The public services union
By Ed Whitby, delegate, Newcastle City Unison
Unison conference (17-20 June) was more about promises than policies. General Secretary Dave Prentis spent the run up to conference talking about “reclaiming the Labour Party” and working with others in the “awkward squad” of union leaders.
AWL members published a daily bulletin at the 2003 conference of Unison, the giant public-services union which is Britain's largest. Download the bulletins here. (Sorry, for technical reasons they're not in the tidiest format we could wish for: some headings are missing, and the pdfs have some extra blank pages. But we hope this gives readers an idea of the issues at this important conference, and what the AWL did).Sunday 15 June, local government conference
Five thousand nursery nurses across Scotland started a programme of rolling strike action on May 21st. The action started with walk-outs in the West of Scotland. Action in Edinburgh and East Lothian follows on Wednesday and Thursday 28/29 May.
New transport union leader Tony Woodley has pledged to coordinate a trade-union drive "to get Labour back representing working-class people".
After winning election as the new General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, Woodley declared on 1 June that:
The huge public services union Unison meets in Brighton from 15 June for its local government sector conference and its general conference.
Issues under debate will include pay, privatisation, the Government's plans for schools, and Unison's role in the Labour Party.Adie Kemp and Ed Whitby report.
Three national newspapers (the Times, the Financial Times and the Guardian) all ran stories this week about the public services union Unison "preparing the ground for a general strike". This came as a shock to most Unison members, who haven't seen much sign of Unison preparing the ground for any kind of struggle, never mind a general strike.
* Unison plans a strike ballot over pay for thousands of nursery nurses in Scotland's local authority-controlled nurseries.
* In an outrageous attack on human rights Tony Blair has intervened to alter draft European anti-discrimination legislation to allow religious employers to discriminate against lesbians and gay men.
* Remploy, which employs 5,700 disabled workers, could face strike action after workers rejected a pay rise worth £5 per week. They want £20.
By Janine Booth, President, Hackney Trades Union Council
Unison is in the midst of re-electing its National Executive Council. For the first time, the whole committee is being elected at once, which creates the opportunity for big changes in the shape of the committee, but also creates a dilemma - how to maximise the vote.
By Kate AhrensUNISON members in Scunthorpe, Goole and Grimsby have taken strike action against their employers, Carillion, in their fight for a pay rise and improvements in their working conditions.
By Kate Ahrens, UNISON activist
UNISON's Health Conference has accepted the proposals from the union leadership to recommend voting for the Agenda for Change pay system in a membership ballot to be held in May.
A day of the three-day long Conference was given over to debating the issue, which would see the biggest shake up in NHS pay since its foundation over 50 years ago.
By Adie Kemp
UNISON's National Executive Committee comes up for re-election over the next two months. The whole committee is facing re-election, and the left inside the union has fielded the largest united slate of candidates since the union's foundation.
By Kate Ahrens
(Leicestershire Health UNISON, personal capacity)
Candy Udwin and Dave Carr, Unison activists and SWP members, have been expelled from the union. The two were branch officers in the University of London Hospitals (UCLH) branch of the union and were finally expelled following a lengthy appeals process on charges relating to a leaflet that they produced during the dispute at the hospital over PFI.
Southampton District Unison branch held a one-day strike on Wednesday 19 February. Additionally, council workers have withdrawn the use of their cars for council business and are refusing to drive hire cars or council cars-visits to clients' and tenants' homes are by taxi or public transport. They are not covering unfilled posts.
More for some, the same for most
By Kate Ahrens
The new pay deal offered to NHS staff at the end of last month has been used to bolster the government's argument in the firefighters' pay dispute that only through modernisation can better pay be achieved in the public sector.
However, the deal, which has been under negotiation for almost four years, has very little to do with modernisation of working practices or cuts in staffing numbers.
By a Unison member
UNISON members in West Yorkshire Fire Authority are facing a dispute with their employers, in what could be the start of an employers' offensive in the fire service strike.
