Saturday 17 December 2016

ian4unite web site launched: Elect Ian Allinson as Unite General Secretary

This General Secretary election shouldn't even be happening. Like a million other Unite members it came as a surprise to me and until it was announced I had no plans to stand. The election timetable makes it as hard as possible for any challenger - it is an abuse of power.

Yet since Thursday night when I announced I was standing the response has been amazing, with offers of help and support from all over the union including people I've never met. This is enabling the campaign to get up and running fast. We already have:

While "more the same" McCluskey has the backing of most of the union machine, and "turn the clock back" Coyne has the backing of many of members' enemies in big business, the media and Westminster, I'm a workplace activist with no resources beyond my own and what supporters can offer. So if you can offer anything to support the campaign, please do get in touch - see the new web site for more information.

McCluskey in disarray on free movement of workers

When I launched the campaign for General Secretary of Unite on Thursday evening, Len McCluskey's backsliding on free movement of labour was one of the issues I raised. Little did I know how the issue would explode yesterday, with McCluskey and his supporters in full denial mode.

This is not a new issue. Even before the Brexit referendum, McCluskey described EU migration as a gigantic experiment at the expense of ordinary workers. At the Unite Policy Conference shortly after the referendum, I moved an emergency motion from my industrial sector which defended free movement. McCluskey and the Executive Council opposed this in favour of a woolly executive statement that called for a "debate" on free movement.

Since then McCluskey has set out his position in various places, including a speech for the think tank CLASS.

Contrary to some of the exaggerated reporting, McCluskey isn't directly calling for an end to workers' right to move freely, though it is telling that his reasons for doing so are not principled ones - his speech describes pulling up the drawbridge as impractical, worries that it would alienate some Labour voters, and sees free movement as the "price" for access to the EU single market. This last point implies that instead of workers' freedom to travel and work being vital, they are a necessary evil, whereas the free market is a desireable goal. In reality it is free market neoliberalism, not free movement of workers, which has been destroying our lives in recent decades.

McCluskey tries to fudge the argument further by talking about "safeguards" rather than "controls". He says "My proposal is that any employer wishing to recruit labour abroad can only do so if they are either covered by a proper trade union agreement, or by sectoral collective bargaining". Stripped of spin, what this really means is that he wants some workers (Currently abroad? Born abroad? Abroad before last month?) to be banned from applying for jobs in most of the UK economy, because we don't have union agreements covering most jobs - particularly in some industries where many migrant workers are forced to work.

McCluskey's fudge gives far too much ground to the discredited "British Jobs For British Workers" argument. The working class, and Unite members, are from all over the world. We can't build and maintain unity, and the strength to extend collective bargaining and defend our jobs and pay, if we fudge this question. McCluskey's comments are reminiscent of some elements of a previous generation of trade unionists who sought to exclude women from some jobs because of of a fear "they" would push down "our" wages. Of course McCluskey isn't this crude - he is an anti-racist. But we need clear leadership from the top of our union, not fudging that concedes ground to those who are nationalists and racists.

Unite members are already successfully grappling with these issues at workplace level. A few years ago the construction industry say disputes with people carrying "British Jobs For British Workers" placards, a slogan promoted by Gordon Brown and Derek Simpson - and which stoked divisive racism and nationalism. Earlier this year Unite members at Fawley oil refinery won an important dispute which secured equal pay for migrant workers. Solidarity beat scapegoating and division. This is the right approach.

I'm pleased that McCluskey and his supporters are now seeking to distance themselves from calls for restrictions on free movement. Part of the purpose of standing was to force key issues onto the agenda and avoid the election being reduced to a debate between "more of the same" McCluskey and "turn the clock back" Coyne.

I am calling on Len McCluskey to put an end to the fudge and come out clearly for free movement of workers, and against any rules that treat workers differently based on their nationality.

Members need Unite to be a strong and successful union, and this is only possible if it includes all  workers, rather than reflecting a mythical white British male working class of the past.

If you would like to support the campaign to elect Ian Allinson as Unite General Secretary, please leave your details here, email, like and share the Facebook page, or donate here.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Ian Allinson to stand against McCluskey and Coyne for Unite General Secretary

I have decided to seek nominations for the General Secretary election. It is essential that this election does not become a battle between Len McCluskey, offering more of the same, and Gerard Coyne, offering to turn the clock back to the bad old days when our union backed New Labour even while they attacked our own members – and saw membership decline. If members want to see a Corbyn government, Unite needs to shift the debate by fighting in workplaces and communities now, rather than relying so heavily on internal battles within Labour. This is the second time that Len McCluskey has foisted a premature election on us based on a false premise. Many activists recognise the election timetable as an undemocratic manoeuvre which minimises members’ voice.

I’ve been a workplace activist for 25 years at Fujitsu, building up the union in a largely unorganised industry. I led the first national strike in my industry in 2009-10. For ten years I served on the union’s executive before stepping down in 2014. I’m chair of Unite’s UK combine in Fujitsu, where my own workplace is currently in dispute and taking strike action over pay, pensions and job security. Nationally we’re fighting against job cuts from automation and offshoring.

Members have fought off attempts to victimise me and other reps. Unlike the two establishment candidates, I’m in the workplace, at the sharp end like the thousands of other reps and activists who make Unite the fighting union it is today.

Despite some progress during Len McCluskey’s time as General Secretary, our union is still falling far short of an adequate response to the onslaught members are facing from government, local authorities and employers.

There have been too many missed opportunities. Why was there no call for action or even a national demonstration in defence of the NHS when the Junior Doctors had the government on the ropes? Why was the momentum over public sector pensions frittered away? Why did we waste the opportunity around the London Olympics to smash the illegal blacklist? Why did we not call effective action when New Labour and employers attacked us at Grangemouth, or call for nationalisation which could have put huge pressure on both the SNP and Westminster governments? Why was our response to the Trade Union Act so pitiful?

The attacks on workers’ right to organise and strike are part of a wider assault on civil rights. The Tories want to scrap the Human Rights Act and leave the European Convention of Human Rights. Prevent means snooping, harassment and censorship for Muslims. We’ve had an international wave of anger against police violence, racism and deaths in custody. WikiLeaks exposed the level of state surveillance, while the role of undercover cops spying on peaceful protesters is gradually being exposed. CCTV is everywhere, and now we have the snoopers’ charter (RIPA). Migrants (and anyone suspected of being a migrant) face increased harassment, abuse, incarceration and deportation. Corporate secrecy blocks our rights to information about government actions and spending. Kettling, arrests and bail conditions restrict our right to protest. The Terrorism Act, which would have criminalised support for everyone from Gandhi and Mandela to the International Brigades, remains on the statute books. The state helps employers to blacklist workers. Tribunal fees and legal aid cuts restrict access to justice. We need to get off the back foot - Unite should be working with the campaigns around all these issues to organise conferences around the country and launch a positive movement for civil rights. Members need to support and learn from campaigns involving civil disobedience. If the government is putting effective trade unionism outside the law we need to educate and train ourselves how to respond – defying the Act requires action, not just slogans.

Few in Unite would agree with the Tory “partnership” ideology that “we are all in it together”, but Unite’s leadership has been going along with it in practice. It’s natural that employers will lobby for vanity projects from which they hope to make fat profits, such as Trident, Hinkley Point, HS2 and Heathrow expansion. The strategy of trying to save jobs by lobbying for our employers’ business plans has failed miserably. A million Unite members, and millions who should be members, are facing cuts to pay for these extravagancies when we should be seeing investment in public services and in the wide range of jobs that would improve our lives and tackle climate change. It is our own employers cutting jobs or moving them offshore and we need to fight to defend them. We’ve seen a similar problem with Unite’s “Brexit on out Terms” document - defending workers’ rights only merits a brief mention towards the end.

Following the Brexit vote Len McCluskey’s backsliding on free movement of workers is not good enough. Workers have sometimes responded to setbacks or defeats by claiming some privileged access to jobs, housing etc. and sought to exclude others – often on the basis of gender, race or nationality. Sometimes this works for some people for a short time, which is why this response can seem tempting. But it is misguided. Our ability to secure decent jobs and housing depends on our unity. As soon as workers slip into trying to protect their interests at the expense of other workers, that unity is undermined and we all lose out. You can’t argue to end free movement of labour without accepting that migration is a problem, and you can’t see migration as a problem and consistently build a united workforce – including the many migrants who live and work here.

As Jeremy Corbyn put it:

It isn’t migrants that drive down wages, it’s exploitative employers and the politicians who deregulate the labour market and rip up trade union rights. It isn’t migrants who put a strain on our NHS, it only keeps going because of the migrant nurses and doctors who come here filling the gaps left by politicians who have failed to invest in training. It isn’t migrants that have caused a housing crisis; it’s a Tory government that has failed to build homes”.

Rather than giving ground to the nationalists and racists, we should take inspiration from the Unite members at Fawley oil refinery who fought and won equal pay for workers irrespective of their country of origin or employment status. They built unity, rather than sowing division.

The arguments around migration are a good example of how equality, along with young members’ work, has to be made more central to Unite’s industrial agenda. The huge gender pay gap is a symptom of employment and pay practices which are unfair for all members, where managers have too much discretion to exercise their power and prejudices.

When he announced he was standing, Gerard Coyne accused Len McCluskey of "playing Westminster power games". In reality, Coyne is playing the biggest Westminster power game of all. He is backed by the Labour right who want to turn the clock back to the days when Labour leaders never backed members in a fight, supported anti-union laws, let PFI rip through our services, imposed cuts while spending billions on illegal wars. The discredited Ed Balls has already supported Coyne. McCluskey is right to have finally come behind Corbyn. But backing Corbyn through the Labour Party structures is not enough. Corbyn faces massive opposition from the establishment. His best chance of success is if there is a real movement of resistance to Tory policies at grass roots level. “Wait for Jeremy” is not good enough when our rights, jobs and services are under attack every day.

Across our union there are activists and members who are doing their best to organise members to fight back. When they are doing so it should feel like you have a million members behind you. But communication in the union is poor, most activists feel isolated, and it is much too hard to access the support you need. The branch reorganisation was too top-down and has left too many members without access to a functioning branch. As a workplace activist of 25 years in a difficult environment, I understand those frustrations. My campaign will help link up those on the front-line who want to build a more effective union. Our organising strategy has been a real step forward, but it is too disconnected from the membership.

Increasing the participation and power of workers must be Unite’s number one priority. That cannot be done without a real commitment to democracy at every level of our union. I favour the election of officers, where members get to choose who represents us and whose salaries we pay, whereas McCluskey and Coyne want to tell members who will represent us. If elected, I wouldn’t take the current six-figure salary for General Secretary, I would stay on my current wage.

Some will doubtless argue that by seeking nomination I am risking the union sliding backwards under Gerard Coyne. Unite members are better than that. In recent General Secretary elections the right wing candidates haven’t even made second place.

