Thursday, 20 June 2019

Why so quiet?

I've been getting a few questions lately, so wanted to post an update.

As I'm not in a workplace at the moment, I stepped down from the various Unite committees I was on. I'm still active in Unite (though the machine doesn't make this easy!) but am contributing more via Unite Rank and File rather than posting here - this site is now largely dormant.

I'm also being asked about the long-anticipated Unite General Secretary election, as few expect McCluskey to manage a full term for the first time. It's noticeable that there are various rule changes up for discussion next week which aim to increase or close down democracy. If there is an election any time soon I won't be standing again. I stood as a rank and file candidate. I hope there will be a strong rank and file voice in any election, but given that I'm not currently active in a workplace I don't think that should be me.

I was also elected President of Manchester TUC earlier this year.

I've made a video about how workplaces can get involved with the climate strikes, an issue which we should all be getting more involved in, and where Unite should be doing much more - fighting for good climate jobs rather than backing destructive and unsustainable projects while jobs continue to be slaughtered. UCU and BFAWU have already adopted policy backing the climate strikes. The silence from McCluskey and our Executive Council urgently needs to end.



Monday, 22 October 2018

Ian Allinson v Fujitsu Services Limited Employment Tribunal case resolved

Ian Allinson had been seeking reinstatement with his former employer, Fujitsu Services Limited. The claims have now been resolved in a manner acceptable to both parties but which include the claimant accepting that he will not be reinstated.



Thursday, 26 July 2018

GPM&IT NISC June 2018

This is my personal report, not an official one. It omits most of the industrial business, as this is often confidential. Other than that, if you are aware of any errors please let me know.

This was the first meeting of the new National Industrial Sector Committee (NISC) elected by the Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs) for the 2018-20 term of office.

