Wednesday 27 March 2013

Bedroom tax and Tory rat-bags - great heckling

Well done to UNITE activist Willie Black and the rest of the protesters who gave Iain Duncan Smith a proper welcome to Scotland today:

This BBC report shows more of Willie in action.

Protests against the hated bedroom tax, which will hit disabled people particularly hard, are spreading and growing, as is reflected on the Benefit Justice Campaign's web site.  It's good to see UNITE's relatively new Community organisation getting stuck in to the campaign too.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Support Steve Acheson, anti-blacklisting campaigner

There are few people who can claim to have done as much as UNITE activist Steve Acheson to expose the illegal blacklisting of workers by employers, particularly in the construction industry.  Many have been blacklisting for trying to ensure a safe working environment for workers in one of the most hazardous industries, or for trade union activity.

Steve has been protesting outside Fiddlers Ferry power station since he was sacked from his job there in December 2008 as a result of being on the blacklist as a "troublemaker".  He's faced every sort of harassment - even having to fight off charges under anti-terrorism legislation to defend his right to protest.

Steve's stand led to the blacklisting Consulting Association being raided by the Information Commissioner over offences against the Data Protection Act.  Its manager, Ian Kerr, gave evidence before a House of Commons inquiry a few months ago.  Kerr promised to give further evidence in private about matters involving the security services, but his sudden and unexpected death prevented him doing so.

There is an appeal to raise £25,000 to avoid Steve losing his home as a result of the illegal conspiracy to deny him work.

I was priviledged to attend a social event last night which raised over £1000 for Steve, and this is the video of parts of it:

Donations payable to "Fiddlers Ferry Hardship Fund" can be sent via Warrington Trades Union Council, 6 Red Gables, Pepper Street, Warrington, WA4 4SB.

For more information see the Blacklist Blog.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Today's strikes by PCS (and UNITE!) and how stop cuts and austerity

Today (budget day) the PCS union called 250,000 members in the civil service out on strike in a dispute over pay, pensions and working conditions.  This was a very important step, restarting national industrial action after the massive set-back suffered when a number of unions signed up to shoddy deals on public sector pensions in December 2011 and the rest dithered rather than carrying forward the tremendous action on November 30th 2011 - allowing the government to impose cuts.

Other unions are now talking about rejoining the fray, notably with the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions which have announced joint rolling strikes starting in the north-west on 27th June.

There's an argument raging in the TUC about how to fight cuts and austerity effectively.  Some say we should wait for a Labour government.  Quite aside from the problem that members are losing their jobs and services now, this argument is continually undermined by Labour leaders who fail to promise anything noticeably different even if/when they get in office.  UNITE says it doesn't share this view, and recognises the need for working people to take action now to defend our livelihoods.

Within UNITE there have been some excellent debates since the TUC passed a motion about consulting unions about the practicalities of a general strike.  UNITE's response to the TUC on this has been amongst the better ones.  This was discussed in some detail at last week's UNITE Executive Council and Len McCluskey spoke at length about it when he spoke at an electioneering meeting in Manchester on Monday night.

In the debates within UNITE, most people recognise that large scale coordinated strike action will be needed if members are going to successfully resist cuts and austerity.  But there are big debates about how we can achieve this.  Some argue that we need to focus on "raising the consciousness" of members first.  Others, including myself, have argued that taking action goes hand in hand with building organisation, confidence and consciousness, rather than the action coming afterwards.

The debate is reflected in the current contest for UNITE General Secretary.  Len McCluskey makes excellent general speeches about the need for action, but the current leadership has done little to deliver it in the here and now.  At last week's Executive Council meeting I was the only person to raise the issue of solidarity with the PCS strike.  At Len's campaign meeting on Monday the strike wasn't mentioned at all.  Jerry Hicks' campaign has focussed strongly on the need to close the gap between fine words about action at some unspecified point in the future and deeds in the here and now.

In the context of these important debates, it was great to see over 100 UNITE members at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) on strike today, deliberately choosing to coordinate their strike with the national PCS action.  On their picket line in Manchester this morning the UNITE members were very clear about the fact that coordinated action had to start somewhere and their desire to see it spread.

When PCS, NUT and NASUWT are planning large scale action, every member of UNITE and other unions has a responsibility to seek every opportunity to coordinate action to maximum effect.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Jerry Hicks at Unite General Secretary election, Manchester hustings

My Unite branch hosted a hustings for the Unite General Secretary election on Friday.

Len McCluskey didn't respond to the letters from our branch secretary or turn up, but Jerry Hicks did and you can see him speak here: