Monday, 9 October 2017

Report from GPM&IT NISC October 2017

Report from GPM&IT NISC October 2017

Unite’s National Industrial Sector Committees (NISCs) meet quarterly, bringing together activists from a particular industrial sector, delegated from Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs). The NISC for the Graphical, Paper, Media & IT (GPM&IT) sector met on 5-6 October 2017 and this is my report. My report does not include much of the discussion about workplace issues, as most NISC members regard this as too sensitive to publish.


The Organising & Leverage Department has prepared a detailed report on the potential impact of automation on jobs and a draft template New Technology Agreement. Sharon Graham, the head of Organising & Leverage, introduced the discussion. The estimate is that around 35% of current jobs in the UK and Ireland will go in the next 18 years. Unite has assessed the risk to each industry and identified 11 Unite sectors, including GPM&IT, at “high risk”. The forecast is for around 230,000 of the jobs of the 650,000 members working in those sectors to go.

Automation is nothing new, but new technologies mean this will affect a wider range of jobs and in new ways compared to previous phases. Some low-paid jobs would not be affected soon, because it is cheaper to pay people badly than use technology. In some cases it would be tasks, not whole jobs that would go, but this would still lead to a reduction in work.

Automation should be a huge positive, enabling us to be more productive and have higher standards of living while reducing working hours, while also creating some new skilled jobs. But this depends on who has the power to decide how automation is used and what purposes they use it for. Without effective industrial and political campaigning, it is likely employers will simply try to gain temporary competitive advantage by displacing workers, contributing to unemployment and inequality. Workers are the source of profit, and many businesses rely on workers to buy their products. This approach could create huge social and economic problems.

Workers need strong organisation to ensure they benefit rather than lose out due to automation.

The intention is to have a debate on this topic across Unite to produce detailed plans for Unite’s response tailored to every sector and region by June 2018. The NISC will be holding a one-day workshop to discuss this in more detail. Leading activists in the sector who aren’t on the NISC are welcome to join in with this.

Proportional representation

Unite has produced an excellent consultation paper on proportional representation in Westminster elections, setting out the pros and cons of the current system and various possible alternatives. The majority of the NISC felt that though PR wouldn’t be a magic bullet to improve participation or accountability, change is needed.

Holiday pay based on average pay

Since Unite’s legal wins more and more employers are increasing holiday pay to reflect average pay (i.e. reflecting overtime, bonuses etc.), but a few have been trying to base this on an average across the whole year, rather than on the days worked, which would still be underpaying people. Unite will support members taking legal action over holiday pay if employers do not resolve it promptly.

Mapping the sector

Our 2015 sector conference had decided we should map our sector. All RISCs have been asked to go through the GPM&IT employers and workplaces in their region listed on the Work Voice Pay database. I showed NISC members how to do this, identifying the sub-sector and organising category, and provided a spreadsheet to make it easier.

The Work Voice Pay database is gradually being populated with workplaces, but already covers over 34,000 members in our sector (roughly 80% of the total). I also provided some break-downs of GPM&IT membership by union recognition, number of sites in employer, number of regions in employer, and the membership and recognition status in the top 100 employers.
  • 10528 members work for the top 10 employers, six of which only have partial recognition
  • 21107 members work for employers with 100 or more members
  • 31501 members work for employers with 20 or more members

Motions to sector conference

Each Unite sector is having a conference in November. The NISC submitted two motions to it, one on branch organisation, the other on simplifying the processes for branches to affiliate to their local Trades Councils or Labour Parties.

Future meetings

It was agreed to have a speaker on the Gender Pay Gap at the next NISC meeting. The meetings will take place at the London Moreland Street office and the dates for 2018 will be:

  • 4-5 January
  • April TBC
  • 14-15 June
  • 4-5 October

Unite Community

Tracey Bent from Camden Community branch gave an update on the work of Unite Community. Her branch works around three areas:

  • Local campaigns
  • National campaigns, often taking local actions
  • Supporting industrial campaigns

We thanked the branch for their support for the Fujitsu dispute.

She described some of the work the branch has done to support various industrial campaigns, where they can often do things that members in the workplace can’t.

Tracey talked about the work they had done to support people following the Grenfell Tower fire, which had directly affected dozens of members including three from the Camden Community branch who died. As well as material and financial support, Unite had offered counselling and financial support to all those affected.

