Monday 20 December 2010

Support UNITE members at Heinz

UNITE members at Heinz in Wigan are out on strike for the second time tomorrow over pay.

You can send messages of support to their convenor, and if you've got online banking you can make a donation to account 16085255, sort code 08-92-86.

The strike starts around 6am in the morning, with pickets at Heinz, Kitt Green, Wigan, WN5 0JL.

They have a Heinz Strike Info Page on Facebook.

They're also out again for 24 hours from 9:50pm on Wednesday 29th December.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Report of Nov-Dec 2010 UNITE Executive Council

Ian Allinson’s report on UNITE Executive Council 30th November – 1st December 2010
N.B. This is not an official Unite Report; it is based on my notes of the Executive Council (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.

Ian Allinson
UNITE EC member, Electrical Engineering, Electronics & IT
The meeting was the first since the result of the General Secretary election was declared, so Len McCluskey played a significant role for the first time. Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley were both there as Joint General Secretaries. Derek retires on 23rd December, when Len takes office as “General Secretary Designate” for a year until Tony retires.
[NOTE: Since the meeting, Tony Woodley has announced he will step down early as General Secretary and Len McCluskey become sole General Secretary from 31st January 2011]
Previous minutes
  1. The EC approved minutes from the meeting on 20-22 September 2010 and the special meeting on 24th November 2010 that had declared the result of the General Secretary election. These should be published on the UNITE web site shortly:
Defending Public Services and the Welfare State
  1. There was a lengthy discussion about the attack on public services, with the National Officers for several public service sectors present.
  2. The 28% cuts in local authority spending over four years are being “front loaded” in order to satisfy the markets. The Local Government Association thinks that 140,000 jobs will go as a result. There is no evidence to support government claims that the private sector will pick up the slack – indeed many private sector companies are suppliers to the public sector who are being hit by cuts too. For example, the 45% cut in capital spending by local authorities was bound to have a big impact on construction.
  3. Tony Woodley stressed the importance of UNITE taking a lead in the campaign against the cuts. Both he and Len McCluskey stressed that UNITE should not wait for the Labour Party, but saw the key as coordination between the “big 3” (UNITE, UNISON, GMB) which had in the past been successful in shifting the TUC and the Labour Party. The big 3 had met earlier in the week. Len felt it vital not to lose that alliance – everyone was keen to do things, but it had to be coordinated. Len reported that the big 3 were concerned about the danger of a vacuum of leadership, which could result in all sorts of people and organisations leading the movement. Members are being drip fed “The Is No Alternative” (TINA), even though people don’t like the cuts. The big 3 are setting up a small team (~2 from each union) to develop a common narrative, explaining that there are three ways of dealing with the deficit – cutting, taxation and growth in the economy. The Tory press are pushing their position, and Labour is finding it hard to oppose now because of their guilt in promoting privatisation etc in the recent past. The big 3 had agreed to focus on two areas, the NHS (because we all use and support it, and it’s easy to make it personal using examples of the victims of the cuts) and “our kids” (Universities etc and cuts in youth services).
  4. UNITE already has a first version of its Alternative Economic Strategy on the web site.
  5. Gail Cartmail pointed out that the rally at Westminster had been only 6 weeks ago. During the meeting there were further student protests (doubtless disgracefully kettled), anti-cuts demonstrations etc. Gail said there was lots going on but that UNITE needed a role to avoid it being half-baked.
  6. The growing practice of attacking pay and conditions, going far beyond pay freezes, by dismissing and re-engaging staff on new contracts, even where (as in Birmingham) senior managers had huge packages or were awarding themselves large rises.
  7. UNITE is resisting attempts by many employers who are attacking reps’ facility time, to try to make it easier to push through the cuts.
  8. Low density of union membership makes it harder to respond to the cuts industrially in some areas. Likewise many people are understandably reluctant to take industrial action because of the impact on service users. However, if we don’t fight the cuts then services will be lost permanently.
  9. The NHS is being privatised and reduced to a logo due to privatisation – a policy of giving services to “any willing provider”. £80bn of NHS budget is going to GP consortiums. Most GPs don’t want to manage the health service, and don’t have the skills to do so, so are likely to employ private companies instead. Instead of continuing market priorities in health, £20bn could be saved by scrapping the current internal market in the NHS. 80% cuts in the Department of Health will remove accountability from the NHS.
  10. Public health is being moved into local authorities, who are facing big cuts themselves.
  11. Cuts will have a big impact on voluntary and not-for-profit sector organisations. Many are already having problems, and lots of contracts and funding streams will come to an end at the end of December or March.
  12. Young people are being hit by cuts in Education Maintenance Allowance, rises in student fees, and cuts to youth services. These are being cut and handed over to government cronies. National collective bargaining for staff is under threat. A legal challenge is being mounted.
