Saturday, 15 December 2012

Great scenes from 2 Sisters picket line, West Midlands

Workers from three sites joined the picket line yesterday at 2 Sisters Food group, West Midlands, where Unite members are taking action pay and conditions, and what they claim to be a bullying culture. It was set to be the first of three strikes, with other days following on Tuesday 18th and Friday 21st December.

What I find particularly impressive is the make up of the workforce (and the picket line). Ethnic minority workers, migrant workers, women workers - all groups that suffer lower pay and worse conditions in general, as well as being the targets of racism, islamophobia and sexism in society and in the media. Yet this is increasingly the reality of the working class in Britain today, and this picket line shows us a glimpse of not only how we fight back against the bosses's attacks, abut also how we can overcome the divisions that the right wing constantly try to exacerbate to divide us.

The workers are apparently defiant and confident to win. There are of course questions as to how this is achieved - can we convince picket line to block the road to stop lorries entering and leaving? And solidarity will be key.

A full report is available on the Unite the Resistance website. Message of support should be emailed to:

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Doncaster Tesco drivers settle dispute

The four month dispute of Tesco drivers has come to a conclusion with Unite members voting to accept an enhanced package from Stobarts, their employer. A full report on the Unite website can be found via the link below.

The title calls it 'victory'. Personally, I think we need to use the word victory with caution, especially when the drivers are losing their jobs. Also, the picket lines were getting stronger and support was growing - there are real questions about whether more could have been won.

However, the there is a lesson to learn: that the defiance of Unite members and solidarity from the trade union movement has secured a better deal than offered. Now we need to draw further lessons for other present and future disputes to ensure we also turn the tide on job losses and the race to the bottom.

December Executive Council Report

A report from last week's Exec Council meeting can be found at Ian's Unite Site - see link.


Monday, 10 December 2012

United Left Solidarity statement in support of defence of Eyptian 2011 Revolution

The following statement was passed at the United Left (the broad left within Unite) quarterly meeting in Birmingham, Saturday 8th December. The situation is developing rapidly, and updates, as well as a translated version in Arabic of the statement, can be found on the MENA Solidarity Network website.
"We declare our solidarity with our Egyptian brothers and sisters who are fighting to defend the freedoms they won in the 25 January Revolution. We strongly condemn the attacks on peaceful protesters opposing the draft Constitution, and the assault on workers' rights to organise and strike led by the Egyptian government since Mohamed Morsi's election.
In June at our Policy conference, UNITE issued a statement which condemned the Egyptian military's attempt to seize all power for itself through emergency powers. Then, as now, we stood in solidarity with protesters who filled the streets and forced those who wanted to re-create dictatorship to retreat.
We also declare our total opposition to the stance of our own government. Behind the fine words of our rulers about respecting democracy in Egypt lies complete contempt for ordinary people's needs. That is why our government backs the deal with the IMF which Morsi has just signed, and which will steal bread and cooking gas from millions of Egyptians through cuts in subsidies.
Together, workers have the power to fight dictatorship and poverty.
We are all united for bread, freedom and social justice."

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Unite Rule Book

The latest Rule Book (from 2011 Rules Conference) has now been published by the union. It's available online here:

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Unite and PCS members on strike at British Museum

Last Monday I went down to the picket line outside the British Museum where Unite and PCS cleaning and maintenance staff were striking against outsourcing. Other Unite delegates from the London and Eastern Regional Committee had also gone along. The picket line had already been going for two hours when I arrived, but the picket line was lively and in good spirits.

Union members I spoke to there are rightly highly concerned about the prospect of a TUPE transfer. It's now becoming clear that TUPE is no longer a guarantee of your terms and conditions, but can be seen as a way of driving down costs, and conditions, across the board.

Members seemed defiant and eager to pursue the fight. Next Monday, 5th November, they will be striking again, and from 4-7pm there will be a picket line. All are welcome to come and show support.

More info and email link to branch secretary for messages of support can be found at the link on Unite the Resistance webpage. are 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Welcome news as TUC passes motion to consider a general strike

A motion posed by the Prison Officers Association calling on the TUC to consider calling a general strike and passed today at TUC conference is a reflection of the growing anger at the government's slash and burn agenda. It follows Len McClusley's article in the Guardian last week speaking of more coordinated action from unions, and the vote by the NUT teachers union in support of further action over pay and workload.

Some trade union leaders, such as Chris Keates from the teaching union NASUWT, have voiced concern at the passing of the motion, claiming a general strike could alienate support of the general public. Mary Bousted of the ATL said it might simply play into the hands of the right-wing anti-union media. I would argue, however, these statements show that some of our union leadership are behind the mood of ordinary working people in this country.

