Sunday, 25 April 2010

Report of UNITE Executive Council meeting, 29-31 March 2010

Ian Allinson’s report on UNITE Executive Council 29-31st March 2010

N.B. This is not an official Unite Report; it is based on my notes of the EC meeting. I believe it to be a fair account of some of the key points and decisions taken (where I give my views about them I make this clear), and I will willingly correct any errors upon receipt of official notification from Unite.

This report is far from exhaustive – many more issues were debated and decisions taken over the three days.

Ian Allinson
UNITE EC member, Electrical Engineering, Electronics & IT


  1. The EC met during the British Airways Cabin Crew strike. There was recognition that this was one of the most important disputes for many years. In the context of the recession, employers are trying to make working people pay for a crisis we did not create. Willie Walsh, the BA boss, has gone out of his way to seek confrontation with UNITE, trying to break the union. Many employers, the media and politicians have rallied round Walsh to attack our members. The outcome will affect the confidence of employers and workers alike, across the economy as a whole. We all have a stake in it.

EC members were keen to provide support and solidarity to the members at BA, and many of us wanted to visit Heathrow to speak to the strikers directly to find out what they wanted us to do. In the end, a few hundred strikers came to London by bus, which was undoubtedly the high-point of the meeting. It was inspiring to see such an enthusiastic, determined and diverse group of members – it must have been the noisiest event at Congress House for some years!

I missed part of the EC debate about the BA dispute, thanks to an important phone conference about the pensions situation at Fujitsu, where I work. It would probably be unhelpful to the strikers to document some of the comments made, so I am not including them in this report.

There was a lot of anger about the public statements made by ministers, attacking our members without understanding the issues, and there was discussion about the politicisation of this industrial dispute. Derek Simpson argued that the dispute was crucial, but that the General Election was even more crucial, because if the Tories got in these kind of attacks would be commonplace.

Taking advantage of the way the work of cabin crew is organised, BA is docking pay for strikers for their whole period of their “route”, not just the days they are on strike, so the financial burden on the strikers is even more than usual. They are also deducting pay from people off sick. It had already been agreed to provide Dispute Benefit for all the days for which pay was docked. UNITE is asking members for information about the deductions and investigating whether legal action can be taken to recover the money.

Recognising the strategic importance of the dispute for the union, the EC agreed to the unique approach of a compulsory levy on all UNITE branches of 2% of subs for the next quarter, in support of the members at BA. This is expected to raise around £700,000. It was agreed that branches would also be invited to contribute more. [NOTE: the levy was widely mis-reported as a levy on union members, not on union branches. It has since been clarified how this will be taken, given the differing funding regimes for ex-Amicus and ex-TGWU branches. Ex-TGWU branches will effectively receive 8% of subs instead of 10% of subs. Ex-Amicus branches will still receive 3%, with the levy being taken out of the central funds used to help branches that need extra money.]

In addition to the financial help, an EC member from Civil Air Transport reported that they were getting help from the Legal Department and the International Department.

  1. I asked why there were not proposals table as promised in response to the Pensions and TUPE remits (motions or resolutions) from the ITC sector agreed at the January EC meeting ( The EC was told that discussions were ongoing with the relevant departments and that an update would be provided to the next EC meeting. Ideas being discussed on pensions included including more pensions material into officer training, using the web more, getting more support from the Research Department, and setting up a working party involving people from Campaigns, Education and occasionally the Political Department. It is the Legal Department looking at the pensions remit.
  2. There was an update on the Strategy for Growth and a discussion on the targets for 2010.

The “Computer Services” campaign is still identified as an “assisted” one. In addition, it is possible that some workplaces in the IT & Comms sector could be regional targets for resourced organising campaigns.

There was a detailed report of the (very) substantial pay rises achieved for agency workers in the meat industry to bring them into line with direct employees. There was also a copy of a framework agreement that UNITE is using in the meat industry to help agency workers. This looks as though it could be useful if adapted for other sectors.

