Friday, 16 December 2011

Public sector pensions fight

Predictably, the government is seeking to divide the resistance to cuts and austerity by trying to bully union leaders into accepting a very poor deal on public sector pensions.

News (e.g. RTW) is coming out in dribs and drabs from yesterday's TUC Public Sector Liaison Group meeting about the union response to this, which doesn't appear to be entirely good news from all the unions.

UNITE's Executive Council agreed an excellent statement on the campaign last week which specifically "calls on all unions to stand together in opposition to government attempts to divide unions and offer terms of settlement to some while continuing the attack on others".

A number of activists in various public sector unions have launched a statement opposing any sell-out which you can sign here and view signatories here.  There's also going to be a lobby of the TUC Public Sector Liaison Group at 2pm outside Congress House.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Strike over pay at IT Services company Steria

UNITE members at Steria are striking tomorrow over pay.  There's a copy of the UNITE press release below, which includes details of the picket lines in Bristol, Coventry and High Wycombe.

Click here for an email address to which you can send messages of support.

Press Release: Unite members at Steria strike over pay dispute
Members of Unite, employed by IT services company Steria UK Ltd working on a Capita account, will take industrial action tomorrow (Friday, 16 December) in protest against the company's refusal to offer a pay rise for 2010 (payable from April 2011).

Unite members, who are system developers and analysts, voted an overwhelming 82 per cent in favour of strike action. Industrial action will take place at various Steria sites in Bristol, Coventry and High Wycombe (see notes) and staff will take part in the 24 hour strike from midnight tonight.

Unite regional officer, Jerry Pickford, said: “This is the first time that this group of workers have ever taken these steps as they feel that they have no option other than to withdraw their labour in protest at the refusal of Steria to make any kind off pay offer whatsoever.

“Over the last few years, our members have seen their workload increase tremendously and for nearly a decade they have received below inflation pay rises, which in real terms is seen as a pay cut. They have now reached the point where they are saying ‘enough is enough’.

“Management claim the current financial condition is the reason that a zero pay award has been given to staff, however, Steria continues to post excellent results for both last year and the first three quarters of this year. It also seems that its executives are immune to these financial conditions as they award themselves very healthy pay rises and bonuses.

“Further action will be planned for the near future. However, we hope that Steria will see sense and show proper respect for a group of workers that continually over perform for the company.”

For further information contact Jerry Pickford on 07764 655759 or Ashraf Choudhury in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07980 224761.


24 hour strike action will take place from 12.00am, Friday 16 December at the following sites:

  • Friends Life Centre, Brierly Furlong, Stoke Gifford, Bristol, BS34 8SW.
  • 75 Corporation Street, Coventry, CV1 1GD.
  • Ashton Court, Kingsmead Business Park, Frederick Place, High Wycombe, HP11 1LA.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

UNITE branches - big changes

After years of stalling and deadlock, progress is finally being made to move towards a single new branch structure for UNITE.  This week's Executive Council (EC) meeting took decisions on branch functions and finances, and on moves towards a branch structure more based on workplaces.

The EC agreed a paper which included some points on what branches will do, going beyond the role set out in rule 17:

  1. Keep up to date the membership records of all members in the branch, especially employer, workplace, address, home phone number, mobile number and email address.
  2. Generally provide advice, guidance and representation up to stage 1 disciplinary and grievance hearings.  An "accredited support rep" concept needs to be developed to fulfil this task.  Branches may pay expenses and a modest payment for time to members doing this.  Full-time officials would normally undertake final appeals.
  3. Have the option of deciding at a branch meeting that all branch members pay an amount above their basic union subscriptions to create an additional "Branch Fund".
  4. Be active and have a commitment to branch growth through organising.
How branch finances will work:
  1. There will be no "claw back" of branch money to the centre, including at the end of 2011.
  2. The funds currently held by old branches to be split proportionately amongst the new branches their members go to.
  3. Once a branch has been confirmed as an ongoing UNITE branch, it will (from 1 January 2012) receive 10% of its members subs, less half of any employer fee for administering check-off (deduction from salary).  If confirmation is after 1 January 2012, payments will be backdated to then.  Branches will receive their money monthly into their bank accounts.
  4. A new Unite Dispute Fund is being set up with an initial contribution of £25m.  2.5% of subs will be deducted from each branch's finances as a contribution to the fund.  The Dispute Fund will be responsible for all costs necessary to fight a dispute, apart from payroll costs for UNITE employees.  It will be controlled by the EC through a subcommittee.
  5. Branches to pay all expenses for running the branch, including meeting rooms, newsletters, postage, conferences etc.  The intention is for branches to meet in union facilities where practicable.  Where facilities are not available, Regional Secretaries can agree to reimburse meeting room costs from the regional fund.  [IA comment: many workplace branches are likely to want to meet on the employer's premises, to maximise attendance]  On request, the union can help branches arrange cost-effective printing and website services to help minimise these costs.
  6. Branches to pay lay member expenses other than for constitutional meetings or meetings called by a Regional Secretary or National Officer.  This includes branches paying expenses for attending the open Area Activist Meetings (but not the Committees).  Normally this would include combines and national shop stewards meetings, but where branches would have difficulty covering this, the Assistant General Secretary covering the sector can authorise payment.
  7. Funds to be held with Unity Bank (or Allied Irish Bank in the Republic or Ireland) in the branch name, and belong to the union.  Branches must notify Central Office of all bank accounts.
  8. Payments to individuals (including branch officers) for running the branch must be minuted decisions of a branch meeting.  They cannot in total exceed 2.5% of subs, excluding legitimate expenses and in relation to member servicing (see the point about "accredited support rep"s above).
  9. No payments to any UNITE employee or their immediate family.  Any exceptions must be justified and approved by the General Secretary or their designate.
  10. Branches to submit quarterly "returns" of their spending, and annual audited accounts (on a calendar year basis).  Payments to branches will cease if a satisfactory return/accounts have not been supplied by the end of the quarter following the end of the relevant period.  Central office will supply a template for return/accounts.  Audited branch annual accounts must be submitted to a branch meeting for approval, and must be made available to branch members on request.
  11. UNITE will provide training to branch officers.
Branch structure
The intention is to give branches a greater role in the union, to make them more relevant to the members and to bring resources closer to the members.

Where possible, branches will be "workplace" based.  Note that the definition of a workplace can be flexible - it might be one employer in a particular area in some cases.

Where workplace branches can't be sustained, the next option would be industry branches, for example taking in all members in IT & Communications in a particular area or region.

There are a few cases where national branches are being approved for particular employers, but this clearly has major disadvantages in terms of members' ability to participate.

Where members can't be placed in workplace or sector branches, more general branches are being set up, possibly including all remaining members in a particular geographic area, or maybe grouping together a number of industrial sectors.

The new branch structure should simplify linking members and reps into the UNITE structure, for example allowing regions to allocate officers or union solicitors on a branch-by-branch basis.

