Friday 22 January 2016

UNITE GPM&IT National Industrial Sector Committee, January 2016

The committee, which covers the Graphical, Paper, Media & IT industries, met on Thursday and Friday. This is a summary of some key points. I’ve not included most of the industrial detail in my report because it isn’t appropriate to post publicly. For jargon, see here.

NISC members were very unhappy that there was still no representation from Wales. The original Welsh RISC meeting had been inquorate because the Welsh Regional Secretary had decided that two delegates were not allowed to be elected to the RISC from the same company even if this meant leaving places vacant, despite this being contrary to the Executive Council (EC) guidelines. The Wales Region had attempted to reconvene the conference, but this time that wasn’t quorate so no elections were possible. The situation is to be discussed at the Wales Regional Committee in the next few weeks. NISC members were keen for this to be resolved without further delay, seeing it as unacceptable for the members in a country to be unrepresented. The issue will be raised at the next EC meeting.

Funding for trade union education via the Skills Funding Agency, including reps training, faces a massive reduction in September 2016 as part of the government’s wider assault on Further Education. A report on how UNITE will respond to this will be discussed at the next Executive Council meeting.

Delegates were disappointed that Sharon Graham from the organising department was again unable to attend, after having been unable to attend conference for our sector in November, though she had led great sessions at the plenary and for many other sectors. At the GPM&IT conference delegates had agreed motions on organising, one of which set tasks for our Organising Strategy Subcommittee. This held an initial meeting on the Thursday evening and agreed some initial actions. A report will be circulated to all RISCs. The subcommittee plans to arrange its second meeting around Sharon’s availability to ensure that our sector’s plans complement what the organising department is doing rather than conflicting or duplicating it.

Under the EC report there was a wide ranging discussion including support for Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum; how to deal with bad Labour MPs; support for the student nurses and junior doctors’ disputes; Cameron’s racist nonsense about Muslims, learning English and terrorism; and our international work.

Raffiq Moosa was elected as our delegate to the Labour Party conference.

Bud Hudspith was unable to attend in person but provided a detailed written Health & Safety report which will be circulated electronically. In discussion it was clarified that though it is not a legal requirement for the HSE to contact union safety reps when they visit a workplace, it is their policy to do so.

The discussion on the report from the National Officer, Ian Tonks, included a lot of information about specific companies and workplaces which I have not included in this report for confidentiality reasons. An interesting point raised was how we turn increases to the National Minimum Wage (as it becomes Cameron’s National Living Wage) and the actual Living Wage, into wider rises to maintain differentials. Officers dealing with the GPM&IT sector will be meeting on 1-2 February. There was an interesting discussion about the benefits and dangers of national agreements and how they combined with uneven organisation and local bargaining. Sharing information between reps in competitor companies is a vital step.

On the Thursday evening NISC members attended an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the bitter News International Wapping dispute with Rupert Murdoch, backed by Thatcher, the police and the leadership of the EETPU. This included a showing of the film Banging Out about Fleet Street and the Wapping dispute. The event had been funded by six branches in the sector.

Louisa Bull, one of the officers covering GPM&IT in London & Eastern, gave a wide ranging report which included new recognition agreements at Ambitions Personnel Limited and Pearson Education Limited. The agreement with Ambitions is particularly significant because it is an employment agency. With the support of the Printing Charity there is now a facility in England and Wales for UNITE officers to refer individual redundant members in the GPM&IT sector to Renovo who can provide outplacement services (CV writing, interview skills etc). Officers will also be able to access support from Renovo for larger redundancies where the employer is unable to fund outplacement support itself. The equivalent arrangement for Scotland is via Pace. Louisa will be speaking on equality and diversity at the London Book Fayre. A new toolkit for GPM&IT reps is finished and is currently being printed. It will also be available to reps and branch officers in the sector via on the sector pages on the Unite web site.

Rick Graham from the research department reported on his work. This included a survey of GPM&IT reps on the use of agency labour which he will be analysing shortly.

Morag Livingstone updated the NISC on a documentary she is making about the Grangemouth, Post Office (2007-9) and Wapping disputes. It is called “Belonging: the truth behind the headlines” and a short clip is available on the film’s web site. It is a feature length (90 minute) documentary which a number of union branches and regions have already contributed to funding. If a further £45K can be raised it will be possible to make it available free on YouTube for a period as part of its promotion. Further financial contributions are needed and Morag is happy to travel to speak at meetings.

I gave a short report from the IT & Comms Advisory Committee which had met on Wednesday. It had a first look at a survey of reps gathering information about workplaces, employers and issues. More work is required to go through it in detail to produce specific proposals for organising targets and opportunities to re-use materials when campaigning on issues affecting many employers. Discussion also included the more systematic recruitment of in-house or outsourced IT workers within unionised GPM workplaces, as a pilot that could be extended into other sectors.

