Monday 28 April 2008

WMD: Semiconductor Safety

No, WMD isn't "Weapons of Mass Destruction", it's "Workers' Memorial Day".

As well as many other activities (including safety inspections in my own workplace), UNITE has chosen Workers' Memorial Day to renew the call for more research into cancer risks associated with the semiconductor and computer manufacturing industries.

In industries where the substances and processes change rapidly, workers can't rely on legislation to protect them, as it often takes decades to catch up. Well trained safety reps with the backing of the workforce and strong legal powers are absolutely vital.

UNITE members at Shelter plan to strike again

Shelter stewards say:

Union members in Shelter had two days of well-supported strike action last week.
On Thursday 24th April we not only picketed our own Shelter offices, but also marched with colleagues in the NUT, PCS and UCU in protest against pay freezes and Government attempts to secure services on the cheap.We spoke on a number of platforms around the country and held lobbies of MPs / MSPs in both the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament.

Shelter union members will be striking again on Wednesday 30th April and Thursday 1st May. Details of the picket lines will follow. Please support us by visiting us on our picket lines.

You can also help us by sending messages of support and by making donations to our strike fund. You can also forward the attached leaflet to those who may not be aware of our dispute.

Many thanks for your ongoing help.

In solidarity,

Sunday 27 April 2008

North-West Area Quarterlies

I'm pleased to see a letter has gone out to Amicus section workplace reps and lay branch officers in the north-west with the dates of the area quarterly meetings for the remainder of 2008.

Sadly, it still doesn't explain what they are or why anyone might want to go. I think the lack of power, promotion and clear direction is undermining what should be a key element in the union structure. A meeting for all workplace reps and lay branch officers in an area ought to be a valuable forum to exchange news and ideas, make links and develop campaigning and solidarity.

As the union's official web site is still only showing the dates for 2007, I reproduce them here:

Meetings are 7pm, UNITE regional office, Parkgates, Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester
20 May, 19 August, 18 November.

Meetings are 7pm, County Hall, Preston
28 May, 20 August, 19 November

Meetings are 7pm, Legends (Bentley Motors), Speed 8 Suite, Sunnybank Road, Crewe
11 June, 3 September, 3 December

Meetings are 7pm, Blackburne House, off Hope Street, Liverpool
9 July, 8 October

Meetings are 7pm, Washington Central Hotel, Workington
2 June, 1 September, 1 December

Meetings are 6:30pm, Empress Hotel, Douglas
10 June, 16 September, 9 December

JVC jobs under threat

JVC has announced its intention to close its East Kilbride plant, which makes LCD TVs, moving production to Poland in July, with the loss of over 300 jobs.

UNITE has quite rightly put out a damning press release, but what else are we going to do?

After 11 years of New Labour, we still have feeble employment rights that allow companies to quickly and cheaply throw us on the scrap heap in the pursuit of higher profits.

We need to campaign for stronger rights, but also use our industrial strength to protect jobs rather than merely relying on the law.

Pensions, Ineos and Oil

When employers want to cut our pension entitlements, make us work longer or pay more, they often claim "there is no alternative" due to rising costs, life expectancy etc.

There can rarely have been a company where such excuses rang more hollow than Ineos, which runs the oil refinery at Grangemouth.

Oil prices have soared in recent years, and oil industry profits have soared with them. Yet their clear "ability to pay" isn't stopping Ineos trotting out the same arguments and proposals as other employers.

In recent days there has been relentless media pressure on the Ineos workforce, and it to the credit of members and of UNITE that they have stood up to this and gone ahead with the action today. Media coverage rarely raises the point that workers wouldn't be considering strike action if employers were treating them fairly, or that employers have the power to settle disputes.

To counter the media barrage, UNITE has published a lot of information about the dispute.

Isn't it remarkable how news coverage can flip between two cliches: "unions are irrelevant dinosaurs with no power any more" to "unions hold the country to ransom". The reality "unions have a lot of power, but not enough and aren't clear enough how to use it" rarely gets a look in.

We should all support our members at Ineos defending their pensions and those of future employees.

Full UNITE executive council results published

The TGWU section of UNITE has now published the results of the elections to their seats on the new UNITE Executive Council (NEC).

They have also helpfully published a combined list including all 80 seats.

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Fujitsu strike ballot

No, it's not us this time - CWU members at the Solihull plant of Fujitsu Telecommunications (FTEL) are balloting over plans to cease manufacturing at the plant and transfer production to Texas.

FTEL is quite a separate company from Fujitsu Services, where I work - the two structures only merge in Japan.

Let's hope our colleagues in the CWU can secure their jobs.

