Friday, 5 July 2013

Messages of support needed for Print workers strike

Print workers strike as management reneges on pay deal  

(Unite Press release)

Print workers from Crown Speciality Packaging in Bootle are due to take two more days of strike action in protest at management reneging on a previously agreed wage increase for the installation and operation of a new printing press.

Workers took part in the first of three one day stoppages last Friday  28 June  and will strike again on Friday 5 July and Friday 12 July.

Unite members will be outside the plant at Heysham Road, Bootle, L30 6UR from 06.00 on Friday 5 July followed by a demonstration outside the company`s new factory  from 13.00 in Trinity Park, Orrell Lane, Merseyside, L20 6PB . 

The company produces a wide range of metal cans and packaging for household brandssuch as Cadbury Roses, Jacobs Biscuits and Jeyes Fluid.

Unite regional officer Phil Morgan said: "Our members had no wish to embark upon this action, but they are extremely angry at management`s blatant attempt to renege on an agreement which had been negotiated in good faith and accepted by our members."

An agreement was concluded and confirmed in writing for the installation and operation of a new four-colour printing press and a new seasonal hours shift pattern. The agreement provided for a seven per cent increase for all members employed in the print department, however the company have now reneged on the deal.

Messages of support to Father of Chapel (senior rep) Alan Bell at

Thursday, 23 May 2013

MPG Printers faces administration

Once again, we hear another tale of potential closure and job losses in the print industry, this time at MPG. This is of particular concern to me as last year Cambridge University Press, where I work, outsourced its remaining printing business to this company.

In 2009, Cambridge University Press faced its first wave of job cuts to its Printing division. The original plan was to scale back the business to a minimum, with around 160 printing jobs at stake. However, a highly visible campaign led by the union at the Press, helped save around half of those jobs.
( Last year, 2012, the whole Printing division was closed, wiping out not only the remaining jobs but with it the oldest printing press in the world with over 800 years of history.

Of course, the impact of such closures is first and foremost on the workers themselves. However, with Cambridge University Press placing much of its printing with MPG, there are also questions hanging over how the Press's printing needs will now be met.

The article in Print Week cites lack of funding for the cashflow crisis, with MPG seriously underestimating the cost of relocating its business. Another reason often given in these situations is overcapacity in the industry, with more printers than demand. However, as is also often the case, printing businesses are not always on their knees financially. As the article goes on to state, just two years ago in 2011 MPG made a pre-tax profit of over £800,000.

Although printing is an industry in decline, partly due to the shift towards content moving online, partly because of cheaper printing outside of Britain, it is still a major player in British industry and is expected to generate a revenue of around £8.9 billion for 2013-14 ( As Mark Twain said, 'The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." There is still life in the industry, but the greater competition and economic climate results in job losses, closures and attacks in the industry and a belief amongst many that there is little that can be done to reverse this trend.

Yes, we have to accept the changes in technology mean there are inevitable changes to the industry and jobs it generates. Ultimately, the decline in the industry raises bigger political questions around the organisation of work in capitalist society. But in the meantime, do we have to accept that nothing can be done? Or could we be fighting to invest in the latest technology and retain the best skills we have and train to acquire new ones, and fighting to save every job where we can?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Special Executive Meeting, 24th April 2013

Here is a brief report from the Special executive Meeting that took place today, 24th April. These are my own notes and do not claim to represent the views of the union or to act as minutes of the meeting.

Should anyone find any errors, or disagree with any of the accuracy of what is below, please do email me.

1 General Secretary election result
The returning officer's report was distributed and the chair asked whether three were any questions on the report. There were none. 

Len came in briefly, stating he was 'privileged and humbled' that the membership had refreshed his mandate. He mentioned there was tremendous work facing us and that he hoped he could meet the aspirations of all Unite members.

2 Update on Transport Salaried Staff's Association (TSSA) talks

Len M confirmed he had given the green light to talks with TSSA as he sees it as an industrially attractive prospect for UNITE. He said UNITE has existing members in Transport for London, Network Rail and the underground. If it goes ahead, we would be able to claim ourselves as a rail union, and the present thinking is that TSSA would form the core of a new rail group within Unite.

Discussions have started now in order that TSSA has something to report at its May annual conference.

Questions from the floor asked about the possible role of the TSSA General Secretary, why had talks with the Community broken down, how many staff does TSSA employ and what about the future relationship with the RMT?

Nothing concrete was said about the role of the TSSA GS or staff, as that is the subject of the talks. Len said he saw this move as strengthening our relationship with RMT. One of the Passenger EC members from Passenger Transport said they believed that any previous problems regarding the RMT were no longer an issue.