Proposals from a number of regions were put before the EC, which gave the go-ahead for new branches to be created.  A minority of the proposals did raise concerns, which people should take up with the relevant Regional Secretary.  If you're unaware of the proposals for your own workplace, I'd encourage you to ask via your region as soon as possible.  Some regions hadn't yet produced proposals, and were told to do so by 1 January 2012.

From an IT & Comms point of view, I am concerned that because not all the Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs) are working well, reps in the sector may not have had much input into the proposals from the regions.  This could mean the regions being unaware of the issues on the ground, such as takeovers and mergers of employers, or a lack of enough activists in particular workplaces to make a branch viable.

The changes will mean new branches being created, with many old branches being merged or split up.

    Updated UNITE rulebook

    A version of the UNITE rulebook incorporating the changes made at the 2011 Rules Conference has finally been published on the union web site.

    Saturday, 10 December 2011

    UNITE Community Membership

    This week's UNITE Executive Council discussed arrangements for members who are not in paid employment, which includes students, people out of work, people unfit to work, carers and pensioners.

    This post deals specifically with "community" members.  I've posted already about retired members - who should read both posts.

    To push through its austerity measures, the government is seeking to divide those in work from the rest of the population.  UNITE's new community membership initiative is intended to build unity, give a voice to those not working, strengthen community support for members in work and strengthen the union's campaigning role in our communities.  At the same time, the union's primary focus remains the workplace, so the structures have been set up so that community members can be properly represented within the union's structures, but not dominate them.

    Anyone over 16 years of age, not in paid employment and not already in a union should join UNITE as a community member and get involved.  This includes students, the unemployed, full-time parents and carers, people too ill to work and pensioners.

    Community membership costs 50p a week, preferably paid by quarterly direct debit (£6.50 every 3 months).

    New Community Branches are being set up, initially based on the same areas as UNITE's existing "Area Activist Committees" within each region and serviced by the same officers.  So for example in the north-west, my region, the areas are Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man.  The first branch meetings will normally be called to elect officers once 50 members have signed up in a particular area.  They will also elect two members onto each Area Activist Committee.

    Community branches are funded on the same basis as all other UNITE branches, though Regional Committees may decide to financially support particular campaigns or initiatives.

    A "Community Support Unit" is being set up at UNITE head office for an initial six month-period, after which it will be reviewed.

    While I would hope most people would take up UNITE community membership to get involved and active, the initial publicity for Community membership focuses heavily on the "benefits" package, which includes:

    • Legal services (legal helpline, personal injury support)
    • Welfare benefits, tax and financial mis-selling advice
    • Gas & electricity comparison service
    • Debt counselling
    • Unite pre-paid debit card
    • Employment assistance service (CV writing, job applications, interview tips)
    • Access to hardship grants
    • Accident cover
    • Discounted insurance

    UNITE retired members

    This week's UNITE Executive Council discussed arrangements for members who are not in paid employment, which includes students, people out of work, people unfit to work, carers and pensioners.

    This post deals specifically with Retired Members.  I will post separately about Community membership, and retired members should look at both.

    Retired Members
    There are over a quarter of a million retired members in UNITE.  At the moment, some retired members pay reduced subscriptions, while many have free membership.  Most have felt pretty marginalised within the union, and the union has failed to make good use of this huge pool of commitment, knowledge, experience and time.

    Following consultation with the retired members' committee, the Executive Council agreed major changes, some of which required a rule change.

    In summary:
    1. Members who retire after 20 years' contributions will continue to be eligible for free membership.
    2. From 1 January 2012 retired members who make no financial contribution will not be eligible for benefits, but will remain entitled to vote in General Secretary elections.
    3. Retired members who wish to be eligible for union benefits after 1 January 2012 will need to have "retired member plus" or full membership.  Retired member plus membership will cost 50p a week, preferably paid by annual or biannual direct debit.
    4. Members in retirement before 31 December 2011 may be active and participate in the union's constitutional structures irrespective of their retired membership status.  Members retiring from 1 January 2012 must have retired member plus or full membership to participate in the union's structures.
    5. Retired members can choose to be a member of the branch associated with their last employment, a local retired members branch, or a local community branch.  Members cannot simultaneously be in more than one branch.
    6. There was some debate about the requirements for retired members who are branch secretaries / officers of branches (other than retired members' or community branches) to be full members.
    7. A proportion of retired member plus contributions will be remitted back to the regions for the exclusive use of retired members work and campaigning.
    8. There will be a conference of retired members in each region every three years, based on branch nomination.  This will elect a Retired Members' Regional Co-ordinating Committee of 20, which in turn will elect a retired members' observer (with speaking rights) to the Regional Committee, two delegates to the Retired Members' National Committee, and delegates to appropriate external pensioners' and labour movement organisations.
    9. Retired members who are branch delegates to Constituency Labour Parties plus four nominees from the Regional Retired Members' Co-ordinating Committee will attend the Regional Political Conference.  The EC will determine a number of retired members who can be elected to the Regional Political Committee.  Until the next Regional Political Conference, each Regional Retired Members' Co-ordinating Committee may choose two Labour Party members as extra members of the Regional Political Committee.
    10. Retired member branch officers are entitled to attend the Area Activists Meetings which take place every three years to elect Area Activist Committees, the general open Area Activists Meetings, and to stand for election to the defined retired members’ seats on Area Activists Committees.
    11. Every two years there will be a national retired members' conference, held with the other equalities conferences.  Delegates will be elected proportionately from teh retired members' regional co-ordinating committees.
    12. The Retired Members' National Committee will elect one observer to the National Political Committee and one observer to the Executive Council.  It will also elect delegates to appropriate national pensionsers' and labour movement organisations.
    Benefits of "Retired Member Plus" membership
    For new retirees after 1 January 2012, you can only participate in UNITE's structures if you have retired member plus or full membership.

    There's also a set of benefits available to those with retired member plus membership:
    • Legal Helpline – non industrial issues
    • Personal injury claims
    • Free will service
    • Fixed fee probate
    • Lasting Power of Attorney
    • Funeral Benefit
    • Free £2,500 personal accident cover (UIB)
    • Financial health check (Incorporating debt counselling/management)
    • Welfare benefit check up (Unite offers members a free benefits review service. This will check what benefits you may be able to get and give you an estimate of the amount of money you may be eligible for.) 
    • Hardship grants – via Unite Benevolent Fund
    • Discounted personal lines Insurance (LV= UIA)
    • Co-operative current account (£100 cash back for member)
    • Co-operative Funeralcare (Discounts on prepaid and at need funerals)
    • Unite prepaid debit card (Free to member. Gives discounts at leading High Street retailers – Asda, Argos, Boots, Debenhams, M&S etc.)
    • Healthcare cash plan
    • Vision Express discount vouchers
    • Independent financial advice – estate planning etc.
    • Equity release plan
    • Gas and electricity comparison service (Union Energy)
    • Holiday Club
    • Unite Lottery
    NOTE: for funeral and convalescent benefits, transitional arrangements are in place for those with free cards who retire before 1 January 2012.