Wednesday 16 April 2008

UNITE names more strike days at Shelter

According to a message sent to members of the Facebook group "Defend Shelter Staff! Defend Shelter!", UNITE has named the next strike days as 24-25th April, following members' rejection of the measly offer from management.

I think it's a really smart move to time the strike to coincide with national strikes by NUT, PCS and UCU (as well as members of UNITE and other unions at Birmingham City Council). People are always nervous that their message will get lost in something bigger, but as we found out last year when we at Fujitsu went on strike at the same time as PCS and UNISON health workers in Manchester, doing things together makes us all stronger and boosts everyone's confidence.

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Shelter staff reject measly offer

UNITE members in Shelter have rejected a miserly offer from management that was the outcome of ACAS talks after their initial two days of strike action.

As far as I know no further strike days have been announced yet, but everyone should get behind these members so they have the confidence to win.

They are asking supporters to:

  1. Donate to the strike fund. Cheques payable to “Shelter Strike Fund” can be sent to Shelter Shop Stewards, c/o 48 Swindon Close, Gorton, Manchester, M18 8JQ
  2. Invite a speaker to your meeting by contacting
  3. Send messages of protest to Adam Sampson, Shelter, 88 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HU or asking for it to forwarded to the Board of Directors
  4. Send copies to letters of protest and messages of support to
  5. Contact your MP about the issue and ask them to support Early Day Motion 1016 (

Brown's efforts to avoid protecting agency & temporary workers

Despite being seriously out-numbered on the proposed EU directive, Brown is still trying to dodge it.

He's still listening more to the needs of the CBI more than the millions of union members and other workers. No wonder he's in trouble in the polls.

Telent pension scheme and the pensions regulator

The web site of the pensions regulator is showing details of an update about the Telent pension scheme. The safety of the scheme (and the safety of jobs if it is raided) has been a major concern in our sector.

The government has announced increased powers for the Pensions Regulator to issue "contribution notices", a measure mainly aimed at the increasing pensions buy-out market.

UNITE has issued a positive reaction to the move.

Monday 14 April 2008

How can unions respond to globalisation?

I've been writing a review of "Labour and the Challenges of Globalization (What prospects for transnational solidarity?)" for the Socialist Review magazine. Though it's not a great book in a number of ways, it does air a number of important issues for trade unionists. I didn't feel my 400 word review could do it justice, so I thought I would write something more detailed (about the issues raised rather than the book) here.

This is intended to make you think (as the book made me think), not to be a thought-through plan for the future of UNITE or any other union.

The need to respond to globalisation is widely appreciated by trade unionists. Just think about the amount of discussion about migrant labour, offshoring of manufacturing and services, the impact of the EU or the challenges of negotiating locally with Trans-National Corporations (TNCs).

What's often less clear is what people actually mean by "globalisation" and how we should respond. Are international union mergers the key? Should our campaigning focus on national governments, the EU, international bodies such as the WTO, IMF or World Bank, or on TNCs themselves?

At the heart of "globalisation" is the attempt, led by the US government, to impose a neo-liberal economic model on the whole world. This means seeing the "free" market as the answer to all questions and promoting "deregulation", including of labour markets. This is an agenda that involves a sharp reduction in democracy (and "interference" in the free market by the democratic process is frowned upon) and a big shift in power to those who are already rich and powerful.

Globalisation is often used as an excuse for neo-liberal policies at home. Governments claim to be helpless in the face of it. Just remember Tony Blair's visit (soon after his election as PM) to the Fujitsu plant in Newton Aycliffe when it was closing and his claims he couldn't do anything about it. Current examples include Rolls Royce in Merseyside.

In countries like the UK, we tend to focus on the direct impacts of the neo-liberal agenda, such as privatisation, refusal of government to protect jobs, cuts in enforcement of safety and other labour standards etc. But it's worth taking a step back to think about what globalisation means globally.

Just as in the cold war people used "east" and "west" as political terms as much as geographical ones (Japan was in the west and Cuba in the east!), today people who write about globalisation use "north" to mean the rich developed countries and "south" to mean the rest.

Modern capitalist agriculture employs a few tens of millions, while 3 billion peasants still make up about half the world’s population. A peasant’s productivity is a fraction of one percent of that of a “modern” farm-worker. The neo-liberal drive to force poor countries to open their markets to “free” competition in food production means depriving these peasants of their livelihoods, driving them into the cities.

Economic growth in some of the global south’s mega-cities (even in China and India) is insufficient to absorb the influx of rural migrants into full employment. The deregulation of labour markets and absence or destruction of welfare states helps the bosses exploit high unemployment through a rapid expansion in “precarious” or “informal” employment such as temporary, illegal, self-employed or part-time work without employment rights. Others are forced to migrate to richer countries to make a living, often outside “formal” employment there. In the south, “permanent” jobs are a minority, while richer countries are seeing trends in the same direction.

A key function of collective union organisation is to prevent undercutting pay and conditions by workers competing for jobs. Unions dealing nationally with trans-national corporations encouraging workers to compete in the “race to the bottom” are struggling to achieve this. International coordination of bargaining and solidarity has delivered some results, but is underdeveloped. It's not credible to fight for the same pay rate globally, and with large variations in inflation and other factors, how can you even coordinate claims? One system tried was to base claims in different countries on the same formula (e.g. inflation + productivity increase). Or why not coordinate claims with the most profitable plants going first to establish a benchmark?

Global union membership (as in the UK) is now concentrated in the public sector and among regular employees of larger companies – a shrinking proportion of the global working class. Representing only a relatively secure, privileged layer would reduce unions’ legitimacy to speak for the whole working class, reducing political influence.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with unions mainly representing the "formal" workforce in the rich countries working more closely together to have more leverage with TNCs. This is the logic behind the links UNITE is making with the USW in North America and various other unions. But there's a real danger unless our strategy for dealing with globalisation also allows us to break out of that niche. How much bargaining power will unions have with employers if they are unionised islands in a sea of non-unionised workers?

There can be real challenges in organising both "formal" and "informal" workers, as short-term interests can clash. It's not easy to get permanent and temporary workers to make compromises to support each other even in the same workplace. Trying to get workers in different countries to do so is even more challenging. Employers are not shy about trying to play us off against each other and unions are only ever successful in avoiding this when we have a vision of winning for all of us rather than bargaining about the distribution of pain.

If unions want to represent the whole working class in the future, we have to shift our priorities, actions and language to speak for the working class as a whole now (formal and informal workers, the unemployed, migrants, the young, the old and the sick alike) - otherwise how we will get there? And how do we take our existing membership with us through such a change?

The fact that we have some protection in the EU over discrimination against part-time workers is important. Strategically, we should be putting far more emphasis on securing similar protection for agency and temporary workers and for migrant workers.

If you are female or in an ethnic minority you are far more likely to be working in "informal" work, so any strategy to organise informal workers has to have a serious fight for equality and against discrimination at the heart of it.

Some unions have found that "workplace by workplace" organising just doesn't work against huge anti-union TNCs, so a far more strategic approach is required to crack them.

Where unions ideologically accept the logic of neoliberalism and the "free" market, they are then tied in to the logic of "national competitiveness". Instead of helping their members fighting for what they need, they are limited to showing companies and government the benefits of unions through conflict resolution, promoting skills and investment or boosting the brand with "corporate responsibility". This is all about the "supply side" - as if unemployment is caused by the failures of workers to be competitive enough, rather than the decisions of employers to boost profits by sacking us or to pay us so little that we can't buy enough to keep the economy afloat.

One model of unions suggests they adopt one or more of the following roles:

  1. Guild (helping an occupational elite)
  2. Friendly society (helping indvidualised workers)
  3. Company union (a productivity deal with a particular employer)
  4. Social partner (a political deal with the state)
  5. Social movement
At national level, many unions in the global north have placed a heavy emphasis on being social partners with centre-left national governments. To a certain extent this approach has been replicated at the EU level. Is this viable in a neoliberal world where governments are deregulating, opposed to intervention and passing power out of the democratic sphere? How can a union fighting neoliberalism and its consequences be a "social partner" of institutions which are promoting it?

Many unions are trying to reach global framework agreements with TNCs, to help organise in countries with lower labour standards. Is there a risk that if this is successful, and rights in the global south come down through TNCs rather than being secured by campaigning and legal changes in those countries that it could leave the bulk of the working class excluded from rights?

Many of the aspects of neo-liberalism that unions are fighting are also opposed by many other people and groups. In many cases social movements have better roots, access and credibility with workers outside the "core" workforce than unions themselves. Many unions are trying forming alliances with social movements on particular issues, from privatisation to poverty pay. This is unfamiliar territory for many unions, which aren't used to the compromises necessary to keep such alliances together, but the potential benefits in terms of activists, energy, ideas, legitimacy, recruits, profile (and results) are obvious. This process could create divisions within unions themselves.

European Works Councils (EWCs) have been useful for building international networks of reps within particular companies, but in general the unions haven't done much with them.

If the value-chain in production has changed from being largely within large integrated companies to involving large numbers of suppliers and sub-contractors, could links between union activists up and down the production chain become as useful in campaigns as the traditional ones in a locality or between competitors in the same industry?