Firstly, let's just look at last year. The 26th March demo was the biggest trade union demonstration this country has seen in decades. The 30th November strike involved around 3 million workers, and some towns and cities recorded their biggest demonstrations - ever. It had the highest participation of women workers - ever. Secondly, over the past year, we've had more clear examples of what austerity means; Greece and Spain are a glimpse into our future if the government's austerity agenda remains intact. And so far we've only had 20% of the cuts. It's quite simple: ordinary people cannot cope with any further cuts. More importantly, the crisis wasn't made by us, and yet we're being made to pay the price, and the causes of the crisis are not being addressed. The government, with its recent right-wing reshuffle, simply wants more deregulation, more privatisation; in short, more of what got us into the mess in the first place.

There are also good reason why unions should support the call for more coordinated action. Unions that participated in strike action last year increased their membership as a direct result. People join unions when they see those unions are prepared to defend their interests.

We should of course be aware that at the moment there is nothing inevitable about coordinated action or a general strike. The good news, however, is that we don't need to just sit back and wait to see if a general strike is called. Union members can put motions to their branch, committee or conference congratulating the passing of the motion and calling on the TUC to name the day. You could try petitioning in your workplace over the same issue. This can all be done when organising to build a maximum turnout for October 20th.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Unite dates for your 2013 diary!

Last week Unite published the schedule of meetings for 2013. It's important for the union that our lay members get their voiced heard throughout the union. So it might be useful to note these dates down so that you can plan for sending motions and remittances through the various structures in a timely fashion. 

Executive Council Meetings:                                              

            11th – 15th March 2013                                               
            10th – 14th June 2013                                                  
            16th – 20th September 2013                                        
             9th – 13th December 2013                                         
Finance & General Purposes Committee:                         

            24th January 2013                                                                  
            21st February 2013
            25th April 2013
            23rd May 2013
            18th July 2013
             4th Sepember 2013
            24th October 2013
            21st November 2013  

Annual Trades Union Congress: 8th – 11th September 2013

Annual Labour Party Conference: 22nd – 26th September 2013

Regional Industrial Sector; Area Activists;
Regional Equalities &
Regional Political Committees

National Industrial Sector Committees &
National Political Committee


National Equalities

December 2012

Jan 2nd – 21st

Jan 22nd – 30th

31st Jan – 8th Feb

March 2013

April 2nd – 19th

April 22nd – 26th

29th April – 10th May

June 2013

July 1st – 12th

July 22nd – 26th

July 15th – 19th

September 2013

Oct 7th – 25th

Oct 28th – 1st Nov

Nov 4th – 8th

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Unite's Regional Conferences this autumn

The link to the page that gives details of this autumn's Regional Conferences is below. Not all the informational is necessarily final, so you may need to check for updates.

Also, the following clarification was issued today regarding the Area Activists Conferences, and who can stand for those particular committees:

"The last Rules Conference adopted an Executive Council statement on Rule Six, which read in part:  "…membership of Area Activist Committees should not be restricted in the way prescribed by Rule Six and should be open to all activists, including those who cannot be workplace representatives because of their circumstances."  Clearly, if that is the case regarding the AACs to be elected at the forthcoming meetings, it would also have to be the case at the meetings themselves.  Given that the term "activist" has no rulebook definition at all, this must mean any member in practice. 
  However, it should be noted that AACs are divided into constituencies, and only those members attending from a particular constituency should be allowed to vote for the AAC seats from that constituency.  In particular, retired members and community members attending should only vote for the two seats allocated to each of those groups of members on each AAC, in the event that the number of nominations requires an election.   It remains the case that any member delegated to attend the Regional Committee from any AAC must be a workplace representative in the terms of Rule Six. "  

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Towards a hot autumn ...?

Just over 8 weeks til the national TUC demos (Glasgow and London) against this government's austerity measures and their catastrophic results. As the economy stagnates, we should bear in mind that this is after just 15% of the government's overall planned cuts have been implemented. That leaves another 85% to come. No wonder those economists who fervently supported Cameron and co. back in 2010 are now urgently calling for a Plan B, and stimulus for growth.

15% of cuts is bad enough, but actually the government would have liked to have imposed more by this stage. And the reason they haven't has been due to the huge unpopularity of the cuts, but, more importantly, the resistance to them. On the one hand, the riots that erupted around the country last summer were a sign of the despair and anger at the poverty, police racism and lack of future felt by so many in this country, especially young people who are being hammered and then scapegoated by this government. 

A more effective reflection of the anger was seen, however, when the organised trade union movement entered the scene. The mass demo on the 26th March last year was a real show of strength, and proved that the trade union movement in this country is far from dead. We then had a series of fantastic strikes over public sector pensions, reaching their height in November 2011. 

Some may think that fight has now waned. Whilst we have not seen strikes on the same scale as November 2011, we have nevertheless seen continued action, and further action is on the cards for this autumn. What is absolutely clear is that the crisis has not gone away, and the antagonisms this creates between those who created the crisis and get let off, and the rest of us who are being made to pay for it, are set to increase.