Jimmy Kelly, having taken over the 100% campaign (strengthening organisation in workplaces with existing recognition agreements) following the death of Mike Brider, is aiming to visit all regions by the end of April. A web site for the campaign should be in place soon. Jimmy stressed that the campaign will only work with support from lay members, and urged every committee of the union to demand reports on the campaign.

  1. It was agreed that the Joint General Secretaries would again write to Hugh Scullion, the UNITE member who leads the Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions (CSEU), to reiterate the invitation to attend the UNITE EC to discuss the controversial “Memorandum Of Understanding” about terms and conditions.

It was agreed that Doug Collins, who is involved in the CSEU’s “drive for 35” fund, would report to the next EC meeting. A resolution was agreed committing the union to “using the fund for its original intention, the reduction in working hours, which will in turn create much needed jobs at a time of rising unemployment”. This is a very important clarification of UNITE’s position, as there had previously been interminable discussions about using the fund for other purposes.

  1. Many of the Employment Tribunal applications over blacklisting have failed because members need details of all the jobs they applied for, which few will have over the decades the blacklist has been operating. It was agreed to get a legal opinion on the possibility of pursuing cases through other routes, such as under the Data Protection Act.
  2. The Joint General Secretaries’ report included sections on the “IT and Communications” and “Electrical Engineering and Electronics” sectors:

IT and Communications


Following 10 separate days of strike action in December, January and February, Unite suspended the strike action on jobs, pay and pensions planned for 8 and 10 February in return for the company deferring compulsory redundancies to 26 February and agreeing to talks at ACAS on the day before the Fujitsu UK Chief Executive was due to meet with MPs

A number of Parliamentary activities were initiated, including a lobby of MPs and a meeting with members of the Unite Parliamentary Group, a meeting between the Fujitsu CEO and Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis, and a further meeting between the Fujitsu CEO and members of the Unite Parliamentary Group.

Following a number of meetings under the auspices of ACAS, ACAS tabled a set of proposals which the Unite Combine Committee agreed to recommend to our membership as a basis for settling the dispute over jobs, pay and pensions.

Although the ACAS proposals agreeable to the company did not go as far as we were seeking, since the dispute began, in addition to the ACAS proposals, the following has resulted:

· Jobs – the number of possible forced redundancies has been reduced from 1200 to less than 30 with an extension of employment until 26 March at least

· Pensions - extension of consultation period from October until at least 5 March 2010, 5% offered as compensation for change to defined contribution (DC) scheme, extra year continuation of final salary pension scheme until March 2011 at the earliest, and confirmation that the DC scheme is contractual for both new and existing members

· Pay - commitment to discuss open pay and benefit scales as part of transparency talks with Unite and recognition of Unite’s aspiration for minimum earnings of £13.500, introduction of a minimum basic salary of £12,000 applicable from 1 March 2010 and a review of this on an annual basis starting on 1 April 2010

Members voted by 4 to 1 in a 72% turnout to accept the ACAS brokered proposals and end the dispute.


The company has announced a further 344 jobs to be cut in the period February – April 2010 as part of its continual series of attacks on the global workforce in general and the UK and rest of Europe in particular. It is worth noting – and hardly coincidental - that HP has recently lost a large contract to Fujitsu Services for the supply of desktop IT services to DWP, and is also towards the bottom of a customer satisfaction index.


Consultation meetings with the company on the proposed closure of the Ansty/Coventry site are continuing at local level. At the time of writing this report we have put alternative proposals to the company to keep the site open and an offer of enhanced compensation terms from the company in respect of site closure is being considered by our membership.


A joint pay claim with BECTU and NUJ has been submitted to the BBC and negotiations are awaited.

Electrical Engineering and Electronics

Strategy for Growth

Following site reports on membership density across their companies, the EE&E National Industrial Sector Committee discussed 100 percent recruitment. The following companies reported gaps in their membership:

Ratheon Systems – predominately in staff areas amongst software engineers.

Cummins Technologies – reported a 100 percent on the shop floor but approximately 50 percent in staff areas.

Areva Cable Jointing – reported that following an intensive recruitment and organising campaign the membership at the Warrington site increased from a handful to nearly 100 percent of the cable jointers and basic pay had increased by 18 percent.

