Thursday, 31 March 2011

The great march of 26th March

As it took us six hours to get to Hyde Park, I found the 250,000 figure that the BBC were quoting a little offensive, didn't you? This film shows the sheer scale of it.

This amazing video captures the true scale of the March 26 protest. Filmed by Paul Hanes over four hours and compressed into 23 minutes it shows the whole demonstration.

Our banner rushes past on the left at minute 16 - we thought we were pretty much at the end!

This demo has been a real confidence booster for us in the labour movement (and we do look a bit more like a movement now), and I think it should be pointed out how immense just UNISON's contingent alone was.

And as has been said many times already: imagine if we as a labour movement not only went on the march together, but also took strike action together.

Tower Hamlets UNISON and NUT have shown it can be done. More on that later.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tower Hamlets shows the way

Teachers and council workers in Tower Hamlets are striking together tomorrow to build a united fight against compulsory redundancies and cuts. NUT members in Camden will also be striking and demonstrating against the cuts.

There will be a march and rally tomorrow, assembling at 11am at Weavers Fields (off Bethnal Green Rd/Derbyshire St E2 6HW) and marching through the borough to the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel Rd E1, where the rally starts at 12.30.

Speakers include Christine Blower, NUT Gen Sec, Dave Prentis UNISON Gen Sec (invited) and Mark Serwotka, PCS Gen Sec, as well as local speakers. We hope to see many local trade unions, parents, children, and members of the community on our demonstration. We are encouraging them to bring banners, placards, musical instruments, whistles, facepaints, etc.

500 jobs are being slashed in the borough as a result of the ConDem government's attack on public services. The whole of the Junior Youth Service is being axed, along with around 50 teachers jobs in central services. Another 600+ jobs are being deleted at Barts and the Royal London NHS Trust and 1,000 jobs are set to go at the East London Mail Centre.

After the strike march an NHS protest will assemble at 5pm at the Royal London on Whitechapel Rd, E1. They will march to the Deutsche bank to demand an official apology on behalf of the investment banker who on the Day X demo, arrogantly taunted health workers facing massive attacks.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Re-elected to NEC, 2011, unopposed!

I received written confirmation today that, as the only candidate for the Higher Education Service Group General seat, there will be no need for an election.

Obviously I'm delighted I won't need to run another election campaign so soon after the last one, and it's testament to all those who threw their weight behind me in the nomination period, winning nineteen nominating branches, none of them ruled out of order.

We ran a successful campaign last summer to win this seat and I tapped into that mood as the candidate representing a call for a new, fighting, democratic leadership - and as a product of a struggle at London Met Uni that put our branch into the limelight because we fought back against cuts in 2009.

Our successful campaign has shown there is a mood for a fighting leadership, and after the massive turnout on the streets of London on 26th March, that can no longer be disputed.

The current union leaders must tap into that mood and plan for a summer of resistance. No more messing around - as Mark Serwotka put it: "Imagine what it would be like if we didn't only march together, we took strike action together." Watch the short clip below, which gives a flavour of the mood:

This message and the vocal support for this view shown by this biggest gathering of trade unionists we've seen for a generation - has to be taken seriously by the leaders of all the unions.

If the current leaders won't fight and represent that mood, then surely they too will go the way of Aaron Porter. Porter failed to represent the fighting mood of his members last year, and was politically dead in the water, as I predicted he would be in December last year.

It's time to step up a gear, and because we cannot rely on the old guard to change their tune, I'll be campaigning for the support of all other candidates who are standing for the NEC elections for a Fighting, Democratic Union, and in particular Carole Hanson, for the Female HE seat.

Thanks again to all those who took the time to write endorsements, encouraged their branch to nominate me, and to all the well wishers.

I'll continue to report back here as I have been since I was first elected in November 2010. Accountability is critical for a more democratic union - so I'll try "to be the change I wish to see..."

Keep in touch.



Friday, 25 March 2011

Living Wage 'Massive victory' at London Met

The Times Higher Ed reports our Living Wage success as a 'Massive victory' at London Met:

London Metropolitan University has won praise from unions after agreeing to pay staff the London Living Wage, despite the university's financial difficulties. It has committed to paying all directly employed staff at least the London Living Wage rate, currently £7.85 an hour, from 1 August. In an email to staff, Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor, says London Met will apply the same conditions to staff on new or renewed contracts. The university's Unison branch, which has been campaigning for the change, described the commitment as "a massive victory" and said it would mean that London Met's lowest-paid staff would soon receive a fair living wage. Max Watson, branch chair, said: "Unison is determined to close the widening pay gap at London Met. This commitment is an important step in that direction." The London Living Wage is set every year by the Greater London Authority.