October 20th allows us a great opportunity to get more people out on the streets than last year. Whilst at its heart will be the trade union movement, we can pull in all kinds of anti-cuts campaigners, students and activists around us. The stronger the demo, the stronger our confidence will be, the stronger the chance of more action to fend off the austerity attacks, and the stronger the opportunity to finish off what is a nasty, but also now a weaker and more divided, government. 

We should look forward to things heating up again in the autumn!

Below is a video produced by the union to help build the 20th October. A lot of working people will relate to it. Why not send the link round to your workmates, family and friends and encourage them to come along? Unite is running transport from around the country.

Link to Unite transport for 20th October demo

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The banking industry has literally shed hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide since the economic crisis began, whilst those at the top have been raking it in.
It's good to see the back of Bob Diamond, but  not at all surprising that he is holding out for his £20M bonus. The arrogance of the elites knows no bounds.
Just as we have seen with the inquiry into the Murdoch phone hacking scandal, the banking scandal is not just a case of a few bad apples. Nor is it as some media pundits like to argue a 'cultural' problem. Corruption  is not an aberration - it's the logical functioning of a system designed to keep the privileged minority in power over the mass majority of ordinary working people (also known these days as the 1% versus the 99%). Now their arrogance has now led them to being exposed, bit by bit. Whether this will lead to anyone actually being found guilty, or charged, is yet to be seen. But  this will no doubt lead once more to people thinking about what function the banks really play in our society and what type of banking system would really work for the majority, not the unaccountable minority.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

UNITE Policy Conference 2012, Brighton 25 -29th June

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the whole UNITE Policy Conference. However, I did manage to attend most of the first two days, where there were good debates regarding the political fund and the replacement of Trident.

For a report on the motions and EC statements, I advise you visit fellow EC member Ian Allinson's UNITE site, where you can get a full report on them.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Executive Council Report June 2012

Please note that this report is my own report based on notes taken during the EC meeting. It does not represent a formal recording or minutes. If you believe it to contain any inaccuracies, please contact me and I'll be more than happy to correct them.