Areva TD Stafford – it was reported that there was a high level of membership in the manufacturing areas but these were a minority of employees across T&D. Currently the membership was estimated at approximately 35 percent with low level membership mainly in technical and staff areas.

It was agreed to target Areva T&D Stafford and the National Officer reported that he would be meeting the shop stewards progress this.


Following the French Government announcing the sale of Areva TD to Alstom and Schneider, meetings have taken place to ensure security of employment. To date, assurances have been given that there would be no structural changes to the Areva sites across Europe.

Following meetings in Brussels with representatives from all three companies, a similar security of employment agreement is being sort with Alstom and Schneider.

In the UK, we are also raised additional items with the company relating to job security and pensions.


Following a successful recruitment campaign achieving over 50 percent of the membership at Epsilon, an application to the CAC was submitted. Discussions took place with the company on a voluntary recognition agreement and after several delays an agreement was reached on 1st February 2010.

We have now elected representatives drawn form across the country to sit on the national negotiating committee, health and safety committee and the information and consultation committee.

Epsilon employs fixed wire electricians and Portable Appliance Test Engineers.

Prysmian Energy Cables

Unite is supporting the launch of the Approved Cables Initiative which is aiming to improved standards and regulate the medium and high voltage cable industry. Currently, the UK market can be subjected to inferior and, in some circumstances, dangerous imports which are not subjected to the high standards produced by UK manufacturers.

I gave an update on the situation at Fujitsu, with further progress on jobs and pensions.

  1. I raised the case of some members in the ITC sector who had been TUPE transferred from one company to another, which had not been financially viable. UNITE had had the case looked at by a QC already, but the members were not satisfied with the current situation. The head of legal agreed to ensure the individuals were contacted promptly to clarify the situation.


  1. The “Administrative, Professional, Managerial and Supervisory” sector (APMS) has not been functioning well, and the EC agreed to disband it and reallocate the existing membership. The original document included a recommendation that the CMA membership be placed in the IT & Communications sector. I pointed out that there had been no discussion about this with the sector, and that the last time this had been suggested, there had been a strong view from the Electrical Engineering, Electronics & IT sector (as it was at the time) that this was a bad idea. Reps had felt that there was no industrial logic or connection, and that such a move was likely to undermine the organising efforts in the sector – one of the few that is currently growing. It was agreed that there would be consultation over the reallocation and that the matter would come back to the next EC meeting.
  2. Derek Simpson confirmed that Regions should be organising regular open Area Activists meetings, not just the Area Activists Committees that they had elected.
  3. The decision of the EC that its minutes should be put on the union web site had not been implemented. We were assured that it would be. [NOTE: They are now available at].
  4. Yet again the subcommittee which is meant to be dealing with cost reduction and the integration of the union had not met.
  5. There was a heated discussion about the lack of proposals on harmonising branch funding, where ex-Amicus and ex-TGWU branches still get dramatically different amounts of money (3% and 10% respectively). The Joint General Secretaries expressed the view that it would be contentious to reduce the ex-TGWU funding and expensive to increase the ex-Amicus funding, so this was unlikely to be resolved before a single UNITE General Secretary and new UNITE Executive Council had been elected later this year. Others expressed the view that this should be linked to implementing the rulebook requirement for workplace branches wherever possible. The current unacceptable unequal funding situation continues, despite many remits being received. It was referred to the subcommittee dealing with integration.
  6. The EC decided on arrangements for election of delegates to the Rules Conference:

1. The election of delegates to the Special Rules Conference scheduled for 4th June 2010 shall usually be from and by the National Industrial Sector Committees

2. Where a Regional Industrial Sector is entitled to one or more delegates in its own right, the NISC shall facilitate such a number to be allocated to that region on the NISC.

3. Where the balance is equal to or less than the remaining Regional Industrial Sectors without delegates, such Regional Industrial Sectors (not including those in para 2) shall be grouped and the requisite number of delegates elected – in such cases it would be usual to have no more than one per Region.

4. Some Regional Industrial Sectors have already informally elected their delegates, where such arrangements have been implemented, the NISC shall allow those informal arrangement to stand (the number of such delegates will be part of the Sectors overall allocation).