  13. In the debate, EC members highlighted the 200,000+ people who had taken to the streets in the various recent protests against the cuts (especially the students), the potential for recruiting new members and activists to help the campaign. The coalition is already divided, but is attacking everyone at once, as with the Poll Tax, rather than isolating and picking off groups. To make the campaign successful, we have to work with others, which means listening to them. Coordination by lay activists at local level is vital as well as the national dimension. UNITE’s Retired Members Association members may have the time and knowledge to make a real contribution. The public holiday for the royal wedding will cost about £6bn, and one EC member asked if this was really the right priority.
  14. One EC member raised the point that while the union was campaigning against the cuts nationally, reps in particular workplaces can come under pressure to minimise the impact of the cuts on members rather than opposing the cuts. For example, Voluntary Redundancy rather than Compulsory Redundancy doesn’t save jobs or services, so this approach can break unity with service users. The cuts will in any case often be too big for there to be an option of negotiating an “acceptable” outcome.
  15. I asked for an update on organising trains and other transport to the TUC anti-cuts demonstration on 26th March 2011, and in getting Area Activist meetings to organise for the anti-cuts campaign. Tony Woodley said that people were active in all regions but could do more. I pointed out that the proposed change in index-linking from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) affected state benefits, state pensions, public sector pensions and many private sector pensions, and was due to be implemented from April. I suggested that this was an ideal issue to overcome some of the divisions the government and media are trying to promote. Gail Cartmail said that the union was looking at a legal challenge to the change. I highlighted that several other unions (e.g. NUT, UCU and PCS) are discussing coordinated ballots for industrial action against the cuts before March, and asked whether UNITE could join in. Gail Cartmail didn’t believe UNITE had an industrial dispute until after the Hutton review was complete, but agreed that a joint strategy was important. I asked whether more UNITE anti-cuts materials which were aimed at the general public (most of our members!) could be made available (e.g. on the web site) as a lot of the material seemed aimed at members in the public sector. Gail Cartmail highlighted the petition over the NHS on the union web site which is aimed at everyone.
  16. Many of the cuts are being de-centralised, for example through local authorities or the break up of the NHS through GP surgeries. As a result, that is where people are likely to experience and see the impact of the cuts. This make the role of the Area Activist Committees and meetings crucial, along with building local alliances, working with trades councils etc. Len McCluskey reported that he had written to all Area Activist Committees “requiring” them to get involved with local anti-cuts committees.
  17. Members were encouraged to check the map on which identifies cuts and campaigns in your local area to help you organise.
  18. A number of EC members stressed that what we are facing is an attack on all working people, our livelihoods and our way of life, and that we needed a response with matching scale and urgency.
  19. Len McCluskey had spoken at the Coalition of Resistance conference, attended by over a thousand people, and several EC members had been there too. It was agreed in principle to work with CoR and to affiliate, subject to examination by Len and Gail.
Industrial, Organising, Equality
  1. Tony Woodley provided an update on the motion on pensions from the IT & Comms National Industrial Sector Committee (NISC) which had been agreed by the January 2010 EC meeting. Tony said that it covered some actions that UNITE was taking, but that there was no intention to do more now. I pointed out that the previous response to the NISC said that the legal department had been asked to input on the suggestion of campaigning for improvements in protection during TUPE transfers, and the NISC had had no update since. Tony agreed to respond to the NISC.
  2. There was insufficient focus on the Strategy For Growth across the union. This included a lack of focus on the 100% campaign and few regions submitting proposed targets for Organising. Tony Woodley reported that he intends to personally pick up organising in UNITE now, and that he felt enthusiastic about having the time to push this.
  3. Jimmy Kelly reported that mapping booklets are now available in the regions. The IT system to support the 100% campaign is nearly ready, and will be demonstrated at the January EC meeting.
  4. Sharon Graham reported on the proposed targets that were being considered for organising campaigns in 2011, including a proposal from the IT & Comms sector. These are being researched and examined, no recommendations were ready yet. It will be important to have a mix of targets as the allocation of organising resource shapes what sort of union UNITE will be in the future. The EC was updated on successes in several of the current campaigns, including recognition wins.
  5. There was a discussion about the ongoing problems with USDAW who are agreeing single-union deals with retail employers and seeking to apply them even when those employers relocate logistics workers with UNITE membership, organisation and recognition to completely new depots, effectively derecognising UNITE and allowing the employer, rather than the workers, to choose the union. Attempts to agree a resolution with USDAW have failed. The TUC are being asked to rule on the question, and there were serious concerns that if the TUC ruled against UNITE, we would be faced by either employers being able to gradually eliminate UNITE from a major industry in favour of a more compliant union, or having to decide to break with the TUC and seeing open conflict between UNITE and USDAW in the industry.