Standing as a workplace activist against two senior officials would always be an uphill task. When the election process is so skewed in favour of the incumbent it is doubly so. But ultimately members will not be silenced – it is after all our union. Whatever the result, this campaign will force key issues onto the agenda and bring together those within Unite who want something better than more of the same. And after the last 18 months nobody should rule out the underdog.

Members don’t want the clock turning back with Coyne, but neither can we keep waiting for effective resistance from McCluskey. I don’t have the resources of the establishment candidates. If you want to see a grass roots socialist challenge then don’t just sit back and wait. It is always member activity that produces change, and this election is no different. Please get involved.

If you want to get involved in the campaign, or want materials or a speaker for a workplace or branch nomination meeting, please enter your details here. You can also email and donate towards the cost of the campaign via

I have run a blog about Unite for a number of years:

Friday 9 December 2016

Latest anti-union laws

The government has published new draft documents relating to the Trade Union Act 2016. These include:

These are expected to become law on 1 March 2017.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Snap General Secretary election called

Once again Len McCluskey has decided to force a snap General Secretary election, in which he intends to stand for re-election. The announcement is here and the official Unite information is here.

Calling the election now, a year early, with nominations 16 January - 17 February 2017, is clearly intended to slant the election even further in favour of the incumbent.

Many will remember that when Len re-stood early last time, he said he wouldn't standing again. Last time there was much criticism of the cost of the unnecessary election. This time the cost is being used to justify bringing the election forward to coincide with the Executive Council elections.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Strikes continue at Fujitsu

We had our third strike day today at Fujitsu Manchester, and two more have now been called for Wednesday and Thursday next week.

Check out our Unite @ Fujitsu web site for the latest news - and an "appeal for support" leaflet which includes how you can contribute to our strike fund.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Unite Executive Council Elections

The union is gearing up for elections to its Executive Council (EC), which is effectively the ruling body of the union between policy and rules conferences.

The Unite web site has a page about the forthcoming elections. This includes a helpful new booklet Your Union is Run By You. The main points from the timeline are:

  • Members seeking nomination must submit campaign statements by Friday 25 November
  • Nominations from branches and workplaces must be made 16 January - 17 February
  • Voting will be 27 March - 19 April, with the result declared on 28 April
  • New EC takes office 1 May 2017 for a three-year term
The numbers of seats have been revised ready for the election, to reflect the paying membership. The numbers in brackets indicate designated seats to ensure that representation is at least proportionate to the membership. The first number in brackets is the minimum number of women, the second number in brackets is the minimum number of Black, Asian & Ethnic Minority (BAME) members.

Total 71 (19) (7) broken down as:

Regions 24 (10) (2):
  • East Midlands 2 (1)
  • Ireland 2 (1)
  • London & Eastern 4 (1) (1)
  • North East, Yorkshire & Humber 2 (1)
  • North West 3 (1)
  • Scotland 2 (1)
  • South East 2 (1)
  • Wales 2 (1)
  • West Midlands 3 (1) (1)
National Equality Seats 5 (1) (1)
  • Women 1 (1)
  • BAEM 1 (-) (1)
  • LGBT (1)
  • Disabled (1)
  • Youth (1) 
 Industrial Sector Seats 42 (7) (3)
  • Aerospace & Shipbuilding 2
  • Automotive Industries 3 (-) (1)
  • Civil Air Transport 3 (1) (1)
  • Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Process & Textiles 1
  • Community, Youth Workers and Not for Profit 1
  • Construction (Unite) *
  • Construction (UCATT) *
  • Docks, Rail, Ferries and Waterways 1
  • Education 1
  • Energy and Utilities 1
  • Food, Drink and Agriculture 3 (1) (1)
  • Finance and Legal 3 (2)
  • General Engineering, Manufacturing and Servicing 2
  • Government, Defence, Prisons and Contractors 1
  • Graphical, Paper, Media and Information Technology 1
  • Health 3 (2)
  • Local Authorities 2 (1)
  • Metals (including Foundry) 1
  • Passenger Transport 2 (-) (1)
  • Road Transport Commercial, Logistics and Retail Distribution 2
  • Service Industries 1
* The construction seats are dependent on the transfer of engagements from UCATT to Unite going ahead and discussions. The 4 UCATT seats would be taken by members of their existing executive.

Observers 2
  • Retired Members 1
  • Gibraltar 1

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Strikes called at Fujitsu Manchester

Unite has now issued the call for industrial action - action short of strike and the first three strike days, as part of our dispute over pay, pensions and job security. The first action starts on Monday, with the first strike on Tuesday 1st November.

More details are here. You can also follow and support our campaign via Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Unite ballots Fujitsu Manchester over Pay, Pensions and Job Security

Unite's industrial action ballot of members in my own workplace has now opened.

There's an appeal for support leaflet, and you can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Unite Minimum Standards for Greater Manchester?

The next meeting of Unite's Area Activists Committee for Greater Manchester will be discussing the motion below. It is taking place on Tuesday 6th December at the Unite Salford office. The meeting of the elected committee will be at 5:15pm, followed at 6:30pm by the meeting open to all UNITE activists.

Unite Minimum Standards for Greater Manchester

Many workplaces with Unite members have some workers on unacceptably bad terms and conditions.

The Manchester Area Activists Committee resolves to directly or indirectly initiate a campaign for Unite Minimum Standards for Greater Manchester. Such standards might include being an accredited Living Wage employer, no use of zero hours contracts etc.