Andrew Lansley Rap - save the NHS

This is amazing - not quite UNISON's language, ahem, but the message is the same:

The NHS is not for sale!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A striking worker is a happy worker!

Happy strikers at London Met Uni Jewry St building: UCU members enjoyed the support of their UNISON colleagues on their picket lines yesterday, 24th March.

This report gives a flavour of the national picture here, including at SOAS where UNISON members refused to cross picket lines.

On the UCU website is a report that Manchester Met management made security guards evict the pickets from the campus.

There was a lot of talk about 'shutting down' the education system but unless all the education staff - including the security guards - come out too, then that just won't happen. We cannot avoid that fact, and must instead build for coordinated action.

At London Met, those UNISON members who felt pressured into going to work wore these stickers to show their support, and many took the day off to avoid crossing picket lines.

The demo from LSE and rally at Downing St was really good - and our favourite MP, Jeremy Corbyn, did us proud by celebrating our Living Wage victory at London Met in his speech (cheers!).

Making our placards today for the big demo tomorrow. It'll probably be huge (the demo, not the placard), but hopefully see you there!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

'Bringing the cuts home' - TUC 60 sec ad contest 2011 winner

I had mentioned this competition before. The winner, above, is really very funny and effective. Brilliant - congrats to Steve Price. From Anna Burton Education officer at the TUC:

"We are pleased to announce the winner of the TUC 60 Second Ad Contest 2011. This is another fantastic year for the competition that encourages the making of TV-style adverts to promote trade unions on the web. This years’ brief was the impact of the spending cuts.
It was a very close competition and after careful consideration it is our pleasure to announce that Steve Price with his sit-com film ‘Bringing the cuts home’ is winner of this years’ TUC 60 second ad contest.
Steve Price is an incredibly talented individual. He is a remarkable filmmaker, activist and proud trade union member (BECTU). He found out about the contest whilst searching for UK Uncut movies.
‘Bringing the cuts home’ is an accomplished piece, with great comedic performance, tapping into the outnumbered ‘zeitgeist’, a very worthy winner (Jon Daniel, ebb&flow)
The runners up are a collaborative team of three Heidi Hasbruk, Katya Nasim and Matthew Gutton with their film ‘The Cuts Game’. Their film had a nice concept, brought to life by charming music and performances.
Our other runners up are collaborative team Malfunctioning Robots (Claire Winter and Benjamin Bee), with their film ‘A Novel Solution’, a clever and humorous idea, well executed.
In our highly commended category is Ben Furber from Manchester with ‘Just One Cut’, a nice idea taking a young and modern approach.
Also highly commended were Ross and Helen Bull from Agitator studios, Auchmithie, Scotland, with their beautiful animation helping to convey the facts in a light hearted way.
This years’ competition had some strong entries, and we had a very friendly and expert judging panel, who took a wide and considered view.
Each year the judges are looking out for different things. They all appreciate the hard work and effort that every entrant has put into making their adverts a success. Even if an advert doesn’t win, that doesn’t mean that isn’t a success in its own right. All of the adverts will remain on the site and can be used by different people to continue the campaign against the cuts.
The TUC would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who contributed to the contest this year.
The winning adverts will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people on the big screen at Hyde Park at the March for the Alternative, as well as across the world, including showings at the Geneva Labour film festival and the Washington DC Labour film festival.
The winners will be presented with their award by special guests at our special screening of ‘Waste Land’ at London’s Curzon Renoir on the 31st March 2011.
To watch the ads and most importantly to forward on to your social networking sites follow the links below. This competition must be about action, so sharing these ads is as important as viewing them yourselves, don’t hesitate pass them on.
Bringing the Cuts Home – Steve Price
The Cuts Game - Heidi Hasbruk, Katya Nasim and Matthew Gutton
A novel solution - Malfunctioning Robots
Highly commended
Just One Cut - Ben Furber
We’re all in it together - Agitator Studios (Ross and Helen Bull)

Monday, 21 March 2011

UnderMining Justice

Mikey Watts is one of the two film makers our branch paid to make our film when we were campaigning to save Hornsey Road Nursery at London Met Uni. Check it out:

Now he's raising money to make a new film, exposing the mining industry in Peru:

This film will tell the story of the first ever case to be brought in the UK against a British company for human rights abuses committed abroad. This year, lawyers representing claimants in Peru are taking British mining company Monterrico Metals to court over allegations of torture. The proposed film will follow the lawyers as they travel round Peru interviewing the victims and gathering evidence. The lawyers’ journey will act as a way into the lives of the claimants and their struggle to stop what could be one of the greatest ever environmental disasters to hit Peru.