  6. A new industrial action ballot is planned for BA cabin crew in their long-running dispute, with dates to be announced soon, once membership checks are completed. BA continues to discipline or sack anyone discussing the strike, collecting money for sacked workers or even using a UNITE pen. The atmosphere of bullying within the company is terrible. Further talks at ACAS were planned. Willie Walsh is due to move on to a different role on 24th January, and it is hoped that his successor as CEO (Keith Williams) will be less of a belligerent bully. BA is back in profit and the directors have awarded themselves big pay rises and shares. Everyone stressed their support for the members at BA who have shown tremendous courage and determination in the face of great provocation and pressure.
  7. Arising from the discussion on BA, there was an interesting debate about the conduct of disputes. Derek Simpson stressed the importance of choosing tactics to ensure public support. Len McCluskey agreed that was desirable, but pointed out that running a dispute in a service industry is different to in many areas of manufacturing, as when workers take action, the public is affected. Len acknowledged that there were tactical decisions to be made, and felt the stewards are the key to that. When members and their stewards decide to take action, the union must back them, even if that means being attacked in the media.
  8. Diana Holland reported that Teresa May is planning not to implement the parts of the Equality Act that deal with class/income. This is particularly significant given the way the government cuts are hitting the poor hardest. The government is reducing the range of things (e.g. an adapted chair) that funding is available for people with disabilities through the Access To Work scheme.
  9. Updated UNITE guidance documents on the Equality Act are being produced, but until stocks run out the intention is to use the old ones plus documents explaining what has changed, as most of the points are the same. Regions are arranging Equality Act updates for all reps.
  10. Under the legal report, there was a discussion about the issue of blacklisting in construction. A member had won an important case, others are ongoing. The Joint General Secretaries have been conducting an investigation into the allegation that nine UNITE full-time officers provided information about members to the blacklist. Derek Simpson reported that the individual making the allegation had left the employment of Amicus under a cloud and had since worked for the employers. He said that the union would act on any names, documents or evidence provided, but the individual had provided none, and that he or his employer could be liable if he was making false allegations. The Joint General Secretaries have sought guidance from an external solicitor about the cases of five officers still working for the union, and the guidance was that one of them merited a conversation with the individual to find out more. One of the EC members from construction offered to provide further correspondence from a branch to the Joint General Secretaries and to the legal department.
  11. The Joint General Secretaries’ Report included the following from the IT & Comms and Electrical Engineering & Electronics sectors:
IT and Communications
Industrial issues
Unite members voted by 9 to 1 in favour of strike action and action short of strike action on BBC proposals on pensions and pay. The BBC proposed to cap pay increases at 1% for pensionable pay purposes from 1 April 201 and offered a flat rate pay increase of £475 for staff paid up to £37,726 a year.
Following notice of strike dates, further negotiations with BBC have resulted in a further offer.
Thanks to the strong stand, negotiations have resulted in a new offer which will see improvements to the career average option called CAB 2011 as follows:
· pensions being revalued at CPI up to a maximum of 4% (compared to the previous offer of up to 2.5%)
· pensions in payment being automatically increased by CPI up to a maximum of 4% (compared to 2.5%)
· Employee contributions being 6% (compared to 7% originally proposed)
· In periods of high inflation and subject to affordability there will be joint discretion between the BBC and the trustees to award a higher percentage increase for re-valuation purposes with an arbitration process if agreement cannot be reached.
· Up to £5 million per year to address AVC and added years issues subject to further discussion.
In addition the BBC has now conceded a compromise position on the 5 month ACAS provision which restores additional protection for staff facing redundancy.
Reps and stewards from BECTU, NUJ and Unite have decided it is significant and have agreed to put this offer to members in a consultative ballot. Under the proposal the BBC will put millions more into pensions.
BECTU, NUJ and Unite have submitted a pay claim for a consolidated RPI increase to be paid from January 2011 based on the October 2010 RPI figure and a consolidated RPI increase from January 2012 based on the October 2011 figure with a minimum increase of 3%. Unite would also expect the agreed increase to be reflected in allowances and the floors of salary grades in each year.
Arising out of two meetings held over the last few months between Fujitsu and a Unite team of representatives and full-time officials chaired by ACAS following the dispute earlier this year, the union has now finalised and agreed a revised Fujitsu National Protocol on Facilities
The three main additions to the previous version of this Protocol are:
§ On a case-by-case basis, the company may allow reasonable paid leave for accredited Unite reps to undertake training related to their role.(This is not restricted to areas where Unite has recognition)
§ Unite representatives across the company may hold a phone conference in work time about once a month, to last no longer than ninety minutes on each occasion.(Again this is not restricted to areas where Unite has recognition)
§ The company will allow meetings of members on company premises, outside the work time of the participants. The union will inform the company contact points in advance of such meetings.
