Friday, 2 December 2011

London Met UNISON members join historic strike on Nov30

UNISON stewards have all reported positive responses to the biggest one-day public sector strike in a generation. Only a handful of strike breakers crossed our picket lines at London Met, and we are confident many non-members joined the strike too.
Tower building picketA few lonely individuals, agency staff or managers opened offices and buildings that would otherwise have been shut and many sections were closed completely, including: Moorgate Library, Commercial Road Library, Calcutta House Registry, Ladbroke House Library… the list goes on. Sara Masson and Megan Redmond, UNISON reps who picketed Ladbroke House report:
"We were warmed and nourished by 4 women from IHOOPs (Islington Hands Off Our Public Services) the NUJ, and an anonymous activist, who arrived with hot coffee, homemade flapjacks and muffins. They told us they had come from the picket line at the Whittington Hospital and several others en route.
"They felt strike was very successful, with high participation levels everywhere they had been and much support from the public. When two of our picket went over to the Highbury Fields School picket for a chat, a bit later on, we accosted Nick Robinson (photo), spotted on his way to work, and we exhorted him to tell it like it is! He even took a copy of the supportive article in the Evening Standard on the eve of the strike to fill in the gaps in his knowledge…"
Maggie Loughran, who picketed Commercial Road, said:
"Commercial Rd was deserted, only a handful of students walked in and walked straight out again when they found the place empty. Unfortunately we had one member cross the picket line who helped keep the empty building open.  One admin worker (out of the two that went in!) who wasn't a member decided enough was enough and went in to work but by the end of the day had joined Unison saying "This is the right thing to do". I was proud to stand outside on the picket line as a rep for UNISON on behalf of all of our members."
The only students in Central house were architecture students who had an exhibition project launch at Toynbee Hall. The UCU and the UNISON pickets had nobody to convince not to come in because no one turned up except for just one lecturer!
Striking public sector workers march past RBS in the City of LondonEddie Rowley, who was lead picket at Goulston St, said: "The symbolism of the view in front of those of us picketing on outside Goulston Street was clear to us all. In the car park opposite the Porsche and Mercedes belonging to the city workers stared back at us relentlessly. To the left we see Royal Bank of Scotland looming high, perhaps the destination of some of Porsche owners, settling in for another day of gambling away public money from the latest bank bail-out.
"They are the 1% who brought who caused the ever worsening financial catastrophe, yet it is the 99% who are expected to pay for it. Well the 99% will not stand for it any longer. We will not tolerate attacks on our pensions, public services and welfare state to pay for their mess. We will strike and strike again and are determined to win."
We felt the vast majority of staff stayed at home – many to look after children whose schools were on strike and many more came to join the main rally which was huge.
The Tower Building, Calcutta House, Goulston St and the Learning Centre all had strong, lively pickets and lots of support from the public was shown by cars and bus divers tooting their horns.
David Summers, Branch Young member's Officer, said:
The Learning Centre attracted strong support from both members and students – only a small number of students and just a few members crossed the picket line. One staff member changed their mind about going in, and instead joined us on the picket line for the whole morning once he had listened to our arguments over why we were striking! I was proud to stand as a UNISON rep alongside my members and students on the picket line on the 30th November in fight to secure a decent pension for all public service workers!
Fair pensions for allSome even brought their children to join the pickets or the demo itself. After all the fight for pensions is about ensuing the future!
Those who joined the strike – some for the first time in their lives – enjoyed the atmosphere and even felt inspired. The high point for the city campus was when we joined a demo that came past Old Castle st. Hospital workers in UNITE, UNISON, and medical practitioner associations spontaneously started to march from Whitechapel, past the banks in the City, all the way past St Paul's by the Occupation through to the main demo at Lincolns Inn Fields in Holborn.
UNITE, NUT and PCS balloons in a sea of trade unionists at start of demo
From there we joined up to 50,000 other trade unionists – from the PCS, NASUWT, NUT and nearly 30 different unions all out on strike together against the pensions robbery, coming together in a carnival-like atmosphere.
The immense crowd took over an hour to march the short distance to Parliament where we heard speeches from union reps from various unions. Our very own Mark Campbell (UCU Chair) spoke to the rally (see short youtube clip below) before the clouds finally gave in and poured rain on the crowd before some of us sloped off to celebrate a successful day in a nearby pub.
UNISON reps at London Met felt we had done a good job of bringing people together in common cause. We even had both the North campus Banner and the City campus banner out on the same demo for the first time in many years (see top photo).
The day was overall a huge success and we are all Proud to be UNISON, and proud to have taken an active part in the biggest strike in a generation. A special thanks from the Branch Committee to all those members who respected and joined our picket lines.
To those who went in to work: why not join us next time? Go here (please forward this to your colleagues who for whatever reason have still not joined).
To those who stayed at home: why not join the picket lines next time and feel like you're actively taking part in making history?
To those who joined in: why not leave your comments or send us your photos? See lots more Photos on-line on Facebook here?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Birkbeck UNISON lead by example, will not cross UCU picket lines on N30

Good luck to all the UNISON branches in HE that will be out on Wednesday on a very historic day for our union movement. Almost 30 unions will all be out - nearly 2.6 Million workers will be out in a magnificent display of unity, of defiance, of solidarity and resistance.

As identified at the start of the balloting period, for HE one of the main issues is that many UNISON branches aren't in a scheme that is being balloted (eg SAUL, USS or specific employer scheme). In that case we discussed at the time the options before those branches, including writing to employers asking that UNISON members would not be discplined for refusing to cross UCU picket lines. Once we knew that those branches couldn't get balloted in time by engineering a dispute, this was really the only option left.

Birkbeck UNISON have lead the way, as today they announced that:

"Although our branch hasn't been balloted we have now had it confirmed that any Birkbeck UNISON members who say they don't want to come to work when UCU are on strike will not have any action taken against them other than losing a day's pay."
For those other UNISON branches that still wish to take action but haven't secured an agreement yet, they could also now use this precedent as an example their management might wish to follow. Well done to Naomi Bain (Chair) and Simon Deville (Secretary) who must have negotiated hard for this agreement.

Solidarity forever - see you on the streets on November 30th and beyond!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Violence at London Met Uni Picket lines?

UNISON members at London Met were annoyed at a recent email from our Vice Chancellor, Malcolm Gillies, who has (once again) requested that we are peaceful when we go on demonstrations or on our picket lines next week.

