UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

PCS into Unite - what implications for UNISON & trade union unity?

For the trade union visionaries who promoted the formation of both PCS and UNISON in the 1990's the ultimate aim was always the creation of a single public service union in the UK. The emerging proposals for a PCS transfer of engagements to Unite (rather than merger) mark a tragic defeat for that impeccable trade union industrial logic. It could have been very different if recent history had taken an alternative course. At the TUC's 2010 Congress, PCS and UNISON agreed a statement on closer working welcomed by the national leadership of both unions but in the wake of the 2011 public service pensions dispute this was not progressed and the following year an almost identical statement (minus the anti Trident reference!) was agreed between PCS and Unite.

The Return by Muriel Rukeyser

An Idea ran about the world
screaming with the pain of the mind
until it met a child
who stopped it with a word.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Free Schools Fiasco

'The second largest group running free schools are faith organisations (26%), yet there are also a significant number ran by not-for-profit companies such as E-ACT, which operates 24 academies, including free schools. The involvement of such companies has raised the spectre of the privatisation of compulsory and further education in the UK' writes Andrew Dolan in a Red Pepper article about the destructive forces driving the so called free schools revolution:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Faint pings detected in push for co-ordinated pay action

At yesterday’s UNISON NEC meeting the issue of pay was centre stage as reports were received on the union’s response to the abysmal situation in health and local government where over 90% of UNISON’s membership are facing pay rises of between 0% and 1% - 1.8% below inflation if you’re lucky. Members in local government are being consulted over the employers’ 1% offer with a strong national recommendation to reject and support strike action.
   In the NHS, the Government has disregarded the PRB recommendation of a 1% rise across the board, and has already imposed a 0% pay rise on ALL health workers. Only the minority who do not receive an annual pay increment this year will receive a 1% non consolidated cash payment. Next week’s UNISON health conference will decide next steps but the situation is crying out for an urgent move to an industrial action ballot so that the pay campaign can be coordinated across the public sector’s two main bargaining groups where we are the largest union. Anything less will be an inadequate and unacceptable response.
   As Dave Prentis pointed out to UNISON activists in Northern region last Friday the union has simply got no alternative other than to take a stand. “At the end of the day it’s the Government that decides what pay increases we get and if it takes co-ordinated action across our local community services, health services and all other employers where we’ve got members, we will seek to take co-ordinated action.”

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Organising in a cold climate

Austerity has taken a heavy toll on public services in the UK. 800,000 jobs lost and rising, unprecedented cuts in central government funding and a tsunami of outsourcing/privatisation. In the face of this offensive how best should unions deploy organising resources to maintain union strength and revitalise the activist base? A recent study 'Contemporary union organising in the UK - back to the future?' examines these questions and highlights the inevitable tensions between boosting new member recruitment levels and deeper organising to strengthen workplace organisation. However (much like the false dichotomy of the earlier servicing versus organising debate) recruitment and deep organising are not mutually exclusive and can be integral to each other provided a short term, exclusively numbers centred approach is avoided (especially given the risk of creating a 'union of strangers with members dependent on remote representation from full time officers' as mentioned in the study's conclusion):

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Jute Mill Song by Mary Brooksbank

Oh dear me, the mill's gaen fast,
The puir wee shifters canna get their rest,
Shiftin bobbins, coorse and fine,
They fairly mak ye work for your ten and nine.

Oh dear me, I wish the day was done,
Rinnin up and doon the pass is nae fun.
Shiftin, piecin, spinnin, warp, weft and twine,
Tae feed and cleed my bairnies affen ten and nine.

Oh dear me, the world's ill-divided,
Them that work the hardest are the least provided,
But I maun bide contented, dark days or fine.
There's no much pleasure living affen ten and nine.