Wednesday 27 February 2008

Siemens job cuts

There's been extensive international media coverage of Siemens' plans to cut 3800 jobs in its SEN subsidiary (variously referred to in the coverage as Siemens Enterprise Networks or Siemens Enterprise Communications).

Yesterday Amicus issued a press release about the potential impact at the Beeston site in Nottingham.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Chicken or egg? Chicken AND egg.

I took part in an interesting public meeting in Manchester tonight organised by Amicus Unity Gazette, the broad left grouping within our union. A number of candidates for the UNITE NEC took part.

I thought one of the more interesting debates was about workplace organising and political change.

There's a tendency among some union activists (indeed I would say it had been far too prevalent among our leadership) to be deeply pessimistic about the possibility of winning and growing the union by organising and campaigning from the workplace up. They (rightly) point to our weak employment rights and the anti-union laws left in place by New Labour. They argue that we can only turn things around if there's political change, to deliver more favourable legislation. So the immediate needs of members to fight employers and government are undermined in the interests of union "influence" in the Labour Party, which ends up feeling more like a route for New Labour to influence UNITE than the other way round. Nearly all our eggs go in the political basket, even though the basket has some pretty obvious holes.

There's another tendency among some of the better workplace activists to be deeply pessimistic about the possibility of political change, and so to focus exclusively on issues within their own workplace. They ignore the fact that the workers they are trying to organise are (despite what Thatcher said) part of a wider society and are influenced by it. They ignore the fact that their ability to win in the workplace is influenced by the policies of their own union, the law and the ideas in members' heads.

Once you state these two wrong answers, the right answer seems pretty obvious. You need both.

We need strong, vibrant collective workplace organisation with members in control and refusing to have their interests subordinated to anyone's political agenda. But to be really effective that workplace organisation has to be part of a wider attempt to change the environment we are working within. We need to engage with the wider trade union movement, campaigns and the political sphere.

Of course there's a wider debate about how trade unionists can most effectively engage politically - whether that's through the Labour Party or Respect etc. I thought it was interesting that though people had the usual range of views on this, there was a recognition that people in various organisations and none shared an interest in giving our members a more powerful political voice.

Amicus NEC minutes published

I notice on the Amicus web site that the minutes of the December Amicus NEC meeting have now been published. Amongst many other points, this includes the updated (i.e. reduced) Amicus parliamentary group.

People always get frustrated at the long delay before minutes are published, but most of this delay is inevitable as the minutes aren't approved until the next meeting, and our NEC only meets every couple of months.

In the early days of the Amicus NEC, the union publish a precis (summary) of the key points soon after the meeting but unfortunately these dried up long ago.

I've published my own unofficial report on the February 2008 meeting.

Monday 25 February 2008

A tale of two NEC candidates

When people are standing for election, it's always interesting to compare what they say with what they do.

Contrast June Hitchen and Jane Stewart, two candidates from my region standing for women's seats.

June Hitchen is standing for one of the four women's seats. As far as I know, I've never met her, and I don't recall every hearing of her until she wrote to my branch seeking nomination. I was surprised to find out from her letter that she is a Labour councillor for a ward right near my own workplace in Manchester, though she doesn't mention where she works or anything she's done at work. During our dispute at Fujitsu last year we sought and obtained support from (amongst others) local MPs, councillors and Labour Party activists. I don't remember hearing from June. June's letter says "Increasingly we are seeing management victimising shop stewards; nothing is more important than supporting out (sic) stewards in the workplace". During our dispute, there was an attempt to discipline me, which was thankfully dropped after protests from employees and supporters across the trade union movement. I don't remember hearing from June.

In Manchester, the biggest issue and campaign in the trade union movement for the last few months has been the disgraceful sacking of nurse and UNISON activist Karen Reissmann, whose members took all out strike action to seek her reinstatement. Like most active local trade unionists, I've been heavily involved in supporting this crucial campaign. June sits on Manchester City Council, which provides half the funds to the trust that sacked Karen. Seeing the encouraging statement in her letter, I wrote to June to check that she was sticking to her principles and supported Karen's reinstatement. I was delighted to receive a prompt reply saying "I agree with the principle that reps should not be victimised is fundamental in any Trade Union movement. When I receive further information I will gladly pass this onto you". So I wrote back on 2nd February asking if she would be prepared to put her name to a motion on the subject in council. I'm still waiting for a reply.

Contrast this with Jane Stewart, another candidate from my region (though in Merseyside rather than Manchester) for the same women's seats. You can't get involved in the union in our region without bumping into Jane fairly soon. She's a senior negotiator at Unilever, involved in her industrial sector, the regional and women's structures, as well as being a sitting member of the Amicus NEC. More importantly, she doesn't just talk about supporting members when she wants our votes - she does it. During our dispute we received donations and messages of support from Jane and her workmates. Actions speak louder than words.