Watch the clip and give generously.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Vote in the TUC 60 sec ad contest

See more of these films and vote now for your favourite. Although I do love the Hackney Unites film musically, visually the editing really doesn't work for me. This 'one cut' idea, above, made me laugh and that's always an important way of getting a message across. My vote goes to 'deBase TV' as I think they've just got the mood right: Things are changing a bit, now, aren't they? Either way, vote for your favourite, take part, and watch the winning film on 26th March.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Winning the Living Wage during the cuts

What a week! I attended three AGM meetings, a seminar on the Living Wage, a Women's Day lecture, a UCU branch meeting and by the end of the week, our branch was able to declare a complete victory for our Living Wage campaign.

At a time when it can feel like we're constantly on the back foot in defensive struggles, constantly fighting to 'stop' this or 'save' that, it feels like a real achievement to win a progressive demand - a step forward, rather than maintaining the status quo.

We can still win! We must get this important message out there, and as Jeremy Corbyn reflected on our success: "Who says Unions are not relevant?"

Of course, now the real work begins, organising the staff and ensuring we keep the companies to account by winning full recognition and their other demands. This agreement is the vital first step towards that.

Organising outsourced workers is hard work, but not impossible - I''ll be up early for next few weeks to meet more cleaners, for example. And as our motion at our AGM recognises, the fight for dignity at work is a fight for all our members and we have full support for this campaign, despite job cuts elsewhere and an imposed pay freeze ourselves.

Attending the AGM at UEL, who won their Living Wage campaign last November, vindicated that position. Over 60 members attended - more than most have seen in many years - which was clearly the result of an active, campaigning branch which has achieved something significant.
Three new stewards volunteered to get involved in a re-energised branch on the day.

Sandy Nicholl, secretary of SOAS branch, told a similar story at the seminar - their Living Wage campaign completely revitalised their branch.

The AGM in Bedfordshire was also well attended, and it's heartening to see new reps, and new members coming on board now that they can see unions gearing up for action in defence of our jobs, pensions and pay.

When Hutton reported on Thursday that we should now receive career average pensions not final salary schemes, the union movement rightly responded by threatening coordinated industrial action. As I pointed out at UEL, Bedfordshire and elsewhere where I've spoken, we beat the government before in 2006 when they came for our LGPS, and we can beat them again. Certainly, as others are pointing out, we're going to have to take determined action to win this one, not one day strikes here or there.

In some parts of the union movement, there is a misconception that we can only fight from a position of strength - that we must build and recruit more, before taking action. It's a two way process, in my view. We can build the union by visibly standing up for ourselves and our members.

We can gain strength by winning smaller battles, in my experience. UEL is a growing branch, London Met is a growing branch, SOAS has gone from strength to strength. An examination of the national membership figures from 2006 back this up - we recruited more than any other year, the same year we took action to defend our pensions.

London Met occasionally gets threatened with closure, and last week yet another report was published that suggested we're still 'at risk', so our press release on the Living Wage was overshadowed by the local paper wanting a quote in response to that. As I said at the time, this isn't helpful to any of us at London Met.

Meanwhile the UCU are preparing for strike action against the cuts - against job cuts, attacks on their pensions, and a pay freeze - and we had a good discussion at London Met branch on building for and supporting that on Thursday. We'll need maximum unity with sister unions if out action is to be effective, so we're continuing to maintain strong links locally.

I went to the annual Women's Day lecture at the Women's Library at London Met on Tuesday 8th, and as I'd been speaking all day at AGMs it was good discipline for me to shut up and listen to the women speak about their own experiences and concerns - something us men tend not to do so well. With two thirds of public sector workers female, it's obvious who these cuts will hurt most.

Now that we've got a commitment to the Living Wage at London Met, we need to think about ways to organise the workers at London Met, and have decided to focus on ESOL classes for the (usually migrant, often female) cleaners. Part of the purpose of the Living Wage Seminar, organised by the Hidden Workforce project, which was excellent, was to hear about other successful campaigns, share experiences and network, which is crucial.

We need to ensure the Hidden Workforce and the Living Wage campaign is rolled out and fully endorsed by the whole union - our survival as a union depends on it. Many are still reluctant to get stuck in organising contracted-out staff. So it was great to see the full backing of the recently appointed Assistant General Secretary, Roger McKenzie, who introduced.

The main thrust of my speeches at all the AGMs I've been to in the last few weeks - including our own - has been to build for the March 26th 'March for the alternative'. I've been posting on here occasional films building for this, and I quite like this song I've posted above - very catchy, and better than hearing me go on and on...