Outstanding BA settlement: 12 months ago Len reported to the EC that an ‘honourable settlement’ had been reached over the BA dispute. However, there were outstanding issues to resolve. UNITE had failed to reach a settlement via ACAS over sackings, as there were many complications which stalled the process. UNITE reached a conclusion with BA management via different means. Those workers that wanted to return to work (five in total) have been reinstated but are waiting to be put back on the shift rota. Others received a pay-out.
The real reason for the original dispute was the bringing in of a new fleet ‘mixed fleet’. The mixed fleet is growing, and BA thought that the legacy fleet would decline with natural wastage and the mixed fleet would grow to replace it. There will be a fight for UNITE  to continue to protect our members’ T&Cs in the ‘legacy fleet’.
One example of the problems at management level in BA can be seen in the signing of a recognition agreement with GMB without the Chief Executive Officer even being aware of it. McCluskey met with Paul Kenny who ripped up the agreement. UNITE is now in discussion with BA management regarding a recognition agreement. There are  1400 cabin crew in the mixed fleet and we have around  450 members at present. UNITE has not yet launched a 100% campaign here yet. Len hopes to have positive news to bring back to the next EC meeting.
BASSA EC members thanked Len and Howard (Legal Department) for their work around the BA dispute and subsequent settlement. It started as a dispute against the newly introduced mixed fleet but ended up about union busting. The mixed fleet does want union recognition. Last mixed-fleet in BA came in 15 years ago and lasted seven years. Leanne said she also thought this one will also be gotten rid of.  Staff in the mixed fleet is being worked extremely hard.  More senior staff from other airlines have joined up but those staff newer to the industry will join up later.
More support was said to be needed for the mixed fleet. There was also the issue of the integration of BMI. There had been some difficulty but it was almost done. This will bring around 5-600 into BASSA under TUPE. It will also bring more staff into the legacy (older) fleet. It will give the legacy fleet another five years.
Sean reminded the EC that during the dispute a branch secretary and two senior reps lost their jobs for trying to defend their members.
Oil tanker strike: didn’t materialise as a strike despite the government’s bungling. The dispute has been resolved via negotiations. It was an incredibly high profile dispute. Len stated that there had been a deliberate move to create a softer, more ‘feminine’ face to the union, with AGS Diane Holland at the helm. Much of the media seeks to demonise Len, the ‘angry scouser’, and the oil tanker drivers would have been portrayed as the villains of the piece had the dispute gone ahead.
Dramatic improvements were sought by the union and conceded by the employers, especially over H&S and training.  However, the oil sector is still in turmoil, dealing with seven different contractors who hate each other so there is no employers’ association where they speak with one voice. Some of our objectives,  such as trying to seek a common minimum of pay, can only be delivered by the clients, the oil retailers and customers. Whilst we have gone forward, there is still a lot of future work to be done.
The dispute highlights the obscene example of the market and capitalism in the wealth of the oil companies. Shell make £1.4b per month profit.
May 10th strike: once again Unite was there supporting our members. The strike was not as strong as might have been wished due to other unions either settling, or teachers unions not wanting to disrupt SATS. It was UNITE, PCS and UCU who came out. BMA have announced 21st June for action. Health sector members are in an awkward situation. They are committed to patient care but have overwhelmingly rejected attacks on their pensions. This is not going away.
Vauxhall Motors: going to look at dealing with the ‘overcapacity in Europe’ and looking at 1 or 2 ports closing. Ellesmere Port was under threat. This embraces a EWC and trying to hold a common line to stop the company. From UNITE’s perspective trying to deal with Germany added to the difficulty. Ellesmere Port looking to increase workforce by 700, plus ancillary jobs create by reviving the community. The agreements that have been reached were described as ‘ground-breaking’, in that they are legally binding and failure to comply could incur penalties worth £millions. There are agreements on three shift working, volumes of production, etc.
The Luton GM plant was all but closed apart from light vehicle production.
It was argued that Vauxhall seriously wanted to shut down Vauxhall in the UK at the same time as retaining the UK as one of its key markets. Had Vauxhall pushed ahead they would have faced a campaign that would have effectively destroyed their market in this country, and that seems to have impacted on management. Leverage campaign plans were in already drawn up and in place should that have been the path they needed to pursue.
There had not been jubilant reporting of the news by UNITE, being well aware that the price of jobs remaining in the UK was that others were lost in Germany.
A question was asked about how affiliation to local Trade Councils will be administered with the branch reorganisation. Andrew Murray answered should still be via the regions but to be discussed.
TUC Demo 20th October : The issue was raised of the TUC Demo on 20th October and how we can guarantee a good turnout and whether resources and commitment/planning would be put in place. Manchester AAC has set up meeting with other local trade unionists to get the ball rolling on 20th October. Scotland will probably have a separate protest in Glasgow on the same day. Len said we will do everything we can to mobilise, and a central issue will be around the NHS, although he admitted he thought the TUC had ‘missed a beat by not calling something specifically over NHS’. (Incidentally, at the March EC meeting, the issue of UNITE calling a protest against the sell off of the NHS if the TUC wouldn’t, had been raised).
Branch/workplace elections: current branch secs have been alerted about the need to call elections, but many reps in workplaces that are not closely aligned to a branch may not be aware of the process. We face losing a raft of reps. Andrew Murray will send out a communication directly.
There is a process of profiling of workplaces/industries in GPM. This is related to commercial printers which fall under the former BPIF agreement with a view to recommending pay claims across the board.
The EC was informed about a member with some money who has donated to the union to run a summer internment.
TUC General Secretary replacement nomination
Following Brendan Barber’s announcement to step down earlier this year, affiliated unions have been asked to nominate a replacement. Frances O’Grady, current Deputy Leader of TUC, was put forward and endorsed by the EC
General Council
Officers are recommending current slate of delegates to current General Council. Linda McCulloch (national officer) was also put forward but Chair advised against putting an officer forward in current period.
Suggestions for  motions for TUC conference were austerity and alternatives, car industry, trade union rights and freedoms, equalities.

Steve said that there had been a positive response from regions to the political strategy.
The Queen’s Speech was worrying in that there were concerning moves regarding Employment Tribunals and no-fault dismissal. We can see the beginning of Beecroft proposals coming in.
The election of Francois Hollande and Left in legislative elections has been important as the consensus over austerity in Europe has started to fragment. It was asked whether the Labour party will adopt some of the same positions. Hollande did well in legislatives partly because he has already started to move on his claims made during his election campaign: making it harder to sack workers, reduce the retirement age.
There was disappointment at the relatively poor turnout at the launch of the left-wing think tank, CLASS. There were only 120 places. On reflection, it would probably have been a good idea to have had two waves of invites. We want much more participation from UNITE going forward.
Workers Uniting political campaigning: more joint training and activities are taking place between UNITE and USW. Mark Wood went out with Ian Woodland to Wisconsin to help in that crucial election campaign. It was noted that the automated phone service was a useful tool and maybe something the union would wish to make more use of here in the future.
There was discussion about our relationship with the UNITE parliamentary group. Len said we needed to make sure that it isn’t a witch hunt, and that they have a right to disagree. Members of Progress , the New Labour ‘pressure group’ also have that right, even though they may be diametrically opposed to positions of the EC. (Putting aside whether Progress is a legitimate body, having more money than the LibDem Party). We need to ensure it is clear we are not supporting the politics of Progress.
The regions need to need to know the merits of the Labour MPs they are requesting support for. We have supported Tony Blair and David Miliband.
A question was raised about responsibility for greater collaboration over Europe and whether that would lie with the Political or International department. It was considered necessary that both departments collaborate, and not only over European issues.