I don't know June Hitchen. Maybe she's a fantastic trade unionist I've just been unlucky enough never to meet. Maybe I've forgotten all the support she gave us during our dispute. Maybe she's not very good at writing nomination letters and missed out all the good things she's done. Maybe the council email system had a bit of a glitch.

Ian's UNITE Site moves to new domain name

When I set this site up it was a bit of an experiment - I didn't know whether people would visit it, whether I'd have plenty of material to post, or (most importantly) whether it would help build in the real world.

I'm pleased to say that it's been more successful than I expected, so the site is here to stay.

It's now time to move to a better domain name, so the site is moving from to Links to the old site should still work. Apologies if you experience some access problems over the next day or so, as Domain Name Servers (DNS) across the internet update their records.

Working Time Win

It's great to see that we've won a court case defeating the exemption of offshore workers from the right to paid holidays under the Working Time Directive.

What a disgrace that our government is still dragging its feet over the removal of the various opt-outs. It's well established that working long hours damages health. Many companies put pressure on people to "opt out" of the right to work less than an average of 48 hours a week (over a 17 week period). 48 hours is equivalent to six 8-hour days - something we should have seen the back of decades ago.

How can it be right that half of us are working longer and longer hours under pressure to keep our jobs or to sustain a reasonable standard of living, while millions are still unemployed or on bogus schemes to disguise unemployment?

Sunday 24 February 2008

Agency & Temporary Workers

Great to see enough pressure applied to prevent the government talking out the Agency & Temporary Workers bill on Friday.

You wonder if the CBI have no shame, trotting out the same line that jobs will be lost as they did when they opposed the minimum wage. CBI bosses are famous, of course, for the way they put our jobs higher in their list of priorities than their profits. Where would we be without them to look out for our interests?

Particularly entertaining was their attempts to justify opposition by focusing on people who do multiple very short jobs for a variety of employers. We all know that many temps often work for months or years alongside "permanent" colleagues, but have less rights, less job security and usually worse pay and benefits.

We're far from home and dry on this issue though - let's not forget that it's only a couple of months since "our" government blocked the EU Directive on the issue.

Keep the pressure up!

Goodrich dispute settled

Here's the official press release.

Update on UNITE NEC elections

The Amicus web site now includes an update on the nominations and elections to the new UNITE Executive Council.

Most of the information was in my post following the Amicus NEC meeting a couple of weeks ago, but I'd particularly draw attention to the bit at the bottom which explains which ballot papers each member should get. The number of uncontested elections makes this very confusing and will inevitably lead to loads of queries from members.

In Manchester, don't forget that this Tuesday we have a public meeting where quite a number of the candidates will be debating how to "Make UNITE A Strong Union".

Leaflets for all the left candidates standing for the seats for the Amicus section can now be downloaded (note they are BIG files intended for printing).

IT industry and the new UNITE rulebook

I've already posted about the draft sector structure for UNITE, and the concerns about the impact on our sector.

The Amicus NEC has since decided it doesn't wish to see the proposed sector structure. As an Amicus NEC member I have not seen any part of the new rules.

The TGWU web site includes a February update on the merger, including both the draft sector structure and the news that the TGWU section's executive (GEC) are seeing each rule as it is agreed by the commission. Good for them!

I've written to Steve Davison, chair of the Amicus NEC and joint chair of the rules commission, asking him to draw to the attention of the rules commission the concerns about the impact of the draft new structure on our ability to organise in the IT industry. Thanks to everyone who had given me feedback on the draft letter and in particular to the following who endorsed the concerns I was expressing:

  • Amicus EEE&IT West Midlands Regional Sector Conference
  • Amicus EEE&IT North-West Regional Sector Conference
  • Amicus EEE&IT South-East Regional Sector Conference
  • Amicus EEE&IT London Regional Sector Conference
  • Amicus EEE&IT Eastern Regional Sector Conference
  • Sean Leahy, chair EEE&IT National Sector Committee, senior staff rep, Ericsson
  • John Clark, EEE&IT National Sector Committee member, North East
  • John Garvani, EEE&IT National Sector Committee member, Yorkshire & Humberside
  • Tony Boyle, EEE&IT Regional Sector Committee member, Scotland
  • Colin Lawford, accredited rep, Accenture
  • Liz Braithwaite, workplace rep, CSC
  • Gilbert Stewart, workplace rep, CSC
  • Jeremy Cole, workplace rep, CSC, East Yorkshire
  • Mike Cummins, workplace rep, Xansa
  • Bernie Clark, workplace rep, Xansa
  • Stewart Marshall, workplace rep, EDS
  • Richard Milner, Jointly Accredited Office Rep, Steria
  • Alasdair Lewis, workplace rep, Fujitsu West Midlands
  • Alan Black, workplace rep, Fujitsu Glasgow
  • Trevor Palmer, workplace rep, Fujitsu Stevenage
  • Robert Dimmick, workplace rep, Fujitsu Staines
  • UNITE Reps Committee, Fujitsu Manchester
  • John Smith, workplace rep, Electrolux Spennymoor
  • Peter Rutherford, Unite Staff Secretary, Siemens Power Generation, Newcastle