Why is this necessary? When challenged by UNISON recently management recognised that we have never been violent before on picket lines (see one of our scary pickets on left). So why do we need to be treated like children? Management argues that they are simply iterating the legal position: picket lines must be 'peaceful' and not 'intimidatory'. Yes that’s true, but – correct me if I’m wrong – there is also a law against being violent to people already, in your day to day lives but we don't need reminding of it.

Is this worse than just ill-judged and patronising? Is it also playing the politics of fear? Creating a climate of fear: as if going on a demonstration is a dangerous affair, or standing on a picket line could be perceived as an act of aggression. The myth of the 'angry mob' is deliberately playing up to people's fears and making people hesitant about exercising their right to protest. It works, too - it’s a proven method. A local steward has never been on a demo, and didn’t come on the demo of 26th March because of this fear of violence. Another rep recently came on their first demo and was clearly anxious due to all the press reports of potential 'riots'.

Others have made it clear to me they didn't come on the recent student demo because of the danger of 'rubber bullets' that the police deliberately put out to scare people off. I’ve been on too many demonstrations than is probably healthy for one person – and indeed I have on occasion seen real police violence, and seen mounted police charging peaceful protesters in London. So I’m not impressed by the tactics of a university management who have asked us to ‘be peaceful’ or keep within the law when our picket lines are simply a justified stance against the great Pensions Robbery.

We are peaceful in our day to day activity, as of course we would be on our picket lines.

The real violence is the slamming the door of education in the faces of ordinary young people. Violence is making people unemployed when there is no need for job cuts, or cutting counselling services for students who are on suicide watch. Violence is withholding wages or holiday pay from cleaners or caterers, from the most vulnerable workers in university. Enforced poverty is violence.

Meanwhile we are the ones who are expected to keep quiet about the mugging of public sector workers - or we're portrayed as potentially dangerous.

We are peaceful: but we are also determined, and we will not be intimidated by veiled threats.

Whenever there is a strike there is division and you are asked: ‘whose side are you on’? To be tarnished with the ‘potentially violent’ brush is all part of the battle for public opinion. Despite repeated requests for a retraction and apology, to their shame they have failed to take this chance.

I've asked around and sadly this has apparently only happened at London Met so far as I can tell but I've not asked far and wide: who else in a UNISON HE branch has been asked by their VC not to be violent on their picket lines without reason?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The truth about the unions - Redpepper's Mythbuster

As the Tories and their pals in the press ratchet up the anti-strike rhetoric, Red Pepper knocks down some of the myths they throw at the unions

MYTH: Unions strike at the first opportunity, without a thought for the consequences
Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly. Strikes are very expensive – the cost to the unions of 30 November, including ballots, will be millions of pounds. Union members will sacrifice up to £100 million in pay altogether.
The unions are taking action because other options have been blocked by the government. It effectively froze negotiations. It is only the threat of strikes that has led to any change in the government's position.
When the unions do eventually decide they have to resort to strikes, they discuss with employers to organise emergency cover and ensure that no one is in danger and vulnerable people are not harmed.
Home care for the elderly, urgent operations and accident and emergency departments all continue to function. Unions agree with employers that enough people are exempt from the strike to make sure this is the case.
MYTH: Unions are just a 'lobby group' for workers' selfish interests
Public sector workers are less motivated by their own pay and conditions than by a strong public service ethos. 53 per cent of NHS staff regularly work additional unpaid hours over and above their contract (Annual NHS Staff Survey). The most common reason for working unpaid hours was 'because I want to provide the best care I can'.
Public sector unions play a key social justice role, campaigning for decent public services for all. They would like to be striking to this end, but that is illegal. They are only allowed to take action over their own pay and conditions.
But good conditions are part of ensuring quality public services – after all, services will be better if the workers providing them are secure about their futures, rather than anxious.
Unions can hardly be accused of representing 'sectional interests' when they do so much campaigning on wider issues such as anti-racism and freedom for Palestine.
MYTH: Unions are a thing of the past – a declining minority of the workforce
The unions are constantly renewing themselves. Many trade unions are in fact growing as they reach out to new groups. For example, Unison signed up 160,000 new members last year – 27,000 of them aged under 30. Unions are also on the rise internationally as more of the world is industrialised and workers start to fight for their rights.
Deindustrialisation and legal attacks have reduced the number in unions in the UK since the 1970s. But with nearly seven million members (National Statistics), trade unions are still the largest voluntary organisations in the country.
And another estimated 3.3 million non-union workers are covered by collective agreements negotiated by a union.
MYTH: Unions are a drag on the economy
Government-commissioned research shows that unions bring an identifiable range of benefits to the economy, and the taxpayer, worth up to £1.1 billion every year ('Workplace representatives: a review of their facilities and facility time', BERR). This is through their contribution to dispute resolution, reductions in workplace injuries and work-related illnesses, and improved take-up of training.
There are also productivity gains worth up to £12 billion ('The Facts About Facility Time', TUC) thanks to improved morale and employee engagement, among other factors.
Even the International Monetary Fund has published research ('Inequality, Leverage and Crises', IMF) suggesting that union bargaining helps maintain economic stability, by keeping a lid on inequalities and putting a brake on runaway expansions of household debt.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman says: 'If we want a society of broadly shared prosperity … we need to restore the bargaining power that labour has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages.'
MYTH: Unions only care about the public sector, where most of their members work
The government talks a lot about how 'unfair' unions are for private sector workers – but workers in the private sector won't benefit one jot from an attack on the public sector.
The public sector's conditions are better because unions have fought to maintain standards in the face of a race to the bottom. Union members' hourly earnings are around 17 per cent higher than those of non-union members.
Unions face enormous challenges recruiting and organising in the private sector because of the nature of much employment. But millions of private sector workers are in unions – and millions more who are not in a union would like to join one. Unions want to level up, not race to the bottom.
According to the British Workplace Representation and Participation Survey, 46 per cent of employees in non-unionised workplaces say they would become members if unions were enabled to recruit and organise there. That alone would easily take total union membership above 50 per cent nationally.
MYTH: Unions are pale, male and stale
In fact, unions have been working continually to address inequalities and secure greater participation and representation of women, black and ethnic minorities, disabled and young people ever since the social movements of the 1970s transformed understandings of inequality and work.
Unison, for example, has over a million women members – more than two thirds of the union. Women's representation is growing across the unions, and many now actively encourage women to get involved and become reps.
It's taken time and struggle, and there's still a lot to be done, but unions score higher than most institutions on diversity and equalities – including not just businesses but also political parties. Young people today are far more likely to join a union than a political party.
MYTH: Unions are undemocratic, with 'union barons' ordering members to strike
The very role of a trade union is to provide democratic representation of its members in the workplace. The right to form and join trade unions is generally considered to be a fundamental part of any democratic society, and is specifically mentioned in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 23).
Unions spread a culture of democracy. Research suggests high levels of union membership are linked to democratic participation more generally, such as voting in elections and campaigning in the community ('The Everyday Democracy Index', Demos).
Union leaders are elected democratically by a ballot of every member. Policy is made through the unions' democratic structures, such as annual delegate conferences. As with any democratic institution there are flaws, and improvements must be fought for, but in few organisations are the leaders as accountable as they are in the unions.
No strike can take place without the support of at least 50 per cent of those voting by postal ballot. Two out of every three MPs didn't get 50 per cent of the vote at the last general election.
MYTH: Unions are unpopular
Trade unions' portrayal in the media could make you think that they are universally despised. But surveys show that this is far from the case.
Even at the height of the attack on the unions, when MORI opinion polls found a majority of people agreeing that unions were 'run by militants', 73 per cent still agreed that unions are essential to protect workers' interests'. Today 76 per cent say they are essential.
A ComRes opinion poll at the time of the smaller pensions strikes in June this year found that a majority of the public thought 'public sector workers are right to take strike action'. With up to three million set to strike on 30 November, these arguments are ones we can win.
We have piles of this Mythbuster, printed as a full-colour leaflet, ready to send out. Would you like some for your union branch, trades council, anti-cuts or campaign group? Or even just a few to give out yourself? Email your postal address to