It was requested that the EC are able to discuss contemporary motions for Labour Conference in good time. By definition, such motions must be contemporary and therefore can’t be considered until the last period. The national political committee meets on 21st July, followed by F&GP in September. Motions should therefore come through July/August to be considered at F&GP.
Care and Social care bill – Andrew Burnham (Shadow Health Minister) said he was committed to repealing this, but looks like Labour may be reneging on this now. Len said it’s quite possible Labour will not repeal the internal market that now exists within the health service.
It was pointed out there was no Labour NEC report in the Political report, as there should be.

The promised jobs that the government said would be created in the private sector as they cut back the public sector have failed to materialise. Our own document 2020 Vision on the future of manufacturing is starting to be picked up by Labour.
MMP Dispute. The importance of this dispute for packaging, being one of the biggest employers in Europe, will hopefully send out a warning shot to others in the packaging industry. Ian Tonks, GPM national officer, is due to meet reps and FOC at Deeside Bootle to try and build up the union there.
BAE Systems: the campaign to save Brough continues. There has been a large demonstration and we’re in good position to keep the pressure on the company. The company made a massive u-turn, said they wouldn’t keep manufacturing open at Brough but they have and they are. Two buildings open, which gives more chance of keeping more work at Brough into the future.
Oil refining industry: Coryton dispute Thurrock (Petroplus) –it was down for closure, but under pressure we’ve managed to keep it open beyond Christmas. We had hoped a buyer would be found. Refining industry in Britain is in a bad way, another refinery also up to find a new buyer so we could be looking at yet another closure. Refineries are now all owned by foreign companies. Globally, oil refinery being ‘revised’, which means cuts and closures. There has been a drop in demand due partly to more efficient cars, etc – which should be welcomed
We learned that Rio Tinto, which has been involved in a lock-out of 780 mainly USW members, has a contract to supply the metal for the manufacturing of the Olympic medals this year. A campaign to remove Rio Tinto from the podium has seen over 13,000 letters sent to the International Olympic Committee.
On the subject of apprentices, it’s clear the government is only paying lip service. We need to continue campaign for proper skilled training that leads to a job at the end.
Cambridge University Press, with the help of the Legal department and national officer, has been pursuing via the CAC a request to form and I&C body across Printing and Publishing.  However, news has since been announced that the Printing division is to be outsourced. Publishing intends to pursue the issue to tighten up its own staff forum body.