Keep going back to the TUC site for updates and more films, and I'll see you in London on 26th!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Jenny Compton-Bishop: I'm supporting Max Watson because ...

Max continues to represent the interests of members and is an inspiration and example to branches of how to organise effectively against government attacks on Higher Education funding.

I support his nomination to the NEC.

Jenny Compton-Bishop
Branch Secretary
Middlesex University UNISON
& Higher Education Service Group Executive

Allan Pike: I'm supporting Max Watson for NEC because...

I fully support and recommend Max Watson into the position of General HE seat onto the NEC. Max has been involved in many wide ranging and successful campaigns and negotiations against job cuts, protecting essential service provisions, outsourcing and improving living standards as part of his involvement in the living wage campaign at London Met.

Max has tremendous drive and commitment and the ability and capacity to motivate and rally others in that commitment to defend and protect members best interests.

Allan Pike
Branch Secretary, London Met UNISON

Andy Cunningham: I'm supporting Max Watson NEC because...

I'm supporting Max Watson because higher education is facing the biggest challenge in its existence and only a fighting leadership can defend our jobs and universities.

The Government and Vice-Chancellors are ripping up our education system - making it impossible for working class people to access our Universities. At the same time, they are using the privatisation of the Universities as an excuse to cut our pay, jobs and pensions.

We cannot let them get away with this. Our strength as a union is when we act together - that means campaigning and taking co-ordinated national action. To do that, we need a leadership that knows how to organise, how to lead fights and - most importantly - how to win. Max has led his Branch through difficult times and has been an inspiration for those of us who want to defend our members. That is why I am urging everyone to use your vote in these elections and to choose Max Watson for higher education.

Andy Cunningham
Assistant Branch Secretary
Manchester Metropolitan University UNISON

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Who's supporting Max Watson for NEC, 2011

The following Branches nominated Max Watson for UNISON NEC. Follow the links to read short endorsements (in personal capacities) from those branches:

1. Birkbeck - Naomi Bain, UNISON Chair

2. Imperial College -

3. London South Bank University

4. Middlesex University - Jenny Compton-Bishop, Branch Secretary

5. University of East London (UEL) -

6. University of Cambridge & Colleges - Cathy Yearsley, Branch Secretary

7. London Metropolitan University - Allan Pike, Branch Secretary and Gail Cameron, Assistant Branch Sec

8. University of Bedfordshire -

9. Liverpool John-Moores University - Andrew Beech, Branch Secretary (& and HE SGE)

10. Manchester Metropolitan University - Andy Cunningham, Assistant Branch Secretary

11. Southampton District -

12. Westminster -

13. University of West of England -

14. Bristol -

15. Brighton University -

16. Senate House, Uni of London -

17. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) - Sandy Nicoll, Branch Secretary, & Higher Education Service Group Executive

18. Birmingham University - Matt Raine, Branch Secretary & Higher Education Service Group Executive

19. Anglia Ruskin -

More endorsements:

  • Sue Gallagher, (Retired), ex-Chair of Uni of Birmingham Branch and ex-NEC member until 2010

  • Barry Blinko, (retired) ex-Higher Education Service Group Executive and Westminster Uni Branch Secretary

  • Bill Lehm, University College London (UCL) UNISON Branch Secretary

If you want to support the campaign to re-elect Max Watson onto the NEC, send through an endorsement for this page, or just want to get involved somehow, then get in touch.

Thanks everyone for your ongoing support.

Cathy Yearsley: I'm supporting Max Watson because...

I first met Max nearly two years ago and he has never faltered in his enthusiasm and dedication to our members. I am voting for him because he is an inspiration to UNISON and is the ideal person to be on the NEC. He is passionate about everything that matters in Higher Education.

Cathy Yearsley
Branch Secretary
University of Cambridge & Colleges

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Protestors block Euston rd as Camden local community denied access to budget meeting

We're marching for the Alternative on March 26th

Our branch committee recently had an 'Away Day' / Branch assessment training exercise at the London Region (thanks to the brilliant Alice Dawney), which was a great way to plan for the year ahead, go through our achievements in the last year - what worked well and what less so well - and of course pledge to March for the Alternative on March 26th.

The focus of a great deal of our work must now be towards building for this demo. It has to be huge, but also see the launch of a summer of resistance and a program of action that doesn't stop with a big demo from 'a' to 'b'.

After all, the Stop the War Coalition marched people up to the top of the hill... but we were marched down again.

This movement must be different. So, see you there, for starters.