London Metropolitan University unions prepare for an ‘all out’ strike on 30th November

Members of the trade union UNISON at London Metropolitan University met last week and declared their intention to join the huge one day public sector strike over pensions on 30th November 2011.

The support staff at the university, based in Islington, the City of London and Tower Hamlets, met on 16th and 17th November, following the national ballots for action returned a 78% yes vote for industrial action. They declared their intention to shut down the University for the day alongside with their sister unions, the UCU and GMB.

The Students Union have also declared their support for the strike.

Dozens of UNISON members gathered to express their outrage at the government's 'pensions robbery', and lined up to show support to be photographed with a placard which reads 'I'm taking action on 30th November.

Susan Lloyd, an administrative officer, said she'd be striking on Nov 30th, because: "I haven't had a decent pay rise in years so simply can't afford to pay a further 50% more into my pension."

Jonathan McCree, added he would also be withdrawing his labour because: "Only by doing so will I protect my pension and send a message that everyone deserves one."

Eddie Rowley, who works with the student union, said: "I shouldn't have to pay 50% more in pension contributions to fund the bank bailouts!"

All the unions at the University will be on strike on 30th November, with support from the students' union, leading to a likely shut down of the two campuses. Management have promised to deduct a day's pay from striking staff but Max Watson, Chair of the UNISON Branch, said:

"The threat of losing a day's pay doesn't really compare when you look at the long term pensions robbery the government has in mind. I'll be paying over £500 a year extra for a pension that will be cut by 23 percent according to the government's proposals, and I won't get it until I'm too old to enjoy it! There's no way I'm putting up with that, and our members have made it clear they're behind this strike all the way."

For more info:

Call Branch Chair: Max Watson 0207 320 3010

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Let's Work Together to get public service workers to No1!

going to Work logo

Let's Work Together to get public service workers to No1!

Let's Get Together by The Workers

Dear  Max,

The Workers are a group of 14 public service staff from around the country, who've come together to record the classic song 'Let's Work Together'. Please help get some solidarity into the charts ahead of the day of action on 30 November by watching the video, buying the song, and spreading the word.

Watch the video now and find out more

Public service workers are under a lot of strain - Job losses are happening at an even higher rate than in the private sector, and government cuts mean more people are needing to fall back on our public services in a time of need - putting more strain on fewer staff. Added to this, the government are planning to drastically cut their pensions, and make people work much longer and pay much more into the bargain. This will mean many low paid staff unable to afford to contribute to any pensions provision at all - a race to the bottom that will do nothing to help pensions under attack in the private sector too.
Public sector unions are staging a day of action on 30 November, to highlight the problem, with events happening all over the country. It would really set the mood music for the day to have a song in the charts when it happens, so we're backing The Workers to raise awareness and solidarity ahead of the 30th. Please help us to get them as high up the charts as we can.

Watch the video now and find out more

Going To Work is a project of the Trades Union Congress (TUC)

This email was sent to:

You can unsubscribe from our email updates at any time, just go to:

Friday, 18 November 2011

Why I'm supporting Mark Campbell for UCU Gen Sec

I'm supporting Mark Campbell for UCU Gen Sec, for unity in action. At London Met Uni we've had to take robust stand against job cuts and privatisation - including coordinated strike action in 2009 and again in June 2011.

Watch short clip below from our most recent strike - Mark Campbell lead his union branch out on strike against job cuts at London Met that were predominantly support staff jobs represented by us in UNISON. As a result of our united action we doubled the redundancy pay, and significantly reduced the number of compulsory redundancies.

I fully back Mark's campaign and look forward to working with him as General Secretary of a fighting, democratic UCU. United we stand, divided we fall.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sparks national day of action - REEL NEWS footage


Banner-drop at the end of the student demo against privatisation of education on Wed 9th Nov.

Well done to the students who managed to get through the overkill police and security operation to get this message out, to NCAFC, EAN and all activists who organised a very successful day.

Shame no official unions built this at all, but now it's all out to build for Nov 30th.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


The full timetable for the UNITE the RESISTANCE convention is published here. See you there?
Add Image

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Students at the heart of the system? 'Profit' would be more apt

The higher education white paper is an ideological attack on vulnerable students. We must stand united in opposition
  • Article history
  • Students protest over funding cuts for arts education at London Metropolitan University
    Students protest over funding cuts for arts education at London Metropolitan University. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

    Thousands of students from all over the country will be marching through London this Wednesday against the government's plans for universities. The governments's white paper for higher education calls itself "Students at the heart of the system". As the president of the students' union at London Metropolitan University, I have been on the frontline facing the attacks against students and education. I know how contradictory this title is, and how vital it is that we stand up and fight for the opportunities that have been won over generations.

    The higher education white paper is in fact an attempt to turn the learning environment into a marketplace and learners into customers. "Profit at the heart of the system" would be far more accurate. The government seeks to justify cuts and fee increases in higher education by saying that students are a burden on the taxpayer – but the new funding regime will actually require students to borrow more money from the taxpayer at a time of economic crisis. Is this a logical move or an ideological one?