This item will come back to the June EC.

3 TUC and the General Strike motion

A third item was discussed, which was the latest discussion re: Motion 5, which was to consider the practicality of a general strike. Len described our approach as 'mature'  and explained that the submission from our union to the TUC had come out of the discussion that took place at the Executive last year. 

Len said the term to be used was perhaps 'mass industrial action' rather than 'general strike'. He said it was one weapon in our armoury, but no the end in itself. He explained that there were diametrically opposing views on the TUC.

He also returned to the issue of the legality of a general strike. Following legal advice, it seems such a political strike would in fact be legal in European law. It may be that it was called a 'mass rally' rather than industrial action, and this might mean people took leave or called in sick. Also, having a specific focus, perhaps national action to 'Defend the NHS'. However, whatever way it might be approached, he then went on to say the government, media, etc would condemn it and call it illegal anyway. Len stated that to get hung up on the legality of the action would be the wrong route to go down.

Len said that despite differences of opinion on this issue amongst the unions of the TUC, there are also those unions keen to further the issue, the so called 'Coalition of the willing'. It was not said exactly who might comprise the CotW are or what they might consider.

He mentioned that the TUC needed a Road map through to the next election, although that did not mean waiting til the next election. He also said we should perhaps be more specific about our own road map. He mentioned the local government pay claim, and again would urge the sector to campaign for strike action. we also have an agreement with the PCS and there may be possibilities of coordinated action there.

He stated the Labour Party was disappointing in its opposition and that people are seeing the TUs as the opposition. he described local campaigns to defend hospitals such as we have seen in parts of London and Mid-Staffs as 'staggering'. 

Finally he said we should be wary of making claims on platforms and then having them come back and hit you in the face, which I took to be a warning against proclamations of naming the day for such a strike, and then finding yourself in a position of not being able to translate that into reality. He also said we need to go out and campaign around the issue of the general strike. 

Andrew Murray came in to mention two events we would be involved in:

22nd June: the People's Assembly
6th July: anniversary of birth of the NHS

This issue is to return to the June EC.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Press release from General Secretary candidate Jerry Hicks

Historic vote for right of Gay marriage mirrors Unites values and policies

This month is LGBT history month, and the recent vote in the House of Commons in favour of gay marriage certainly was a ‘history making’ moment. It marks another important milestone in the path towards LGBT equality since 1967 when sex between two men was no longer a criminal offence. Every step that breaks down the institutionalised discrimination of people based on their sexual or gender orientation is a step forward for everyone.
Unite UK’s biggest Trade Union with 1.5 million members celebrates LGBT History month with various events around the country and it’s equalities structures show that equality is not just an ‘add on’ extra to industrial work.
Jerry Hicks a candidate in the election for Unite General Secretary said “In today’s workforce, which is more diverse than ever, equalities issues are industrial issues. We want to create working environments where everyone, regardless of how they define their sexuality or gender, feels comfortable in ‘coming out’ and can do so without fear of bullying, recrimination or discrimination.
Jerry Hicks added “The vote in favour of gay marriage moves that forward, but we should not underestimate the work it has taken to get this far and how much more work still remains to be done. Activists had to fight within the trade union movement itself for equality issues to be taken seriously”.
Now many unions in Britain have structures and conferences especially dedicated to this area of work. But we cannot be complacent as they still remain vulnerable.  Just last year we saw the Fire Brigades Union conference vote to remove guaranteed voting rights for minority constituencies.
But the parliamentary vote also reveals a darker side. It should surprise no one that a large hard core of Tories voted against equal marriage. But what is more disturbing is that 23 Labour MPs also voted against the bill, and those included Unite supported MP’s.
Bills concerning issues of equality, such as LGBT rights, abortion rights, are said to be down to ‘individual conscience’. This can result in a bigoted view being masked. However, for Unite, the fight for equality is not a ‘take it or leave it’ option, it is a core part of our union policy.
Jerry Hicks was scathing when he said “This is just one more example of where Unite backed MPs are happy to take the union’s support and money, whilst actively voting in opposition to our own core principles. It is simply no longer acceptable to continue in this way.
We need to know is what steps Unite took with respect to this vote to make sure our MPs understood the importance we place on equality issues. What Unite is now doing to let them know how disappointed members will be. And what Unite intends doing from now on to make sure that Unite backed MP’s reflect, fight, and vote, for legislation in line with all of Unite’s policies.