A constitution has been agreed for “Fujitsu Voice”, the company’s new structure for informing and consulting UK employees, replacing the old UK Consultative Forum (UKCF). Elections held for employee reps with Unite and other union candidates standing for election in most constituencies have resulted in nearly 50% of the elected representatives being union activists or members..
A pay settlement has been agreed between Unite and the company for the Manchester bargaining group from 1st August 2010. The main features include a “cost of living” increase of 1% or £225 (whichever is the greater), a further approximately 1% to be allocated on the basis of matrices that guarantee larger increases for higher performers and the lower paid, 0.25% to be allocated at managers’ discretion and the company reviewing the salaries of anyone paid less than £13,500
The company has announced a further 1300 job cuts on top of 900 announced in June this year and around 4000 axed over the past two years. With this announcement, HP has cut over 6000 jobs in the UK since September 2008.
The company has advised us of proposals to close the final salary pension scheme to future accrual for all members at 31 December 2010. Meetings with the company are being arranged.
Computer Services Organising Project
Following the organising workshop for reps in CSC, Fujitsu HP, IBM and Steria in autumn 2009, further workshops took place in September and October. A follow up has been arranged for late November with the assistance of the Organising Department to take the campaign forward. A bid has also been submitted on behalf of the Sector for Organising Department resources for 2011 and 2012.
Future of cheques
In December 2009, the Board of the Payments Council announced a target end date of 31 October 2018 for cheque clearings in Great Britain and Northern Ireland and said there should be "no scenario" for using cheques by 2018. A final review will come in 2016. This is of key importance to our members in HP and iPSL, a Unisys joint venture company, who are involved in cheque processing and clearing for all the major UK clearing banks.
Following our submission to the House of Lords Treasury Committee in support of our members’ livelihoods, we are working across the IT & Communications, Finance and GPM Sectors on this campaign in order to safeguard the interests of members affected and people and organisations who rely on being able to use cheques as a means of payment. Sectors such as Logistics are also known to be affected.
Performance Management
We have carried out a survey of members in the Sector to analyse views on how performance management is dealt with and to assess the use of systems such as forced ranking amongst IT and Communications companies. The results of this survey will be published shortly.
Home Office consultation on Limits on Non-EU Economic Migration
A submission was made to the Home Office UK Borders Agency consultation in line with previous practice and submissions by the sector, highlighting the need to tighten up the intra-company transfer route but opposing the government’s cap on net migration.
Electrical Engineering and Electronics
Strategy for growth
PHS Compliance
Further to the takeover of CLM, Epsilon and PowerPlus to create PHS Compliance, a 30 day consultation period is underway concerning proposed changes to T&Cs. The main problem is caused by the impact of new processes on the bonus scheme. This can lead to a significant reduction in earnings for former Epsilon employees. However, due to the recognition agreement with Unite, the company is having to conduct the consultation on a collective basis with our shop stewards whereas CLM employees are not.
As a result, Unite is undertaking a campaign to recruit CLM staff into the union. PowerPlus employees are also being recruited into the Union. We currently have three shop stewards representing the north, midlands and south of the country with the potential of doubling the membership.
Prysmian Energy Cables – Installations
Following further national negotiations on the 2009/2010 wage negotiations the company proposed a 3.5% pay offer for 2011. The offer withdrew the previous proposal for an increase in 2009 which had been rejected by the membership ballot and reiterated the pay freeze for 2010.
Although the offer for 2011 was a welcome move, given that the company refused to reinstate the 2009 element this was also rejected by the negotiating team.
Prysmian Energy Cables
National level meetings have been taking place with all bargaining groups, Aberdare, Bishopstoke, Wrexham and Installations over proposals to move the pay date forward by two weeks. The effect of this would be to pay staff four weeks in hand. Currently the company pay two weeks in hand and two weeks up front. The proposal also provided for a bonus of £500 if the change was agreed and implemented by November.
Following adjournments and counter proposals no agreement was reached. Further meetings are scheduled to take place.
Consideration is also being given to all bargaining units negotiating pay and conditions on a national basis.
Cummings Generator Technologies
Extensive negotiations have been held at site level to produce a plan to save the plant from a drastic reduction in staff and production, 500 staff reduced to 100, at the Stamford site. It also required proposals to reduce the gap between post and pre 2000 staff where there had been a 30% pay differential.
The proposals were for a five year pay deal from October 2010 to September 2015 and to move to a 3 Shift system over four days to five day working. The proposals made alterations to the shift premium providing for no premium for morning shift, 15% for evening shift and 24% for night shift but reducing to 22% in year three of the pay deal.
Overtime rates were also altered with longer flat rate time working until O/T rates applied. Then O/T premium would remain the same at 29%.

Holiday period shutdown would be moved from Whitsun week in May to Easter. The Summer shutdown to remain unchanged.

Recruitment, an additional 30 temporary agency staff would be taken on.