    Allowing private companies to take over public resources has historically had an adverse affect on our communities. This year energy companies have made record profits by raising prices through the roof, leaving vulnerable people to suffer the cold – and in extreme case die – because they cannot afford their heating bills. The privatisation of education and healthcare is like selling off our children to the highest bidder.

    London Met has a diverse student body. Many of our students come from widening participation backgrounds, with high proportions of working class and black and ethnic-minority students. The very ethos of London Met is to enable students who would not previously had the chance to enter into higher education the opportunity to have the same life choices that were previously only provided for a privileged few.
    We now face the worst cuts out of any university in Britain. These include a 70% cut to the undergraduate course portfolio, which has resulted in the loss of subjects such as philosophy, history and performing arts. These courses were financially viable, had high student satisfaction and retention, and some scored higher in the league tables than any other course at London Met. To cut these courses was not logical. This was a move to vocationalise the course offering.

    The rationale behind such a move is highly flawed, as there is no data to suggest that students who leave London Met go into employment in the field of which they studied. In fact, the data collected for the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey shows that the faculty of computing, which is made up of vocational courses, has the lowest graduate employment rating.

    The result of offering mainly vocational courses at institutions like London Met is that the majority of working-class and black and ethnic-minority students who enter into higher education will have their choices limited to what is deemed to be of value by the decision-makers at the institution. This will limit social mobility and is a step backwards for post-1992 universities. Meanwhile, at Russell Group institutions, the sons and daughters of Middle England will be allowed to continue to study arts and humanities.

    Along with the reshaping of the course offering at London Met, student services, a department that provides support for our most vulnerable students, has received a 30% cut. Students now have to wait eight weeks for an appointment with the disability and dyslexia service. This is an unacceptable attack on our most vulnerable students and it has already caused some disabled students to drop out of London Met altogether.

    I am forced to conclude that the changes to higher education are an ideological attack on vulnerable students. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds will either be excluded form higher education altogether or have very limited choices and support. Taxpayers will be forced to pay more in the short term, with their money ending up in the pockets of large corporations who will be primarily focused on profit-making rather than education.

    My great granddad once said to my dad when he was a child, that one day the rich and powerful would try to take away all the rights, freedoms and opportunities that we have fought for for generations. This is now a reality, and if we do not stand up and fight we will lose them. It is much easier to keep something than it is to get it back once it's gone. Education affects everyone. It is vital that we stand united to save education on 9 November, because history repeatedly shows us that united, we can actually win.


Monday, 7 November 2011

HE UNISON Branch wesbite directory

Has your branch got its own website? I'm making a directory of branch websites, so it's easier for us to contact each other on-line. Let me know, send me your link and I'll add you to the list of HE UNISON Branches I've started here on the side of this blog.


It's time to take to the streets again ... #N9

On Wednesday 9th November, thousands of students from all over the country will march through London against the government’s plans for universities.

Student demo November 9th 2011 from Jon Cheetham on Vimeo.

Assemble: 12 noon at the University of London Union (ULU) on Malet Street

See the Facebook event here:


On 18th October, QMUL UNISON Branch Secretary Vikhas Chechi was suspended from his post at the Centre of the Cell, Queen Mary University of London.

We believe this suspension is linked to Mr Chechi’s vocal opposition to the cuts and restructuring being imposed at Queen Mary and his tireless efforts to organise campus workers and reinvigorate the local UNISON branch.

Having the trade union decapitated during a period of restructuring and redundancies would be detrimental to staff and students.

This petition calls:

1.For Mr. Chechi's reinstatement.

2.To oppose any efforts to victimise trade unionists at Queen Mary and elsewhere.

3.To send letters of protest immediately to Mr Chechi's employers demanding his immediate reinstatement and letters of support to


QMUL UNISON are also organising a public meeting and a lobby in order to campaign demanding his immediate reinstatement. ALL WELCOME. FORWARD THIS EMAIL WIDELY AS POSSIBLE.


Thursday 10th November


Francis Bancroft Room 1.13a

Mile End Campus, Queen Mary University, E1 4NS


Tuesday 15th November


Garrod Building entrance, Queen Mary University, Whitechapel Campus

(Behind Royal London Hospital, Turner Street, Whitechapel, E1 2AD)

In solidarity,


Friday, 4 November 2011

UNISON members vote Yes to action - Higher Ed unanimously support #N30

UNISON News | The public service union | UNISON members vote Yes to action

We're on the last stretch of the road to nationally coordinated strike action. Finally the results came in on Thursday last week, after a long campaign for a yes vote (though one more week might have helped?).

The Higher Ed service Group then ratified the decision to go ahead with November 30th, (unanimously voting in favour), following the overwhelming yes vote.

Firstly, a common query: there won't be a breakdown for our sector - all of LGPS members have one aggregated result. We do not have a breakdown of the results for the HE Service group, nor for individual branches.

Secondly we should not be defensive about the turn-out: nearly thirty percent isn't bad at all. How many MEPs are elected on higher percentage? And if the government want trade unions to deliver an increased turnout to make our ballots legitimate, they should allow us to have workplace ballots (after all we're based in the workplace). And why can't we use secure on-line voting systems like professional associations do . Student unions often have on-line voting too. ... but not trade unions, oh no.

And due to the Tory anti-union laws we have to strike with in 28days of a ballot result in order to keep our ballot 'live'. So it's definitely going ahead on 30th Nov.

As Dave Prentis promised: 'there will be no deals behind closed doors', and members will be consulted on any 'final offer (in what format we are yet to decide).

We emphasised the need to defend pensions for everyone - not just public sector workers, and certainly not just those public sector works close to retirement age. So as far as we're concerned, the strike is on because we're defending decent pensions for all. To that end, we're agreed on the need to engage with young workers and students and we're all for building stronger alliances with the NUS. As I said already, 'today's students are tomorrow's pensioners'...

I think we should congratulate ourselves on an excellent 'Yes campaign'. The materials produced were excellent, the support and training for Pensions Champions has been clear and concise, making complex arguments simple. Activists up and down the country have been slogging their guts out talking to members, and altogether we delivered a convincing result.

Now the task is to keep the momentum up whilst the wind is in our sails.

