Monday 30 January 2012

General Secretary's Report from December 2011 UNITE EC meeting

The report is now available and I will forward it to UNITE members on request.

NB: According to my notes Composite 21 remitted from the 2010 Policy Conference (Fighting Back Union) was AGREED rather than NOTED as the report suggests.  I have asked for this to be corrected.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Election for the new LGBT seat on the UNITE Executive Council

Voting is due to take place from 30 January to 22 February 2012 in an election for the new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) seat on the UNITE Executive Council.  All members (other than retired members) are entitled to vote in the election.

I haven't seen a list of all the candidates who were successful in securing enough nominations to stand, but the candidate backed by the United Left, Harry McAnulty did and his leaflet is here.

The UNITE web site has some very sparse information about the election here.

Alongside the new LGBT seat there is also a new seat for Disability, but I understand only one candidate secured the necessary nominations and therefore no election will take place.

These two seats are important to end the anomaly where two major areas of UNITE's Equalities structures, which have their own regional and national committees, had no EC member accountable to them.

It is OK to distribute leaflets at work or put posters on union noticeboards, but you mustn't use any union resources (including membership information) to support a particular candidate, or directly contact members at home unless they have themselves signed up to receive such communications.

We should all try to encourage members to participate in the election - the composition of the Executive Council (EC) makes a real difference to the direction and effectiveness of the union.

Saturday 21 January 2012

UNITE and Fujitsu settle dispute

Yesterday UNITE members at my workplace, Fujitsu Manchester, voted to accept an offer from the company and end the long-running dispute.  Details are on our branch web site and there's a UNITE press release.  The settlement will benefit staff right across the country, not just Manchester.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Latest on the public sector pensions dispute

There's a huge amount of confusion.  The government sought to reach separate "heads of agreements" for each part of the public services - Local Government, Health, Civil Service, Education.  These aren't full detailed agreements, but set out a framework and principles within which detailed negotiation would take place.  The understanding was that unions which signed up would suspend industrial action.  Some unions have signed up to some of these agreements, others haven't.

The agreements on offer don't change the position significantly from that which led to the tremendously well-supported strike on 30th November.

UNITE seems to be gradually publishing statements on this page of its web site:

  • Civil service - UNITE did not sign up
  • NHS - the link is missing, but UNITE did not sign up
  • Local Authorities UNITE signed up, then "suspended" its signature
UNISON, whose leaders have signed up to the government's deals, has published rather more information, including the NHS "heads of agreement", the statement signed by UNISON, UNITE and GMB on Local Authority Pensions, and a newsletter which includes the text of the Local Government "Heads of Agreement".

Debate is raging in all the unions.  Many members in unions that signed up are furious that their leaders are squandering the potential of November 30th.  In unions that have not signed up, members are asking when the next action will be and how broad it can be.  This is not the time to give up or sit quiet - there is still the opportunity to recreate and build on the unity that we saw on N30.

The relevant UNITE National Industrial Sector Committees (NISCs) are meeting shortly to discuss the situation and decide on their next steps.

A majority of the UNITE Executive Council (including me) have requested a special EC meeting to:

1) Help ensure the consistent implementation of the EC statement agreed on 7th December 2011 about the way forward following the November 30th day of action

2) Receive reports on, and discuss the major developments in, the public sector pensions dispute since our last meeting

We have also called for copies of the agreements offered by the government in each sector (whether signed by UNITE or not) to be circulated to all EC members as a matter of urgency.

Under rule 14.3, a majority of EC members can call a special meeting.  I hope this will take place after the discussions at the NISCs but before the crucial meeting at the TUC on Thursday 12 January.

These are matters that should concern everyone.  If the government gets away with dividing and defeating union members in the public sector, where membership is highest, it will encourage every employer to speed up their attempts to further boost profits by squeezing the proportion of wealth going to working people.  The pensions fight was also a unifying issue for the wider anti-cuts campaigning which is crucial for the defence of our public services.  PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka set out the dangers of defeatism in his recent article in the Morning Star.

What you can do:
  1. If you haven't already done so, sign the statement saying "Don't give up the pensions fight!"
  2. If you're in one of the sectors directly affected, speak to the reps on your NISC and make sure they know your views before they meet
  3. Get along to the open national meeting called by PCS Left Unity for Saturday 7th January which will be an important chance to coordinate pressure against rotten deals
  4. Lobby the TUC meeting on Thursday 12th January
  5. Get along to the emergency Unite the Resistance meeting on Saturday 14th January which will be an important chance to get organised following the outcome of the TUC meeting