Central to the campaign will be a fund to which branches are encouraged to contribute. Where Unite members in a workplace contribute regularly to the fund through a levy, they are entitled to apply to use the fund to supplement Unite Dispute Benefit in pursuit of the Unite Minimum Standards for Greater Manchester.

Criteria would be established to select workplaces to strike in pursuit of the standards. These might include the employer's ability to pay, members' power, profile, cost etc.

As a first step a meeting will be organised with activists from Greater Manchester, activists involved in previous campaigns based around levies (drive for 35, RR, GKN) and appropriate officers, organisers and staff. This meeting will be tasked with coming back to the next Area Activists Committee with more detailed proposals.

Monday 22 August 2016

An attempt to split the United Left

The United Left is the dominant faction within UNITE, including both General Secretary Len McCluskey and a majority of the union's Executive Council. It appears from the letter below that there is an attempt to split the United Left in Scotland, a move that would have significance across the union as a whole. Given that people are naturally reluctant to split such successful groupings, any such split is likely to be over an important issue, but the letter doesn't say what that is.

United Left Scotland members

It has been brought to the attention of the United Left Scotland committee that someone or a group have called a meeting for the 27th August at Renfield St Stephens Centre, Bath St., Glasgow, claiming to be United Left Scotland.

Please be aware that the group calling themselves United Left Scotland 2016 are bogus and do not represent the views of the one and only United Left Scotland and the Co-ordinator's Committee that was democratically elected at our AGM in June. We have alerted the chair of the national United left and, whilst there are no names attached to the United left Scotland 2016 email, we are attempting to identify the source and urge them to stop going ahead with this divisive approach.

Three members of our Co-ordinator's Committee attended a meeting of The National Co-ordinator's Committee on the 23rd July in Manchester where the ULS AGM was recognised and the decisions taken, endorsed, unequivocally.

This attempt to create a split using the United Left Scotland name is both outrageous and insulting, and one in which members, who wish to concentrate on our political and industrial priorities, for our union, in a unified and dignified manner, should ignore.

Meanwhile on a more positive note, the committee have met twice since the AGM and as agreed at the AGM have made progress in arranging a post EU event in partnership with a number of other like minded organisations. The flyer for this event will be circulated in next few days please hold date of 17th September.

We have also set up a United Left Scotland Facebook Group and encourage you to join this Facebook group. Insert link.

In solidarity

Jim Harte

Chair, United Left Scotland

Friday 15 July 2016

Unite Policy Conference 2016 - Thursday's business

I've written a report for rs21 which covers the highlights of Thursday's business. It was a packed day, which included the momentous decision to back mandatory reselection for Labour MPs - something that would not have been supported a few weeks ago.

John McDonnell addressed conference, took questions and was enthusiastically received:

Below are the decisions I managed to note - I had to miss a few to take phone calls about my workplace.

Motion 83: Right to receive: Carried
Composite 20: Equalities Monitoring: Carried
Motion 82: Hidden disability and neurodiversity awareness: Carried
Motion 89: Equality Training: Carried
Motion 90 + Amendment: Assistance with Training and Support for new/existing Reps who have a Disability: Carried
Composite 33: Equipping Unite to Resist the Trade Union Act: Carried
Composite 34: Campaigning Against the Trade Union Act: Carried
Composite 35: E-balloting for Industrial Action and Executive Bodies: Carried
Composite 36: Redundancy Rights: Carried
Motion 170: Agency Workers Directive and 'Swedish Derogation': Carried

Conference watched a short film about blacklisting:

A fundraising appeal was circulated for a documentary about the blacklist.

Motion 171: Blacklisting and the next Labour Government: Carried
Motion 173 + Amendments: Casualisation of Employment: Carried
Motion 179: Zero Hours Contracts: [need to check]
Motion 180: Minimum Pay Rates for Working Anti-Social Hours: [need to check]
Motion 177: Corporate Governance: Remitted
Motion 178: Workers' representatives on company boards: Remitted
Composite 32: Regional Devolution: Carried
Motion 153: Regional Devolution: Carried
Motion 156: True Democracy for County Councils, City Councils and Borough Councils: Fell
Motion 159: Anti-fascism: Carried
[This motion committed Unite to ensure support is put in place to assist local groups to take direct action in opposing fascist demonstrations. The mover also referred to the need to support those jailed for anti-fascist activity]
Composite 41: Labour Party Leadership: Carried
Motion 161: Reselection of MPs: Carried
Motion 162: Constitutional Reform: Carried (Amendments were Withdrawn)
Motion 181: Defending Communities: Carried
Motion 182: The Need for a Commissioner for the Elderly in the UK: Carried
Motion 183: Cold Weather Deaths: Carried
Composite 37: Unite in Schools: Carried
Motion 187: HIV Support Services: Carried
Motion 188: Mobility Insurance: Carried
Motion 189: Statutory Youth Service: Carried
Emergency Motion 3: Don't cut our Rights - Save the Equality and Human Rights Commission: Carried
Composite 14: Public Transport as Part of Our Greener Cities Agenda: Carried
Composite 15: Balanced Energy Policy: Carried
Composite 16: Public ownership of utilities: Carried
Composite 17: Fracking: Carried
Composite 18: Action on Climate Change: Carried
Motion 190 + Amendment: Branch Secretaries Email Support: Carried
Composite 38: Towards a Sustainable Unite: Remitted
Motion 192: Outsourcing and Procurement: Carried
Motion 197: Executive Council Elections: Remitted
Motion 198: Reintroduction of Skilled Membership Card: Remitted
Motion 199: Disenfranchised Members: Carried
Motion 200: Route for Emergency Motions: Carried
Motion 147: Affiliate to National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN): Remitted
Emergency Motion 7: Solidarity with USW members at National Grid: Carried