We won the yes vote in our union, now we need to win over public opinion. The media bias against unions means they will instinctively oppose any strike action, so we need to get letters into local papers in favour, vote in on-line polls etc.. UNISON mobilised well for the Guardian and the Telegraph polls taken last week - we need to keep this up over the next few weeks.

Most of all we need to be recruiting and organising new members and activists. Public sector workers are joining UNISON at a speed not seen an many years, due to our high-profile and principled stand in defence of decent pensions for all.

So hopefully I'll see many of you on the demo on 9th November: whilst we're supporting the struggle for free education, we will also be recruiting more advocates for our strike action on 30th.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Today's students are tomorrow's pensioners - let's stick together

The government has apparently tried to buy off older workers (within ten years of retirement) with some minimal concessions.

It's very welcome that UNISON has told the rich-list cabinet to get stuffed and declared 30th Nov is still on (see analysis here and here).

The government think they've spotted a chink in our armour - the average age of trade unionists is, sadly, above 50 - so they're trying to exploit that.

As a public sector worker who is nowhere near retirement age, (and I won't even be covered by a promise that the offer would be binding for the next 25 years), I don't see anything in this for me or my generation.

As I argued last year we in the labour movement need to be arm in arm with the next generation if we're to turn around our decline. We cannot allow our movement to be divided by age. We'd be selling out a future generation of public sector workers, who share zero blame for the current financial crisis.

Solidarity with the next generation. If we sell them out, we haven't got a hope. Instead, we must congratulate the TUC for rejecting this offer and not only throw our weight behind building for the 30th November, but also get involved in building the demo next week.

Today's students are tomorrow's pensioners - let's stick together. See you next week.

UNISON News | The public service union | Action on 30 November still on

UNISON News | The public service union | Action on 30 November still on

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Catching up with the vote yes campaign

Like Marsha-Jane, and (hopefully) hundreds of thousands other UNISON members, I voted yes right away two weeks ago.

My baby girl was born the same day as my ballot arrived - and some things in life are more important, even more so than the biggest ever postal ballot for industrial action this country.

So whilst I've been at home nesting, everybody's been out talking about the pensions dispute, and only now I'm playing a bit of catch up.

Firstly, I was glad to see the unmissable envelopes the ballots arrived in, as I'd made it my mission to make sure they didn't look like junk mail.

This morning, I heard Mark Serwotka speak on Radio 4 against "the biggest robbery of a pension scheme this country has ever seen", and our joint-union legal challenge to the arbitrary changes from RPI to CPI.

Michael Meacher has neatly summarised the case for a yes vote, and Jon Rogers has obviously been out and about vigorously campaigning for a good turn out alongside another London regional NEC member, Helen Davies.

Jon persistently raised the need for a Pensions Calculator, which is now online.

Eric Roberts puts public sector pensions into some (bite-sized) historical context, going right back to Cromwell. And Marsh-Jane helpfully explains how to use the calculator if you're part-time or work in London.

I also enjoyed reading about why we should all be 'like mosquitoes' from Roger McKenzie, who had spoken at the HE Branch Seminar last week. I'm sure I've heard the same analogy told to me by one of our activists in London Met Uni branch, who also happened to be up in her home town of Liverpool last week...

It was a shame I couldn't be there to catch up with the HE service group's leading activists, and hear how the yes campaign is going up and down the country, but like public sector pensions, paternity leave was a hard-won battle so I felt obliged to take advantage of my limited rights...

So now I've had a two week break I'm back in action tomorrow, when I'll be re-joining a huge 'yes' campaign. Every vote counts. Like Dave Prentis says, 'make your stand, and vote yes in this ballot' (see below).

If you've not got a ballot paper yet, and you're in the LGPS (rather that SAUL or USS), then call up the Pensions hotline: 0845 355 0845

If we're successful, as I'm confident we will be, then I'll see you out on 30th November.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Southbank University fighting for the Living Wage

One great way to boost support for a cause is a bit of bullying and intimidation from management.

London South Bank University UNISON held a demo last week for the Living Wage, and called for support from the wider movement, for the World day for Decent Work, 7th October. The emails, press releases and Facebook-Event invites went round as normal and their petition - you can still sign it - went online.

Then the private cleaning contractor 'Interserve' responded by threatening the cleaners with disciplinary if they attended the demo, and even the University management threatened UNISON, claiming they had no right to protest at the university entrance over the Living Wage.

That's when support increased from a 'maybe attending' to a 'definitely attending' for many local activists. SOAS, Birckbeck, London Met University UNISON branches, (of course!), and also Lambeth Local Government, Southwark Save our Services, Southbank UCU plus student and community activists all turned out to show solidarity.

Somewhere between 70-100 people turned out for the lunchtime rally - trade union activists really don't like being told by employers we can't go on a demo... The threats to the cleaners, though, worked. Unless you've got really strong organisation and the confidence to defy management en masse - as they did at Senate House in September - then it's too risky for activists to stand up and be counted, easily picked off for victimisation.

Nevertheless, it was a strong display of support for their cause, and it's looking like Southbank should become the 14th London Higher Ed Institution to become a Living Wage employer.

As we know at London Met however, the Living Wage alone is not enough. Winning dignity at work means unionisation, it means organising the rank and file membership and mobilising, training new activists to look after themselves, to stand up to employers who are not used to having to deal with trade unionists. It means demanding - and negotiating around - sick pay, holidays, overtime pay, proper breaks, time off for activists, and ultimately decent pensions too. And it means not accepting a 'promise' to pay the Living Wage some time in the distant future, too.

We're slowly getting there at London Met - our 'quick win' means the organising at a basic level still continues. Those who aren't interested in winning dignity beyond a living wage at work - who just want to put a logo on the employers' website, pat them on the back each year and walk away - can be helpful but only at the early stages of a campaign, in my view.

The hard work of organising for the longer term is left to us. That's why London Met have passed a motion which we hope to bring to HE conference this year called the 'Living Wage is not enough' - and we hope to liaise with other London HE branches at the Seminar in Liverpool, to share experiences, ideas and discuss ways to develop our position.

If your branch or HEI is mentioned in this motion - or if you are thinking about running a Living Wage campaign - please get in touch.

As I said at the rally last Friday:

"We're in the middle of a ballot for strike action to defend our pensions - for what could be the largest public sector strikes in over a generation - but we continue to fight against job cuts, against the pay freeze, and for the Living Wage."

Those without pensions to protect don't want to see their union turning their back on them right now. Other battles continue.

It's a winner - on every level. We win a pay rise for the poorest workers - when most of our members in HE haven't seen a pay rise since 2008. We gain members and new activists to reinvigorate our union. And even employers get to paint themselves in a good light.

