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.

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