    Wednesday, 7 December 2011

    UNITE Executive Council statement following November 30th

    This Unite Executive Council congratulates the two million trade unionists, including thousands of UNITE members, who struck on November 30th in defence of their pensions and our public services. The EC also welcomes and extends a huge thank you to the general public that supported in their millions and made the day a tremendous success, proving not only that we have public support but that government attempts to divide our communities will fail.

    This EC also recognises that this government is stepping up its fight against all working people with its threat to further attack trade union democracy, introduce more anti-trade union legislation and remove and/or further weaken employment protections for all.

    This EC believes that the union, working in cooperation with other public sector trade unions needs to now work up a strategic plan to escalate the action to win decent pensions for all. Action that will not only protect the pensions of our public service membership but workers across the private sector facing similar attacks on their pension schemes.

    This Executive Council

    • calls for a review of actions taken on the 30 November involving meetings in the regions as well as nationally, to see how we move forward together, share best practice and analyse strengths and weaknesses from the day. Further, we must grasp this opportunity to recruit new members and develop new stewards as part of a revitalised activist’s organisation across the union.
    • supports a plan to further nationally coordinated strike action with other public sector trade unions. The key to winning is to quickly and significantly escalate the action as early as possible in the New Year and coordinating this with private sector actions being planned as employers opportunistically attempt to undermine and/or close pension schemes across our economy.
    • supports a national march in defence of our NHS in the New Year.
    • congratulates the TUC on its coordination of action across our nations in support of each other and calls on all unions to stand together in opposition to government attempts to divide unions and offer terms of settlement to some while continuing the attack on others.
    • condemns the government and their media mogul friends who have tried to divide public and private sector workers with the claim that public sector workers have pensions far better than those enjoyed by their colleagues in the private sector. It’s time to level up not down!
    • notes that private sector workers have seen attacks on their schemes in recent years. There have been a number of strikes and threat of strikes with unions fighting back and winning concessions, despite the law being stacked against them and little legal protection for private sector schemes.
    It is clear that 2011 has seen the beginnings of a fight back against government and employer attacks on pensions, wages, jobs and services. Unite must now mobilise its members into mass action. We have demonstrated the appetite of our membership for action on March 26th and November 30th; we must build on this by nurturing our activists, mobilise the millions of workers currently under attack and put the necessary resources into doing so.

    Tuesday, 6 December 2011

    UNITE Education Programme 2012

    The union web site now has the UNITE education programme for 2012 which includes dates of reps courses round the country.

    UNITE Policy Manual 2011

    UNITE has produced a "policy manual" setting out the union's policies on the whole range of issues.  This will help members know what the policies are, and consider where policies need changing or developing at future conferences.

    IT & Comms National Industrial Sector Conference 2011

    The following motions were passed at last week's UNITE IT & Communications National Industrial Sector Conference.

    1 Mode 4

    This IT & Comms NISC notes the EU is negotiating a multibillion pound free trade agreement with the Indian Government that includes World Trade Organisation Mode 4 provisions, which will allow transnational companies to bring in local labour to work temporarily inside the EU, including the UK.

    The Information Technology industries are particularly vulnerable to these proposed provisions.

    This NISC is alarmed Mode 4 will mean it will be almost impossible to enforce employment rights for Indian workers because they may be employed by “companies of convenience” with their employment contracts registered in India, outside the jurisdiction of UK courts.

    2 Home Workers

    With the ever-expanding facility of home working within ITC it is becoming commonplace for employers to seek to reduce their costs not only by reducing office accommodation of their own but, also on the customer sites their staff are allocated to, without carrying out the full or proper workplace assessment..

    Too often members are expected to work at unreasonable times in unsuitable conditions whilst the employer “spies” on them with screen prints or key stroke counters, but failing to ensure the appropriateness of conditions or even hours worked.

    This Conference calls upon the NISC and Executive Council to put into place guidance for individuals within the IT & Communications Sector who are compelled to be home workers.

    Once the proper standards are established and guidance provided to IT home workers, this NISC calls upon the National Officer to seek agreement to these basic entitlements along with the institution of best practice on an industry-wide basis.

    3 Pay Transparency

    The conference welcomes the organising campaign focussed on fair pay and benefits in the IT sector and calls on Unite to push for pay transparency throughout the IT and communications sector.

    This conference believes that our members in this sector are being disadvantaged through employers controlling information on pay and grading. It is common practice for pay to be determined through market rates and these are ultimately controlled by the employers. Pay transparency will give our members the opportunity to actually see where they are rather than believe their employers who invariably will aim for the lowest paid.

    This conference believes that the secrecy over pay rates should be abolished and calls on all reps in the sector to actively share their pay data so that a database of pay rates, progression and increases can be created by Unite for the use of reps in negotiations.

    4 Organising in the IT & Communications Industry

    This IT & Comms Conference congratulates the NISC over the initiative UNITE for Fair and Transparent Pay and Benefits in IT Services as a step forward in promoting the Sector as a union lobbying voice for Industry workers.

    This Conference believes that Unite is best placed to become the union for Information Technology and Communications workers. This Conference notes, however, that UNITE's profile in the industry does not reflect this potential.

    Conference considers it is of fundamental importance that the Sector develops and implements an organising strategy with both sufficient resources and support and realistic targets for the next five years.

    We believe that such a strategy must be under constant review and needs to draw upon knowledge and ideas from appropriate activists both within and without the Sector as many IT/Comms workers have been outsourced from unionised employers. IT workers in particular exist in every Industry and Service Sector if they are in the union and whilst they are not part of this Sector they still possess valuable experience we can utilise.

    Most members currently joining are as individuals and in workplaces where collectivism does not exist. If they have workplace issues requiring support, it can divert scarce officer resource away from helping to build self-sustaining organised workforces.

    To help our organising efforts we need to create a database of employers that have signed up to the UN Global Compact Agreement and use their OWN commitment to it by ensuring every UK worker has the right to be organised and participate in collective bargaining. This should be an integral part of any company organising campaign across the IT sector.

    Therefore we call upon the NISC to adopt (including supporting referrals to the EC if required) the following action points:
    1. All individual members (unless willing to be an activist) joining from unorganised workplaces without a rep in the IT Sector must be informed that they will only automatically qualify for telephone advice or support from a lay companion, if available.  The planned introduction of a UNITE call centre will assist manage the demands of such members.

    2. Continued support for strengthening organisation and recruitment in larger companies where we already have a base of membership: this to include training, organiser resource, and materials to support activists on the ground.

    3. Support for activists at smaller companies where the enthusiasm of the activists, and the issues around which we can organise, indicate a potential for significant recruitment and/or recognition in the short to medium term.

    4. All other sectors' RISCs should be asked through their NISCs for reports of any outsourcing or joint activity with IT workers in their workplaces.

    5. Exploit opportunities using social networking media as well as trade magazines and industry specific websites - especially those advertising employment.