The NISC was entitled to submit one motion to Policy Conference. I proposed the following motion:

Trident Replacement

This conference welcomes the desire by Jeremy Corbyn not to spend replace the Trident nuclear weapons of mass destruction system, and to spend the money on more socially useful priorities. Conference welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to setting up a Defence Diversification Agency (DDA) to ensure those whose jobs and communities currently rely on Trident have good, well paid jobs in future. We welcome the commitment of the Aerospace and Shipbuilding sector to engage with the DDA.The question of the UK’s nuclear weapons is not primarily about employment. It is first of all a moral issue, then a strategic one concerning the UK’s place in the world and the international environment we wish to see, then one about spending priorities. Such weapons would, if used, constitute a mortal threat to humanity’s survival; they are massively expensive; senior military figures have described them as ‘militarily useless’ and said that they should be scrapped; and our possession of them encourages other countries to seek a similar arsenal.

Conference does not accept the argument that the only alternative to the priorities of right wing governments is unemployment for our members. The threat of job losses has been used to oppose everything from health and safety, decent wages and conditions, sanctions against apartheid South Africa, ending the slave trade, or bans on the sale of weapons or torture equipment to brutal dictatorships. The election of Jeremy Corbyn presents an opportunity to fight for different priorities and a better society.

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the UK should give a lead in discharging its obligations by not replacing Trident.

Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee has estimated the cost of Trident replacement at £167 billion, based on official figures. Money saved by ending the UK’s nuclear arsenal could generate far more jobs and be used for decommissioning, to sustain the process of defence diversification, vital to our manufacturing future, as well as other socially-useful forms of public spending.

Conference resolves:
1.            That UNITE will support and participate in the Defence Diversification Agency
2.            To campaign to ensure there are good, socially useful, jobs for our members who might be affected by not replacing Trident
3.            To continue to support all members, including those currently working in Trident-related jobs, and to fight for continuity of employment
4.            To campaign against Trident replacement and for an end to UK weapons of mass destruction
5.            To support the work of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Another motion won the vote for submission instead:

Workers Uniting

Conference recognises that our global union with the United Steel Workers, Workers Uniting, has been in existence since 2008. In that time the benefits of two similar Unions working in similar industries and for global corporations, have proved to be extremely beneficial, notably in papermaking and packaging, steel, oil and chemicals, transport, glass and other important sectors.

This Conference believes that Unite members should be aware of the work of Workers Uniting and the support given to members of both Unite and the USW by the partner Unions.

Therefore Conference calls upon the Executive Council to include news items and reports on Workers Uniting on both the Unite website, Unitelive and in the Unite printed magazine in order that the global solidarity work carried out can be understood by members.

The next NISC meeting will consider the motions agreed at the sector conference and how to progress them.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Motions to Unite Policy Conference 2016

Every Unite branch and constitutional committee has until 15th February to submit one motion on general policy for consideration at the Unite Policy Conference which will take place in Brighton on 11-15 July 2016.

The paperwork circulated is here:

For recent conferences the number of branches submitting motions has dwindled, so it would be good to see more this year.

If you're drafting a motion, don't forget to check Unite's existing policies. There's no point submitting a motion that just repeats existing policy - it should either change policy or make new policy. It can't change the Rules of the union - that's for Rules Conference.

Support the Junior Doctors and Student Nurses

For years the government has been slashing at the NHS, cutting and privatising to boost the profits of the private health vultures (many of whom have unsavoury links to MPs and other decision makers).

Now Cameron and Hunt have decided to take on both junior doctors and student nurses.

The proposed changes to out of hours arrangements for junior doctors wouldn't just mean a pay cut for many, but remove financialy penalties for trusts who jeopardise safety by making them work excessive hours. The proposals have been branded #notsafenotfair. After an impressive strike vote it was great to see so many out on the picket line for the first time this morning.

Meanwhile the government plans to remove bursaries from student nurses, replacing them with student loans. This system is bad enough for any course, but student nurses actually work full time for a large amount of their training. This would mean them actually paying to work.

The striking thing about the situation is how the government is managing to unite health workers. The idea that weekends could run a weekday service without extra resources is ludicrous. And other health workers know that if the Tories beat the junior doctors, they are bound to attack their terms next because junior doctors can't provide a weekday service without all the other hospital departments and functions.

It's worth remembering that "number 10" described Cameron's assault on junior doctors as his "miners' strike". The whole working class paid the price for years for the defeat of the miners. We cannot afford any repeat, least of all when our NHS is at stake. Health workers deserve maximum support and solidarity.