  1. Steve Garroway was re-elected as chair.
  2. It was agreed that as there were a number of new delegates, the election of deputy chair would be postponed until the next meeting, and for now Charlie Shieber would continue as deputy.
  3. A number of corrections were agreed to the previous minutes
  4. There is now a template for NISC minutes with an action plan as a spreadsheet at the end
  5. Louisa Bull, the National Officer, has been working on a charter setting out where we are as a sector, subsectors, key areas of future work etc. The future work will include a full audit / mapping exercise of the sector, identifying membership density, areas of growth, combines, European Works Councils and experts etc. One of the aims will be to use the Work Voice Pay data to identify projects we want to do and extend collective bargaining, enhance subsectors and combines.
  6. A draft of a booklet on apprenticeships was circulated for comments by 1 July.
  7. The NISC's Organising Strategy Subcommittee was elected: Charlie Shieber, Gareth Lowe, Ronan Turley, Ian Allinson, Steve Garroway, Claire Lees
  8. The joiners and leavers data provided to NISC members had gone from too much detail, not showing trends and changes, to not enough detail to be useful. Louisa explained that things like this were in flux following the GDPR data protection legislation. Louisa will produce a new template and email it out.
  9. There was discussion about the fact that there are 170 different officers covering workplaces in the sector, most of them with only a small piece of GPM&IT in their allocation, and how this prevents focus or expertise. There are examples of different officers covering sites belonging to competing companies right near each other.
  10. The issue of the Labour Party and even parts of Unite using non-unionised printers was discussed yet again. Louisa reported that she had raised it with Jennie Formby, now the Labour Party General Secretary. Louisa will forward to the NISC an email from Jennie confirming the policy on this set by the Labour NEC. Louisa has asked Regional Officers to produce a list of half a dozen small print shops they would happily recommend. It was agreed that this list should include what types of work the printers can do and that it should be circulated to RISC chairs and branch secretaries and Unite Political Officers as well as the NISC.
  11. A team to work on content for the sector's web site and social media profile was elected: Helen Kerr, John Stuttle, Ian Allinson and Jamie Messent. Louisa reported that the web site was being revamped and she ws unable to get it updated. The NISC can still consider what it wants in terms of structure, sector and company pages, toolkits etc ready for when the site is usable again. Unite recommends that all RISC and NISC members have unitetheunion.org email addresses, which can be put up on the web site too.
  12. The Unite briefing on the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) had been sent to all reps. A 5-day course covering this in Eastbourne is coming up, with the deadline soon. Delegates felt this was an important issue to raise, recruit around, and use as leverage to tackle the issue, even when there is no pay bargaining or transparency. A tool is being developed to show the GPG for every employer in the sector. There was also discussion about a successful equal pay case and the need to publicise such wins. Louisa will circulate a template grievance questionnaire for discrimination cases developed after the government scrapped the statutory questionnaire.
  13. One area for potential growth is into the white collar staff and technical workers in workplaces where there is already shopfloor bargaining. In many workplaces the proportion of shopfloor workers is shrinking.
  14. All activists should have received the activist briefing on the new GDPR data protection legislation and the document explaining how to report data breaches. The Executive Council have had training and all branch secretaries and chairs will get training via their regions in the next couple of months. Legal have been invited to do this at the November NISC as well. Some amendments had been made by the EC to the Unite Rulebook in response to GDPR. There was discussion about the fact that some officers and staff are refusing to share information with RISC members on grounds of the GDPR, unless specific consent is obtained each time. I pointed out that the Unite GDPR Guidelines make clear that reps and branch officers can have access to membership information for legitimate union activity and that the officers and staff were breaking rule 18.7 which requires RISC members to be given the identity, constituency and contact details of reps covered by their RISC. A situation where committee members can't even communicate with each other is absurd. Update: this still doesn't seem to have been resolved, with Unite legal advising officers and staff to break union rules on the pretext of GDPR. In the meantime, NISC members agreed to share their contact information with each other, and those absent would be asked to consent to this too. There was a discussion about how to ensure our use of data is GDPR compliant at branch and workplace level, and the risks of communicating or keeping information on employers' systems.
  15. Barckley Sumner from the Unite Campaigns & Communications department gave a presentation about best practice for media content, producing content, use of photos etc.
  16. Gareth Lowe was elected as editor of the GPM&IT quarterly newsletter which goes to all activists in the sector. Each RISC is asked to elect someone to liaise with him, to help ensure a good mix of content from round the UK and Ireland.
  17. The NISC discussed ideas for content for the next newsletter, for which the deadline is 31 July. The newsletter will be shorter and more industrially focused, with the hope that activists will circulate copies in workplaces.
  18. Work on the idea of piloting the "industrial hub" approach to organising in the corrugated subsector continues. Communication is being improved, and coordination around bargaining. The international union federations (IndustriALL and UNI) can help with research, and AGS Steve Turner has resources for the hubs strategy, which may be helpful as the sector isn't getting resources from the organising department.
  19. Work to update the Stratum membership system records for GPM&IT workplaces to include subsector, national agreements, and which bits of workplaces are covered by agreements continues. Some Regional Officers are working on it, and some RISCs. Some NISC members volunteered to help too. Where possible, government codes for subsectors are being used. Louisa has a short description for each subsector which she will circulate. If the population isn't finished, the spreadsheets will be sent to RISCs to complete.
  20. Louisa had attended 6 of the Regional Industrial Sector Conferences. She hadn't been invited to one (which clashed with another anyway), two were not quorate, and Wales is still not working. Reps from Wales who wanted to be on the RISC and NISC have been invited to the NISC as observers while this is sorted out. Most of the meetings were good in terms of attendance and participation.