Construction: As result of BESNA victory, employers have since been looking for retribution. H&S rep Jason Poulter was recently reinstated at Ratcliffe. He was one of the key reps who had brought people out and his sacking was a direct attack on him for his trade unionism. He sits on the combine.
A ‘Play by the Rules’ campaign has been launched by the combine, Gail and the organising department. They have sent out a survey across the industry to see whether members feel their company was playing fair.
Remploy. Gail said she would see whether the National Officer  has put in a formal request to extend the 90-day consultation process.
Education: East London University: outsourcing of the catering, and two active UNITE reps have been suspended on spurious charges, coinciding with the campaign about the outsourcing.
Public Sector Pensions: Latest strike action was on 10th May, and our MOD and NHS members participated. Both NISCs have since met to discuss the impact. Both felt there was good media coverage, though focussed more on PCS than UNITE in MOD. Health thought that public support was good, and leafleting had been successful.
However, the turnout was patchy. Engagement was patchy amongst workforce, and amongst workplace reps. Gail said that they had focussed on key workplaces.
It was raised from the floor that the health rep on Manchester Regional Committee didn’t know that they were going to be on strike. At the AAC there had been confusion over whether it was strike or other kind of action and that generally there had been a lack of info to other sectors about the action taking place. Gail Cartmail said she was surprised that a health rep colleague wasn’t aware. She said that the reason why the turnout was patchy was because certain workplaces were targetted.
The outcome from both NISCs, which met recently, was not to take further action until re-balloted members in autumn on other issues. 21st June, BMA are engaging in action offering emergency coverage only. Health NISC has written to BMA to offer solidarity.  Len said he was surprised at the decision on MOD and Health NISC not to come out on 21st June. He thought the message from members was that we reject the pension decision, and that we are in it for the long haul, ie, involving action of some sort. He said the union had done everything it could to build the 10th: stand down officers were taken on to build the 10th May.
Len went on to say he found it puzzling, as when UNITE met with the refusnik unions earlier (including, as well as the main public sector unions, the RMT, FBU, POA) we made it clear that the message we should be sending out is that we are going to be involved in a rolling campaign through into next year if necessary. It is obvious the government are not just going to cave in. He said it was problematic that teachers had not come out on 10th May. Teachers are key to the whole dispute, as closing schools has a massive impact.
He went on to say he thought there was a disconnect between the main unions. He made it clear, however, he was not criticising the NISCs for their decision, recognising that the NISCs want to re-engage with the ballot. But he did think we had ‘missed a beat’ again, especially with the BMA coming out. This will capture the public mood.
Len said he had always believed we could beat the government in the civil service, and that targetted action could be immense. However, he said it depends if our members are up for a fight. If they were, the government would reel and we could cut a deal.
Local Government Pension Scheme: there has been significant progress in talks. The government has agreed a way forward. LG NISC is recommending acceptance. However, there are two stages to the scheme and there has only been endorsement of the first stage of discussions.
 Pay is now an issue as employers are looking to dissolve national agreements, and form a ‘Frankenstein’ agreement instead.
Len said it always seemed likely an agreement would be reached in Local Government, so the strategy had to move in a different direction. The union did put the message out about May 10th. He thinks it’s likely that UNISON and GMB will come back into action over other issues.
Privatisation of police services: a good campaign is up and running and as a result the union has revitalised reps structures.
Pension issues are across the board: RBS, for example, and Finance is suffering massive job cuts and poor pay, whilst those at the top are reaping the rewards.
There was some discussion about a leafleting campaign of Sainsbury’s, involving Keep Our NHS Public  and UNITE members from  Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital, London, against their pharmaceutical dispensing services being taken over by Sainsbury’s. It had been claimed, apparently, that the aim was to 'Toxify' the Sainsbury brand” and this was mentioned in a leaflet. At a time, however, the union had been attempting for two years to negotiate over a recognition agreement which would include negotiation and not just consultation, as is currently the case. An important meeting has now been called off by Sainsbury. This has angered some of the union involved in the Food, Drink and Tobacco Sector and there was a call for greater coordination of sectors to ensure that actions of one group of members did not adversely impact on those in another sector. We have a huge membership at Sainsbury. Still there are issues about how we deal with getting the message out about how supermarkets are not in a position to deliver healthcare.
Southampton City Council: there is now have a Labour administration which is  committed to restoring the pay cuts that the Tories had implemented, and implementing a no-redundancy agreement, and removing restrictions of trade union facilities.
Labour candidates had to deal with standing against TUSC candidates. Len had sought for TUSC candidates to withdraw.

Oil tanker dispute: Diana said that the assessment of the dispute varies.  There had been eight days days of talks in total, with a series of events involving membership.  The vote was accepting the offer was very narrow indeed: 51%/49% just in favour of supporting the document. Three working groups have now been set up to deal with the areas of pay, H&S training, pensions. Also UNITE has published a UNITE professional drivers’ handbook. We want to establish ourselves at the union for transport.
Organising around the Olympics: Migrant worker domestic visa: this has been changed again and basically reverts these workers to slave status. Domestic workers make up just 1% of immigrant workers from outside the EU, but all their rights have been removed. Another key Olympic campaign involves the London bus workers and their fight for a £500 Olympic bonus, similar to that which was awarded to Tube drivers. This is important not just because of the extra work and stress around the Olympics themselves, but because bus companies around the country are starting to attack T&Cs and jobs already.
Tilbury Docks: members from EDC have struck over the arbitrary imposition of new contracts which could see staff lose up to £2500 a year. There was solidarity action from Sweden, but also threatened from Barcelona and Denmark.
Hitachi: GMB are looking to win recognition, but we are also looking to secure recognition at new Hitachi sites in the North West. We were the union campaigning to win recognition in the region.

The Condem government is already undoing some of the 2010 Equalities Act. PCS and UNITE have published briefings called ‘One minute to Midnight ‘campaign, which aims to save the Equalities and Human Rights Commission from further budget cuts ( 62% cut to budget and  72% cuts to staffing).
Women: main issues were around women’s poverty resulting from austerity, attacks on migrant domestic workers and maternity rights and women’s health.
BAEM: work has been underway looking at how to increase active involvement in the workplace and structures of the union by means of positive action.
Disabled rights:  the national committee has launched a hate survey, in the current climate where disabled people are experiencing a severe increase in attacks due to media scapegoating by the right-wing media portraying disabled people as ‘lazy’ and ‘benefit scroungers’.
LGBT: a new international leaflet has been produced for World Pride. The donation from EC to World Pride been gratefully received. Some workplaces have experienced problems around balancing religious rights and LGBT partnership rights on the question of gay marriage. The union has had to state clearly that religious surveys cannot be issued in the workplace.
UNITE members on London buses stopped buses going out with the homophobic "Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!" posters earlier this year.  Boris Johnson withdrew advert under pressure, and in the run up to the election.
There was discussion around the FBU abandoning its equalities structures. Could be seen as the start of a trend to smaller unions. Can UNITE use its role to encourage FBU to retain its structures? One of arguments is that many unions don’t have structures so not worth having them.