5. The National Officials and Regional Secretaries must urgently advise the Conference Office/Executive Support Unit of which RISC’s, if any, have adopted the informal approach. Such notification will include name, membership number contact details, gender and ethnicity of any Delegates elected by the informal method.

6. The outcome of these electoral arrangements must ensure the correct gender and ethnicity outcome and must respect the EC’s statement of intent.

7. These elections are valid for the rules conference only; fresh elections will be held for the statutory Rules Conference in 2011.

  1. The following had been elected by Regional Committees to the Standing Orders Committee:

· Martin Reuby and Simon Rosenthal East Midlands

· Frances Hourihane and Martin Stroud Ireland

· Lisa Mannion and Pete Gillard London & Eastern

· Dave Allan and Sheree Williamson North East & Yorkshire

· Stewart Conroy and Dave Rochester North West

· Ray Stewart and Lisa Crawford Scotland

· To be advised South East

· Joe Conway (one to be advised) South West

· M Moore and J Burgham Wales

· Barry Harshorn and Lynne Baird West Midlands

SOC will meet in the second half of April for an initial discussion on motions and possible composites. Bodies which submitted motions will be asked by email (and letter) to withdraw their motions in favour of composites.

  1. The closing date for motions to Policy Conference from branches and committees is 1st April 2010, but where they cannot meet by then, motions will be allowed to be submitted immediately afterwards. As all delegates are elected from RISCs, but motions can come from any branch or committee, Regional Secretaries will need to identify a delegate to take ownership of each motion for compositing and speaking purposes.
  2. The EC will decide its position on Policy Conference motions at the May EC meeting. It does not intend to put forward its own motions, but may put forward statements on certain issues.
  3. Despite objections from a number of us, there will be no amendments allowed at this year’s Policy Conference or Special Rules Conference, because it was now too late to be practicable. Amendments will be allowed for future conferences.
  4. The EC agreed to organise official Fringe Meetings at the Policy Conference on the Miami 5 and on employment rights for Moroccan workers in Gibraltar. Unofficial fringe meetings that are consistent with UNITE policy can be advertised to delegates in the conference documentation.
  5. There was a long debate about the composition of the next UNITE Executive Council. The EC is responsible for putting a proposal to the Rules Conference, after which elections can go ahead. A decision was taken on a formula, which will now need to be written up as a rule amendment. The bones of the decision are:


· Sectors – Paying Members in the Sector (see Rule 16 (17))

· National Women and Black Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAEM) - Women and Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority members respectively (see Rule 16 (18 and 19))

· Regions – Paying Members in the region (see Rule 16 (16))


· One national Women’s seat

· One national BAEM seat

· Approximately 38 sector seats

· Approximately 24 regional seats

Sector seats are allocated by a formula:

· Over 100,000 3 seats

· Over 50,000 – 99,999 2 seats

· Up to 50,000 1 seats

Regional seats are allocated by a formula:

· 200,000 and over 4 seats

· 150,000 – 200,000 3 seats

· Under 150,000 2 seats

Seats within the regions and sectors will be reserved for women and BAEM members in order to ensure the overall proportionality required by rule.

On the figures we had at the meeting (which we know are not right), this would produce an EC as follows:


Seats (women) (BAEM)

East Midlands

2 (1)


2 (1)

London & Eastern

4 (1) (1)

North East, Yorkshire & Humber

3 (1)

North West

3 (1)


2 (1)

South East


South West

2 (1)


2 (1)

West Midlands


Total Regions

24 (10) (1)


Aerospace & Shipbuilding




Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals

Process & Textiles


Civil Air Transport


Community, CYWU & Not for Profit




Docks, Rail Ferries & Waterways




Electrical Engineering & Electronics


Energy & Utilities


Finance & Legal


Food Drink & Tobacco


Graphical Paper & Media




IT & Communications


Local Authorities


Metals (including Foundry)


MOD & Government Departments


Motor Components


Passenger Services


Road Transport Commercial Logistics & Retail Distribution


Rural & Agricultural


Servicing & General Industries


Vehicle Building & Automotive


Total Sectors

38 (5)(1)






Total Equalities


Total of new EC

64 (16) (3)

Apart from the concerns about the accuracy of the membership figures and allocation of members to the right sectors, the main concerns raised were:

· The low number of proposed BAEM seats was due to the incompleteness of UNITE’s records, and would under-represent our true membership. It was agreed to look at this in time for the elections. The impact of the poor records on eligibility to vote for the national BAEM seat was also raised as a concern.