A book I would heartily recommend which deals in an utterly different (far more readable) way with the development of the global working class is Paul Mason's "Live Working or Die Fighting". This takes accounts of (generally little known) struggles around the world today and places them alongside struggles from the birth of the labour movement and the industrial revolution. It's a powerful way of seeing the parallels and differences, and brings home that the patterns of employment and struggle that we've grown up with aren't historically typical at all.

Saturday 12 April 2008

24th April - Resisting Pay Cuts

24th April is becoming a more and more important date in any trade unionists calendar. At the centre of it are the NUT, UCU and PCS taking national strike action, mainly against the pay freeze. But others are joining in too, including UNITE members at Birmingham City Council.

Since my recent post about the events in Manchester leading up to 24th April, Manchester Trades Council, UCU and PCS have jointly organised a march and rally for the 24th:

Assemble 12:00 in Albert Square. March leaves 12:30 on circular route back to Albert Square for a rally.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Why we all deserve higher wages

I posted recently about the trends in prices & wages. Since then, I've seen on Gill George's blog a couple of interesting articles in response to the government offer of a 3-year pay cut for NHS staff.

Gill's latest article picks up material from the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) and what they say about inflation, which prompted me to go and have a look at the MPC's own web site, which has a wealth of useful information for trade unionists.

In the "costs and prices" data, this chart particularly caught my eye:
What does it mean? That real take-home pay has been dropping for several years, while profitability has stayed about the same. Or to put it another way - working people are paying the price for every bump and dip in the economy.

It's enough to make you think we need a union!

Sunday 6 April 2008

A busy few weeks in Manchester

There’s lots going on in Manchester in the next few weeks, with the big strikes on 24th April at the centre of it.

Tue 8 April: Public Service Not Private Profit public meeting
Debate the future of public services with speakers: Janice Godrich (PCS National President), Dai Hudd (Prospect General Secretary) and Avis Gilmore (NUT Regional Secretary).
6:30-8:30pm, Tuesday 8th April, Mechanics Institute, Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD
Mon 14 April: “Reinstate Karen Reissmann” Public Meeting & Free “Thank You” Social
Timed to coincide with UNISON Health Conference in Manchester, the meeting will be addressed by Karen Reissmann, Graham Pink (whistleblower from 17 years ago) and Alan Hartman (Manchester User Network).
7:15pm, Monday 14th April at the Radisson Hotel, Peter Street, Manchester (the old Free Trade Hall building).
More info, including leaflets from
Tue 15 April: Fair Pay For Teachers
Pay rally with Bill Greenshields (NUTE Vice-President), Linda Newman (UCU President), Bernadette Gallacher (UNISON NEC), Dave Owens (PCS DWP Group Exec).
7:30pm, Tuesday 15th April, Mechanics Institute, Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD.
Sat 19 April: National Shop Stewards Network north-west conference
OFFU Manchester is supporting this conference, which will be an opportunity to bring together activists from across the movement to debate and build solidarity.
11am-3pm on Saturday 19th April at the Mechanics Institute, Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD.
More info, including leaflets, from
Thu 24 April: National strikes by NUT, UCU, PCS +
Thursday 24th April will be a major focus for anger against pay restraint, cuts and privatisation. As well as the national strikes, a number of other groups intend to take action on the same day.
Please do what you can in your own workplace (even if you aren’t on strike), and take people down to show support on the picket lines.
Most big towns and cities are having rallies etc on the day - I hope Manchester will be among them.
Mon 5 May: May Day in Manchester
Assemble 11:30am, bank holiday Monday 5th May at All Saints, Oxford Road, Manchester. International Workers’ Day march to a rally in St Peter’s Square. The themes are “Healthcare for all”, “Peace”, “Justice for Refugees” and “Trade Union Rights”.
This will be followed by a meeting 2pm-6pm in the Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester (behind Central Library). Provisional programme:
1. 'Workers of the World Unite' with Paul Mason, BBC Newsnight journalist and author of 'Live Working or Die Fighting, how the working class went global'