Sunday 17 February 2008

More thoughts from the Trade Union Conference on Climate Change

I posted a very sketchy report from the conference the day after it happened. I thought it was time to highlight what I got from the conference, particularly highlighting some ideas that might prove useful to others.

Opening Plenary:

  1. This IS a trade union issue. Poor people contribute least to carbon emissions. Poor people will suffer most from the consequences of climate change. There are many possible responses to climate change, some of which will be at the expense of working people, others could benefit us. Working people need a say.
  2. Free market competition is a serious barrier to taking appropriate steps to tackle climate change. Companies and countries fear to do what's needed in case they are undercut by competitors. The sort of intervention that trade unionists want for many reasons would be a big help in tackling climate change and in ensuring that tackling it isn't simply at our expense.
  3. Climate Change will result in the rise and fall of whole industries. Livelihoods are at stake. We need to ensure the transition to a low or zero carbon economy takes account of social justice.
  4. A low-carbon economy is likely to be more labour intensive and therefore net positive for jobs.
  5. We need to lobby for the right government policies, look at how our industries and workplaces should change, and include it in our every-day union work (recruiting and organising, bargaining, campaigning).
  6. Matt Wrack from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) described the increases in heathland fires and flooding over the last decade. You can't blame climate change for any particular incident, but it is responsible for an increased risk and frequency of these events.
  7. The TUC is pushing for "Environmental Reps" in the workplace, along the same lines as Health & Safety Reps or Union Learning Reps.
  8. Linda Newman from the University and College Union (UCU) spoke about how young people were taking a lead on climate change. She also talked about how the union had responded to proposals for car park charging in her workplace. They had ring-fenced the money collected and used it to fund the "green travel plan" (which many workplaces now have) so that it was genuinely being spent on alternatives for staff. They were playing a part in the wider campaign, working with education unions internationally and looking at their own carbon footprint.
  9. Christine Blower from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) talked about how kids were worried about climate change. They were much more positive about the future in schools which involved kids in learning and doing something positive to tackle it. The NUT had had to campaign against gagging (e.g. attempts to stop "An Inconvenient Truth" being shown in schools). They were promoting "walking buses" to reduce the need for parents to take kids to school by car. It only required some people to be involved in escorting them, so could still help kids whose parents' working hours otherwise prevented them walking their kids to school. She highlighted the impact of the closure of rural schools on climate change and the environment. Christine quoted Bishop James Jones comment that this was an issue where those with power were least affected and those most affected had least power. Christine argued that this was another reason why unions had to take it up.
  10. Michael Meacher MP recognised that unions were sometimes cautious about tackling climate change because of the threat to jobs. He believed that there was no option but to act to tackle climate change and that doing so would produce a big net increase in jobs. He argued that instead of fighting wars for the remaining oil, we should be investing in renewables (particularly offshore wind for the UK). He argued that airlines should be required to reduce emissions year by year, for a big expansion of railways. He argued for increased tax on the most polluting cars and more resources going into electric and hydrogen cars. Every sector of industry and services should be tracking its carbon footprint. He argued that there was a lot of room for improvement in energy efficiency, from households, appliances etc. The wasted heat from US power stations was equivalent to Japan's total needs. If US cars improved efficiency by just 3% per year, there would be need for the US to import oil. Tightening building standards would help both jobs and the environment. He argued for a more ambitious climate change bill, with targets that reflected the actual need to cut emissions, with annual targets, and which didn't omit aviation and shipping. He argued that many government policies would actually increase emissions, in particular its reckless drive for profit at all costs. This would lead to inequality, death and destruction. We can never overcome climate change with the economic order that created it.
Workshop on Greening the Workplace:
  1. In the workshop on "Greening the Workplace", Paul Hampton from the Labour Research Department talked about the hidden tradition of unions tackling environmental issues. In the 19th century Frederick Engels had written about pollution and William Morris had reported on environmental strikes. Unions in the UK had been central to the outlawing of Agent Orange (245T). Seafarers had stopped nuclear waste being dumped at sea. Dockers had acted to stop a Canadian ship unloading toxic waste. Workers had walked out from a PFI hospital in protest at excessive temperatures.
  2. Paul talked about the experience of trade unionists thinking about the social use of what they produce and trying to take more control of it. In the 1970s the stewards at Lucas Aerospace made alternative plans to produce socially useful products. Given that 50% of emissions are from the workplace, we have to take responsibility for this.
  3. Paul acknowledged that there was also a bad tradition in the movement, for example the efforts by the NUM for a while to deny the reality of acid rain.
  4. Unions had been engaging globally on environmental issues for a long time too, for example sending a delegation to the first UN conference on climate change in 1972. However, these debates seemed to get nowhere and the issue didn't start to re-emerge until the late 1980s. The TUC had called for "green shop stewards" and Norman Willis had called for "green strikes". Again, these initiatives had not been adequately followed through.
  5. Paul thought that the failure to follow through often reflected the weakness of the labour movement in that period. People were now seeing that tackling climate change can be part of revitalising the unions.
  6. The LRD had done a survey of reps on climate change. It had got a very large response with a wide range of ideas. At BAe energy saving had been part of the case for a shorter working week. In one paint factory the union had agreed new bonuses based on health & safety and environmental impact. These had been successful in reducing toxic waste being washed down the drains, saved the employer money and rewarded employees. Some workplaces were negotiating the introduction of wind turbines. Energy efficiency was an easy area to produce successes. On transport there were lots of ideas such as common locks for bikes, loans for cycling equipment, changing working hours, providing lockers and showers, and changing the car fleet to include electric and dual-fuel cars.
  7. In each workplace people should think about the right tactics to be effective. Does it make sense to use existing joint union committees? Use Health & Safety Reps? Or to push for Environmental Reps?