    6. Increased public profile through IT & Comms website that takes up industry issues and allows feedback (and recruitment), and through article/letter/press release placements in industry publications/websites, to demonstrate the union's relevance to workers in the industry.

    7. Investigate if a separate website aimed at Industry workers would be of use such as for example

    8. Increased coordination of activity through the Sector RISCs with each RISC receiving stats on membership changes, Industry significant developments and collective bargaining data.

    9. Support informal IT & Communications Forums across Sectors if relevant to generate ideas and share information.

    10. Provide training and awareness sessions around the International Labour Standards and the Employers Corporate Social Responsibility Policies.

    [NOTE: the conference recognised the point 1 would need to be discussed further by the National Industrial Sector Committee to avoid it causing problems]

    5 Public Sector ICT cost cutting

    This Conference notes that the Cabinet Office has been pressing suppliers of ICT services to the public sector to cut the costs of their services as part of the general attack, by the Government on public sector expenditure.

    Conference further notes that this has led some suppliers in our industry to attack their ICT workers in order to protect their profit margins following contract renegotiations. Staff have faced attacks on terms and conditions, redundancies and off-shoring.

    Conference does not believe that workers in our industry should be forced to pay, any more than public sector workers should, for an economic crisis caused by the top bankers and others who control the global economy. We do not accept any divide between public and private sector workers in this respect.

    Conference therefore resolves that the IT & Communications NISC should give full support to all members in our sector who need to take action to protect their jobs, terms, and conditions in the face of demands from the Government to reduce contract costs.

    6 Solidarity

    This conference recognises that as more of the jobs in our industries become increasingly commoditised and employers put more downward pressure on terms and conditions, and as union organisation grows, members in IT & Comms are increasingly likely to take industrial action in defence of their interests.

    This conference recognises that members moving jobs between employers in the sector, whether voluntarily or through TUPE transfers, encourages them to see the connection between issues in different companies.

    This conference believes that solidarity helps union organisation for both the givers and the receivers. Givers have the opportunity to discuss and organise around issues they might not current face, allowing them to learn and draw inspiration from campaigns in other parts of the industry or beyond. Givers can have their confidence raised by contributing to successes elsewhere. Receivers gain practical benefits from solidarity as well as having their confidence boosted.

    This conference resolves that the tradition of solidarity should be strengthened by:

    1) Encouraging reps and members to participate in campaigning and solidarity activities beyond their own workplace

    2) Including details of how to give solidarity in sector newsletters

    3) Encouraging reps to publicise disputes and campaigns amongst their members

    4) Encouraging reps and members to send messages of support to disputes in other workplaces

    5) Encouraging reps to organise collections for disputes

    6) Encouraging members to participate in their branches and other Unite structures to raise the profile of disputes and deliver solidarity

    7) Encouraging members to become delegates to local Trades Union Councils
    7 Sector Structures

    We note that IT & Comms has been one of the sectors where Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs) have not consistently functioned well.

    We note that the Rules Conference decided that the Executive Council shall “Determine one or more constitutional committees of lay members to which each officer employed by the Union shall report and be accountable and ensure that the list of these allocations is available to members”.

    We resolve that the names of the officers responsible for each of the IT & Communications RISCs should be displayed on the IT & Comms area of the Unite web site, along with the dates, times and venues for forthcoming Regional Industrial Sector Conferences and Committee meetings.

    We resolve that our National Officer, in consultation with the National Industrial Sector Committee, should email or write to all accountable representatives of workers in the sector explaining the role and importance of the sector structures and encouraging them to participate in the next round of Regional Industrial Sector Conferences.

    We resolve that reps in each company should seek to encourage participation in the Regional Industrial Sector Conferences around the country.

    Photos from N30

    UNITE has produced a slideshow of photos from the magnificent strike on 30 November.

    If you're talking to members about the dispute, it's worth pointing them at the "Fair Pensions For All" pamphlet jointly produced by UNITE and other unions, which shows the links between public sector, private sector and state pensions.

    Monday, 21 November 2011

    Report from the Unite the Resistance Convention

    I was part of a delegation from the UNITE IT & Comms National Industrial Sector Committee to the Unite the Resistance convention (see, 19th November 2011.

    Around 1200 people attended, and over 200 union bodies had backed the convention.

    It was an excellent event, from which I would summarise the key points:

    1. We all need to take responsibility for making November 30 as big and active as possible, not rely on others to do it for us. It should be a day of resistance, not just about pensions and not just for public sector workers.

    2. N30 is a key part of a wider movement of resistance in the UK and globally.

    3. We need to oppose efforts to divide the movement.

    4. There were some excellent reports of how people are building in particular workplaces and branches, with ideas others can copy.

    5. We need a plan to win, not just a token protest. We urgently need a plan to escalate and widen action after N30 and activists need to debate this, not just leave it to our leaders.

    Plenary: Building the 30 November Strikes

    Hannah from Occupy London Stock Exchange reported that there were now three occupations in London – the original LSX one outside St Paul’s, one in Finsbury Square and the most recent one is an occupation of the old UBS building, now known as the “Bank of Ideas”. She emphasised that the Occupy movement had backed the N30 strikes from its first gathering.

    Sean Vernell from UCU urged trade unionists to mobilise against any attempt to evict Occupy LSX. The government is weak. It is important N30 is not a “protest”, but the second strike day of a rising movement which can win. The government is nasty, trying to divide public and private sector workers and use racism and nationalism. We have to prepare to escalate the action – and not wait another 5 months to do so – he argued “all out and stay out”. N30 is not just about pensions, but cuts, privatisation, health, EMA etc. We have to stand for democracy not the rule of unelected “technocrats” trying to make us pay for the crisis.

    Mark Serwotka from PCS pointed out that while everyone would welcome Berlusconi going, it was worrying that it was the financial markets deciding rather than the people. Like many speakers, he referred to the inspiring Greek resistance. Labour should be opposing cuts, rather than Ed Milliband telling off the TUC over the strikes. He described Ed Balls’ plan for recovery as fiddling while Rome burns – falling well short of the measures needed, such as building millions of homes. The unions should be proud that they are now leading the opposition to the cuts. However, it had taken a long time to get to N30. Even getting the 26 March demonstration had taken 3 years of argument. He paid tribute to the members of the unions that struck on 30th June, despite sniping from within our own movement, as this had created links with pensioners, UK UNCUT, students etc and laid the basis for more. He argued that N30 had to be the beginning not the end of the movement – this was an argument that had to be won in each union – and that N30 should not be just a token protest. PCS is arguing for the TUC to meet within 2 weeks after N30. At a minimum they should be calling a further public sector general strike as early in 2012 as possible, and doing it again and again until we win.

    A UNITE BASSA member from BA cabin crew described the bullying, suspensions and sackings they had faced during their 18 month struggle. It had been his first strike. He had been disgusted by the role of pilots, who work with cabin crew every day, and their union BALPA in helping the scabbing operation. He said that despite all this they had stood firm and eventually won. Instead of private sector workers opposing public sector workers, we should be fighting to make private sector pensions as good as the public sector ones.