Congratulations to LSBU branch for a well organised demo and for making a bit of a splash - and in particular activist Jonathan Buckner who spoke well at the rally (see first photo) - and to the Hidden Workforce for their sterling support (and fantastic placards).

And lastly, well done to VC Martin Earwicker (who is paid £3,581 per week), for helping to build support for our cause by trying to bully and intimidate us. As you can see - it had the opposite effect.

Don't forget to sign their petition.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The NHS is not for sale!

As Nxtgen says, this needs to be defiantly played and spread around again. True, true...

London Met UNISON members are voting YES to Protect our Pensions!



About the national convention

We are a group of trade unionists from the NUT, PCS, Unison, Unite and UCU who have called a national convention to discuss the coordinated strike action set to take place on 30 November.

We are hoping that this conference will bring together trade union activists, anti-cuts campaigners, young people, students and pensioners in order to build the widest possible support for the strikes.

In the run up to the strikes on the 30 June many of us helped organise a 750 strong meeting at Friends Meeting House on 22 June. We are hoping to build on the themes raised at that meeting.

There will be plenaries discussing the scale of the government’s attacks on pensions, jobs, services and conditions, how we can best strengthen and coordinate that action and where we go after the November strikes.

We will also be organising 12 workshops that will give participants a chance to discuss the wider issues that surround the government’s cuts agenda.

In the run up to the conference we will be holding a meeting to discuss speakers and the themes of the workshops. This meeting will be open to all organisations that have sponsored the conference.

If your trade union branch or organisation would like to sponsor the conference, please send us your details here.

Yours in solidarity
Unite the Resistance steering committee

Alex Kenny NUT NEC, Dave Harvey NUT NEC, Gavin Reid UCU NEC, Liz Lawrence UCU NEC, Sean Vernell UCU NEC, Sue Bond PCS Vice President, Zita Holbourne PCS NEC, Andy Reid PCS NEC, Paul Holmes Unison NEC (pc), Karen Reissmann Unison NEC (pc), Jon Rogers Unison NEC (pc), Max Watson Unison NEC (pc), Sara Bennett Unite EC, Martin Mayer Unite EC, Jane Stewart Unite EC, Mark Wood Unite EC

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Of course, I'm voting YES to Protect my Pension!

'We took on board what you said and we did what you told us to do', was not something I was expecting to hear from the presidential team at the NEC on Wed, but well.... there's a first time for everything!

The point I was making - about the envelopes not being clearly a ballot for action, as I raised before at the Service Group Briefing and at the D&O committee - had apparently been listened to. So I'm glad to report there should be a 'VOTE YES' / UNISON logo etc on the envelopes that go out the million plus members in the next few days - so they don't get mistaken for junk mail.

We also discussed selective action, strike pay, and bringing in new sectors (eg members in SAUL), tactics for further action, among other things. See here for the official report for more details.

The first and most crucial task for now, is to win a massive YES vote and to get a strong, convincing turn out. This task cannot be overestimated - a million members need to be reached and convinced to vote before the ballot paper gets to them. To that end, the need for a reliable, easy-to-use calculator was again raised (as the NUT and PSC had in time for the 30th June strike), and members in the NHS scheme have a 'reckoner' online.

A UNISON LGPS calculator isn't ready yet because we don't know the precise details of when, and exactly how much an increase in contributions will be, and so on, for it to be reliable.

There was a palpable sense of unity and common purpose at the NEC - as Jon Rogers seems to tentatively agree. And those cynics - who had dismissed the left so rudely back in July, chuckling to themselves that we cannot possibly 'name a date' yet because we haven't exhausted scheme-specific negotiations - are of course now silent on that point.

Good, let's move on in unity.

Exciting times: let's concentrate on getting the vote out first, and then we can decide on the right tactics for winning after Nov 30th.

A message of support was also sent to Middlesex Uni branch, and to 20 others who are in dispute.

Our dearly missed comrade, Pete McGreal, was also mentioned in the obituaries at the start, when the NEC traditionally has a minute's silence, which was appreciated.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Middlesex University UNISON votes to Strike!

Middlesex University UNISON votes to Strike!

Middlesex University UNISON Branch members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of Industrial action in the face of compulsory redundancies at the University.

UNISON members at Middlesex University will now join their UCU colleagues in a day of co-ordinated industrial action on Tuesday 4th October.

UNISON members have stood firm in the face of a rolling programme of restructures, losing colleagues to "voluntary" redundancies and the stress and uncertainty of their jobs being deleted, having to apply for other posts, redeployment pools and compulsory redundancy. Those left face increased workloads, stress, potential future outsourcing and changes to their working patterns.

UNISON members have stood united and said loud and clear

Enough is Enough

UNISON believes that these severe and drastic cuts represent a serious risk to the University, cutting too fast and too deep; potentially damaging key areas of the University business. Middlesex University appears to be adopting a "more with less" policy without adequately explaining how already overstretched staff will continue to provide the "student experience" that the University relies on in their marketing.

UNISON members at Middlesex University will take industrial action not because it is an end in itself. We will take this action as a statement of intent. UNISON will continue to defend our jobs and student services at Middlesex University.

Send messages of support to:

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hands off ALL our pensions!

Last week the Higher Education Service Group Exec (HE SGE) had an emergency meeting on Friday to reaffirm our position on Pensions and support the call for a national ballot to Protect our Pensions. In a two-hour briefing with all those SGEs in the LGPS we then broke off into our separate Service Groups to agree to move to a national ballot (Health are meeting today, apparently, to discuss the NHS scheme).

After passing an enabling motion unanimously, (the text of which will be circulated soon), we went on to discuss how to win a huge yes vote.

One big question for Higher Ed branches is what do those branches who aren't in the LGPS do? And what about the Scottish branches? Those in SAUL aren't in dispute, and some branches have a few members eligible for the USS scheme which UCU just re-balloted their members over (and got a 77% yes vote).

If you're not in one of the 60-odd HEI's that are going to ballot, then get in touch with your local, regional HE reps/ FTO about how your branch can get involved in the 'fight of our lives'. We need to be as creative as possible to find ways to go all out together on 30th November - so your ideas will be welcome.

Some branches with a small number of USS members might well try to ballot over those changes, others might just join rallies on 30th if not actually go on strike that day. We also recommend asking management of HEIs not to deduct strike pay (LondonMet HR officers didn't actually laugh out loud when I put this to them on Monday) - and it might also be worth asking your employer in advance what they will do if your members refuse to cross UCU picket lines on 30th November if they're out over TPS or USS.