Following the acceptance of the proposals the company would invest over 6 million dollars in Stamford for automation.
Following a ballot of the membership the new agreement was accepted.
Diodes Zetex
A further meeting took place with the company and the Engineering Employers Federation at which it was noted that the NMI was not prepared to go ahead with supporting an industry wide body.
However, it was agreed to see if progress could be made on working together to improve standards with a group of companies under the auspices of the EEF which would have the effect of establishing industry “leaders” in improving best practice going forward.
FKI Pensions
Local site consultation has been ongoing over the proposed closure of the final salary scheme for all constituent schemes with the FKI Group Pension schemes. This includes companies such as Brush Electric, Brush Transformers, Brush Traction, Hawker Sidley and Bridon.
The company is offering a defined contribution scheme in its place but the level of pension provision in all the projections will substantially decrease the final pension. The company has refused to hold national level meetings to discuss possible savings to the DB scheme or, to consult on a national basis improving the DC scheme.
Following a national level meeting with Unite shop stewards the following proposals were agreed to be put to the group companies at each site. In considering the general thrust of the Group’s proposals it was generally felt that the proposals:
- reduced Companies’ future service contributions by around 50% which was too much and would diminish benefits by an unreasonable amount;
- shifted too much of the risk of future pension provision onto the members
The general preference of members was to retain a defined benefit pension, as this gave members a greater degree of certainty as to what their future pension would be. However, it was recognised that in order to persuade the Company to maintain a substantial DB Scheme it may be necessary to consider changes which reduce future service costs and which reduce the degree of risk to which the Group was exposed
The changes outlined below would, in my opinion, reduce the future service cost to the Companies by approximately 25% and reduce the risk from future liability growth by approximately 50%, while maintaining the cost to members at current levels.
Outline of possible revised DB
  • one DB benefit structure for all DB members
- delivering significant savings in administration
  • CARE with RPI revaluation capped at 5%
- reducing the past service deficit and future service cost
- eliminating the risk that future pay rises would add to past service liability
  • 1/100 accrual
-reducing benefit/liability by 40%
  • Contracted-in to State Second Pension
- The State Second Pension would supplement the Company pension reducing accrual loss to c. 15% for a typical member
  • Pension calculated on Basic Pay
- a standard definition would need to be agreed
  • 5% contribution plus 1.6% extra NI
- intended to broadly match the current 7% member contribution level
Improvement in the Group proposals
Unite also discussed some of the negative impacts of closure and the shortcomings of the DC Scheme proposal. While members’ preference is to retain DB, we considered proposals intended to limit losses on past and future service benefits and a measure of compensation for loss of a DB pension.
It was the view of the trade unions that the package of changes outlined below would lead to a future service cost for the Company of a similar cost to the DB alternative outlined above i.e. it would reduce Companies’ future service costs by 25% rather than the near 50% reduction their proposals suggest
  • Deferred pension increases based on RPI to maximum 5% and minimum 3%
- extending current best practice to all ‘active/deferred members
  • Deferred DB benefits paid unreduced in the event of ill health
- not acceptable for reductions to apply whilst actives are still employed
  • DC based on Gross Pay
- in DC there is no valid reason not to pension variable pay
  • Extra tier of matching 5.5% employee – 8% employer
- improving company contribution and rewarding members who maintain current contribution level (5.5% = extra NI = 7%) of 7%
  • Double contributions in year 1 for DB members signing up
- to incentivise members to join and accept change, a limited compensation
  • Prospective DC contributions to SPA paid as supplement to fund on ill health
- replacing prospective service credit in the DB pension calculation
  • Extra x2 lump sum on death in service for members with dependants
- replacing prospective service element in the DB dependants pension
  • Amalgamation of DB and DC benefits at retirement for tax free cash
- minimise the position of members having to sell DB pension for cash while at the same time using DC cash to buy pension
- allowing many members to take all DC fund as tax free cash
Discussions are ongoing at both site and national level meetings.
  1. The Joint General Secretaries had not progressed the appointment of a replacement for Charlie Whelan as Political Director pending the result of the General Secretary election. John O’Regan is covering for the moment, and Len McCluskey is now considering the issue.
  2. A proposal on the composition of the National Political Committee will be taken away for further consideration and brought back to the January EC meeting. This does have an impact on the conference timetable for two regions. It was reiterated that responsibility for the political policies of the union lies with the Executive Council and General Secretaries, not the Political Committees.
  3. There was a lot of anger at the disgracefully poor turnout of Labour MPs for the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill. Of the 102 MPs in UNITE’s parliamentary group, 31 (30.4%) had turned out. Some UNITE MPs (e.g. Gordon Banks, Alan Meale, Gisela Stuart, David A Wright) never attend votes relating to union rights, while others always attend (e.g. Jim Dobbin, Jim Dowd, Paul Farrelly, Dai Havard, Tony Lloyd, Andrew Miller, Jim Sheridan). This will be taken into account in deciding future Constituency Development Plans. Len McCluskey said that trade union rights had not been on the New Labour agenda, though he hoped Ed Milliband would change this. He noted that Labour councils were sacking UNITE convenors and argued that Labour only has the right to exist if it represents working people and organise labour.