    Sheila McGregor from the NUT talked about her Dad’s generation who fought fascism and for the welfare state. The ruling class are trying to take everything they won away from us. There are two ways out of every crisis, and the people at the top want us to pay. We should be proud of the resistance being built around N30, which builds on what has been done by students, other strikes, June 30, Tunisia and Egypt. She argued that as well as trying to get the maximum numbers out on strike and involved in the protests on N30, we also have to aim to win. She highlighted the actions of Greek workers refusing to cut off electricity to poor people.

    Ian Bradley, a UNITE spark (electrician) talked about the 8 contractors who are trying to tear up the 40-year-old JIB agreement, meaning a 35% pay cut. Sparks have been holding demonstrations. A turning point had been Len McCluskey’s speech at the TUC calling for civil disobedience. There have been occupations of sites since then, as well as walkouts (17 this week). The 9 November demo had about 2000 sparks. They had support from the Occupy movement, students, public sector workers. People didn’t believe the public/private split. Sparks would be there on N30. Balfour Beatty sparks plan to strike on 7 December and he asked for support. Fight together – win together!

    Ron Singer, a doctor in UNITE, explained that the BMA and RCN had not balloted – mistakenly believing that acting like a “reserve army” was stronger than joining in. Doctors are well paid and mostly striking for others’ pensions and because of what is happening to the NHS. The bill going through parliament will privatise the NHS – not just delivery of particular services, but commissioning too. It was not true that this was just to GPs – private companies are offering “support” to them. The NHS budget is being cut, and provision will shrink. The Tories are turning the NHS into no more than a safety net which those who can afford to top up with private medicine. See The NHS cuts are planned over several years and he urged anti-cuts groups to take this up.

    Jess Edwards from the NUT argued that N30 must change society. People had to feel stronger and more confident afterwards, while the government should feel the pressure. We need a strong strike and shouldn’t take this for granted but work for it. We also need an active strike to make N30 a big political day. Dave Prentis was right to say that while the legal ballot was about pensions, what was in people’s heads was far wider. As Brendan Barber said, there should be a tax on the bankers. The parasites are currently being put first. The plans for N30 vindicated the strategy of striking on June 30.

    Zita Holbourne from PCS and BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts) talked about the inequality of the cuts and argued that fighting discrimination is not an optional extra for the campaign, but everyone’s responsibility. The “hardest hit”, including women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, young and old, are not a minority – they are the majority. Almost 50% of young black people are now unemployed. Young people are being demonised. There are more black people in prison than in university. Cuts are hitting deprived areas hardest. Immigrants are being blamed for all the problems by the right wing. She highlighted the aggressive policing, attacks on the right to protest and recent sentences handed out. The recommendations from the McPherson report after the murder of Stephen Lawrence have still not been implemented. N30 will be a huge day for everyone, not just the strikers, and BARAC will be on the streets.

    Caroline Johnson from Birmingham UNISON talked about the dispute there and how they have built the union through it. On 1st November the council imposed a new contract on 25000 staff. It was known as the Martini contract, because you had to do anything, any time, anywhere. You could be told to work 24x7 for no extra. 6000 of the lowest paid staff had lost pay due to losing Out Of Hours payments – she ran through some examples. They had struck for 2 days since June. The council boss is on £230,000 and other directors are on huge salaries. A third of the budget goes to Capita. The campaign had won delays to the cuts, and other small concessions. On N30 they will be striking over both the contract issue and pensions. There are 15000 members in the branch, and confidence is uneven. They took 700 members on the 26 March demonstration, and these had had their confidence boosted. These had then been linked to other members. In one workplace they had a picket of 90, from which they built a core of activists. Through the campaign they had recruited new stewards and members. They also linked to the community and were meeting weekly with other unions in preparation for N30. One day will not be enough – more will be needed.

    Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing talked about how they had linked up with other groups including private sector tenants for a “Housing Emergency” lobby of parliament this week. She highlighted the attack on housing benefit. In Camden there is now no housing available which someone on benefit could afford – people are being told to leave the area. Across the country the numbers homeless and sleeping on the streets are rising rapidly. The Tories plan to increase rents and attack the security of tenancies. We need to link tenants and trade unionists to tackle the housing crisis.

    Graham from Barnsley UCU talked about the cuts in services and jobs at his college, and the rise in casualisation of work. From the job cuts he had been left as the only Compulsory Redundancy. As he was the branch secretary members recognised this as victimisation. After one day of strike there was no movement. They had a members’ meeting to discuss escalation. A proposal came from the floor for a 5-day strike. Two days before it happened, the college found him a job. We can win.

    Anne Drinkall, a community nurse from UNISON, talked about the weak organisation in their fragmented workplaces. She was the only person who had been on strike before. She had been grudgingly doing the rep’s job – grinding through casework. They started the campaign by calling a meeting at a central location, which had not gone well. Then she was persuaded to try a different approach and had been having lots of lunchtime meetings in workplaces. These had gone really well and recruited extra members. There would now be serious pickets. There is a long way to go in organising but it is a start and a confidence boost.

    Yunus Bakhsh from UNITE talked about his five year battle after being victimised by his employer after 25 years in the NHS. The lesson is never to give up. The week before last he was back in court after his employer refused to reinstate him. The judge had slated the employer for spending public money to defy the law and an order of a court. He had awarded the maximum compensation – over £100K, but this doesn’t even meet Yunus’s legal bill (Ian’s explanation: he was a UNISON member at the time but UNISON failed to back him and kicked him out of the union). Yunus is now meeting John Hendy QC to discuss a legal challenge to the use of public funds to flout the law. If this is successful, it could have a major impact for other Unfair Dismissal cases and the way tribunals operate.

    Dave Carr, a UNITE health worker, said that when 150,000 job losses were announced in the NHS there were demonstrations outside hospitals, but no campaigns inside. This is now changing. In the ballots health workers had voted massively for strikes – UNISON 82%, UNITE 80% and in some sections higher (radiographers 85%, physiotherapists 86%). The strike would have a major impact on N30. Members didn’t just want to strike, they want to know how to win – how we can escalate the action. People like the links with other workers and unions – it gives them confidence. They llike the links with the Occupy movement and internationally. We have to Unite the Resistance to smash the Tories.

    Kevin Courtney from the NUT urged people to work hard right up to N30 to make it as strong as possible. Everyone had to go away with a plan. Everyone is responsible – don’t rely on others doing the work for you. N30 has the potential to be the rebirth of the movement. Kevin reminded people of the detail of some of the arguments around pensions. The NUT position is that if there is no acceptable settlement, they would take a view to the TUC as described by Mark Serwotka. There should be more action – rolling action, more days of action.

    Helen from Barnet UNISON talked about their fight against “Easy Council” and for the 99%. We have to go further than N30 – one day will not be enough.