  8. Showing DVDs is a good way of raising awareness. As long as you don't charge, you are allowed to show "An Inconvenient Truth". It would be better if we had our own film which was shorter and with a more relevant message though.
  9. Parking is a contentious issue. Spending the money from parking charges to subsidise public transport passes is one idea.
  10. Get motions through your union bodies to change your union's policy and get more support from the top. There's already quite a bit to build on.
  11. Caroline Malloy had been seconded from the TGWU to lead the TUC's Green Workplaces project. She reported that the enthusiasm reflected in the turnout at the conference matched her experience.
  12. At the British Museum the fact that people were finding it too hot to work in summer more often had been a key factor in getting people involved.
  13. At Friends Provident the union often did stalls to talk to staff, but had found the ones on climate change had attracted most interest.
  14. The TUC project had started about 18 months ago and would run until July 2008. It was funded by the Carbon Trust and run by the TUC and DEFRA through the Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee (TUSDAC).
  15. New funding was coming through the Union Modernisation Fund from the Department of BERR (replacement for DTI), applications for funding had to be in next month.
  16. Caroline believed that unions could raise awareness and measurably reduce carbon emissions, avoid the danger of companies lecturing people from above, and avoid the fears that can arise from the changes necessary.
  17. Many workplaces now have green champions or green teams set up by management. Some were good. However, they tend to come and go without union involvement to provide some stability. Unions also have expertise and relationships that help get things done in the workplace. Caroline advised that it was important to get a senior management champion for what you were doing.
  18. Caroline advised how to get started. Get the reps together. Get support from or appropriate positions in your union structures. Do a survey of the workforce to gauge views and raise interest. Examples were available from the TUC. The issues identified were similar in most workplaces: recycling, transport and energy use. Caroline suggested asking separately about waste & recycling, otherwise people can miss the other issues. Many organisations will already have had some sort of external review. Many have company policies - are people aware of them? Ask if people want to get more involved. Find out the key players in the company.
  19. It can be hard to monitor where power is being used. Often it is easy to find out the level of night-time power use because this is at a different tariff.
  20. Communicate what you are doing, and offer training (the TUC offer some). Why not involve Union Learning Reps? Local Energy Agencies will want to get involved, and can often provide freebies.
  21. Cutting paper use can be very easy, just by setting up PCs to use the duplex feature (double sided) by default.
  22. At Scottish Power, they had replaced old CRT monitors with modern flat-screens that use far less energy. Working time and travel were other key areas to look at.
  23. In the discussion, the point was made that the environmental impact of a business can extend far beyond the workplace. For example, the investment choices made by a financial institution, the choice of parts of suppliers. It was important to press for the maximum openness in the business as a whole in order to tackle climate change.
  24. One delegate raised concerns that Environmental Reps could become separated from the rest of the union structure. Another felt they were an opportunity to bring in new people and that we should campaign for them to have legal rights. Caroline responded that whether to use them was a tactical question.
  25. One delegate highlighted that many of the problems were down to lack of employer investment and the absence of government pressure on them to invest. The TUC culture of "partnership" with employers was an obstacle to applying the necessary pressure to government which didn't challenge or adequately regulate business. Another highlighted the crisis of political representation for trade unionists, leaving many feeling they had little voice on this issue or others.
  26. A delegate suggested increasing the mileage rates paid to staff who cycled while traveling for work.
  27. Caroline suggested that we should push for a windfall tax on energy companies to claw back the profits they are making from emissions trading.
Workshop on Sustainable Cities:
This was introduced by Glyn Robbins, Tower Hamlets Defend Council Housing.
  1. There is a lot of sham sustainability, just as there is sham "affordability".
  2. Government policy is that new homes should be zero carbon by 2016, but in reality this means only houses that get planning permission after 2016 have to be zero carbon. The construction industry is lobbying against even this. The government plans for 3m new homes are meant to be complete by 2016, so the new regulations would have no impact on them.
  3. The problems with housing can't just be left to the unregulated market. Housing Associations are part of that market too. The fight to Defend Council Housing is crucial to ensure we can have good quality, affordable and sustainable housing. Glyn recognised the problems there had been with council housing, but the move away from it had made things even worse.
  4. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) had done a survey of workers under 30 years old, to identify the top issues they were concerned about. Housing and Climate Change had come top.
  5. There was discussion on empty buildings due to speculation, second homes, regulation on new public buildings and whether high-rise could ever be sustainable.
  6. One delegate highlighted the billions spent on bailing out Northern Rock, and said that could have bought more than enough solar cells for the needs of the entire UK.
  7. The construction industry generates 100m tonnes of landfill each year. 30% of materials delivered to site are never used. Making the construction industry more accountable is vital to tackling climate change.
  8. I pointed out that workers in construction face many other problems too, with more than one death a week in 2007, blacklists in operation and widespread abuse of agency labour.
  9. A delegate from UNISON pointed out that the privatisation of water and sewerage meant less control over the environmental impact of housing.
  10. A delegate from Sheffield highlighted the cheap public transport policies tried there in the 1980s until Blunkett gave in to Thatcher and abolished them. It would have been cheaper to have free fares - would that be a better use of money than the Iraq war? If that didn't free enough it could be funded by increasing taxation on the rich.
  11. A delegate from the rail industry recommended George Monbiot's book "Heat" (I've read it too - very interesting) and said that the Climate Outreach Information Network (COIN) do training.
  12. A council tenant highlighted how privatisation had undermined the skills of people working on housing. After privatisation there was little redress. They urged support for Camden council workers who were fighting against job cuts. We need victories to boost confidence to fight other battles, including unions' adherence to New Labour.
  13. If the government forced the construction industry to improve, none of the companies would suffer a competitive disadvantage.
Closing Plenary:
I'll do this another day!

