraries are at the sharp end of austerity in many areas and the workforce will need to be prepared to fight to save their service (and jobs). Workers in Lambeth are not alone in preparing for action in defence of the library service and it will make sense if activists and branches can coordinate this action to maximise political pressure.

The challenge for the official structures of our trade unions beyond branch level is whether the unions can play a positive role in facilitating this coordination.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Apology to Dave Prentis

Apology from Jon Rogers to Dave Prentis

In December of last year, prior to the conclusion of the election for the post of General Secretary of Unison, I made various comments about Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison, who has now been re-elected for a further term, on social media and in other forums. 

I accept fully that Mr Prentis has "clean hands" in relation to the meeting of Unison staff in the Greater London Region which took place on 21 October 2015. I wish to make clear that I have no grounds to believe that Mr Prentis sanctioned or condoned any misuse of Unison staff resources at that meeting. 

Further, I also wish to make clear that Mr Prentis has done nothing, to my knowledge, that warrants his disqualification as a candidate or gives grounds for the election to be re-run.

By making this statement, I apologise unreservedly to Mr Prentis for the concern and distress I have caused him and for any negative impact my words may have had upon his or Unison’s reputation.

I am happy to confirm that I have provided Mr Prentis with undertakings which he has accepted that I shall make no statements which are at variance with this apology.

I recognise that Unison’s interests are best served by everyone giving their full support to the investigation currently being undertaken by Roger Mackenzie, Unison’s Assistant General Secretary into the circumstances surrounding the 21 October meeting. I recognise that there should be confidentiality around that investigation and, whilst it is ongoing, I have confirmed that I will refrain from commenting on the investigation or from circulating any material concerning these matters. No one should prejudge the outcome of the investigation.  Mr Mackenzie must be allowed to conclude the investigation without further speculation, interference or distraction.

I am also happy to confirm that I will abide by and respect the outcome of the investigation as required by Unison’s Rule Book as determined by the members at Conference.




Monday, January 11, 2016

Junior Doctors' Picket lines across England

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=ztyN7Nay5GVE.k23VwWSwZSqA

Any UNISON member who can should show solidarity tomorrow with the junior doctors' strike action. (The link above gives details of all the picket lines which will be mounted tomorrow).

No worker makes the sacrifice of taking striking action lightly, but junior doctors have been left with no choice.

‎Their union - the British Medical Association (BMA) - has not yet reached a settlement with the Government and, under the Tories' own anti-union legislation, the BMA must call strike action now if they do not want to lose the mandate for action given them by the near unanimous vote for action by their junior doctor members.

This is not simply a dispute about the pay and conditions of an important group of public servants, it is also about the future of our National Health Service, which will not be able to recruit and retain staff in future if they are saddled with unworkable or dangerous contracts of employment.

Tomorrow's action will be an important expression of opposition from public service workers to a Government which has declared war on public servants.

The junior doctors deserve all our support.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Friday, January 08, 2016

2016 service group executive elections - a chance for UNISON to step forward?

https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2016/01/2016-service-group-executive-elections/

Next Tuesday nominations open in the biennial elections for the directly elected seats on UNISON's Service Group Executives (SGEs), the bodies which direct our Union's activities in relation to the pay and conditions issues which are the main reason why workers join trade unions.

Several years ago our National Delegate Conference rejected plans to vary the responsibilities of our Service Groups so as to further devolve responsibility for bargaining to (smaller) "sectors" (a sensible step in my view as SGEs can - at least in principle - be held collectively to account by annual Service Group Conferences as Sector Committees cannot).

Therefore it is the members of each SGE who are, collectively, responsible for the bargaining on pay and conditions, and campaigning on workplace issues, which together comprise the work which is most important to trade union members.

As a member of the Local Government Service Group in the Greater London Region I have been fortunate to be represented by three excellent SGE reps, Helen Steel, Sue Plain and John McLoughlin, all of whom have been committed to seeing UNISON fight in the interests of our members.

I hope that activists in every Service Group in each Region will be considering how best to use these elections to sharpen UNISON's work to defend jobs, pay and conditions.

Our leading Committees cannot engender struggle where there is not both the will and the organisation to fight for a better deal, but they can be obstacles in such circumstances unless a clear majority of members are clear that their loyalty is to those who elect them and that their role is to encourage and support those members who are willing to fight.

If you are a UNISON member, make sure you engage with the SGE elections.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Fight the Pay Freeze in FE - Vote Yes for Action

https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2016/01/fe-members-urged-to-vote-yes-in-industrial-action-ballot/

UNISON members in Further Education (FE) colleges have the distinction of kicking off the fight for fair pay for public servants in 2016.

Members will be receiving ballot papers asking them to vote "YES" for both strike action and action short of strike action after national negotiators made a 0% pay "offer" and the majority of local colleges failed even to respond to a request to consider improving on this "offer" locally.

FE‎ has been hit very hard by the past five years of needless austerity (the Tories having no love for a service of such value to working class people). However, joint campaigning by the unions and the Association of Colleges did limit the further damage to the sector anticipated in the autumn statement.

Like every other group of public servants (albeit they are now categorised as part of the "private sector") FE workers face the dilemma of demanding fair pay from employers plausibly pleading poverty.

There is, however, no real contradiction between defending public services and demanding fair pay for those who deliver them. There is certainly no evidence that pay restraint saves jobs (just look at local government, where the pay freeze which has sliced 20% off our standard of living has been accompanied by a 20% cut in jobs!)

We need decent, well-resourced public servants provided by workers who are fairly remunerated - and we need to fight against the pay freeze and to defend our jobs and services at the same time.

‎UNISON members in FE should vote "YES" and "YES" - and activists in the many local government branches which include FE members, not all of whom enjoy the level of workplace organisation we would wish, need to step in to help in their local College (and to recruit members to raise our density in the sector).

With every prospect of a dispute over NJC pay for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (and no one wanting to repeat the fiasco of 2014), the FE dispute - vitally important in its own right - could also be the precursor of larger fights to come.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.