During conference elections were held for the 5th policy conference Standing Orders Committee (SOC) and the following were elected:
  • EM: Steve Froggatt
  • I: Fraces Hourihane
  • LE: Marsha de Cordova
  • NEYH: Dave Allen
  • NW: Martin McMulkin
  • S: Linda Delgado
  • SE: Jan Bastable
  • SW: Agnes Hilditch
  • W: Julie Evans
  • WM: Barry Hartshorn
There were also elections for the Appeals Committee, with the following elected:
  • EM: Rob Siddons
  • I: Liam Gallagher 
  • LE: Jim Kelly, Susan Matthews
  • NEYH: Ian King, Angela Duncum
  • NW: Ian Bruce
  • S: Shirley Johnson
  • SE: Paul Millam
  • SW: And Worth
  • W: Phil Jones
  • WM: Dave Harrison

Thursday 14 July 2016

Unite Policy Conference 2016 - Wednesday's business

I've already posted videos of Jeremy Corbyn's speech and Sharon Graham's presentation on the Unite Industrial Strategy - Work, Voice, Pay.

The liveliest debate of the day was around the aftermath of the EU referendum and what UNITE's position on freedom of movement should be. Conference agreed the EC statement which didn't take a clear position on freedom of movement, but called for a debate across the union on it. As a result the emergency motions defending freedom of movement fell. The passing of Composite 19 partially remedies this, but still leaves our policy unclear.

I've shared the conference agenda (the original motions) and a booklet with many of the composites. Further information on conference business can be found at

Composite 31 (Motions 148 + Amendment, 150, 151, 184): Pensions and Retirement: Carried
Motion 128: Sports Direct: Carried


 Composite 28 (Motions 129, 146): Collective Bargaining and National Agreements: Carried
Motion 130: Campaigning Against the Mythology of Redundancy: Carried
Motion 131: Organising Agency Workers: Carried
Motion 132: Decent Work Campaign: Carried
Motion 135: Management Techniques & Employee Participation: Carried
Composite 29 (Motions 136, 137): Challenge of the Digital Economy: Carried
Motion 141: Income Tax: Carried
Motion 142: Income Tax: Carried
Motion 144: Outsourcing: Remitted
Motion 145 + Amendment: BBC: Carried
Executive Statement 3: European Union: Carried
Emergency Motion 2: No to racism, yes to human rights: Fell
Emergency Motion 4: Brexit and the rise of racism: Remitted
Emergency Motion 6: EU Referendum: Fell
Motion 71: Women at Work: Carried
Motion 73: Ensuring Equal Pay Implementation: Carried
Motion 72: Childcare and Work: Carried
Motion 74: Childcare - Impact on Women's Activism: Carried
Motion 75: Stand up to Racism Campaign: Carried
Composite 19 (Motions 76, 77, 78): Immigration Act 2016: Carried
Motions 79 + Amendment: LGBT Rights: Carried
Motion 80: LGBT Survivor Pensions Equality: Carried
Motion 81: Trans Rights: Carried

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's speech to Unite Policy Conference

Jeremy Corbyn's speech showed how much his own views align with Unite policies. He got particularly strong applause for his commitments to renationalise the railways and repeal the Trade Union Act. He also talked about the Workplace 2020 discussions about the future of work.

Those planning to stand against Corbyn for Labour leader should note - only a handful of delegates didn't stand and applaud him, and presumably some of those were people who had difficulty standing. This is markedly more enthusiastic than the response to any Labour leader I can remember.

Watch for yourself:

Work, Voice, Pay - Unite Industrial Strategy (with better video)

At the end of Unite Policy Conference today, Sharon Graham, who leads the Organising and Leverage Department, gave a presentation about a new database which all Unite officers and reps will be able to access online, giving details of agreements at tens of thousands of workplaces. It is accessible through the Work Voice Pay link on the front page of the Unite web site.

Watch Sharon's presentation:

Unite Policy Conference 2016 - Tuesday's business

The biggest debate of the day was around local government cuts. An Executive Statement strengthened Unite's policy, but didn't go as far as the motions which fell as a result of it passing.

Composite 1 (Motions 1 & 2): Campaigning Against Privatisation: Carried
Executive Statement 2: Austerity and Local Government Cuts: Carried
Composite 2 (Motions 3, 4, 5): Campaigning Against Local Government Cuts: Fell
Motion 6: Fighting Back Against Austerity: Fell
Composite 3 (Motions 7, 8 + Amendment, 9 + Amendment): Defending the NHS: Carried
Motion 138: Support the Junior Doctors Campaign Against a Pay Cut and Increased Working Hours: Carried
Composite 4 (Motions10 + Amendment, 11, 12, 13): Campaigning for Homes for All: Carried
Composite 5 (Motions 14 & 15): The Failure of Austerity: Carried
Motion 16: Defending our Libraries: Carried
Composite 24 (Motions 100, 102, 103, 104): Campaigning to Defeat TTIP, CETA and TiSA: Carried
Motion 105: Workers Uniting: Carried
Motion 106: BAEM Workers Internationally: Carried
Motion 107: Palestine: Carried
Motion 108: G4S/Palestine: Carried
Motion 109: Support for Syria: Carried
Motion 110: Anti-war in the Middle East: Carried
Motion 111: Solidarity with the Kurdish population and all progressive forces fighting repression in Turkey: Carried
Composite 25 (Motion 113 + As): Latin America: Carried
Motion 112: Columbia: Carried
Motion 114: Bullying, Harassment and Wellbeing at Work: Carried
Motion 115: Shift Working and its impact on our members: Carried
Composite 26 (Motions 117 & 112): Stress: Carried
Motion 118: Fibromyalgia Awareness in Unite and workplaces: Carried
Motion 120: Campaign and ban the use of Helium Balloons and Chinese Lanterns: Lost
Composite 13 (Motions 57 & 58): Ireland - economics and politics: Carried
Motion 121: Electronic Cigarettes: Remitted
Composite 27 (Motions 123 + As, 124, 125, 126): Mental Health: Carried
Motion 127: Food Standards / Hygiene Issues: Carried

