Posts Tagged ‘Unison’

Beneath the placid surface of Labour conference, discontent stirred

03/10/2013, 11:28:34 AM

by Rob Marchant

So, Labour made it through conference without a big punch-up with the unions, via a barely-mentioned programme of party reform. Thank heavens for that.

But amidst the conference chatter, a few things have become clear.

A line has been drawn under the Falkirk selection fiasco, yes. But it was a face-saving, uneasy truce, not a final settlement. Unite is not suddenly going to start behaving itself and standing back from the Labour party’s organisation at this point, that much is obvious.

Yet, if Labour wins its battle to reform its relationship with unions next spring, there is the possibility that Unite – and others – could step back from Labour altogether and look for other political routes to influence, such as the nascent People’s Assembly, currently being sponsored by a number of unions. Whatever happens, there is – rightly – extreme nervousness on the part of many activists as to whether the party can actually survive on the income which might result.

But if Labour does not win that battle – for which it depends on union support to win – it can look forward, surely, to a redoubling of Unite’s efforts to influence its selections and elsewhere.

A couple of conference vignettes from the Tuesday night of Labour conference illustrate this nicely.

In choosing to run a joint fringe event, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC) no longer chooses to hide its similarity with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, which supports a dictator rather than an authoritarian pseudo-democrat (a fine distinction for most of us, I know).


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Saturday News Review

18/06/2011, 06:52:11 AM

Unison flexes its muscles

Britain’s biggest wave of industrial action since the 1926 general strike will be sparked by Government pension reforms, the largest public sector union’s leader has said. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, issued the warning as angry unions threatened to walk away from talks over plans to pay more for reduced entitlements. He told the Guardian newspaper: “It will be the biggest since the general strike. It won’t be the miners’ strike. We are going to win.” It comes after Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told public sector workers it would be a “colossal mistake” to reject a deal that was the best they could hope for. Under the reforms, the general retirement age in the public sector will rise from 60 to 66, in line with the state pension. – Sky News

The leader of the largest public sector union promises to mount the most sustained campaign of industrial action the country has seen since the general strike of 1926, vowing not to back down until the government has dropped its controversial pension changes. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison – which has 1.4 million members employed by the state – described plans for waves of strike action, with public services shut down on a daily basis, rolling from one region to the next and from sector to sector. He said there was growing anger over a public sector pay freeze that could trigger more disputes further down the line and that the changes would unfairly penalise women, who form the majority of low-paid public sector workers. “It will be the biggest since the general strike. It won’t be the miners’ strike. We are going to win.” In an interview with the Guardian, Prentis – who also chairs the public sector group at the TUC – repeatedly insisted that he still hopes to negotiate a settlement with the government through talks that are currently under way. – the Guardian

They are still the nasty party

A Tory MP has sparked outrage after saying disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage. Right-winger Philip Davies said if employers had to pay the same wage they would always choose to hire an able-bodied job candidate over a disabled rival. The Shipley MP told the Commons yesterday: “People with a learning disability can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability.” He added: “They (disabled people) accept an employer would take on a person without mental health problems if they were both having to be paid the same rate.” His comments came during the second reading debate of Tory Christopher Chope’s Employment Opportunities Bill, which opens up the possibility of workers “opting” to work for less than the £5.93 minimum wage. But Dame Anne Begg, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “To suggest that disabled people should be treated as second class citizens is shocking and shows just what a warped world some Tories inhabit.” – Daily Mirror

Downing Street has moved to protect the Prime Minister from a torrent of criticism after a senior Conservative suggested that people with disabilities should be paid less than the minimum wage. Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, claimed people with disabilities or mental health problems were at a disadvantage because they could not offer to work for less money. Relaxing the law would help some disabled people to compete more effectively for jobs in “the real world” in which they are “by definition” less productive than workers without disabilities, he claimed. The remarks stunned both Labour and Tory MPs and provoked a furious response from charities and equality campaigners, who condemned Mr Davies’s “insulting” suggestion as “absolutely outrageous”. During a Parliamentary debate, Mr Davies told MPs that the minimum wage of £5.93 per hour meant disabled people who wanted to work found the door being “closed in their face”. Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, said Mr Davies had “got it seriously wrong”, adding: “We need to challenge employers’ prejudices – not pander to them.” The MP was also warned that he will be questioned over his remarks by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into disability-related harassment. – Daily Telegraph