2. The Flying pickets. Manchester launch of 'The Flying Pickets the 1972 builders' strike and the Shrewsbury trials' with authors Dave Ayre, Reuben Barker, Jim French, Jimmy Graham & Dave Harker
3. Will Kaufman 'Woody Guthrie: Hard Times and Hard Travellin' (see
Shelter Strike
UNITE members at housing charity Shelter have already taken two days strike action against the imposition of worse pay and conditions. The strikes were sufficient to force the employer to talks at ACAS, which resulted in a new offer. The Shelter shop stewards are recommending rejection of the offer, which members are currently being balloted on. They are asking supporters to:
  1. Donate to the strike fund. Cheques payable to “Shelter Strike Fund” can be sent to Shelter Shop Stewards, c/o 48 Swindon Close, Gorton, Manchester, M18 8JQ
  2. Invite a speaker to your meeting by contacting
  3. Send messages of protest to Adam Sampson, Shelter, 88 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HU or asking for it to forwarded to the Board of Directors
  4. Send copies to letters of protest and messages of support to
  5. Contact your MP about the issue and ask them to support Early Day Motion 1016 (

Free market madness, courtesy of ECJ

The UNITE web site carries a press release about the "Dirk Rüffert v. Land Niedersachsen" case heard by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ has ruled that the right of employers to trade freely over-rides national agreements on wages etc.

This is a recipe for driving down pay and conditions as well as stoking up racism. It effectively reintroduces the "country of origin" principle we fought off in the Services ("Bolkestein") Directive.

For more background on the issue, see my report on last week's Amicus NEC meeting, where it was agreed to make this and related issues a major campaign theme.

Friday 4 April 2008

UNITE election results, TGWU section

I reported some time ago that the TGWU Broad Left appeared to have won 25 of the 40 TGWU seats on the UNITE executive unopposed, and where the remaining contests were.

I'd heard that the left had done well in the remaining seats, but few details. Having seen more results, it appears that the Broad Left won 14 of the 15 contested seats, giving them a total of 39 out of 40!

Environment, your workplace and the EEE&IT sector

If you're working in the Electrical Engineering, Electronics or IT industries, UNITE is inviting you to complete this online survey on environmental issues:

You can read some of the initiatives we have begun in my workplace on my branch web site (see the motion on climate change).

Wednesday 2 April 2008

UNITE (Amicus section) NEC meeting, 2nd April 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.

Ian Allinson

Amicus NEC member, Electrical Engineering, Electronics & IT sector

1. Though the General Secretary wanted a full merger with the North American union USW, and some people in the USW had suggested that this might be proposed at the USW convention in June, what he had reported to the February NEC had merely been that a statement would be made to that convention. Derek reported that a proposal for full merger would not be on the table at that point. Even if there wasn’t a full merger, they had build a very good working relationship.

2. The NEC heard a report on an Employment Tribunal case against the union. The tribunal had ruled in the union’s favour on the first claim, but an appeal was possible.

3. UNITE is now doing a job evaluation of all jobs apart from the Joint General Secretary positions. This was underway with consultants involved, negotiating groups, monitoring committees etc.

4. It was agreed to nominate Les Bayliss as a trustee of the Marx Memorial Library.

5. The Amicus section of UNITE has been successful in a bid for a £200,000 grant from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to develop workplace Equality Reps. A project proposal will be circulated to the NEC.

6. Mick Stevens, formerly a Regional Officer, was been allocated the duties of a Regional Officer (Industrial) for the Railways sector.

7. The Oil Industry Liason Committee (OILC), a non-TUC-affiliated union in the offshore industry, is in talks about joining RMT. UNITE sees this as undermining its position in the industry and will take formal action with the TUC.

8. The General Secretary updated the NEC on a number of cases that further threaten the right to strike. Laval, a Latvian company, had brought a case to the European Court of Justice claiming that industrial action aimed at forcing it to observe Swedish labour standards when operating in Sweden infringed its “freedom to provide services”. The ECJ had prioritised this right above the right to strike. The ECJ is not supposed to have jurisdiction over employment law, but had done so by the back door. In effect, this judgement was resurrecting the “country of origin principle” that we had fought off in the Services Directive (often known as the Bolkestein Directive). Other cases included Viking (about reflagging ships to lower labour standards) and another on which the ECJ is about to rule. If allowed to stand, this would be a European equivalent of the Taff Vale decision, threatening our basic rights. UNITE has already taken up the issue with the Prime Minister and we are lobbying MPs. It was agreed to make this campaign a priority.

[IA: For background, see and]

9. Vacancies for Regional Coordinators had been advertised on the union web site, interviews held and appointments made: Margaret Lawson (Scotland), Brian Cole (North East), Phil Allman (North West), Mick Millichamp (East Midlands), Ray Jones (Yorkshire) and Matt Smith (South East). These appointments were approved, but they will remain as NEC members until their new jobs commence or their term expires.

10. It was agreed that advertising vacancies on the web site was not a sufficiently effective way of bringing them to the attention of members and that it raised equality concerns. In future, vacancies should be more widely advertised, for example through The Activist magazine or in mailings to branches.

