Wednesday 31 December 2008

European legislation

There have been two important developments, and I also want to draw attention to a UNITE campaign that every member should be supporting.

The European Parliament has at long last passed a revision to the European Works Council (EWC) Directive. UNITE's comments suggest this is generally positive.

MEPs also voted through amendments to the Working Time Directive. This was a very significant vote, with many Labour MEPs rebelling against the UK Government's long obstruction to this vital health & safety legislation, but unfortunately doesn't mean that we will necessarily see the end of the "opt-out".

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings in the Viking, Laval and Ruffert cases are a very serious threat to union rights. Basically, the court believes that the right of companies to trade freely has precedence over the right of workers to take industrial action. This means that even if workers comply with the UK's ridiculous red-tape around industrial action ballots, any action could still be ruled illegal. UNITE has set up a web site to campaign on the issue at There's a petition on there which we should get everyone to sign. If we can collect a million signatures, we force the issue to the European Commission.


There is a document circulating unofficially in the union which is a transcript of Derek Simpson's speech at a recent UNITE F&GP meeting. In it, Derek falsely attributes the second comment on one of the articles on my web site to me. As you can clearly see, the comment is not anonymous, and is from another user (also called Ian). I want to make clear that the comment does not reflect my own views.

Sunday 21 December 2008

UNITE Executive Council reports

The Joint General Secretaries (JGSs) have now produced their briefing on the 24-26 November Executive Council meeting, which I am happy to email to members on request.

The first day of the meeting was taken up with heated disagreements between the JGSs, primarily over the integration of the union. A lot of the issues which had previously been the subject of rumour and maneuvering finally came out in the open.

The EC set the JGSs a deadline to resolve the issues. A special EC was agreed for 18th December and the JGSs were told that if they hadn't agreed an integration plan by then, the EC would do so itself.

At the EC meeting on 18th December a plan was unanimously agreed, and I have the details of this for any members who want them.

The major outstanding issue is in many ways the key one for lay members. Not "who gets which jobs" at the top, but the structures for lay members to meet and deal with the real business of the union. Proposals for this should be coming to the January EC meeting. There's still a lot to do though - for example the issues about the composition of the "IT & Communications" sector remain unresolved. Lay members from the north-west (from Amicus and TGWU) looked at the question of the structures many months ago, and managed to reach consensus on a sensible approach to setting them up. I hope that the proposals from the JGSs are as good.

Sovereign Bus Strike

The use of the anti-union laws to attack UNITE's pay campaign on the London buses was nothing short of a disgrace, especially given the overwhelming votes for action from the members.

Following this set-back, which led to UNITE calling off the strikes, there have been further ballots, and members at the first company (Sovereign) are due out on strike on 5th January.

A key issue in the dispute is the fact that there are big variations in pay for workers doing the same job in different companies - despite them all being regulated by Transport For London. Sovereign is one of the companies with the lowest pay.

UNITE has issued a collection sheet in support of the dispute, which I have made available online.