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:
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.
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:
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.