  4. UNITE will continue its “key seats” election strategy for next year, which will be a big test, coming in the middle of the cuts. The Unite4Labour web site will be re-launched, facilitating member-to-member contact.
  5. The Tories might want to implement the £50K donations cap following the Hayden-Phillips report, but it will be harder for them to justify state funding for political parties in the context of the cuts.
  6. Approximately 2% of UNITE members are in the Labour Party, while around 80% pay the political levy.
  7. More work is required with UNITE local councillors. About 50 out of 1000 had attended a recent event, and the discussion had been about how to cut and attack terms and conditions, rather than how to defend them.
  1. There was still no proposal from the General Secretaries to harmonise branch funding (former TGWU branches get 10% of subs, former Amicus branches get 3% of subs with remaining money “clawed back” at the end of the year). I proposed that while this was unresolved, the claw-back should not be implemented this year. Derek Simpson opposed this. Len McCluskey gave a commitment that the issue would be resolved within the next two EC meetings, before the term of office of the current Executive Council expires.
  2. Standing Orders for Area Activist Meetings (as opposed to Committees) are being left up to regions. Expenses for those attending will be paid.
  3. The audit of Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs) and Area Activist Committees (AACs), to check which are fully functioning and where further action is required is not quite complete.
  4. As expected, the cost of the recovery plan for UNITE’s pension schemes is having a significant impact on the union’s finances. The EC heard an update on proposals for reducing the cost of the former TGWU pension scheme, which members are being consulted on, but which are hoped to be agreed by 1st January 2011. Savings from the VR programme are still rising, but more work on finances will be required as paying membership of both former sections continues to decline.
  5. It was reported that Les Bayliss had opted to leave his job with the union, and the EC agreed that Ed Sabiski would take on responsibility for the whole of UNITE’s finances, covering both former sections.
  6. EC members gave feedback on the proposed design for new UNITE membership cards and the accompanying letter, as a result of which a number of changes will be made and further discussion with the General Secretaries held before they are finalised by the end of January.
  7. Rules for expense claims for overseas trips were agreed.
  8. A proposal was tabled for a single system for UNITE members and reps to access legal support:
A new system has been agreed in outline. This will replace the two systems that are currently in operation. Coupled with this there will be a new system of reporting requirements for all of our panel firms. This is nearly ready to be rolled out for employment work, and will subsequently be applied to personal injury work. Collecting data from all of our firms will enable us to compare, for example, turn-down rates, success rates, and enable us to identify which of our panel firms are acting for employers/insurance companies.
· Objectives: - good quality, practical legal advice for
- Union protected
- no excessive red tape
- uniform system across the Union
- transparent & solicitors accountable
· Features of new system:
Ø engages officers/reps in the process
Ø second opinions where members complain about first advice
Ø test continues to be 50% prospects of success
Ø couple local relationships with solrs with central reporting requirements & centralised & uniform obligations on solrs
Ø good access for member to a solr – opportunity to explain case etc
Proposed system in outline
  • Officer/rep (where appropriate) phones local solrs & gives outline details. Where convenors/reps already have access to local solrs, they can also phone local solrs directly
  • Receives call back within one hour & advice provided
  • If claim about which advice sought seems to have reasonable prospects, member completes a form, officer confirms on form that member is eligible for legal assistance, and officer sends form to solrs. Officer to send standard letter to member advising that until s/he hears from solrs, it’s member’s responsibility to submit any claim – protects Union
  • Solrs then communicate with member directly & copy officer into communications. Defined response times for solrs. As necessary face to face meeting can be arranged
  • If claim doesn’t have reasonable prospects, solr tells officer on phone, who tells member. Solr has to confirm advice by email. Advice can be shared with reps, unless confidential, in which case solr has to make clear that advice can’t be shared. Officer to advise member & send standard letter that protects the Union
  • If member doesn’t accept advice, officer gets member to complete form & refers through for written advice (gives member opportunity to incl all relevant info – will incl direct contact bet solr & member)
  • If member doesn’t accept written advice, Legal Services to refer to another firm for a second opinion/get solr to review advice
  • If officer advises that there are special reasons not to turn claim down, & solr wants to, Reg Secretary to decide
  • Specific provision on form to allow officer to advise if commercial settlement is a possibility
  • If officer doesn’t accept solrs’ advice, Reg Sec to decide whether claim to be pursued.
Though this is clearly a big step forward, there were concerns about some aspects of it, and it was agreed to note it for further review before being finalised at the January EC meeting.