11. It was agreed in principle to temporarily reduce subs for members at Anchor Housing Association to assist in our campaigning there.

12. It was agreed to extend Professional Public Liability Insurance to a wider group of members in the health sector. This would be appreciated by many workers and be a big help in recruitment.

13. It was agreed to pilot a scheme whereby the union provided Health & Safety education and accreditation cards in the construction industry. This would be a useful service for workers and help our organising efforts. It was also agreed to assign Richard Clarke, a Regional Officer, to work with apprentices. Concerns were raised that the Olympic Delivery Authority only intended to train people to NVQ level 2 rather than level 3 which JTL do, which would undermine skills across the industry.

14. It was agreed to support the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s efforts to use the 50th anniversary to highlight the harsh and illegal blockade of the country imposed by the US government and encourage our government to do more to oppose it.

15. It was agreed to improve the union’s membership contact centre to provide longer opening hours when members can call and to use it more proactively to help with member retention and recruitment.

16. Members in Doncaster & Bassetlaw NHS trust have been in dispute over the employer’s failure to make the payments required under the Agenda For Change national agreement. They had requested a voluntary levy from members in health to support the length of industrial action that might be required to win the dispute. The General Secretary reported that the dispute had now been settled.

17. The UNITE Joint Executive Council (JEC) has agreed to sell the Moreland Street office in London.

18. The NEC agreed a proposal to ensure that workplace reps (including “seconded reps”) in the Finance Sector are properly elected, that the employer has no say in who they are and that facilities are provided by employers rather than funded by the union.

19. Les Bayliss and the General Secretary reported on the Voluntary Redundancy programme. Over 100 Amicus section employees had applied and these were being considered and arrangements negotiated in line with practice in recent years. Around 120 TGWU section employees had applied, of which about 30 were officers and 90 staff. The current breakdown of the Amicus 100 was not known, but when the total had stood at 60 it comprised 20 officers and 40 staff.

20. The General Secretary reported the death of Albert Carr, a GPM sector Regional Officer from the West Midlands.

21. It was agreed to contribute £1000 towards the Wortley Hall gala day.

22. The General Secretary reported that the draft rulebook was ready to present to the Joint Executive Council (JEC). He believed there had been no problems and that the Rules Commission had done a good job. Though it broke an understanding, the draft had been circulated to the TGWU section General Executive Council (GEC) and some Amicus members now had copies as a result. It was emphasised that this was a draft and the JEC might change it, but it was agreed that the Amicus NEC should now see it. Copies were circulated.

23. Both sections of UNITE are pushing the “100% campaign” to raise membership levels in workplaces where we already have organisation.

24. The General Secretary reported that progress had been made in agreeing what senior officer and organiser roles there should be in regions, to replace the different Amicus and TGWU job titles and structures. The next step would be discussion of which officers were allocated to what.

25. The Research Department has been relocated to Transport House. The Communications Department has been relocated to the basement of the King Street office. Other decisions were required, for example on Education.

26. In response to letters from SIMA Midland Area Branch and the Local Authorities National Sector Committee there was a discussion about the proposed sector structure for UNITE. The draft rulebook just circulated to NEC members included a note for the JEC: “The Executive Council anticipates agreeing a list of UNITE national industrial sectors, with the status and powers provided for in this rule, in May 2008 following consultation in the existing industrial structures of both sections. If agreed the EC will append such a list to the rules when they are submitted to the membership in a ballot for approval...”. A suggestion that clarifying the process for members might reduce misguided queries and objections was not agreed. The General Secretary expressed the view that there would not be consultation with Amicus sectors prior to the Executive Council agreeing the list of sectors in May, and the Chair expressed the view that the National Sector Conferences in June would offer a massive opportunity for consultation. It was pointed out that the draft list of sectors, which the Amicus NEC had decided not to see, was on the TGWU web site.

27. It was agreed to donate £1000 to help Dundee Trades Council with a commemoration of the Spanish Civil War.

28. The NEC agreed to send a message of support (and if possible at short notice a delegation) to UCU members at Keele University fighting against plans to close the last remaining Industrial Relations Department in the country with 10 compulsory redundancies. Universities are pursuing an increasingly corporate agenda of “Human Resource Management” or “Business Management” departments with no attention paid to the employee perspective. It was clarified that the UCU were encouraging people to take part in the 2008 Hazards Conference at Keele despite the dispute. It was agreed to seek an article in the Morning Star highlighting UNITE’s position on the issue.