    The Global Struggle Against Austerity (I attended this session)

    Alexis Sodoukis spoke on behalf of Nikos Fotopoulos, the Greek power workers’ general secretary. Greeks are facing cuts in wages, pensions, jobs and services – as well as privatisation. Greece is being used as the guinea pig for the storm spreading across Europe. Workers had occupied factories and government ministries. They even cut off the power to the health ministry because it owed millions to the public power company. They refused to cut off electricity to the poor and pensioners. Many local councils are giving legal support to those who can’t pay the new taxes. Good luck for N30!

    John McDonnell MP argued that this crisis might not just be a blip for capitalism, but might be a time when systemic change was possible. The economy is a mess. Unemployment is high. Even Barosso talks about a fundamental crisis in the Eurozone. Austerity is nothing more than class warfare, and the only response is class struggle. Direct action was succeeding in raising issues, but it will peter out eventually if not linked to the organised working class. We need to link direction action and industrial action to make political action. Trade unionists should support the Occupy movement and help non-violent defence against any attempt at evictions. He hoped on N30 workers would march to St Pauls. The Occupy movement hopes to halt the city – we should help them. We have to build N30 but it can’t be a one-off – we have to prepare for more in the New Year. Some union leaders are leading. We have to say to the others – if you sell us out we are coming for you. There should be not settlement until we win – this is about more than pensions. It will be futile if it is just “opposition”. We have to talk about the sort of society we want. In some countries bankers are being installed as leaders – the very people who caused the crisis. We need regime change – to bring the government down. We need commitment, direction and solidarity.

    Matt Myers from the Education Activists Network (EAN) talked about the need to unite students and workers. The police had kettled electricians when they tried to join the students because they are scared of that unity. The technocrats fear democracy. Students will join pickets and marches.

    Someone from EIS, the Scottish teachers’ union, said this year had been inspiring, with events from Egypt to the USA. However, it had been frustrating too. 90% of members had rejected a pay freeze and changes to terms and conditions and backed actions, yet EIS leaders had backed down. It is encouraging that EIS members have voted again for action, to join N30. N30 has to be the beginning. Activists need to make links to avoid any repeat of a bad deal.

    Suzanne Jeffries from the Campaign Against Climate Change trade union group talked about the campaign for a million climate jobs. There is a crisis of unemployment, especially amongst young people. Now the government wants people to work for benefits, so that taxpayers are subsidising multinational companies. In contrast, the climate jobs campaign was about socially useful, skilled and paid jobs. Homes need insulating. We need good public transport. There is both an economic crisis and a climate crisis. Climate change is a big issue for the poorest in the world. Cameron is not even going to the Durban talks or the Rio+1 talks – doing the queen’s jubilee instead. We should make the climate jobs campaign central to our fight against austerity.

    Max Watson from UNISON explained how UCU members at London Met had struck alongside them against job losses mainly affecting UNISON members.

    Mark Campbell from UCU argued that the cuts were not really due to the deficit. This was a very ideological attack – the 1% are getting rich on our backs. We stand with the people of Egypt, Palestine etc, with people in Greece and other European countries. We stand with the Occupy movement and should oppose any attempt at eviction. We stand with students – with all who resist. We have to defend the right of people to protests. We also need to argue for an alternative. He highlighted the Unite the Resistance action plan, for which a brochure is available for 20p via, listing the main points:

    1. The money is there

    2. Equal rights for all

    3. One million climate jobs

    4. Health & social care

    5. Education

    6. Pay & Pensions

    7. Housing

    8. Public utilities

    Nahella Ashraf spoke from the “Save the Family Home” campaign ( Manchester city council is seeking to make a family homeless because one family member has been given three life sentences on terrorism charges on the basis of evidence from undercover cops. The individual is appealing, but irrespective of whether he is guilty, it is very dangerous to establish this collective punishment for the family. The house belongs to the wife, not the husband in jail. Nahella thought it was no coincidence that this test case was happening in Manchester – after the riots the leader of the council said that the families of rioters should lose their homes. If this approach stands, which protester or trade unionist will be next to have their family made homeless? It is easy to target Muslims in the current climate, but we should all speak out.

    Paul Holmes from UNISON talked about how the ruling class were teaching people about class, even though the media rarely discuss it. 40 years ago lots of jobs had pensions, now few. Working class people used to put up with hardships in the belief that their kids would have a better life than them, but this is no longer true. Young people face a mountain of debts. A “technocrat” is an unelected leader appointed by someone else to take your money. MPs still have good pensions. We need socialist politics. Not just the bankers should be our target. The anti-union laws are there to tie our hands while mugging us. Cameron spent years at Eton being taught class solidarity – now the 99% need to learn it.

    Mr Silver from BFAWU highlighted the 4 month lockout of 1300 staff at Crystal Sugar in the USA.

    Raymond Morell from UNITE argued that it was the resistance of workers in Greece and elsewhere that had led to the acrimony between those at the top. The movement is growing globally, inspired by Tunisia and Egypt. The breadth of the movement, including the N30 strikes, the students, UK UNCUT etc is a strength. The government wants to divide us – it is frightened of unity. This is why the police attacked the sparks who were trying to join the students. The government’s attack on sick leave shows their nastiness. He has a national ballot over pay in his company. This will be too late to join N30, but they could coordinate action with the sparks. We should twin private and public sector workplaces. The sparks plan a rolling demonstration visiting pickets. They supported the St Paul’s occupation. Occupiers had helped the sparks shut a construction site. If eviction is threatened, we should all resist.

    George Binette from UNISON and Camden TUC said our main focus should be on the success of N30. However, there were lessons to be learned from the huge demonstrations in France a year ago over increases to the retirement age – both positive and negative. On the positive side, industrial workers had been involved, and students had gone into occupation. Young people had made the link between increasing the retirement age and youth unemployment. The protests wounded Sarkozy but didn’t win. The main leaders refused to escalate the action to a sustained general strike. N30 can boost the confidence of workers to strike again. He proposed that the interim Unite the Resistance steering committee should bring forward the date of the next conference to be earlier than March, as the strategy needs to come from the base and needs debate.

    A speaker from the FDA talked about the risk of workers being disillusioned if there was a shoddy deal after a big strike vote. Some officials only wished there was a shoddy deal there to be done. To prevent this, officials needed to be worried about the potential for unofficial action. If the government threatened even worse anti-union laws, we need to say we will break them. We need the start of rank and file networks to prevent sell-outs.

    Stuart Richardson from the NUT described how his local anti-cuts group had taken advantage of council consultation meetings to force votes on anti-cuts motions.

    John McLoughlin from Tower Hamlets UNISON talked about two turning points locally. On 30 March there had been a joint strike of UNISON and NUT. Then people had mobilised to stop the EDL coming to the borough. This was the process of building unity. N30 will be our biggest day – the world will be looking at our contribution to the struggle. Some people are trying to limit what our side does. For example SERTUC are saying Tower Hamlets is having a rally. They are not – they are marching all together.