Manchester Area Quarterly meeting, 12th Feb

The main points were:

  1. Discussion on improving participation, picking up on ideas from the last committee meeting.
  2. Agreement that the future quarterly meetings would be on the dates in the letter being sent out from head office, not the ones discussed at the last committee
  3. Clarification about who is on the Area Committee
  4. The next quarterly meeting (20th May) will be on the Credit Crunch, which is having an impact on working people in every sector, but most directly in Finance
  5. Lobby your MPs to support the agency & temporary workers bill on 22nd February
  6. Remind members to vote in the UNITE NEC elections 3-28 March.
  7. A group of young members from the north-west are going to join May Day celebrations in Cuba this year.
  8. We will do a Manchester street stall in support of the pensions campaign by Lil-lets workers on 8th March (International Women's Day)
  9. We will look at having a stall at the Manchester Town Hall event for international women's day.
  10. We had a speaker from Rolls Royce Bootle. Their plant is threatened with closure and jobs moving to the USA. They feel subject to unfair competition with US plants having little or no rent or rates to pay. Exchange rates are also an issue. They thanked everyone for supporting their campaign, which will continue.

North-West Quarterly Area Activists Meetings for 2008

A letter including the dates for all the north-west meetings in 2008 has now been sent out. Please note that these new dates are NOT the same as ones I posted following the Manchester Area Committee meeting in January.

Quarterly Area Activists meetings are for all workplace reps and lay branch officers in an area. If we can build up the attendance and ensure the discussions are relevant, they should be a great place for reps to exchange news and ideas, support each other etc.

Meetings take place at the UNITE office, Parkgates, Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester, M25 0JW.