29. UNITE has taken a large share in the Peoples Press Printing Society and as a result Tony Burke (an Assistant General Secretary) is on its management committee. UNITE is also working with the Morning Star in a variety of other ways. It was agreed to pilot subscriptions to the Morning Star at 10 Regional Offices and the Esher, Quorn and Wortley Hall training centres for a full review after six months. The Morning Star will provide daily coverage of the Amicus Regional Sector Conferences in June and have a stand at the conference centre.


30. The General Secretary has acted as the Returning Officer in the recent elections for the 40 Amicus section seats on UNITE’s first Executive Council which takes office on 1st May 2008. He presented two reports. The first report was from Electoral Reform Services, who had acted as Independent Scrutineers, which consisted of the actual voting figures for each election. The second was a report from the Returning Officer which dealt with various complaints and issues which had arisen during the election process. The two reports have since been published on the Amicus web site:

The NEC took the following decisions:

a. Accepting the report from ERBS and declaring the following candidates elected (but see later points):




North East, Yorkshire & Humberside

Steve Davison


East Midlands

Steve Hibbert


Eastern and London

Paul Brewster


North West

Pat Coyne


South East

Mark Wood



Jimmy Neill


Aerospace & Shipbuilding

Alastair Fraser


Aerospace & Shipbuilding

Neil Sheehan


Civil Air Transport and Railways, Buses and Ferries

Mickey Stewart


Community and Not For Profit

Jackie MacLeod


Construction and Contracting

David Smeeton


Construction and Contracting

Billy Spiers


Education and MoD and Government Departments and CMA

Sue Sharp


Finance and Business Services

Jim Kendall


Finance and Business Services

Jane Lewis


Finance and Business Services

Peter Simpson


Finance and Business Services

Agnes Tolmie


Foundry & Metals

David Bowyer


General Industries & Servicing

Alan Mercer


General Industries & Servicing

Peter Taylor


General Industries & Servicing

Howard Turner


Graphical, Paper & Media

Glenn Jackson


Graphical, Paper & Media

Dave Lovelidge


Health Service

Gill George


Health Service

Frank Wood


Women’s Seats

Paula Bartle


Women’s Seats

Louise Cousins


Women’s Seats

Elizabeth Donnelly


Women’s Seats

Jane Stewart


b. A number of candidates from uncontested seats were declared elected:



South West

Ray Bazeley

West Midlands

Dave Dutton


Andy Johnston


Rob Benjamin

Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals

John Storey

Electrical Engineering, Electronics & IT

Ian Allinson


Stuart McGhie

Food, Drink & Tobacco

Dave Nestor

Local Authorities

Davey Brockett

Motor Components

Peter Russell

Motor Vehicles

Mick Sherriff

c. A number of complaints had been received in relation to the election in the GPM sector. A proposal to re-run the election in the sector was rejected. A proposal to refer all the complaints to the Election Commissioner was rejected. It was agreed to refer the issues raised by Stuart Eaves to the Election Commissioner.

d. It was agreed to further investigate the handling of self-employed members for future elections.

e. Complaints had been received in relation to the election in Ireland. The Returning Officer had asked Tony Woodley JGS to investigate and the investigation had begun. This result was declared subject to the outcome of Tony Woodley’s report.

f. Cynthia Simms had made a complaint to the Certification Officer about a nomination for the North East, Yorkshire & Humberside seat. It was agreed to await the decision of the Certification Officer.

g. A decision to merge two Loughborough branches had been taken prior to the nomination period, but this had not been implemented when nominations took place and both branches had nominated. It was agreed that both nominations should stand and noted that it could have had little impact on the result.

h. There had been problems with incomplete lists of nominations being shown on the union web site. The errors had not favoured any candidate over another for any seat and had been corrected.

i. Simon Hemmings had raised a number of issues in relation to the East Midlands election. These covered the speed of distribution of ballot papers, non-receipt of ballot papers and advice issued by the Membership Department. It was agreed to consider using first class post for future elections.

31. There was a discussion about the turnout in the elections (12-13% in regions and 7-8% in sectors and women’s seats), which was lower than in previous NEC elections. It was fairly typical of other unions (including the simultaneous elections in the TGWU section). There was discussion about the need for the NEC to engage and connect with members so that they felt the NEC was relevant and the elections important. Low turnout in council elections had increased the risk that extremists such as the BNP got elected and we run the same risk if members don’t participate. The General Secretary suggested that people were happy with the leadership of the union and that this contributed to the low turnout. Workplaces and structures which related to them were key to engaging with members.