  1. Len McCluskey agrees that it is important to have a single clear procedure for handling complaints from members, to replace the old Amicus and TGWU ones.
  2. Standing Orders for the Retired Members’ Association were agreed.
  3. Arrangements for proportionate allocation of delegates to the 2011 Rules Conference were agreed. Where the membership is large enough, delegates will be elected from Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs). Otherwise, delegates will be elected from National Industrial Sector Committees (NISCs), but with an obligation to ensure regional balance in the overall sector delegation. The Electrical Engineering & Electronics (EEE) sector will have 4 delegates, at least one of whom must be a woman. The IT & Comms (ITC) sector will have 3 delegates, at least one of whom must be a woman.
  4. Arrangements for the election of the new Executive Council in 2011 were agreed. [NOTE: information about this election is gradually being posted on the union web site]. I’ve created a separate web page setting out the main points. For the most part, the process is very similar to that used for the recent General Secretary election. The main differences are:
    1. Tony Woodley will be the Returning Officer
    2. Though branches and workplaces must use the notice of their nominating meeting and must retain a copy of it, they are not required to attach it to their nomination form
    3. Electoral Reform Services are seeing if they can customise the nomination forms to reduce the number of errors
    4. There will be no mailing to members in advance of the ballot papers going out
    5. Election addresses will be up to 300 words
    6. Under rule, candidates require at least three valid nominations to stand
Every branch can nominate for the seats for their region, for the national equalities seats, and for the seat(s) for sector(s) in which the branch has members.
Every workplace can nominate for the national equality seats and for the seat(s) for the sector the workplace is in.
To make a nomination, the branch/workplace must uniquely identify the member they are nominating with a name and membership number. As TGWU membership numbers are changing around the time of the election, either the old or new number will be accepted.
Voting in the elections for a national equality seat is restricted to the members identified as belonging to that equality grouping (i.e. women or Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority).
  1. A policy on Childcare and Carer Expenses was (at last) agreed, and the union committed to communicating it widely to ensure people are not excluded from participating in the union due to caring responsibilities.
  2. As part of the union’s education programme, a number of “interactive talks” are planned. The first will be with Wilkinson & Picket, the authors of The Spirit Level, which has been highly influential in making the case that greater equality is good for the whole of society (not just those at the bottom) and that high union membership is a key factor in achieving greater equality.
  3. The Education and Legal departments are planning training for reps in the light of changes to the rules on industrial action ballots.
  4. Arrangements for and delegates to the Irish Policy Conference 2011 were agreed. I highlighted that there were no delegates from either the EEE or ITC sectors, on the grounds that their RISCs were not operating (this was also true for Construction, Community & Not For Profit in the Republic of Ireland and Servicing & General Industries in the Republic of Ireland. I pointed out that there were workplaces in Ireland who had sent delegates to the National Industrial Sector Committee before the merger, and that therefore it seemed unlikely that nobody was willing to participate in the RISC. It was agreed that the non-functioning RISCs must be sorted out, and if they couldn’t be made to work, the EC should be told why.
  5. The long-standing issue of where the Communication Managers Association (CMA) should be placed in the UNITE structure was still not resolved, and a decision had to be taken in order to ensure that they could participate in the Executive Council elections. The latest proposal was that they should be placed in Servicing and General Industries. It was agreed that Tony Woodley would speak to the relevant committees and then take a decision.
  1. Mass protests and general strikes have been taking part in several countries against the cuts. France has only 7% of workers in trade unions (far lower than the UK) but the unions are succeeding in mobilising millions of people.
  2. The European Commission is trying to respond to an economic crisis produced by neo-liberal free-market economic policies by going even further in that direction. They are considering imposing fines of up to 0.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for countries that do not reduce their deficits “fast enough”.
  3. The EC had an update on progress in organising workers in the Bangladeshi ship-breaking industry, who experience appalling wages, working conditions and safety. Consideration is being given to financial support and possibly involving them with “Workers Uniting” (our international structure with the USW in the USA and Canada).
  4. It was reported that there had been no meeting of the Workers Uniting steering group this year. Len McCluskey will review it.
  5. UNITE is protesting against the plans of the Columbian government to withdraw protection from the executive of the FENSUAGRO union, given the high rate of murders of trade unionists in the country.
  6. Two UNITE members, Richard Allday and Russ Ball, had helped drive the recent aid convoy to Gaza on behalf of the London & Eastern Region. It was agreed that they should be invited to give a report at the next EC meeting. The UNI international union federation now opposes companies involvement with the occupied territories or the wall.
  7. I pointed out that the G20 summit for 2011 will be taking place in France, and that French trade unionists were planning to make this a focal point for international protests against the austerity policies being pursued by governments. It was agreed that UNITE should get involved with this.