Notes to Editor: Jerry Hicks was unlawfully sacked by Rolls Royce in 2005. He is on the now infamous illegal blacklist of workers and is among 100 other in a class action High Court case represented by Guney Clark & Ryan Solicitors.

Unite is currently holding an election for its General Secretary, in which there are only two candidates, Jerry Hicks and Len  McCluskey.

Jerry Hicks was runner up in Unites General Secretary election of 2010 beating two Assistant General Secretaries and securing 52,527 votes.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

UNITE Press Release: Former print boss disqualified for false invoicing

Former print boss disqualified for false invoicing

Print workers will not be shedding any tears for Mike Dolan, the former boss of the long established book printers Butler and Tanner who has been disqualified from holding a directorship for eight years for false invoicing.

Mike Dolan and Ben Crozier, directors of the failed print group Media & Print Investments (MPI), were disqualified for eight years each from 1 February 2013 at a court hearing on 11 January. The court found that MPI had breached its factoring agreement by raising two false invoices totalling £440,461 and obtaining payment on them.

In 2008 Mr Dolan tried to impose cuts to pay and conditions on staff at Butler and Tanner as well as making demands on working time, holidays and shift patterns which went well below print industry standards. The Unite chapel at the company refused to be bullied into submission, which led to a bitter and lawful dispute at its Frome factory in Somerset. The company was eventually bought by publisher Felix Dennis.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: 

"Unite print workers will not be shedding any tears for Mike Dolan. Back in 2008 he waged a bitter war against his loyal and dedicated workforce in Somerset, at a print company with an amazing legacy.
"Mr. Dolan tried to blame Unite for his downfall - which is nonsense. The true facts came out in the insolvency hearing. Unite said at the time that there was no place in the print industry for Mr Dolan and this judgement proves that our judgement was right."

Monday, 4 February 2013

Latest press release from Jerry Hicks re: UNITE General Secretary election

Below I paste the latest press release from Jerry Hick's campaign. Whilst it's clear there will now at least be a contested election, Unite branches and workplaces still have til 15th Feb to nominate (just make sure you follow the procedures and give due notice to members)! If you'e unsure how to do this, check out the very useful post (link below) from Ian's Unite site.

Breaking News: Press release Press release Press release: Immediate 03/02/13
Shock for Unite Trade Union establishment as Jerry Hicks challenges Len McCluskey in election for General Secretary.
It has been confirmed by the Electoral Reform Service [ERS] that rank and file Unite member Jerry Hicks has secured more than the 50 required nominations to be the only other candidate in the election for Unite General Secretary, challenging Len McCluskey for the position.
Jerry Hicks said This election should never have been called when McCluskey still had 3 years to go. Our members and their families face massive attacks and Unite’s time, energy and resources should be used to fight the Con Dem cuts and defend our members’ jobs, pensions, terms and conditions.”
Mr McCluskey announced the snap election, dragging it forward 3 years and pushing it through at break neck speed on the false premise of avoiding a clash with the 2015 General Election.
Many in Unite thought that the election would never actually happen, but the nomination ‘success’ of Jerry Hicks against all the odds and many manoeuvres, means that all of Unite’s 1.5 million members will be balloted from March 18th to April 14th and it’s they who will choose who is to be their next General Secretary
Jerry Hicks was quick to pay tribute to all those members and branches who have nominated him,  pointing out that had it not been for them Mr McCluskey would have been unopposed, extending his time in office to 2018 when he becomes 67 whilst denying members a vote.
Now that the election is actually going to happen the contrast between the two candidates will become evident and already there are clear differences:
Jerry Hicks has promised to take just an average workers wage while McCluskey draws a pay package of £100,000
Jerry Hicks says members should tell the union who they want to represent them by electing their officials. Mr McCluskey backs to the hilt the current system of appointing officials
Mr McCluskey talks about reclaiming Labour but with no evidence of any change. He has promised ‘no blank cheques’ [2010] yet has lavished over £6m on Labour with pitiful returns. Jerry Hicks has a far less complicated approach - of payment by results, funding Labour only when they do the right thing. And he says that McCluskey made the wrong decision when backing Ed Miliband for Labour leader, he should have, as Jerry Hicks did, backed John McDonnell
Jerry Hicks said “McCluskey makes tub thumping speeches but fails to turn the rhetoric into reality as with the failure to back co-ordinated public sector strike action last March. Now McCluskey chooses to deliver a fiery speech in a university theatre for the Ralph Miliband lecture, then heads off to Dundee for some ‘self promoting’ electioneering. I would have made that speech in the car park of Honda at Swindon where 800 job losses were announced the same week. I would have made that speech at Rolls Royce’s Ansty factory in Coventry, where half the workforce faces the sack.”
Jerry Hicks argues that in the case of branch re-organisation, the development of Community branches is a good thing but has been painfully slow. The orientation to workplace branches is progressive as that is where industrial power lies, but is chaotic and far too dictatorial. And that tens of thousands of retired members feel disconnected. Unite is a union not a business yet it looks much like a big company, with jobs for life and a layer of officials more the equivalent of directors who simply don’t live the same lives as the members. Our union gets its money from the pockets of the members and we deserve more, much more.
Notes to Editor:
Jerry Hicks was unlawfully sacked by Rolls Royce in 2005. He is on the now infamous illegal blacklist of workers and is among 100 other in a class action High Court case represented by Guney Clark & Ryan Solicitors.
Unite is the biggest union in the UK with 1.5 million members.
Unite is currently holding an election for its General Secretary, in which there are only two candidates, Jerry Hicks and Len McCluskey.
Jerry Hicks was runner up in Unites General Secretary election of 2010 beating two Assistant General Secretaries and securing 52,527 votes.
He can be contacted by mobile             078 178 279 12       or email
For more information go to