  21. Information wasn't cascading from the National Officer through the officers who act as secretaries to the RISCs to all the reps, so Louisa is now sending stuff directly to all officers who cover GPM&IT.
  22. Louisa wants the NISC to produce a sector plan, then RISCs to work from that and identify how they can pick up those areas of work in their region, what actions they can take.
  23. We hope to get NISC minutes finalised quickly so they can get to RISC members in time for the following RISC meetings. Louisa is emailing the RISC officers to ask them to put the NISC minutes onto their agendas.
  24. There was discussion about the latest developments in the ongoing Fujitsu dispute.
  25. The Print Futures award has been widened to include paper and packaging.
  26. Ronan Turley, Steve Garroway and Claire Lees were elected as 2 delegates and a substitute to the Unite Manufacturing Combine.
  27. Delegates were reminded that if they can't attend a NISC meeting, they should ask the RISC to send a substitute.
  28. There was discussion about the push to "paperless meetings" in some organisations (e.g. UNI World Congress) and the fact that not everyone has the facilities or skills to engage effectively without printed material. Unite's policy is that individuals should be provided with printed copies of documents for meetings if they prefer that. For the NISC, documents will be emailed out, with printed copies posted to delegates who request it. Printed copies of the agenda, minutes and anything being debated rather than provided for background information will be provided on the day.
  29. An emergency motion on Gaza for Policy Conference was agreed.
  30. Louisa undertook to provide GPM&IT policy conference delegates with a list so they could communicate with each other.
  31. Louisa will circulate a report from an IT delegation to a recent conference in Mumbai.
  32. The NISC needs more women and BAEM members to join it, and there was a discussion about how to achieve this. Louisa will go back to the regions who have not sent a proportionate delegation.
  33. The EC was asking the NISC to remit its motion on allocation of officers to sectors and it was agreed how this would be handled at conference.
  34. The experiment with holding the NISC over one long day had caused problems for a number of shift workers. It was agreed to move back to a meeting split over two days.
  35. Jonathan Hayward from the Unite International Department gave an update around European Works Councils (EWCs) and UK Information & Consultation (I&C) bodies. He said the main issue for EWCs at the moment was Brexit, which also has implications for the I&C regulations. The recasting of the EWC directive in 2011 has improved EWC functioning, particularly after Unite did a lot of training for reps and officers. There was still a need to push for more consultation and engagement, EWCs represent an opportunity to hold companies to account, e.g. they had delivered safeguards in the GKN/Melrose takeover battle. The European Commission says that from 29 March 2019 UK employee numbers won't count towards the thresholds for EWCs. Unite is advising reps to push for amendments to agreements now to ensure continued representation post Brexit irrespective of what happens - and has a document with suggested clauses. Employer responses are varying, often based on HQ country.
  36. Jonathan explained that the UK government faces a dilemma over EWCs. They have promised that no employment legislation will be diluted by Brexit, at least in the short term. On the other hand they don't want the ECJ to have jurisdiction, so EWCs operating under UK law wouldn't be fully enforceable, even for EU citizens. Unite has proposed that the UK repeals most of the legislation that allows EWCs to be covered by UK legislation, but retain the right of UK employees to participate in EWCs based elsewhere. This would require some agreement with the EU, and EWCs currently based in the UK would have to move. German and French are best, while Irish is worst. Some EWC agreements have clauses saying it is under the law of the country with most employees, but companies usually want to choose. Sometimes the agreement allows the employer to choose from the top three countries by employer number. An update on all this will go in the sector newsletter, and Louisa will send something to our EWC chairs and NISC members.
  37. Most companies are making contingency plans for various Brexit scenarios, and EWCs should be part of that debate. EWC reps should raise this now - though you don't always get good news. There is a document with questions you can raise.
  38. The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) made a useful recent ruling against Oracle over a failure to consult about a transfer of work. Oracle had held a phone conference with the EWC and then answered some later questions, and claimed that was adequate consultation. The CAC ruled that information and consultation is a process with more than one stage, and that the EWC had been unable to consider the information, discuss it with management and submit an opinion. They also ruled against the blanket confidentiality imposed by Oracle on the grounds that the information might damage the business by upsetting people. Since the wording of the I&C regulations on information and consultation is the same as the EWC regulations, the same arguments can be used there. This is potentially very useful for countering the talking-shop / focus group way of working that some employers favour.
  39. NISC members discussed the idea of trying to incorporate the protections in the EU Social Chapter into collective agreements now, to retain them even if the Tories worsen the legislation.
  40. The Unite materials were (again) criticised for not addressing the rights of non-UK citizens, many of whom are members and feel the union hasnt' focussed on them. My own branch had submitted Motion 13 to Policy Conference and another GPM&IT branch had submitted a supportive amendment. Jonathan explained that the International Department had picked up much of the work around Brexit, but the Equalities department had said they would deal with the issues raised. NISC members felt Unite needed to be more joined up to avoid such problems. Louisa agreed to write to Simon Dubbins (head of international department) to ask for a European migrant workers to have a focus group or their own committee.
  41. There will be an update on European Works Councils and Information & Consultation bodies on Friday 5 June.
  42. It was agreed to submit a second Emergency Motion to Policy Conference highlighting the demonstration against Trump on 13 July, the Unity demonstration against the far right on 14 July, and the need to do more to stop the FLA/DFLA using football links to build a racist movement.
  43. We agreed to mobilise for the NHS demonstration on 30 June
  44. The next meeting will be 4-5 October at Moreland Street, London