    Rehad Desai, a South African climate activist described how his family had fled South Africa to London in the 1960s. When the massacre in 1976 made him to decide to get active, he had been inspired by the role of the British trade unions supporting black workers at Grunwicks and fighting fascism. We need to take a stand again, with the Daily Express trying to blame immigrants for youth unemployment. Africa has faced 30 years of austerity, with the IMF raping society. In South Africa there is a huge movement, but despite that they have faced a decade of austerity since 1994. 6 million people were HIV positive, and 450,000 had died due to lack of treatment before the campaign won. Millions had been cut off from electricity and water, but campaigners had reconnected many. Workers are organised and fighting back. South Africa is seeing electricity prices rise rapidly to pay for building two of the biggest coal fired power stations in the world. Lots of people are saying they won’t pay unless it is for clean energy. South Africa is an emerging economy – already the 12th biggest polluter in the world. It is already a victim of climate change too. 30% of rural areas are seeing a 25% fall in maize yields – the staple diet. Further north, land is burning, lakes shrinking and crops failing. In hotter areas, a temperature increase of 1C or 1.5C is enough to cause crop failure. 150,000 people a year are already dying in Africa due to climate change. While Bangkok floods, other areas see droughts. Britain’s “1m Climate Jobs” campaign was inspiring and is now being taken up by unions in South Africa. We have one world, and one fight. People should join the protest in London on 3rd December which is part of a global day of action around the Durban climate talks.

    Leah Petty was a teachers’ union member who was part of Occupy Wall Street from the first day. In two months the movement had done more to boost the confidence of workers than the last two decades. The occupation had started with just 200 people, and she had hoped it might last a week. Now hundreds of cities in the USA have occupations. Americans had seen uprisings in the Middle East and Europe, but it had felt impossible that it could happen in their own country. OWS had transformed the situation. The slogan “we are the 99%” means that this issue – class – was being discussed everywhere, including the media. 72% of New Yorkers support OWS, and everyone is talking about it. The 99% slogan and having a clear target in Wall Street had helped unify people and give the movement direction. Leah is part of the OWS “labour committee”. Initially this had focussed on the unions giving material support to the occupation. It had now turned into the occupation giving inspiration and support to workers. Many people are getting organised for the first time, and networking. Occupy is going into workplaces, schools and communities. The establishment first tried to discredit us. They claimed there were health and safety grounds for clearing the occupation. We cleaned the area ourselves, with help from the unions. When that didn’t work they turned to violence to get rid of us. The unions helped with physical defence of the occupation. The police injuring an Iraq war veteran had caused outrage. The occupation in Oakland had voted for a general strike – then 15000 marched down and shut the port. OWS has now been evicted, but two days later held a march of 35000 with the slogan “you can’t evict an idea whose time has come” which stopped the stock exchange from opening. There are also occupations of subways.

    Organising in our Communities Against Austerity (John Garvani provided the report for this session)

    The overwhelming theme from the speakers in this session was "All Out & Stay Out" and a call for Nov 30th to be the start with a call for the TUC to name a further day early in the New Year followed by all out strike action if necessary.

    Coalition of Resistance speaker:

    • We shouldn't undersetimate the severity of the problem. If there are defaults then there will be another banking crisis
    • UK government is trapped into cuts
    • We need to take the message from the Occupy movements and have to oppose austerity
    Rob Williams - NSSN:
    • Only 11 days to go and its een a marathon to get here.
    • need to nationalise the banking sector
    • Working class and big sections of the middle class will be affected by the cuts
    • some Labour Councils will support the strike but they also need to continue this support into the budget meetings and reject cuts.
    • This strike will show the way for private sector and like the construction workers show that there is a socialist alternative
    Paul Brandon - Right to Work:
    • We can't do enough work in Communities
    • "Students & Workers - Unite & Fight"
    • The assembly movement is a massive world wide movement that not just resists but also offers an alternative
    • We have to build organisations that can keep up the momentum of 2 - 3 million striking
    • Need to be readical e.g. wipe the slate clean of debts
    • Key thing is to carry forward the momentum and take on the Government and the system
    Lee Jasper - BARAC:
    • Mandate for strike is overwhelming & now need activists to go out and talk to people in the workplace & community
    • N30 is not the end but the start
    • Black Community never enjoyed the benefits of the 80s boom as there was no tickle down. They never had money in the 80s, haven't got money now & won't have money in the future
    • High rates of unemployment and child poverty in the black communities
    • 80% of black employment is in the public sector and is predominantly women. Cuts are pushing women's unemployment up to the level of men - Government policy is intrinsically rascist & sexist
    • Trade Union movement has, like Unite, to open up membership to unemployed etc
    Richard Razor - Disabled People against the Cuts
    • disabed people need support from Trade Unions
    • Need those implementing cuts to stop
    • hate crimes against disabled is on the increase

    There were then around 15 - 20 speakers from the floor who covered points such as:
    • Criminalisation of protestors
    • growing legitimacy of being anti-muslim
    • the need to build in our communities and to go on the doorstep and carry out
    • Community Audits
    • This is a class war beyond belief
    • As Trade Unionists we have to do everything in our power to get everyone out.
    • N30 is just the start and we have to build on the confidence

    The affect of the cuts was brought home when a speaker from DPAC said they knew of two suicides following cuts to benefits amd of 1 person who had died waiting for his appeal against benefit cuts to be heard. He was dying of terminal cancer but the assessor cut his benefit saying he was fit to work.
    Plenary: Where next for the movement?

    The British embassy had refused a visa for the Eyptian doctor activist who was due to speak, on the grounds that he was not “secure in his socio-economic status” i.e. he wasn’t rich enough. He sent a message of support which was read out. The Egyptians had inspired the world, and were now being inspired by the resistance spreading. The doctors had struck and organised – they had kicked out their boss and elected a replacement. There is currently fighting in Tahrir Square and he is there helping the injured. When they struck they felt free and in control.

    Alexis from Greece spoke again.

    Ian Hodson from BFAWU explained how his members in the baking industry rely on public services such as the NHS and education. Why not tax those who can pay? Churchill had a 97% tax rate to rebuild the country. UK UNCUT activists face prosecution, but not the bankers. If the government beats the public sector workers, we will all be weaker, including those in the private sector, on welfare or pensioners.

    Mark Wood, the UNITE convenor from Southampton council, talked about their 6 month dispute. In April the council issued 90 day notice, then on 11 July 4300 staff were dismissed and re-engaged on new contracts which meant 20% cuts. The strike is joint UNITE & UNISON. They have used a three-pronged strategy. Firstly rolling selective strikes and action short of strike. Secondly political. Thirdly legal. On 6th October UNISON care workers had struck and all UNITE members had struck alongside them. The unions have lodged a joint claim for failure to consult, and backed 1000 unfair dismissal claims. The Tory council sacked members in July, so they aim to sack the councillors in May. They struck on June 30 alongside PCS and education unions. They have handed out 100000 leaflets to residents and taken out adverts in the press. The strike fund has received £100K from UNITE alone. While the workers haven’t won, other councils have backed off as they don’t want “another Southampton”, they have given confidence to others to fight, and have forced the council to negotiate. The union is currently consulting members over the council’s 5th “final” offer. UNITE has recommended rejection, and believes members will reject it. Mark argued that where we give them confidence, members are willing to fight. We have to educate members, including about the economic alternatives.