Quarterly Meetings (7pM): 20 May, 20 August, 19 November
Committee Meetings (6pm): 11 March, 17 June, 9 September, 2 December

Quarterly meetings at 7pm, County Hall, Preston on 20 February, 20 May, 20 August, 29 November

Quarterly meetings at 7pm, committee meetings at 6pm the same day. All take place at Legends (Bentley Motors), Speed 8 Suite,k Sunnybank Road, Crewe, Cheshire.
Dates: 5 March, 11 June, 3 September, 3 December

Quarterly meetings at 7pm at Blackburne House, off Hope Street, Liverpool on 9 April, 9 July, 8 October

Meetings at 7pm in the Washington Central Hotel, Workington on 3 March, 2 June, 1 September, 1 December

Isle of Man
Meetings take place at 6:30pm in the Empress Hotel, Douglas on 11 March, 10 June, 16 September, 9 December.

Sunday 10 February 2008

Goodrich strike suspended

The strike action at Goodrich (formerly Lucas Aerospace) has been suspended. I don't yet know more details.

Trade union conference on climate change

Yesterday I attended the trade union conference organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change. I was a delegate from my branch, but we also had a delegation from our Electrical Engineering, Electronics & IT (EEE&IT) National Sector Committee and I was pleased to see a reasonable spread of other UNITE activists there.

It was well attended and extremely useful. As well as reinforcing the importance of unions taking up this issue, there were some very practical ideas about how we do so, from the workplace to the political sphere.

I was pleased that quite a lot of people were discussing how to keep the environment linked to our mainstream bargaining agenda, rather than allowing it to become a "specialist subject" disconnected from the rest of what we do.

I will be posting a more detailed report highlighting some of the things I learned, but here is an outline of the day.

Opening Plenary
Chaired by Jean Lambert (Green MEP), speakers were Phil Thornhill (Campaign Against Climate Change), Frances O'Grady (TUC Deputy General Secretary), Caroline Lucas (Green MEP), Matt Wrack (FBU General Secretary), Chris Bough (PCS, standing in for Mark Serwotka who had to give his apologies), Linda Newman (UCU President), Christine Blower (NUT Deputy General Secretary) and Michael Meacher MP.

There were six workshops, each run twice, so each delegate could go to two of them.

A) Carbon Trading and Market Mechanisms

B) Greening the Workplace
I attended this one, which was introduced by Paul Hampton from the Labour Research Department and Caroline Malloy, the TUC's Green Workplaces project leader.

C) Alternative Energy - Towards a Zero Carbon Economy

D) Building Sustainable Cities
I attended this one, which was introduced by Glyn Robbins from Defend Council Housing in Tower Hamlets.

E) Towards Sustainable Transport

F) Global Treaties, Kyoto and Beyond

Closing Plenary
Speakers were Jonathan Neale (Campaign Against Climate Change), John McDonnell MP, Elaine-Graham Leigh (Respect), Dr Derek Wall (Green Party) and Tony Kearns (CWU Deputy General Secretary).

A resolution was overwhelmingly agreed:

CCCTU Conference Resolution

Conference fully endorses the aims of the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC)*. We recognise that trade unions have a central role to play, both in developing just and equitable solutions to climate change and also in building a mass movement around the issue. We therefore urge all trade unions to use their full industrial, political and organisational strength to force government and employers to take urgent and effective action to tackle this potentially catastrophic threat. As a first step, we urge all trade unions to:

· Affiliate to the CCC** and encourage members to support and participate in its actions, particularly the National Climate March in December 2008.

Develop union policies on:

(i) Securing effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within each industry, workplace and local area, and across the economy as a whole.

(ii) Defending the interests of members during the transition to sustainable production.

In pursuance of this aim, conference calls for the establishment of an open, national Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Working Group, which shall meet once per quarter and which shall elect at its first meeting***, and subsequently re-elect annually, officers comprising at least a chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer. As a first step, this group will aim to organise CCC fringe meetings at as many national trade union conferences as possible.

*Aims of the Campaign against Climate Change:

1/ The CCC exists to secure the action we need - at a local, national and, above all, international level - to minimise harmful climate change and the devastating impacts it will have.

2/ In particular the CCC brings people together to create a mass movement to push for our goals, including street demonstrations & other approaches.

3/ The CCC seeks a global solution to a global problem and aims to push for an international emissions reductions treaty that is both effective in preventing the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate and equitable in the means of so doing.

4/ The CCC recognises that the issue of the destabilisation of global climate has enormous implications in terms of social justice and global inequality.

** Current trade union affiliation fees: National £250; Regional £100; Local £25.

*** The first meeting of the CCCTU Working Group will take place at 11am on Saturday 1st March 2008. Room 2A, University of London Union, Malet Street. All welcome.