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Unite Policy Conference 2016 - Monday's business

The main debate of the day was on Trident, where an Executive Council Statement was agreed. It contains stronger commitments to diversification than in the past, but means Unite won't be calling for MPs to vote against Trident until there is a government committed to diversification.

Motion 36: Economic Policy: Fell
Motion 37 + Amendment: The Financial Crisis: Carried
Composite 9 (Motions 38 + Amendment, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44): A Strategic Plan for Manufacturing: Carried [after EC assurance that this would not be interpreted as a return to "British Jobs 4 British Workers"]
Motion 47: Save Our Steel: Carried
Composite 10 (Motions 45, 46, 101): Save our Steel / China MES: Carried
Composite 11 (Motions 50 + Amendment, 133, 134): Ownership and Regulation of Public Transport: Carried
Motion 49: Ownership Control & Regulation of the Public Transport System: Carried
Motion 48: Investment in Transport Infrastructure: Carried
Motion 51: Supermarket Loss Leaders: Carried
Composite 12 (Motions 52, 53, 143): Living Wage and Basic Income: Carried
Motion 54: Basic Income: Carried
Motion 55: CPI (Consumer Price Index) v RPI (Retail Price Index): Carried
Executive Statement 1: Defence Diversification & Trident: Carried
As a result, all the remaining motions on the subject fell:
Composite 6 (Motions 19, 20 + Amendment, 23, 27, 28, 30, 32, 34)
Composite 7 (Motions 21, 22, 24, 35)
Motion 17
Motion 29
Motion 31
Motion 33
Motion 18 Withdrawn
Motion 25 Withdrawn
Motion 26 Withdrawn

Sunday 3 July 2016

Defending Corbyn and Freedom of Movement

Unite's National Industrial Sector Committee (NISC) for my sector (GPM&IT) met this week and agreed to submit the following as emergency motions to the Unite Policy Conference this month.

It is likely that the "leadership" will try to avoid either being passed by putting forward fudgy "Executive Statements". If an Executive Statement is passed, all motions on the same subject fall. Given how long it took to get our union behind Corbyn in the first place, and our General Secretary's recent unhelpful comments about free movement of labour, conference fudge is the last thing we need.

1) Defend Jeremy Corbyn

This conference recognises that the outcome of the UK’s referendum on EU membership has significant economic and political implications at UK, EU and global levels. Now that the decision to leave the EU has been taken, the labour movement urgently needs a positive programme for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland post-EU. This must be based on a break from the neoliberal free-market agendas of both the UK government and the EU, along with a strong platform of workers’ rights, civil rights and equality.

This conference believes that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is much better placed to provide a positive way forward than the failed New Labour alternatives.

This conference deplores the actions of many Labour MPs in undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and pledges UNITE’s support in the leadership election.

2) No to racism, yes to human rights

This conference is appalled at the racism, xenophobia and hostility to migrants evident from some campaigners on both sides during the EU referendum, and by the increase in racist abuse, harassment and attacks following the result. We note the increased insecurity facing non-UK citizens, including many UNITE members.

This conference believes that scapegoating migrants for austerity, poor housing, jobs and services undermines all our ability to tackle the real causes.

This conference believes that calls for restrictions on freedom of movement for people, and our right to work without discrimination based on nationality, conceded ground to the racist myth that migration, rather than the actions of government and employers, are the causes of the problems that face us. Such calls encourage blaming of migrant workers in the UK and undermine the solidarity we need to tackle our problems.

This conference resolves to:
1. Redouble our opposition to racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia and our solidarity with migrants
2. Oppose calls to restrict free movement of people or the right to work and to defend employment rights and anti-discrimination legislation
3. Campaign to highlight the real causes of poor housing, jobs and services and the part played by migrants and BAEM people in fighting against them

Friday 24 June 2016

Responding to the EU Referendum - Len gets it wrong

After a campaign marked by racism, fear-mongering and lies from both the main campaigns, the result is now out - a vote to leave the EU. This isn't the result Unite campaigned for, our union was clearly on the "Remain" side, though (thank goodness) it didn't back the official campaign. Members deserved better than a choice between Cameron, Osborne and Blair on the one hand, or Johnson, Farage and Gove on the other. At least, whichever way we voted, we got to see the two wings of the establishment rightly denouncing each other as liars.

But what now? Given the views of the leaders of the Leave camp, and Project Fear run by the Remain camp, little wonder that many fear for the future. We certainly face a couple of years of uncertainty and instability.