The NISC is encouraging people to invite Community branches to speak at our own meetings and to give them financial support. The Community branches get 7.5% of subs, like all other branches, but when subs are just 50p a week that doesn’t go far, especially when some members need financial help even for a bus fare to a meeting.

NISC members talked about the need to look at rule changes to allow Community members a bigger voice in the Unite structure.


The union has produced a pamphlet “Brexit: Unite demands protections for you” for the GPM&IT sector. Some of us questioned how this had been produced without any input from lay members or the NISC. We raised concern about the position outlined on freedom of movement, where the pamphlet advocates restrictions on hiring people from “abroad” – a discriminatory policy which was not agreed by the Unite Policy Conference, as I have explained elsewhere. Worse still, there is barely a mention in the booklet of the position of EU citizens living in the UK, many of whom are Unite members. In terms of “protections for you”, the rights of EU citizens are the most threatened – the pamphlet comes across as if migrant workers are “them” whereas actually they are part of “us”. Migrants’ rights are workers’ rights.


The NISC has been pushing for years for an update on the excellent analysis of the sector produced by the Research Department for the 2013 sector conference, but this has not been produced due to lack of resource. At the previous NISC meeting Tony Burke had taken an action to follow this up, but we had received no update. When there were cuts to the Research Department the General Secretary had promised that this would have no impact on support for members and activists, and had said people should raise it if there was such an impact.

RISCs and NISCs for 2018-2021

Adrian Weir had produced a proposal for the composition of GPM&IT RISCs and NISCs for the 2018/2021 term. The NISC will have to decide its response at its January meeting. In the meantime RISCs are asked to review the proposals and come back with their comments.

One important change since the last round of elections is that the rules were changed to ensure that every RISC had a seat for each of the equality strands, i.e., Women, BAEM, LGBT and Disabled Members. The EC has updated its guidance on Rule 11 too. The practical consequences are that Regional Equality Conferences will take place before the September 2018 Regional Industrial Sector Conferences, and that each Regional Equality Conference will elect one delegate to each RISC.

Fujitsu Dispute

There was strong support from the NISC for the campaign in Fujitsu and the following motion was agreed unanimously:

This GPM&IT NISC notes that rather than settling the dispute after 12 days of strike action in Manchester followed by 15 days nationally, Fujitsu has chosen to escalate the dispute by:
·         Making an offer, since rejected by 92% of members, that would have curtailed existing union rights to support members, communicate and organise
·         Breaking the existing Annex 2 facilities agreement by unreasonably refusing time to communicate with members
·         Attempting to victimise a number of Unite reps
Having terminated the UK Information & Consultation body earlier in 2017, Fujitsu has blocked agreement on a replacement by demanding that reps should be unable to communicate effectively with constituents.
Unite is now ramping up the campaign in Fujitsu towards a ballot for further industrial action.
This NISC recognises that the outcome of the dispute will not only affect the job security and remuneration of hundreds of Unite members, but shape union organisation within the company and the wider sector for years to come. This NISC recognises the importance of success for the future of our sector.
This NISC pledges its full support and resolves:
1.       To publicise the online petition against the victimisation of Unite reps at Fujitsu:
2.       To ask branches and chapels to assist the campaign, including with leafleting of sites, promoting the petition, and financial contributions
3.       Updates from the campaign should be circulated to activists
4.       Material relating to the Fujitsu campaign (e.g. the current petition against victimisation) should be promoted via Unite’s social media and prominently displayed on the union web site at key times
5.       To ask for the victimisation petition and appeal for support to be circulated to all manufacturing sector activists
6.       To ask the International Department for assistance with coordination with unions in other countries, particularly those involved with Fujitsu’s European Works Council
7.       To ask the Political Department for assistance in the campaign, given that most of Fujitsu’s UK business is public sector
8.       To support the request from the Fujitsu Combine for assistance from the Organising and Leverage Department
9.       To support higher Dispute Benefit to ensure members can take sufficient action to secure a speedy and successful resolution of their dispute
10.   If necessary resources are not available, to ask for consideration of temporary or stand-down officer / organiser resources

Unite Education

A Unite Education Report 2017 has been produced. Unfortunately there were insufficient copies so I have not seen it yet.

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