EEE&IT Regional Sector Conferences

The Regional Sector Conferences taking place at the moment are for every workplace rep or shop steward in the sector and are key events which:

  • Meet other reps from the sector
  • Elect delegates to the National Sector Conference in June
  • Allow reps to submit motions which can go to the National Sector Conference
  • Elect the Regional Sector Committee
  • Fill any vacancy on the Regional Council
  • Discuss reports from the National Officer, Regional Officer and National Executive Council
As one of the two Amicus NEC member for the EEE&IT sector, I've been getting to all that I can. I've previously posted all the dates and venues, partly because there are always problems with some reps not getting invitations for one reason or another.

If you're going along to yours, please have a think about what sector specific motion(s) you might want to submit. There are lots of issues bothering reps in our sector, so it is a missed opportunity if conferences don't have motions to debate.

To help reps work out what to prioritise, here's a list of what I understand the various regions have passed so far:
  1. North East: a motion about the impact on Climate Change and the environment of closing factories and transporting goods around the world.
  2. Yorkshire & Humberside: a motion about the new wave of attacks on occupational pensions in our sector. A motion about the loss of the organiser for our sector and how we can develop our sector organising plan.
  3. South West: a motion for a shorter working week
  4. North West: Health & Safety in the semiconductor & computer manufacturing industries and making our sector structure work. The conference also agreed a motion about where IT should sit in the UNITE sector structure, but this was not one of the two prioritised for the National Sector Conference
  5. East Midlands: A motion about the loss of the organiser for our sector and how we can develop our sector organising plan.
  6. West Midlands: a motion about where IT should sit in the UNITE sector structure
The conferences for Ireland, South East, and London & Eastern regions are still to come.

UNITE organising strategy

One of the more interesting debates arising from the merger of Amicus and TGWU to form UNITE is about what organising strategy the new union should adopt. The unions which formed Amicus had a variety of approaches, while the TGWU under Tony Woodley had adopted a strategy heavily influenced by the experience of the SEIU in the USA.

An overall Amicus strategy was agreed by the NEC on 18th July 2007, and is summarised in the NEC minutes:

94/07 Organising Strategy

Paul Talbot AGS and the General Secretary reported on discussions with the TGWU Section concerning a Unite organising strategy.

Organising was central to the merger agreement. Amicus strategy for some time had been to set a national recruitment target of a 1% increase in new members per month per region and sector. All full time officials were required to identify two workplaces for recruitment and organisation development. Regional Secretaries lead this work with input from National Officers and the Head of Organising. In recent weeks Amicus had established an integrated national organising team.

The TGWU Section had two campaigns – one based on achieving 100% membership lead by Regional Secretaries and the other based on their National Organising Unit through 80 organisers. The unit had a substantial budget and was currently targeting meat production, building services, logistics and civil air transport.

Over half of Amicus recruitment was currently in eight areas – health, finance, publishing, media, newspaper and packaging, community and not for profit, construction, youth, IT and Business Services and Civil Air Transport. Amicus would also wish to continue to pursue the strategy above concentrating on the eight sectors and to use the TUC Organising Academy where appropriate.

There's a section on the TGWU web site giving information about the TGWU organising strategy. There's also a document on the Union Ideas Network web site.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Amicus NEC meeting, 6th Feb 2008

N.B.This is not an official Unite/Amicus Report; it is based on my notes of the NEC meeting. I believe it to be a fair account of the key decisions taken (rather than my views about them), and I will willingly correct any errors upon receipt of official notification from Unite/Amicus.

1. The decision at the previous meeting to remove some MPs from the Amicus parliamentary group had been popular with members. As well as saying who is on the list the union will publish a list of who has been removed.

2. Vacancies on the National Women’s Committee and the equality committees can be filled.

3. The pay deal for full time officers was endorsed.

4. £50K will be donated to Ken Livingstone’s mayoral election campaign.

5. Amicus played a part in government decisions to build more nuclear and coal fired power stations. It was agreed to send congratulations to the miners who kept Tower Colliery open for 13 years after taking it over. Most had moved to other mining jobs now. It was agreed that the energy policy should be covered in the campaign, but this should also cover the importance of tackling climate change, renewables, insulation etc.

6. A national meeting of all UNITE officers had taken place. Feedback was positive. It had set out the union strategy of organising (including 100% infill), political change (e.g. trade union freedom) and international work (including mergers)

7. Work with the Union Learning Fund is ongoing. We had 26 staff working and had £2.6m for a 2 year bid. The last round had led to 40 learning agreements. A DVD was being produced.

8. The returning officer (Derek Simpson) reported on progress in the elections for the 40 Amicus seats on the UNITE Executive Council (NEC).

a. Valid nominations are listed on the union web site

b. The UNITE JEC had endorsed a decision of the Amicus NEC in December that the Amicus rule on former employees standing applied. Nominations for Des Heemskirk were therefore invalid.

c. A candidate had received sufficient nominations to contest the GPM sector seats, but was in the General Industries sector, so his nomination is not valid.

d. Complaints had been made by a candidate for the North East and Yorkshire seat that her nominations had been rejected and had therefore been unable to stand. None of her nominations had been disallowed.

e. Eight candidates were unopposed, which I have included in the table below showing all the candidates who have accepted nomination.