Waiting lists rocket

Longer waiting lists nail David Cameron’s lie that the NHS is safe in his Tory hands. Behind the bald Whitehall statistics are real people unnecessarily suffering for longer and, in some cases, probably dying. Over the past few weeks I’ve had to listen to the PM denying that waiting lists are rising. He can’t do that any more – although I wouldn’t put it past someone so slippery as him trying. The quack doctor in Downing Street deserves to pay a political price for his misdiagnosis and botched operations. I can’t pretend I’m surprised that he is dismantling the NHS as we know it. I wasn’t convinced five years ago when he declared: “The NHS is safe in my hands – of course it will be.” Tony Blair, he added, used one word three times to explain that education was his priority. Mr One Upmanship said he could better that: “I can do it in three letters – NHS.” Really, Prime Minister? You’ve an unhealthy way of proving that to those who rely on an NHS you’re harming. – Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror

Ed on the campaign trail again

Scots are feeling the pinch from “reckless” Conservative policies, according to Labour leader Ed Miliband. Mr Miliband joined candidate Iain McKenzie campaigning for the Westminster Inverclyde by-election seat yesterday. He said: “Iain McKenzie is a superb local candidate, a man who knows this community like the back of his hand because he has lived here all his life and fought for the area. People deserve well-paid, secure jobs, and Iain will work hard to make that happen for the communities he knows so well. But I know many families and pensioners here in Inverclyde are hurting, and hurting in the face of risky and unfair Tory cuts. We need a plan B on the economy to help people right across the country. There is now no coherent plan for growth. David Cameron’s plan to cut spending too far and too fast is a reckless gamble with people’s jobs and livelihoods, and it is making things worse, not better.” – the Scotsman

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Votes at 16: ffinlo Costain says that, for once, we should follow the Isle of Man

28/07/2010, 12:16:19 PM

There’s one constitutional reform that would make Britain fairer and more representative, but currently lowering the voting age to 16 isn’t on the cards. For once, we should follow the Isle of Man’s lead.

The Isle of Man isn’t renowned for liberal government. Birching and anti-homosexual laws were abolished only relatively recently, and penal policy is still draconian. But in terms of voting reform the Isle of Man has always been a step ahead. In 1881 they were the first to introduce votes for women, and then in 2006 the Manx parliament, Tynwald, chose to reduce the voting age to 16.


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Thursday News Review

22/07/2010, 07:30:42 AM

Unison backs Ed M

Unison has declared it's support for Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has won the backing of Britain’s second biggest union, Unison, in his campaign to become the next leader of the Labour Party. Yesterday’s decision suggests that the younger of the Miliband brothers is emerging as the favourite candidate of trade activists, which will boost his vote but will be used against him by the Tories if he wins. – The Independent

Ed Miliband’s odds were cut by three bookmakers, with Ladbrokes trimming him to 2/1 from 9/4, Paddy Power 7/4 from 9/4, and William Hill from 2/1 to 13/8. He is also backed by the GMB union, while his brother has the support of two unions – Community and Usdaw. – The Telegraph

The leadership contest is now seen as a two-horse race between Mr Miliband and his brother David, who remains ahead on nominations from MPs and constituency Labour parties. Ed Miliband’s supporters claimed that the backing of Unison, the country’s largest public sector union, now puts their candidate in “pole position”. – The Mirror


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The Diane Abbott interview

09/06/2010, 01:05:45 PM

UPDATE: Diane Abbott has secured 33 nominations and will be on the Labour leadership ballot paper.

This was the second in our series of crowdsourced interviews with the leadership contenders.

Diane spoke to us last night at her office in Westminster, where everyone was keenly monitoring her leadership support with hours left until nominations closed.