I also pointed out that when the ballot comes from the Electoral Reform Services (ERS) it would be better if the envelope had UNISON's logo on it, (not just 'ERS' : who are they?!). I know in our branch people just throw these letters away thinking they're junk mail... We ended up putting this post with a photo of the envelope up online to let people know (via email) what to look out for which is a bit ridiculous ... (hence photo, top).

Considering my recent post on virtual organising - I had raised this at the D&O committee too - this probably needs to be overcome in the longer term.

Anyway, here's the speech from our Dave, which I doubt anyone has missed, but just in case you were on Mars last week and need to catch up:

'Hands off our pensions!'

"Today, as general secretary of UNISON, I give formal notice to 9,000 employers that we are balloting for action," declared Dave Prentis when he opened the TUC debate on pensions this morning.

"And in moving to industrial action, I commit UNISON to work with our sister unions the GMB and UNITE."

He described government plans for public service pensions as "an unprecedented attack on ordinary working people – an audacious and devious means to pay for the greed of others."

See the full report here:

Plymouth UNISON branch re-recognised: *LIKES*

Excellent news that Plymouth branch has been re-recognized following a massive campaign of solidarity which lead to hundreds of messages of support.

I'm not the biggest Twitter fan but this was impossible to avoid at the time - the first I'd heard about their de-recognition was via the inspirational Barnet UNISON Branch (who are BIG Tweeters).

There is a long running debate on how best to use new(ish) communications and organising techniques using this new-fanlged inter-webnet thingy.

I think one of the things to note about this campaign was the level of support Plymouth Branch were able to get via social media (they had over 1,121 'Likes' on their FaceBook page - last time I checked) which raised spirits and emboldened the activists involved.

I spoke briefly with a couple of their comrades in Tower Hamlets when we'd successfully prevented the fascist EDL from coming to East London. When I took this photo (above) they asked me to upload it onto my blog/ Facebook and call for support. Thankfully there is no need for support for recognition as that is now won.

Aside from the obvious danger this episode poses for our union - as others who've been banging on about it since before I was even a UNISON member have pointed out - there are surely lessons to be learned about their successful internet campaign too.

At a Development and Organisation (D&O) committee last week (a Sub-Committee of the NEC - try and keep up) we discussed - among other things - the 'virtual branches' project. It's clear some branches aren't really convinced of the need for a local branch website and it doesn't work for everybody.

As I said at the time, though - and followers of this blog will know - I'm a big advocate of internet organizing and very proud of our branch website which has about 3-4 people updating it (none of whom are 'techies') in two different languages, costing very little to set up.

Certainly, as the students' movement has shown last year, virtual organizing and communications are vital in our fast-moving world.

I'm sure the NEC's Young Members officer would agree that if we're going to continue to recruit and engage with the next generation it's crucial we don't allow branches to let this slip. (I noticed also that Young Members recruitment figures fell a bit last month compared to others - could that be a reflection of our focus on pensions?)

And by the way, if you're a Branch Sec and you don't have an email address yet, expect a letter from the union instructing you to get one, 'Sharpish'... as the last NDC changed the rules so that you must now have one (though did we set a deadline on WHEN you must get one by?). Mind you, if you don't have an email, how on earth did you find this blog? Let me know via carrier pigeon.

I look forward to our union winning more campaigns with the help of well orchestrated 'virtual' networks. But as they used to say on 'rise-up' lists:

'Get off the internet - I'll see you in the streets!'

Support Middlesex UNISON Branch

London Met UNISON Branch sent a message of support to our comrades in Middlesex when we heard about their dispute. We understand their ballot for industrial action is still ongoing.

This could turn out to be a key dispute for us and might well be the 'thin end of the wedge' for further job cuts in our sector, so it's important that the entire Higher Education Service Group rallies round to show them support in their fight against massive job cuts.

Keep an eye out for their ballot results and any planned industrial action on their website here:

Send messages of support to:

Our Branch sent this message:

“London Met UNISON notes with concern the proposal by the management of Middlesex University to make 200 compulsory redundancies.

“This is both a betrayal of trust and a slap in the face for hard working members of our union.

“We gather you aim to resist these attacks and for this we salute your stance.

“Having fought even greater numbers of redundancy proposals in 2009 ourselves, by which we saved 200 jobs and being currently in dispute over a succession of new rolling compulsory redundancies amounting to close to 200 (so far) over the last year, we extend our solidarity to Middlesex UNISON and Middlesex UCU in your own fight.

“London Met UNISON pledge to support you in whatever way we can, and encourage your members to stand up with your Branch Committee and fight for every job.

“We have shown in our branch that union action can really make a difference. Nothing is set in stone if unions unite and fight together.”

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Unofficial action at Senate House - Cleaners stand firm

Cleaners working at Senate House but employed by Balfour Beatty took unofficial action this morning in protest at the employer's failure to pay their wages. (They won! See update at bottom**)

The UNISON members complained of widespread, systematic missing overtime payments, and a failure to honour the University's commitment to pay the Living Wage.

Their grievances had been going on for months, they were tired of waiting for false promises - as some of them had not been paid properly for up to eight months, and were having severe problems because of this, including some workers facing eviction - and so yesterday they decided to take action.

Management tried to intimidate them with threats of dismissal if they walked out but they stood up to them. At 7.45am today they walked off the job and a solidarity protest had been arranged quicker than you can say 'Wildcat'.

Local UNISON activists from the Bloomsbury Fightback! group and staff and students from the surrounding colleges had organised solidarity from the wider community to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside them.

It meant a lot for the workers to see local UNISON reps on their (unofficial) picket lines with them and they were emboldened by the support from across their union. They had invited me as their NEC (HE) rep and other local reps to show support for their action so at 8am I told them*:

"Too often we in the union movement are frightened from taking unofficial action against an employer by the threat of Thatcher's anti-union laws.

"Yet employers like Balfour Beatty are quite willing to break the law themselves by failing to pay wages or other contractual obligations.

"It is not the cleaners who have taken unofficial action today who should be worried, it is Balfour Beatty and Senate House who will be frightened by your actions.

"Your action is inspirational, and deserves our full support. I pledge to promote your struggle, to call on the union to back you, and to do everything in my hands to ensure you win this fight."