UNITE Handbook for workplace reps: There was a lot of discussion around UNITE  handbook for workplace reps. We still haven’t got one for the union and there are all sorts of issues with it. There was a lot of debate about what we call our reps – no longer using terminology MOC/FOC in literature. When questioned Jim Mowatt said we needed to find a common term we could use in our literature. This is not a dictat as to what we need to call our reps. If talking to printers, you’d refer to MOCs or FOCs.  Jim Mowatt did recommend the TUC’s handbook.
UNITE and the LRD are designing a workplace reps equivalent of the Union Equality Reps Handbook.
Branch Officers training: this will be rolled out soon as possible from the autumn, and not to be commenced at the end of the year as some people had concluded from the report.

Simon started by talking of the significance of changes in political landscape across Europe, notably success of Hollande. This has meant there is no longer a consensus on austerity alone, but there's a new focus on growth, not austerity. At the time of the EC meeting, the Greek elections were yet to take place, and Syriza posed a serious threat to the New Democracy party (Tories).
But also perhaps less well reported in the media was that Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats had polled their worst result since the war Nord-Rhein Westfalen.
There was disappointment that Scott Walker had been re-elected in Wisconsin after the re-call election. But polls show Obama is still way ahead in the polls in the state.
There was also an update on European Works Councils which we are seeking to bring all under legislation and Information and Consultation requests.

The good news is that membership grew in first quarter of 2012 by 36,407 members. This is an increase on the same period in 2011 and 2010. However, overall, the number of members continues to decline. Some of the decline can be accounted for by the cleansing of the database, but this would only represent a minority. However, we still represent over 1.5M members, making us the biggest union in Britain today.
The union has been trying to deal with the backlog in check-off fees, which amounted to some £16M last October. The union is now up to date with the process but it is still on-going as several hundred employers have sent the wrong information in order to process the check off.
The union is working with AGSs and national officers to re-allocate members to their correct sector.
There are a number of duplicate employer records on the system. These need to be identified and then merged. This is set to last six months.
The Retired Members Plus scheme which was launched in April has so far attracted over 11,000 members.

LEGAL REPORT – Howard Beckett
Howard introduced the main areas of work the legal department are presently involved in.
The Waterford Case, based in the Republic of Ireland, is a massive issue. It revolves around the issue of the fact the Waterford Crystal Ltd no contingency plans for pension insolvency when the company became insolvent. Workers currently have no legal protection whatsoever. UNITE is taking the case to the European Court. It’s the first case where the European court will need to set a minimum limit on what the safeguard should be. We are exposed to a large cost if unsuccessful (over £1M). If we are successful it should generate a lot of good publicity for us.
LAPSO (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012: This new Act received royal assent May 2012. Due to the changes planned to take effect after April 2013, this will continue to be an on-going cost to the union, up to £6M. This means we may have to say to our members in the future that they will need to sacrifice a percentage of their compensation in order to subsidise the service.
 As this is something that will impact on all unions, we are trying to find some commonality across unions. However, cost of employment claims will definitely run into £millions from 2013. Howard stated if small claims costs in relation to personal injury increased, as proposed by government it would pose considerable problems.
Affiliated services: Retired members plus has attracted over 11,000 members. Other revenue has been generated by home and motor insurance.
Auditing of solicit panels: This process is on-going, ie, there is not a set period in which we are aiming to audit all of our panel solicitors. Any solicitor that seeks to work with us will need to complete a form which confirms they abide by our principles. All our firms will need to complete the audit. Any firms that seem to say they comply when they obviously don’t, then they will be written to demanding an explanation. The regional secretaries will then be contacted to ensure they are taken off the panel, but managed so as not to create problems with any legal cases we are pursuing.
Coventry equal pay: litigation going on with members taking action against us, and UNITE is taking action against solicitors regarding their conduct in the case. We were originally thinking we were liable at anywhere between £3 - £7M.  Total claim is £300,000, but expect it to come in below that. We’re looking at maybe concluding without it costing the union anything at all. Howard thinks the problem will lie with the solicitors who weren’t sufficiently schooled in equal pay cases.
Solicitors have been advertising the successes as their own rather than under UNITE legal services successes. We have complained about this and any success should now be advertised as UNITE successes. EC agreed that the cut-off date for scale 1 benefits is 31st Aug 2012. Letter will go out to all scale 1 members.