Many other groups of public sector workers are in a similar position to the fire fighters. They have suffered years of very low pay increases. Their unions are beginning to fight for pay increases and pay deals which will enable them to "catch up". Solidarity will look at different areas of the public sector in each issue to analyse the potential contours of a public sector fight back on pay. Bringing forward the disputes on pay will help maximise solidarity with the fire fighters. This issue: the health service.
Thousands of teachers were joined by council workers who are members of Unison - both fighting for a flat rate of £4,000 for London Weighting - on a march in central London. Fire fighters also joined the demo. While police officers get over £6,000 in London Weighting, teachers get only £3,105 in inner London and £2,043 in the outer boroughs.
By an ambulance worker
Pay disputes are continuing in ambulance services across the country. Lincolnshire have embarked on an overtime ban and strikes are expected in Leeds and other parts of West Yorkshire. In other areas ballots are on going.
by an ambulance worker
Ambulance workers across the UK are in dispute over pay. Although a section of ambulance workers are covered by the national "Whitley Council" agreements, the vast majority negotiate pay locally with their ambulance trusts. These negotiation usually result in acceptance of a deal that follows the national lead.
However this year several UNISON branches, including south and west Yorkshire, Scotland, Wales, and Sussex, are balloting for some form of industrial action.
Phil Billows, secretary of Barts and the Royal London NHS Trust UNISON Branch has been sacked for "insubordination" and "unauthorised absence" in a blatant piece of Trade Union victimisation.
The charges in fact relate to Phil's use of agreed facility time for union activities and the "insubordination" was that he asked for a full time union official to be present at a meeting where the trust tried to remove his facility time!
We need a political crusade on public services
By Alison Brown (written before Labour conference, in defiance of the leadership, voted for an independent review of PFI)
At the TUC's conference last month several of the new left-wing union leaders and many other union members besides made unusually outspoken criticisms of New Labour in government. Now the unions look set to repeat their challenge to New Labour at the Party's conference which starts on Sunday 29 September.
Solidarity 3/12, 12 September 2002
Keep up the pressure
Council workers in Westminster are fighting back against plans to privatise thousands of jobs over the next three years.
The Tory council wants to contract out virtually all of its "customer services" to a private firm, Vertex SW1. On 27 June council workers held a one-day strike, and selective strikes and working-to-rule are ongoing.
There is a growing anger over pay in many areas, but particularly in the public sector. NUT members have taken industrial action in London, and the lecturers' union NATFHE nationally. The FBU looks on course to take action and RMT Tube members are being balloted. We should use this mood to co-ordinate union action and build Public Sector Alliances. It may even be possible to organise coordinated one-day strike action across a number of unions.
Left still has to win union to fight on privatisationBy Kate Ahrens
UNISON's annual conference took place in Bournemouth this month against the backdrop of a ballot for national strike action over pay in local government. However conference failed to reflect the anger over pay or privatisation that is clearly being felt by the membership of the union.
Solidarity 3/9 - 25th June 2002Council workers, firefighters, tube workers, train conductors, lecturers, air traffic controllers...
Unions start to fight back
Link the struggles!
Firefighters demonstrate. London local government workers, members of UNISON, strike for two days, and British Museum workers and South Bank University lecturers for one day each. The Tube union RMT prepares to ballot for renewed strike action about privatisation, and local government workers across the country - TGWU and GMB as well as UNISON - ballot for action in a national pay dispute distinct from the London weighting dispute they have struck over.
By Brian Roberts
It now seems certain that the long-running NHS pay dispute will come to a head this autumn. UNISON is set to ballot for strike action during August, over the government’s “1% plus local bargaining” pay offer. A host of smaller staff organisations are likely to fall in line behind them.
A conference in Leeds on 13 May will launch a new approach to the fight against public service cuts.
Trade union delegates, and observers from community groups and Labour Parties, have been invited to the conference by Newcastle and Strathclyde branches of the public-services union UNISON and by Tyne and Wear Fire Brigades Union.
By Tony Dale
The conference of the public sector workers union, Unison, held in June, was a mixed affair. Important left resolutions supporting the minimum wage and full employment were passed.
However, most of what the right-wing leadership wanted was voted for by conference. The left was defeated on the anti-union laws. There was a rallying behind the leadership, under fire from the Labour leadership after supporting Clause Four.