32. Gail Cartmail reported that she had met Kim Howells MP in relation to Columbia, the country with the highest murder rate of trade unionists. A Columbian student leader who had seen colleagues killed and had himself been displaced as a result of death threats had taken part in the meeting to explain the situation. Kim had been polite but saw nothing wrong with continued military support to the Columbian regime, which he believed were for anti-narcotics work. The Columbian regime does not keep the resources for death squads separately ring-fenced from the resources for anti-narcotics work. The Guardian had recently carried a photo of Kim with the “Higher Mountain Brigade” and his remarks falsely linking the solidarity group Justice For Columbia with the armed group FARC had put lives at risk. Kim had retracted the remarks, but this had not been as widely reported as the original comments and he needed to do far more to undo the damage. UNITE is calling for transparency of all money sent to Columbia and believes it is shameful that an MP such as Kim Howells should be giving comfort to such a regime. It was agreed to condemn the support given by Kim Howells and the UK government to the Columbian regime. It was clarified that Kim Howells is not a UNITE MP.

33. The first meeting of a combined UNITE parliamentary group (now around 147 MPs) is planned for May, and the prime minister will attend.

34. The NEC endorsed the General Secretary’s actions in contributing a further £40K towards Ken Livingstone’s election campaign. The TGWU section had made a similar donation. As well as the financial contributions, UNITE was campaigning.

35. Lord Ashcroft has been pouring his own money into Tory campaigning in marginal constituencies. The two sections of UNITE had previously decided to contribute £1m each to a campaign to counter this. This money had now been spent and is apparently much appreciated by Gordon Brown. The fact that the campaign is funded by UNITE is being prominently displayed in each constituency. Charlie Whelan had met Doug Alexander that morning to discuss the campaign. The country had been “Mosaic” profiled to predict voting patterns and large numbers of targeted mailings were being sent to members in key areas. UNITE was seeking the views of members in those areas for submission to the policy forum. The union is setting up phone banks of activists to ring members in key marginal constituencies. UNITE can’t match Lord Ashcroft’s wealth, but we do have activists. If Labour is to win elections, it needs to change its policies to deliver policies working people need – mailshots are not enough.

36. The government has indicated it will act on the pleural plaques (asbestos) issue, but we await details.

37. It was agreed that UNITE Amicus section would nominate Allan Cameron for the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) and Lee Vasey for the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) at the 2008 Labour Party Conference.

38. UNITE met Liam Byrne regarding the introduction of a points system to replace work permits, reducing the already inadequate system to prevent employers bringing non-EU workers on lower pay to the UK to learn systems in preparation for offshoring IT jobs.

39. There had been a very good turnout of MPs (157) for the second reading of the private member’s bill on Temporary and Agency Workers. Though the government did intend to legislate on the issue, It was currently unclear whether that would address the issue adequately – they appeared susceptible to CBI lobbying. There are concerns that the proposed “commission” might be a way of kicking it into the long grass. If the scope of it was right, it might provide a mechanism to advance the issue.

40. The law on the political levy, opting out etc may change, and this could lead to a need to change the UNITE rules shortly after they are adopted.

41. The Labour Party NEC decision to elect a city figure as General Secretary in preference to a UNITE official was bad.

42. Any examples of the Labour Party using non-unionised printers should be highlighted so they can be taken up with the party.

43. “The Pensions Corporation” (a private equity firm that buys up pension schemes) has bought Telent (a remnant of Marconi) and there are growing fears that it wants to secure the scheme, move it offshore where it is not under the remit of the regulator and then sell off its assets. UNITE is discussing this with Mike O’Brien and seeking changes to the powers of the Regulator to prevent this.

44. UNITE met Lord McKenzie at the DWP last year and discussed (cancer) health risks in the semiconductor industry. The Minister has now written to industry senior executives to raise the union’s concerns and the need to collate more information. Lord McKenzie has made clear he supports the union and HSE view that the industry should fund a national study.

45. A list of which Constituency Labour Parties had been removed from the list with Constituency Development Plans was provided, along with the Amicus Parliamentary Panel (members who want to be selected as parliamentary candidates). 9 of the latter were Amicus employees rather than lay members.


46. In the first two months of 2008 alone, Amicus had settled 858 personal injury cases recovering for members £10.2m and 17,500 Euros. In addition Amicus had settled 100 Employment Tribunals worth over £2.1m to members.

47. We won a case at the Employee Appeals Tribunal (EAT) giving offshore workers the right to two weeks holiday out of the time when they would otherwise be due to work offshore.

48. Five employer-nominated trustees were elected for the new Amicus pension scheme. These were two of the “senior management team” (Graham Goddard and Doug Collins) and three NEC members (Steve Davison, Dave Nestor and Agnes Tolmie).


49. This was the last meeting of the Amicus NEC and there were lots of thanks and mutual back-slapping.