As I left the protest, the employer was conducting negotiations with them via their elected reps, and the unionised cleaners were insisting not only on their back-pay but also the London Living Wage (now £8.30) to be paid immediately.

Currently they're on £6.15ph, when workers in Birkbeck and SOAS doing similar jobs have just got a pay rise to £8.30 per hour, thanks to the successful Living Wage campaigns that the workers and the UNISON branches led with support from students, staff, and the other unions.

They're also demanding a commitment to no victimisations, of course. The employer had asked them to commit not to walking off the job again if they received their pay - and they quite rightly refused.

Good for them - us trade unionists can so easily be put off by talk of what is and isn't allowed under the law, but the key to winning should be about what is right and what are people prepared to stand up for.

On those grounds, their campaign has every chance of success, and the story of how to win the Living Wage will have a new chapter written. The cleaners of Senate House have acted inspirationally and we must not only support them unconditionally, but also learn the lessons of their bold action. Watch this space...

-- this is from a quick google search for some background --


* Of course I was speaking this morning in a personal capacity

Wildcat strike and 3.5hr demo ends with written approval being given by Balfour Beatty admin that:
* all 3 months' stolen back-pay will be given by Friday
* no victimisations
* each case will be looked at individually with our own interpreters at every meeting
* supervisor who worked there for 10 yrs, suspended yesterday for gathering support for the strike, has been given pay til end of Nov though she will stop work today to care for her sick husband
See also:

Middlesex University UNISON Branch Ballots for Industrial Action.

Middlesex University UNISON Branch – Press Release

Send your messages of support to:

Middlesex University
The Burroughs
020 8411 6678

Middlesex University UNISON Branch Ballots for Industrial Action.

Middlesex University UNISON Branch has given notice to Middlesex University of their intention to ballot for strike action over the threat of 200 compulsory redundancies at the University. The use of compulsory redundancies will potentially bring the total number of job losses at the University to 300, and represents a loss of 15% of the University workforce.
The fight over job losses at Middlesex University represents a fight against the impact of national government spending cuts in the Higher Education sector, as well as the way they are being implemented at the University.

Since the announcement of compulsory redundancies at Middlesex on the 9th June, UNISON has sought to negotiate with the University to avoid recourse to compulsory redundancies. We have questioned the University over their use of outside consultants and outsourcing companies (£2.5 million) failed business ventures in India (Noida) and the University estates strategy.

Middlesex University in its financial statements has claimed that staff costs to income remains “one of the lowest in the sector” yet it still believes it can cut further posts and retain the same level of service and education to its students. UNISON believes that these severe and drastic cuts represent a serious risk to the University, cutting too fast and too deep, damaging key areas of the University business.

The University prides itself on recent gains made in delivering the “Student Experience”: National Student Survey 2010, Guardian League Table 2011 and Complete University Guide 2012. Middlesex University UNISON Branch Secretary : Paul Howell states: “These gains have been delivered by University staff, now threatened with being made compulsory redundant. The increased workloads and stress created for the staff left behind will do little to improve this reputation, the University has used up what little good will it has.”

UNISON members at Middlesex have shown time and again at Branch Annual and Extraordinary General Meetings that they will not take these attacks on their jobs lying down. UNISON members have indicated overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot that they are prepared to back up this intention with industrial action.

This is action UNISON believes the Students Union and Students at large will support, and UNISON will continue to work with the Students Union in this campaign. Branch Secretary: Paul Howell states “Students recognise that these cuts are an attack on their education, the University still hasn’t adequately answered how they intend to mitigate the impact of these job losses on the student experience”

Middlesex UNISON does not take such action lightly, we have in conjunction with the academic and lecturers union (UCU) sought to resolve our dispute to avoid the need for Compulsory Redundancies and without recourse to industrial action. Even at this late stage UNISON would welcome a meeting with representatives from the University management to discuss a meaningful redundancy avoidance policy and an improved voluntary redundancy package to allow staff wishing to leave the University the opportunity to do so.

The UNISON ballot will open on the 2nd September and closes on the 23rd September. Subsequent action will be co-ordinated with UCU. Middlesex University UNISON Branch Committee.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

UNISON Higher Ed disputes pay freeze

Excellent to be able to report that the UNISON Higher Ed Service Group Exec voted to go into dispute with the employers organisation (UCEA) over their utterly miserable and offensive 'pay offer'.

It was my first JNCHES negotiating meeting and I was offended to hear the offer move from £100 to £150 flat rate for all staff.

Frankly, having had a pay freeze for the last three years, amounting to a 15% pay cut, there is only so much you can take, isn't there? The cost of travel, food, and energy prices are all rocketing - and the employer once again expects us to make do on less?

Whilst we all recognise in the public sector unions that pensions are the major national key issue for us all to unite around - we are also being hammered on pay, on jobs, we're facing outsourcing and privatisation too.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we mustn't give an inch, we must resist on all fronts.

At the conference, HE members voted down a motion that proposed a £250 flat rate claim - and many lined up to speak from the floor - some with great passion and for the first time - against the employers' continued slashing of our pay.

I reported back at the time:

"The branches that won a 'reject' vote this year owe it to the rest of the sector to give confidence that we can fight back and win (such as Birmingham, who fought and won an increased offer). We must learn from their experiences and try to inculcate the same sort of fighting spirit in the rest of our sector."

So it's great our Service Group Exec has responded to this fighting mood at the conference by showing real leadership over this issue and by circulating the excellent Birmingham Branch newsletter to activists - among other things (see below).

It's my view we should 'reject' this pay offer if after dispute resolution meetings the 'final' offer remains anything like the current offer. And if our sister unions in the sector stand firm over pay this year too, we can aim to coordinate our action with them next academic year.

What have we got to lose? After all, if you fight, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. If you don't fight back, you'll always lose.

Pay Latest

Following the national pay negotiations meeting on 11 July the Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) met last week to consider their response to the consolidated offer of a £150 lump sum increase on all pay points made by the higher education employers.

The view of the HESGE was that the offer failed to meet the reasonable expectations of staff to receive an increase in line with inflation. This is the third year of minimal increases in higher education and members are suffering real cuts in their standards of living.

The HESGE therefore decided not to accept the offer and to notify the employers that they wished to invoke the dispute resolution process within the national agreement. This means that UNISON will have a further series of meeting with the higher education employers to try and resolve our differences.

Link to a document on this siteHigher Education Circular on Pay Negotiations August 2011 Link to a document on this siteNewsletter Template in Word

Link to a document on this siteNewsletter Template 2 Birmingham Branch in Publisher