· The lack of seats for EC members accountable to the LGBT, Disabled and Youth structures. The majority believed that this could not be addressed at this time, but that proposals should be brought to the full rules conference in 2011 to resolve this.

· The reduction in the number of national women’s seats.

· The inability of branches and committees to propose amendments, which would turn the special rules conference into a “take it or leave it”.

Overall, I thought the proposal was a good attempt to balance a number of conflicting requirements, but that it could be improved, particularly in the area of Equalities. However, I had to vote against it as the chair ruled that there would only be a vote on the proposal that branches and committees be able to propose amendments if the original proposal fell and I felt strongly that it was wrong for members to have no input, leaving a situation where the outgoing EC was effectively deciding the arrangements for the next EC elections, in which many sitting EC members are likely to be standing. The proposal was approved by 44 votes to 18.

  1. Provisional bookings for 2011 conferences have been made:

· Rules Conference 13-15 June 2011, Liverpool

· Sector Conferences 24-27 October 2011, Brighton

  1. The saga of lay members expenses continued. There were complaints about some officers believing that the EC had decided not to reimburse members for part of their costs (driving to a station) which could be substantial for some in rural areas. EC members complained that nothing had been put in place for childcare reimbursement, and it was agreed to remind officers that the arrangements from the former unions remained in place for the time being. A draft expenses policy for education courses was discussed, it was agreed that this needed more work and should be referred to the F&BP. Expenses for international travel have yet to be debated.
  2. The decision of the previous EC to write to members in arrears to inform them that they were being excluded from membership and to invite them to rejoin had not yet been implemented. The importance of having accurate membership information (and of senior officers implementing EC decisions) was emphasised by EC members.

There was a discussion about membership retention, and it was agreed that Dominic Hook would report to the next EC.

  1. Many issues which were meant to be on the table for the EC were not, because the administration had not prepared the necessary reports and proposals, or had omitted to put them on the F&GP agenda. These included the status of retired members as well as member contributions & benefits.
  2. Several EC members reported a widespread feeling that we were moving too slowly on integration, and that while issues that were a priority to the senior officers had been resolved, issues that were a priority for lay members had not.
  3. A few key points from the Finance report, which included preliminary financial results for 2009:

· The union as a whole returned an overall surplus of £3.9m, and the figure before non-recurring items was £8.7m. Both the former Amicus and TGWU sections were in surplus.

· The table below shows actual paying membership for the last few years, with cautious projections for the next few years which are the basis of the financial plan:

Dec 06

Dec 07

Dec 08

Dec 09

Dec 10

Dec 11

Dec 12

Paying Membership

T&G Section








Amicus Section
















· Contribution income at £144.5m in 2009 was down £2.5m on 2008, reflecting a fall in paying membership only partially offset by the subs increase from 1st September 2009. It is expected to rise slightly for 2010 before falling back in 2011.

· The pension schemes from both the former Amicus and TGWU are both in deficit, each approximately £75-80m. The EC agreed a 15-year recovery plan for the Amicus scheme which will require substantial payments over a number of years (£7.8m per year, on average). It was agreed that urgent negotiations must take place with the officers and staff about future pension provision in order to control costs. There was criticism about the fact that EC members had not been provided with any information about the situation in advance of the meeting, but were told that if we didn’t agree to plan at that meeting then the Pensions Regulator would step in. Decisions about a recovery plan for the TGWU pensions will be needed soon.

· UNITE’s spending on organising last year was only about 3.1% of subscription income, significantly lower than that required by rule 14.10. Nonetheless, £4.5m is still a substantial amount of money.