She was completely unphased by your questions, which included her son’s private education, the demographic of her leadership opponents and how much she is paid by the BBC.

Q. (From Derek) You and John McDonnell both have solid socialist credentials, but isn’t there a danger that in standing you will split the left vote? I don’t really want the wishy washy alternative of the other 4 candidates. What are your thoughts?

A. There always was a tendency to say that if women stood it split the vote. I think that there is the politics that I’m on the left, and have as good a voting record on left wing issues as John McDonnell, but there’s another issue which is about gender.  It’s not so much that I stood against John, but that John stood against me.

Q. John McDonnell’s come out and said that if it means getting a woman on the ballot, he’ll stand down. In that case, do you wish he’d never stood in the first place?

A. I think it would have been easier if he hadn’t stood. If he was committed to gender issues it would have been easier if he hadn’t. Initially, it was very difficult for either of us to gain momentum. If there’d been just one of us standing then that person would have gained momentum much quicker. (more…)

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The Ed Balls interview

27/05/2010, 12:07:36 PM

Labour Uncut interviewed Ed Balls on Tuesday evening.  We couldn’t ask all the questions you submitted.  There were far too many.  We gave Ed the option of whether or not to answer questions – in this Labour leadership interview – from people who clearly weren’t Labour members or supporters.  He chose to answer, and we’ve included several.

Ed’s is the first of our leadership candidate interviews.  We were impressed by his focus and presence.  It will be great if the rest are as good.

Q. (From Alex R) When the leadership candidates say that they were guilty of ‘not listening’ enough in the last government, how and why were you not listening? What steps would you take to listen sufficiently if you had another opportunity?

A. I think our problems about not listening started much earlier than the last Parliament. I think one of the great frustrations that we had in the election campaign, and in my case the year before, was that many of the things people were upset about, like public housing, the impact of unskilled immigration on terms and conditions, the obstacle of upfront tuition fees for young people going to university – these were issues we’d actually addressed.  We’d put in place controls on immigration; John Healy was leading a big expansion on public housing; we’d got rid of upfront tuition fees.  But the public weren’t hearing at that time what we were saying and it takes time for policy decisions to feed through to the reality of peoples lives.

I think the truth is that the time when we weren’t listening enough was probably during the second term in Government.  My election campaign for the last 18 months has been all about repeated public meetings, listening to people and their issues – and lots of other MPs who were successful in their campaigns did the same thing in this last couple of years.  If we’d been doing that five years earlier we’d have made different and better policy decisions at an earlier stage.

So your politics can’t be about telling communities what you’ve concluded; it’s got to be about asking them, listening to the voices of people who need us on their side and responding.  That’s what I mean by listening. (more…)

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Matt Finnegan is impressed by Andy Burnham

21/05/2010, 09:51:50 AM

Few expect Andy Burnham to become the next Labour Leader.

Too northern, too nice, too normal, seems to be the verdict of the metropolitan chattering classes. And maybe too Labour?

Burnham is certainly not an intellectual like the Brothers Miliband. Nor a bruiser like Balls. Nor on the margins like McDonnell and Abbott.

He is mainstream, hard-working, unspectacular. Neither left nor right, neither Blairite nor Brownite. But most certainly Labourite. And maybe these are just the qualities the party now needs to re-build and refocus? (more…)

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Alex Halligan wants the unions in the race

20/05/2010, 02:29:09 PM

We need trade unions as a country and as a party. Trade unions have consistently been the biggest contributors of activists, of finance and of dedication since Labour’s formation at the turn of the last century.

With the leadership battle already well under way, the question for the rank and file is quite simply: who will represent the interests of working people?

The union vote will be very important in the coming contest. Unions carry nearly 30% of the electoral college vote; whoever wins would be wise to seek their support. A North West TUC official claimed that the big trade unions “all have a different choice in terms of their preferred candidate.”

Pressure from the grass roots is reaching fever pitch. The flurry for branch nominations has already begun. Demands are being mounted upon the ruling committees of the sixteen affiliated unions. A Unite regional organiser said that his union “is actively encouraging members to participate in choosing a new party leader.” (more…)

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