Unfortunately the line promoted by the TUC and most unions during the campaign is now coming back to haunt us. We were told that the EU had "given us" most of our rights and that we would be helpless outside the EU. While we have benefited from some EU legislation and European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings, our rights have been hard-won by workers in the UK and abroad. We have never been helpless and we aren't now.

The referendum took place in a failed attempt to resolve divisions within the Tory Party and with their UKIP splinter, between their pro-EU big-business backers and their little-Englander social base who dreamt of getting their empire back. This context, and the lack of a sizeable left opposition to the EU, meant much of the debate and media coverage was heavily coloured by anti-migrant racism.

The anti-EU right will be trying to build on the result. Both wings of the right will be trying to ensure the discontent articulated through the Leave vote is channelled into more anti-migrant racism and away from the rich and powerful who are really responsible for cuts, poor housing, inadequate services and welfare, crap jobs and unemployment.

So at a time like this it is vital that the labour movement doesn't write off the millions who voted Leave as consistently and incurably racist. We have to offer a positive way to tackle our problems, not give ground to racism.

In this context, Len McCluskey's statement after the referendum result is awful. In amongst some good points he says "Politicians must now respond appropriately and in a way that satisfies the genuinely held concerns of the public. This includes looking at how best to deal with the difficult issue of the free movement of labour and its impact on working people". While being vague and evasive, this panders to the idea that "free movement of labour" is a problem and that it has a negative impact on "working people" (as if the "labour" that is movement is not "working people"!). This is the kind of nonsense that "Blue Labour" have been peddling for years.

In a previous article, McCluskey argued that unions had always tried to control the labour supply. There is some truth in this. But workers have taken different approaches to doing so. On the one hand, some groups of workers have tried to claim priviledged access to certain jobs by excluding others (e.g. women, blacks). Sometimes this appears to get results for a while, if the group has the power to enforce discrimination against others. But it imposes severe limits on potential solidarity by reinforcing rather than overcoming divisions in the working class. The other approach to controlling the labour supply has been by organising workers - across divides of gender, race, skill or origin. It's not easy, but its potential for results is far greater.

Finance capital can move freely across borders at the click of a mouse. Its flows can wreak havoc on workers half way across the globe. Our politicians can send arms, planes, ships and troops to destroy cities.

Is the labour movement going to slide into accepting divisions between workers based on where they happen to have been born? Or are we going to seek to organise workers and challenge those really responsible for our problems. We can't do both and UNITE members need to be demanding that our union comes down clearly on the right side - opposing racism against migrants, defending our right to travel freely, and building solidarity.

Friday 27 May 2016

Unite Executive Guidance on Strike Pay

Our Executive Council has issued new guidance on strike pay and criteria for application for additional payments. I can send a copy to UNITE members on request.

An important point from the EC guidance is that applications for payments should be made via the Regional Officer or National Officer organising and overseeing the dispute or lockout. The request then goes via the relevant Regional Secretary or Assistant General Secretary to the General Secretary. There must be specific reasons for any application for increased strike pay and it must be demonstrated that it is an integral part of a detailed strategic plan to win the dispute.

So if you are contemplating industrial action, make sure you discuss with the relevant officer well in advance, work out your "plan to win", and get any applications in. The standard strike pay of £35 a day is clearly a huge help for members taking action, and the ability of the Executive Council Disputes Committee to authorise additional strike pay where appropriate is even better. It helps for employers contemplating pushing members into dispute to know that we have a strike fund that must by now be nearing £30m.

Sunday 15 May 2016

Report from Labor Notes conference and the Chicago Teachers' Strike

At the start of April I was lucky enough to be part of a small delegation from the UK to the Labor Notes conference in Chicago, which brought together over 2000 activists for an inspiring, stimulating and useful set of plenaries and workshops. The trip coincided with the 1 April strike by the Chicago teachers, which turned into a huge day of strikes, demonstrations and occupations involving dozens of unions and community organisations.

The first version of our report is now available here. So far it includes an overview of Labor Notes, reports from some workshops with really useful organising ideas, a report from the Chicago teachers' strike, and some background information about the US labour movement which might be helpful to readers.

Thanks to all the individuals and organisations who helped fund the delegation. Hopefully our report demonstrates that the trip was well worthwhile.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Report from GPM&IT NISC April 2016

The committee, which covers the Graphical, Paper, Media & IT industries, met Monday and Tuesday. This is a summary of some key points. I’ve not included most of the industrial detail (and some other points) in my report because not everything is appropriate to post publicly. For jargon, see here.

Organising, Campaigning and Education:

  1. Osborne’s National Living Wage (NLW) is basically a rebadged and slightly higher National Minimum Wage at £7.20 an hour for over 25s, not to be confused with the real Living Wage of £8.25 or £9.40 in London for over 18s. The NLW is based on a percentage of median income rather than any measure of the cost of living. Some of the worst employers are trying to fund the NLW by cutting terms and conditions elsewhere or setting excessive workload targets so people have to work more hours than they are paid for. Members at one company are balloting over pay in relation to this. Fujitsu has had some bad press from its FSESL subsidiary in the UK. There were many more examples.
  2. Members at Tullis Russell who lost their jobs have won £1.5m compensation. The NISC paid tribute to the work of Paul Reilly, the Unite convenor there, who has not yet found alternative employment.
  3. In line with the decision of our sector conference, a report on organising is being sent out to RISCs via their secretaries following each NISC meeting and RISCs are asked to feed back their ideas, experiences, comments and plans, as well as including organising in their reports to the NISC. Verbal reports showed some good activity going on in some regions.
  4. The NISC’s organising strategy subcommittee will seek a meeting with Sharon Graham from the organising department.
  5. The NISC is keen to get a revised version of the strategic report on the sector produced for the sector conference about four years ago.
  6. Unite has created a new Manufacturing Combine bringing together reps from relevant sectors. An initial meeting had explored its remit and goals and set up some work groups. We elected two NISC members to attend on behalf of the GPM&IT sector.
  7. I gave a report on the use of Skype to increase participation of members not at sites where face to face members’ meetings were practicable. These have been well received by members and are helping offline organising and the education of members about issues and their rights.
  8. Education is under attack generally, from student fees, abolition of EMA, academisation of schools and cuts to adult education. Training for union reps is part of adult education, which has faced cuts of 50% this year. It is anticipated that all funding may be removed from July 2017, which will require major changes to trade union education. While Unite, other unions and organisations work on strategies to respond, workplaces are encouraged to get as many reps through training as possible before funding is removed. As always, there is a push to increase the participation of young members, women and BAEM members.

Health & Safety:

  1. International Workers’ Memorial Day is 28th April 2016. There are Unite posters, stickers etc on the theme “strong laws, strong enforcement, strong unions” available from offices or the web site. The intention is to highlight the threat to health and safety from government cuts and the Trade Union Bill. Other resources are available from the TUC and Hazards.
  2. Stress is the biggest health issue facing workplaces, and Unite will be updating its existing guidance.
  3. The TUC health and safety and organising guide is now available in PDF and epub formats via
  4. Unite is updating its H&S guide, the 2014 version is online. Susan Murray and Bud Hudspith are keen to hear members’ views on what issues should be in the new edition, the most suitable format, and any other comments.


  1. The Lords are still discussing the Trade Union Bill and the situation with amendments should be clearer around the end of next week. Though there may be progress on electronic balloting, the idea of secure workplace balloting, essential to raising turnout and avoiding a “digital divide”.
  2. The Tories are carrying out a triple attack to weaken political opposition. The Trade Union Bill aims to slash funding to the Labour Party, boundary changes will disproportionately eliminate Labour-held seats, and changes to voter registration have disenfranchised millions of people – disproportionately young, poor and in insecure housing.
  3. Unite is encouraging people to register to vote, and to opt for a postal vote as this delivers a higher turnout.
  4. While media attention is on the Euro-referendum campaign there are election for councils, devolved government etc for the entire country on 5 May. Unite is campaigning for a Labour vote. It is likely that Labour will suffer losses as it did very well the last time this set of council seats came up. There is also concern that UKIP will pick up seats so Unite has produced material highlighting that far from being an anti-establishment party they are cosy with big business and in favour of cuts to public services and workers’ rights. EU citizens living in the UK can vote in all the elections taking place on 5 May.
  5. There was frustration that many Labour councillors try to keep quiet about the cuts rather than being open about the impact of the Tory cuts they are passing on and campaigning on the issue. Just 15% of local government funding comes from council tax, compared to 60% from central government, and the rest from business rates and service charges.
  6. Some Labour MPs continue to try to undermine Corbyn. One effect of the boundary changes is that later in the parliament all constituencies will need to select their candidate for the next General Election, creating an opportunity for constituencies to choose candidates reflecting their priorities.
  7. A GPM&IT remit to the Executive Council supporting Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum had been “left on the table” rather than voted on as it was unlikely to have secured majority support due to “concerns” about some of the people involved in Momentum. The NISC agreed to remove the Momentum bullet point from the remit and resubmit it.
  8. Unite is campaigning for a “Remain” vote in the EU referendum in June, along with most other unions. NISC members overwhelmingly supported this position, but were not always confident that members in their workplaces did. Unite will run its own campaign based on jobs and workers’ rights, rather than backing any of the wider campaigns. I asked why, given that both main campaigns and the media were stoking up racism against migrants, who form an important part of Unite’s membership, and that equality is supposed to be at the heart of our union’s agenda, we weren’t making defence of migrants a central issue too. Simon Dubbins explained that Unite has produced materials to arm members for such arguments, but while not ducking the issue, it wasn’t seen as “our issue to raise”, though our approach might have to be revised as the campaign unfolded. Further information and campaign materials are available here.


  1. Keith Keys from the GPM Charitable Trust asked activists to raise awareness of the help that is available to members, for example with mobility aids, home adaptations and respite or convalescent care.
  2. The motions submitted for the Unite Policy Conference 2016 have been circulated to secretaries of branches and constitutional committees, which have until 20 May to submit amendments.
  3. It was agreed to have a standing item on NISC agendas to monitor and action progress on implementation of the motions passed at the sector conference, and reports can be provided to RISC members.
  4. The issue raised from our sector about the implications of automation and the use of robots for workforces across the economy, is now being considered by the Labour Research Department.
  5. Following HMRC input, Unite’s lay member expenses policy has changed, and is likely to change again in the near future. Allowance rates have been changed, and all claims for allowances must be supported by at least some receipted evidence of expenditure.
  6. The Welsh RISC is now functional and has elected two delegates to the NISC. There remains an issue to be resolved where the Regional Secretary believes four of those elected to the RISC are not eligible because of the constituency arrangements in Wales.
  7. The next NISC meetings will be 30 June – 1 July at Esher; and 13-14 October in London. NISC members who cannot attend a meeting were reminded to submit apologies in good time so that substitute delegates can be invited.