  8. It was agreed to send a donation to a sister union in New Zealand to help with the hardship arising from the recent mining disaster.
Other Resolutions (remits or motions) and correspondence included:
  1. There were a number of remits complaining about the conduct of Assistant General Secretary Les Bayliss. Given that he had left the employment of the union, it was agreed to note these.
  2. A remit from the Scottish Regional Committee on the Retired Members Association was AGREED.
  3. A remit from the North-East, Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Committee on paid time off for training of union representatives was AGREED, with the comment that we wanted time off for all training.
  4. A remit from the North-East, Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Committee on Young People, Skills & Apprenticeships was supported in principle, with the comment that it had been policy for some time. It was agreed to send it to the Docks, Rail, Ferries & Waterways NISC, to whom it appeared to be really addressed.
  5. A remit from West Midlands Regional Committee on the recession was AGREED.
  6. A remit from West Midlands Regional Committee on accredited representatives was NOTED in light of the fact that the incoming General Secretary would be conducting a review of all administration issues.
  7. Remits from London & Eastern Regional Committee and East Midlands Regional Committee calling for a review of arrangements with affinity partners to ensure they recognise unions was AGREED. This will be taken up as part of the review of contractual obligations and the removal of duplication.
  8. A remit from Servicing & General Industries NISC asking whether the union had sufficient funds to pay £30 per day strike pay from day one was NOTED. UNITE’s finances are sound, but if we were heading for a really major dispute that might change this, the EC could be recalled.
  9. A remit from East Midlands Regional Committee about subs rates and a membership pack was NOTED. There are already reduced rates for part-time workers and there are no plans to change subs rates at present. A proposal for a new membership pack and an approach to member retention will be brought to the next EC meeting.
  10. A remit from North West Regional Committee to increase the proportion of lay members to full-time officials who are TUC delegates, in the light of the reduction in our delegation size, was AGREED.
  11. A remit from North West Regional Committee calling for better management and a lower threshold for taking Employment Tribunal cases provoked a debate before being NOTED and referred to the legal department. Tony Woodley said there was no intention of lowering the threshold from 50%, but that this could be over-ridden where there was a good reason to do so. Len McCluskey denied that he had said he supported such a change at the General Secretary election hustings at the IT & Comms NISC.
  12. A remit from the South East Regional Committee asked about a student accommodation company who had sued UNITE over use of the name. One EC member recalled this being in a written legal report to the TWGU GEC at the time. Tony Woodley committed to check and respond at the January EC meeting.
  13. A remit from the Docks, Rail, Ferries & Waterways NISC asking for help in the campaign against the privatisation of the Port of Dover was AGREED.
  14. A remit from the RMA National Committee over Income Tax was AGREED.
  15. In response to a remit from the Scottish Regional Committee asking for an office in Inverness, Tony Woodley said he would review this.
  16. It was agreed to refer a remit from the Scottish Regional Committee asking for extra strike pay for a small group of strikers in the region back to the region, who could fund this themselves.
  17. A remit from the Construction NISC was NOTED as it dealt with construction work at a union office that the local council wouldn’t let us do anyway.
  18. There was a remit from the Local Authority NISC asking for a late start and early finish and an overnight stay to their Sector Conference. From the discussion, it appeared this was actually about NISC meetings, not the conference. The policy remains that this will not be the norm or a precedent, but reasonable and justified requests for overnight stays will not be refused.
  19. It was AGREED to support remits from the South West Regional Committee and National BAEM Committee about the violation of the human rights of members in Gibraltar who are non-EU nationals. Tony Woodley said he intended to visit as part of the campaign.
  20. A remit from the South West Regional Committee on criteria for union Award Badges was AGREED. A proposal on this will be brought to the January EC meeting.
  21. A remit from the South West Regional Committee opposing increases to the pension age and the move to use CPI rather than RPI to calculate pensions was AGREED.
  22. In response to a letter from the UCU and NUS about the campaign against education cuts, increase in student fees etc, it was AGREED that we support this campaign.
  23. A remit from the National LGBT Committee on monitoring equality data for members will be dealt with at the January EC. There had previously been no monitoring of LGBT status, but this is now legal as long as it is voluntary.
  24. Further discussion will take place in response to a remit from the CAT NISC asking for sub-groups to deal with specific industrial matters.
  25. In response to a remit from the Scottish Regional Committee on expenses, members are asked to highlight any areas of the administration that are not working properly.
  26. In response to a letter from the National Officer, the EC AGREED that a branch of the Transport Professionals Association (TPA) should be formed, based in London, following a previous decision to rebrand BTOG as TPA.
  27. Further discussion will take place about the allocation to sectors of construction workers employed by Local Authorities or outsourced companies doing work for Local Authorities.
  28. A remit from the Local Authorities NISC seeking the setting up of a fund to oppose the cuts with branches and regions being asked to donate was withdrawn for further discussion.