No. of seats


North East, Yorkshire & Humberside


Steve Davison

John McEwan

East Midlands


Simon Hemmings

Steve Hibbert

Eastern & London


Paul Brewster

Leonie Cooper

Raymond Morell

South East


Chris Stringer

Mark Wood

South West


Ray Bazeley (unopposed)

West Midlands


Dave Dutton

Mick Millichamp

North West


Patrick Coyne

Alex McCahon



Andy Johnston (unopposed)



Jim Donaghy

Jimmy Neill



Rob Benjamin (unopposed)



Paula Bartle

Louise Cousins

Elizabeth Donnelly

June Hitchen

Ester Marriott

Dawn McAlister

Terri Miller

Philomena Muggins

Jane Stewart

Aerospace; Shipbuilding


Alistair Fraser

Tam Mitchell

Neil Sheehan

Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals; Process including offshore oil & gas


John Storey (unopposed)

Civil Air Transport; Railways Buses & Ferries


Paul Maybin

Mickey Stewart

Community and Not For Profit


John Barr

Jackie McLeod

Construction and Contracting


David Smeeton

Billy Spiers

Meurig Thomas

Education; MoD & government departments; CMA


Andy Hanks

Sue Sharp

Electrical Engineering, Electronics & IT


Ian Allinson (unopposed)



Stuart McGhee (unopposed)

Finance; Business Services


Russell Greig

Graham Hunt

Jim Kendall

Jane Lewis

Nathalie Mullen

Peter Simpson

Agnes Tolmie

Food, drink & tobacco


Dave Nestor (unopposed)

Foundry; Metals


David Bowyer

Bill Gray

David Oldfield

Gary Phoenix

General Industries; Servicing


Alan Mercer

Pat Russell

Peter Taylor

Howard Turner

Graphical, Paper & Media


Stewart Eaves

Glenn Jackson

Dave Lovelidge

Mark Pang

Health service


Gill George

Liz McInnes

Joyce Still

Frank Wood

Tracey Young

Local Authorities


Davie Brockett (unopposed)

Motor Components


Peter Russell (unopposed)

Motor Vehicles


Michael Sherrif (unopposed)

f. Unlike in the previous Amicus NEC elections, head office are not centrally sending out letters to members of branches which made nominations.

g. The union will not write to all members to advise them of the uncontested seats because of the cost, but will try to make it widely known in various other ways. Retired members are only entitled to vote for regional seats, so those in South West, Scotland and Wales will not get a vote at all.

9. The Amicus NEC accepted an invitation to join May Day celebrations in Cuba.

10. Talks on merger with the USW in North America were progressing and a team would be going to Torronto for an ultimate meeting. It was hoped to produce a statement to put to the USW convention in June.

11. A union-wide campaign will be launched highlighting the shortcomings of individual Performance Related Pay and offering positive alternatives with a view to strengthening collective bargaining.

12. The union will spend £50K to be the main sponsor of the Rock Against Racism event in London on 27th April, which is expected to attract 100,000 people. All the mayoral candidates will be speaking at it, apart from the BNP.

13. A little over £800K has been budgeted for the Voluntary Redundancy programme.

14. The Agency & Temporary Workers bill from Andrew Miller MP was launched that day in parliament, with heavy Amicus involvement which will continue. Over 100 MPs have now pledged to be there on 22nd February.

15. The success in increasing the compensation (FAS) for people who lost pensions to 90% was noted and thanks recorded to all who played a part. This is a big win making a real difference to well over 100,000 workers due to union campaigning.

16. The demonstration in Liverpool against the closure of Rolls Royce Bootle is going ahead on Saturday, with Tony Woodley speaking (Derek Simpson is at a craft conference). The company had now made the decision to move production to the USA.

17. A coach had gone that day to London to lobby Electra (private equity) shareholders about the pensions issue for Lil-lets workers. A film to explain the issues was being produced.

18. Remploy workers at Aintree had overwhelmingly voted for action and the first series of strikes was starting today. Another six sites had been identified to ballot in the next week or so. The government attitude appeared to be hardening and work had started to dismantle some factories. A Labour minister had not even been willing to speak to demonstrators.

19. A document for discussion and consultation setting out a draft sector structure for the UNITE rulebook had not been intended for general circulation within Amicus. After it had been seen by the Joint Executive Council (JEC) on 10th January it had been circulated to National Officers asking them for feedback and to raise any issues with their National Sector Committees. The NEC decided that it should not be circulated to NEC members.