· There are significant threats to UNITE’s finances as a result of possible changes to funding for legal cases (the Jackson review) and cuts to the Union Learning Fund (ULF) if the Tories are elected. Derek Simpson confirmed that ULF projects are already accounted for separately.

  1. There was an update on the roles and responsibilities of the Assistant General Secretaries:
    1. Jimmy Kelly: Irish Regional Secretary. 100% campaign.
    2. Tony Burke: International. TUC.
    3. Jennie Bremner: Education
    4. Dianna Holland: Equality
    5. Gail Cartmail: Public Services
    6. Paul Talbot: Legal (on a temporary basis)

There are many other UNITE departments that don’t report to an AGS. In addition, there are two more AGSes – Len McCluskey and Les Bayliss.

  1. EC members raised the need for a single, simple procedure for reps and officers to access legal support. This was seen as too slow and complicated for the ex-Amicus section. A helpline for ex-Amicus officers had been introduced.
  2. EC members raised the lack of a procedure for disciplining lay members. A draft had been repeatedly put forward by the previous head of legal, and rejected by the EC, but she had not produced a revised version as requested. Derek Simpson said that in the absence of the procedure, no disciplinary action was valid and he had told Regional Secretaries that they could not proceed.
  3. It was agreed that the EC’s Education Subcommittee should select the panel for appointing the Regional Education Organisers. A panel of Mark Lyon, Sharon Hutchinson, Agnes Tolmie and Mickey Stewart was agreed to appoint a replacement officer in the Isle of Man. It was agreed that a proper system for appointments was required, rather than the ad-hoc decisions the EC had been taking. It was agreed to organise equality training for those EC members who hadn’t previously undertaken it, so that they were able to participate in appointment panels.
  4. The outline timetable for establishing the Young Members structures is:

· May 2010: EC to agree composition of Regional Young Members Committees and National Young Members Committee

· By 30 June 2010: Nominations to Regional Young Members Committees received

· First part of July 2010: The first Regional Young Members Forums, immediately followed by the first meetings of the Regional Young Members Committees

· 16 July 2010: First National Young Members Committee

  1. It is hoped that the Job Evaluation process for UNITE employees will be complete in Quarter 3.
  2. The arrangements for the election of the UNITE General Secretary Designate, which needs to start around May-June 2010, will be brought to the next EC meeting.
  3. It was agreed that the EC should receive a report listing EC members who did not attend meetings, in line with rule 14.5.


  1. Charlie Whelan thanked people for their messages of support after the media attack on him, which was really an attack on UNITE and the Labour Party. He felt that the Tories were desperate. Charlie read quotes from the Tory “Cash Gordon” report ( which he said illustrated how effective UNITE’s political department was being.
  2. Charlie reported that the figures about the political allegiance of UNITE members from the Tories were wildly inaccurate and that from UNITE’s own calls our members were approximately:

· 38% definitely Labour supporters

· 30% undecided (of which 2/3 had previously been Labour supporters)

· 8% Tory

  1. UNITE is putting considerable resources into maximising the Labour vote, particularly in key target constituencies.
  2. The EC discussed the threat from the BNP and the importance of mobilising members against them.


  1. The Finance & General Purposes (F&GP) committee had not discussed our re-affiliation to Hands Off Venezuala. This affiliation had been agreed by Amicus Policy Conference. The EC was told that the International Department has sent a report to go to the next F&GP meeting.
  2. It was agreed to investigate the details of a possible affiliation to Solidar, which lobbies the EU. [].
  3. EC members who had taken part in the delegation to Palestine gave an impressive and very moving report of their experiences, comparing the discrimination and oppression with apartheid South Africa.
  4. UNITE had played an important part in the cancellation of a nazi conference in the USA that Nick Griffin was due to speak at. The USW had put pressure on the venue, which leading to the cancellation.
  5. International solidarity with the BA cabin crew was spreading.
  6. The workers at Vale Inco had rejected an offer by 83%, despite the strike having gone on for many months. [See]
  7. It was reported that the giant German union Verdi want to discuss the possibility of joining Workers Uniting, the “global union” currently comprising UNITE and the USW.

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