    A speaker from Dale Farm talked about how Michael Howard had told travellers to buy land, but when they did, they were told they could not stay on it. The police had used near-fatal force to clear them, including using tazers for crowd control for the first time, leading to fears such practices could spread. He urged people to support the campaign for travellers’ civil rights which had sprung out of the Dale Farm situation.

    A speaker from the NUS talked about how students had smashed the cuts consensus. Their movement had started officially, with events called by NUS and UCU, but then radicalised. People had the same enemy, so should fight together. We have to make N30 a day of resistance. Students cannot fight and win alone, but the working class can bring down the government. We should shut down education on N30. Students should join pickets and have feeder demonstrations. The day of resistance should reclaim education from the profit agenda. Some people in NUS had argued that we should only back strikes if they are not disruptive – but this is the point of strikes. Be disruptive!

    Steve Kelly from UNITE construction covered some of the same ground covered above by Ian Bradley. The employers are making their attacks now because they know the unions were weak, having not done what they should for years. People face pay cuts from £16 to £10.50 an hour. The rank and file has been building up since August, and is now a major movement spreading across the UK. They had forced UNITE to call a ballot of 1700 Balfour Beatty staff. They are due to be dismissed on 7th December. The ballot result is due on N30, with 7 December planned as a day of action. We can’t rely on the ballot – we need flying pickets. We can’t rely on the union to do it for us. Without the rank and file UNITE would have sat back until next year. The whole industry is a shambles, with exploitation, particularly of foreign workers. There has been a media blackout apart from Socialist Worker, the Socialist and Socialist Appeal. The ranks and file has its own publication – site worker – which needs funds.

    Leah Petty from Occupy Wall Street spoke again (see above). People in the USA are watching N30 and hope to copy it. She led one of the main chants from OWS – “I believe that we can win!”

    Sara Bennett from UNITE, who was chairing the session, explained that this was the second conference called by leading activists from the unions involved in coordinated action. We need a committee, and the intention is to elect one at the next conference. In the meantime the convention agreed that the existing team should continue acting as an interim committee.

    Karen Reissmann from UNISON talked about the scale of the attacks and of the resistance. There is a whiff of change, shown by the breadth of the speakers at the convention. N30 is not just about pensions, but about what sort of world we want. New leaders in Europe are linked to Goldman Sachs. They helped cause the crisis, so why would anyone imagine they could fix it? Brendan Barber’s response to the latest Tory offer hadn’t helped the campaign. The offer tried to divide workers based on age. We are rusty at striking – the last national strike in health was 1982. But the Tories are rusty too, hence mistakes like Maude’s ridiculous suggestion of a 15 minute strike. Yet Barber’s only complaint was that the idea hadn’t been put to the TUC first. The idea of not crossing picket lines is coming back. The strike votes are fantastic. As the Tories attacking us all at once we can resist all at once. This is not the 1980s, that legacy is fading. Northern Ireland UNISON had no militant tradition, and only a close strike vote, yet their strike in October was strong and they now wanted more action. This shows how N30 can change things. We win by showing we are serious. In 1989 local government strikers won by having a clear escalation plan. After N30 we should all be out together – and stay out.

    Jane said that members are asking what next after N30. This is about pay, jobs etc as well as pensions. On million young people are unemployed – the highest since records began. The answer is jobs with wages, yet the Tories plan to close job centres. We need three things. Firstly, unity. Secondly, size matters – 29 unions are joining so far, with more to come. Thirdly, after N30 we need to widen the action – including to the private sector, and have another date soon. The government is weak – we can win.


    There were many campaigns handing out leaflets, including:

    • UNITE dispute at Stagecoach Barnsley, asking for messages of support to their steward Stuart Bacon, 33 Dearne Road, Brampton, Barnsley, S73 0XA. Their next strike is due 21st November 2011.

    • Highlighting the case of Yunus Bakhsh (referred to above), asking for contributions to Yunus’s legal fund (which will be returned if the NHS trust can be forced to pay costs). Sort code 20-80-47 account 30852937 “Defend Yunus Bakhsh Campaign”, c/o 46c Lawe Road, South Sheilds, Tyne and Wear, NE33 2EN.

    • Opposing the Welfare Reform Bill
    • Highlighting Atos Origin, the “Work Programme”, “Mandatory Work Activity”

    Thursday, 17 November 2011

    UNITE's public sector members vote to join N30 strike

    UNITE has published the ballot results online.

    Remember that while the strike is about pensions, the day of action on 30th November is much wider than that.  Everyone fighting the cuts to our services should join in.

    If you're striking or not working on 30th November and want to join a demonstration or rally, here is a map showing events round the country:

    View 30 November Day of Action events in a larger map

    Wednesday, 16 November 2011

    Left candidates for the new UNITE EC seats for LGBT and Disability

    The UNITE Rules Conference decided to add two new seats to the union's Executive Council - one for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) members and one for members with Disabilities.

    The United Left has chosen the two candidiates it is backing for these seats and their leaflet seeking nominations is online.

    Nomination papers will be sent directly to branch secretaries, but for workplace nominations reps will need to contact their Regional Office to request nomination forms.  Nomination meetings must take place in the period 14 November 2011 to 6 January 2012.

    Saturday, 5 November 2011

    TUC pocket guide to organising

    The TUC have produced a useful little introductory pocket guide to organising.

    Saturday, 15 October 2011

    Real wages falling fast

    Just to maintain the same share of the value we produce at work, workers need a pay rise equal to inflation (to take account of the falling value of money) and their increase in productivity (to take account of the increasing value they produce).

    A lot of attention is (rightly) focussing on how governments are pushing the costs of the economic crisis onto working people by nationalising bank debts and then repaying them by cutting our services and increasing our taxes. These actions reduce what is known as the "social wage".

    Less attention is being given to how employers in public and private sector are using the recession to try to permanently shift wealth from workers to employers. I've produced the graph below from the latest inflation and wage figures:
    It shows that since the start of 2009, when inflation took off, the value of average regular wages has already fallen by about 7%. The Average Weekly Earnings figures from the Office of National Statistics on which this is based, exclude "irregular" earnings such as overtime and bonuses which fluctuate significantly.

    Many workers have seen their work intensified over the same period, and productivity driven up, so the share of what we produce that workers receive as wages will have fallen even faster than our real incomes.

    We need stronger unions if we're going to beat off the attacks on our wages and our social wage. That means building them everywhere. It also makes the coordinated strikes planned for 30th November vitally important. The fight by millions of public sector workers to defend their pensions can show millions of unorganised workers the potential power of union organisation. UNITE has produced a great little leaflet to explain the issues to members in the private sector - please get it out and about.