It's a crime that health workers have to strike at all. Before solidarity strikes were outlawed (and unions obeyed these laws) other workers sometimes struck "on behalf of" health workers so that they could continue their vital work. As the Tories push through their Trade Union Bill and try to outlaw most trade unionism, will this kind of action be back on the cards again if workers feel there is no point trying to comply?

This is the appeal from the BMA:


The current situation:
Junior Doctors across England will be commencing industrial action on Tuesday 12th January. We are opposing this government’s attempt to impose an unsafe new contract on the medical profession. It is our view that the proposed contract represents an existential danger to the NHS as an institution.
You may be aware that the BMA had initially suspended its planned industrial action at the start of December and returned to talks with the Department of Health. That decision was made in good faith. However, over the last few weeks, in the course of negotiations with Government we have encountered only intransigence. It is clear that the government perceives our contract issue as pivotal for its attempt to “reform” the NHS towards a neoliberal, commercialised system.
It is therefore evident to us that we have no choice but to transform our 98% ballot mandate into action.  
The developments of the next few months will have consequences stretching far into the future. This government is wilfully putting at risk our patients' safety, the tolerability of our working lives as NHS workers and the very viability of the NHS as a publicly-funded, publicly-provided service.
Why we need YOU
The coming period will be the ultimate test of the BMA’s resolve as a Union. However, we remain mindful of the fact that the BMA is not an abstract entity operating in isolation from wider political developments. There is no way that we can win this on our own. We need all concerned citizens, activists and trade unionists to stand alongside us in this fight.
Over the last few months we have been in dialogue with many trade unionists throughout the country and we have been enormously grateful for their support both at a local and national level. The public messages of support from our allied health worker colleagues, the firefighters, the teaching unions and the TUC and TUCG unions have galvanised junior doctors.
We are therefore well aware that all eyes are upon us and that the institutions which represent the wider working class stand with us in solidarity.
We are in no doubt that Osborne, Cameron and Hunt will use the proposed doctor’s contract as a tool for achieving the destruction of safe terms and conditions throughout the NHS and throughout the public sector. The Conservative Party is attempting to stretch the NHS into an ostensibly 7-day elective service whilst simultaneously launching the biggest assault on NHS resources in its history. The politics of austerity represents a clear and present danger to the nation’s health.
A victory for the Junior Doctors would signify the first real crack in the entire edifice of austerity in the UK.
Please stand with us. And when you need us, ask us. We will stand by you.
Invitation to attend our pickets
On behalf of the entire BMA we thank you all for your incredible support so far. Many of you will have seen the details with regards to the planned action and I will reiterate them below. We invite you to come out and display your visible support for us on the days of action.
·         The action will begin with an emergency care-only model, which would see junior doctors provide the same level of service that happens in their given specialty, hospital or GP practice on Christmas Day. It will then escalate to full walk-outs. The action as proposed is:
Emergency care only — 24 hrs from 8am Tuesday 12 January to 8am Wednesday 13 January
Emergency care only — 48 hrs from 8am Tuesday 26th January to 8am Thursday 28 January
Full withdrawal of labour — from 8am to 5pm Wednesday 10th February
·         The aim is to picket all major hospitals in England on all three days of proposed action. Pickets will be in the vicinity of the main entrances and will start at 8am, continuing until at least 12.30pm. However, many picket sites will continue into the evening, especially at the larger hospitals.
·         Along with the pickets there will be parallel “Meet the Doctors” events at nearby transport stops or public spaces. We will direct you to these events from the picket.
·         Please turn up on the days of action, and give us your support. We will then inform you if other local events are planned on the day. If you are an allied health worker, trade unionist or campaigner please do consider bringing along the banner representing your organisation, your working uniform or similar. We would appreciate it however if banners in explicit endorsement of specific political parties are not displayed and that any selling of campaign literature such as newspapers is relatively discreet.
·         On the days of action, please do debate us, educate us and invite us to address your colleagues in your workplace or trade union branch.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you of another important upcoming date. On Saturday 9th January student nurses, midwives and allied health workers will be marching in opposition to Government plans to scrap the NHS student bursary. The protest will assemble outside St Thomas’s hospital at midday and proceed to Downing St. The BMA will be marching alongside the nursing students and we hope to see you there!
Just as the social democratic consensus in this country began with the inception of the NHS in 1948 so too will the NHS be the site of Britain’s last stand against the all-consuming forces of austerity.
Solidarity is the antidote to the cynicism of those in power. Now is the time to stand together in a common defence of the NHS. If not now, when?
Kind regards
Dr Yannis Gourtsoyannis, Member of BMA Junior Doctors Committee National Executive.