Monday, 14 January 2013

GS candidate Jerry Hicks' press release re: job losses in print sector

Our response to the consequences of Con-Dem policies has to be more than just papering over the cracks.

The government is trying to justify its assault on benefits by pitching the employed against the unemployed. But it will ring hollow to many who work in the Graphical, Paper and Media (GPM) sector, where the Con-Dem's economic strategy is helping to throw people on the dole.

2013 is proving to be yet another year that kicks off with a round of job cuts in the sector. Once again the Wyndeham and Polestar groups are in the news. Last week Polestar Varnicoat, employing some 63 employees, initiated a 30-day consultation process, with the very real possibility of it closing down, and Wyndeham announced on 7th January the loss of some 70 jobs from its Peterborough plant.

The Wyndeham Group was bought by the venture capitalists Walstead in 2008. Since then its focus has been on ‘expanding & restoring profitability’ by becoming more ‘efficient’ through ‘restructuring’ its business. All at the expense of terms & conditions and job losses at its plants, including the closure of the Wyndeham Impact plant in Basingstoke in 2011, while workers at Wyndeham Roche had two separate consultations about job losses and changes to terms and condition in the same year.

Polestar, one of the UK’s leading commercial printing groups, according to the TUC’s Worksmart site, with an annual turnover of some £275,700,000 (September 2011 annual report) has also been looking to boost profitability, through moving some of its more profitable printing facilities to other sites, and leaving other sites left with run down presses, with no hope of future investment. This has been a tactic used by bosses throughout the sector.

The key problem behind the cuts is said to be down to overcapacity in the system, with advances in printing technology producing, on the one hand, higher quantities, whilst being met, on the other, with lower demand due to the move away from print to digital publishing. The outsourcing of printing to low wage economies is also a factor.

Having said that, Britain still has one of the world’s largest print industries. It is the drive to sustain and boost profitability that is making the bigger companies such as Wyndeham and Polestar look for ways to consolidate their businesses and gain most market share. This leads them to mount further attacks on jobs and conditions.

We have seen resistance though. Workers at Wyndeham Impact staged rolling strike action and pickets in 2011 against the attacks and then job losses, and notably in 2012 we saw the fantastic campaign by Unite members at MMP Packaging in Bootle, where the union’s leverage strategy played a key role. However, whilst in some cases, such as the MMP campaign, workers’ resilience has managed to make gains in redundancy terms and conditions, we haven’t yet seen victories in terms of job losses and company closures.

Jerry Hicks a candidate in the election for Unite the Union General Secretary said “Unite’s manufacturing and leverage strategies can play an important role in trying to halt the trend. But we also need a clear message that job cuts and attacks on conditions are not an inevitability.”

Jerry Hicks added “Something more is needed, a new strategy is required that seeks not simply to negotiate the terms of restructuring but one which opposes outsourcing and closures, where Unite argues for effective industrial action, including where necessary, solidarity action and site occupations. An effective strategy of resistance must be at the heart of the fight to retain jobs and sites in the print sector and every other sector.”

Jerry's election website can be found here:

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Another unhappy start to the New Year for GPM sector

Both Polestar and Wyndeham Groups announce more closures and job losses in the GPM sector. We now more than ever need a strategy that seeks not just to improve the terms of redundancy, but to actively oppose the decimation of the industry.