RETIRED MEMBERS: we received the Text of new Rule 10.
AACs:  Some concern has been expressed as to the usefulness and viability of some of the AACs. Four regions were contacted and asked to review their set up. Two regions declined, two agreed. NEYH and South-East has re-jigged committees.
Regions have recently alerted union to how many retired and community members they want on each committee (with a maximum of two per committee).
Some of AACs are very poorly attended, but Len sees this as partly a question of priority. Some members may well ask whether there is much point in them but the union still considers them to have a key role.
Sector committees: conferences to be held in September.
Health NISC has submitted request to change itself. Felt it important for its own organisation. Colleagues on 2009 EC will remember difficulty in meeting with equalities requirements on the NISC. This time will try to fulfil its requirements but may need to bring in an additional member system to deal with this.
However, part of the solution to this is to try to recruit new stewards that reflect the diversity of the workforce. Part of the problem is the legacy unions.
There was a lot discussion about whether the new proposed RISCs submitted to the EC had involved any lay member consultation. In the Irish region, the membership have apparently been consulted over the signed off changes? Jimmy Kelly contacted all the branches to invite them to comment/contribute, so it’s presumed they have been signed off by all...
Len M said the union would write to all regional secretaries and officers to ensure that due consultation has taken place. Helen McFarlane asked whether we should also ask the current chairs of RISCs to sign off on behalf of the lay members. Len said that should the response come back from the regions that leading lay members had not been consulted, and then they would have to be signed off by regional officer and RISC chair. Mark Lyons raised the point that even this wasn’t necessarily the answer, although a step in the right direction. If the current RISC is not really functioning, this is no guarantee that the leading lay members that should be consulted will be.
Some regions have already merged sector committees due to poor attendance.
One proposed merged committee which hadn’t been signed off by national committee was included in the paperwork. If it hasn’t been signed off then it shouldn’t be included in the pack.
Branch reorganisation
L&E: only received reports of 190 branches having been created. Problem in the Eastern part of the region. Have spoken with Deputy RS and hope progress will be made.
NW has lagged and seems to be because of a lack of resources.
Some regions have placed members in unemployed members’ branch. It was raised from the chamber that the EC had agreed that unemployed members should not be separated off into separate branches.
National branches:
Applications are submitted for national branches and are considered individually on their merits. There have been several applications, including one from EON Energy, to represent mainly female employees who work in call centres and are unable to get involved in the mainly male structures based in the power stations.
Announcement over UK UnCut
Steve Turner makes announcement that UK Uncut: The anti-tax avoidance group UK Uncut was granted permission to challenge a so-called “sweetheart” deal agreed between HM Revenue and Customs and Goldman Sachs. They claim the investment bank got away with as much as £20m, which should have been collected by the tax man.

Three major issues: paying membership, pension deficit, eradication of legal income.
Fall of over 300,000 over last three years. Each 10,000 members represent a loss of £1M (taking into account part-time, retired, etc). Some of this will result from data cleansing, but that will not account for the fall.
Our current membership still makes us the biggest in the country and that can be used to our advantage. UNITE is bearing the brunt of the recession, as we cover such a vast array of sectors. The drop in members is slowing down, which shows we’ve been making progress with our recruitment.
Pension: executive trustees met and they are clear that they want to negotiate with the officers and staff of UNITE to come to a solution going forward. That solution will come back to EC for approval (probably December EC)
Finance strategy is based on assumption of a continued fall in membership.
The union is looking to make savings from looking to a further reduction in employment. We’re also looking to the sale of surplus properties. We’re close to selling both Quorn Grange and Woodberry. Quorn has an offer of £1.65M, and the preferred buyer is General Federation of Trade Unions. The union is hoping to sell Woodberry for £8M but have so far been offered £7.4M. Ed said there is scope to reduce training and education too.
Average earnings/RPI would be a gauge for annual increases for union staff, although this is for the EC to decide what is appropriate.
EC has agreed 15% contribution from union to pension. Recovery to amount to no more than £12.1.      

Branch funding: Whilst the system of clawback won’t happen, if a branch is not operating as it should be the funding will be suspended until it was again functioning.
Debate ensued regarding further membership increases.
Ivan Monkton gave an update on the Agricultural Wages Board campaign. Things have moved forward with the campaign, with officers now on board and several meetings of the campaign group have taken place. Wales is apparently refusing to sign up to the consultation, but under devolution it’s not a power they have. Talk now is to avoid consultation but just introduce primary legislation to just abolish the AWB. Ivan believes this could actually have a rallying effect on the campaign.
Farming industry is one industry that has not been damaged under the recession but only a 2.8% wage increase offered. Very low wage industry, on average £6.90 an hour.
Exec statements for UNITE Policy Conference 2012
The majority of EC supported, with several EC members against,  the EC statements replacing composites 3, 16, Motions 55, and motions 159-60. These cover a balanced energy strategy, the political fund, replacement of trident and future severance payments.
The EC unanimously supported the EC statement on Transport