Sunday, 2 March 2014

Defending Barnet UNISON - a priority for every trade unionist

Prof  Keith Ewing was an excellent guest speaker at the HE UNISON conference - about what is one of the most urgent issues facing trade unionists today, the attacks on union reps and our facility time.

Prof Ewing focused on the Blacklist in the construction industry, which I've mentioned before on this blog.

However, there are two trade unionists whose names everybody in UNISON should know: John Burgess and Helen Davies, the Branch Secretary and Chair of Barnet Local Government UNISON branch, who have been the driving force behind their inspirational campaign to stop the privatisation of their local public services.

On 1st April they're being evicted from their trade union office and their facility time is being cut to zero by the Tory borough.

We should all be familiar with blatant and sometimes illegal attacks on trade unionists (such as the blacklist in the construction industry) - and I've covered another example here recently, the sacking of Charlotte Monroe.

Barnet council have shown there is 'more than one way to skin a cat' - if you don't think you  can get away with de recognition of a trade union, or the more blunt option of sacking a rep - they've decided to go for their agreed facility time.

This is a de facto de-recognition, making it impossible for John and Helen and their branch Committee to function properly as reps.

Rather than bury our heads in the sand, hoping it will go away (and thankful that's not happening to your branch), every trade unionist and every part of the biggest public trade union in the country should be up in arms about this.

Sign their petition, share it, and ask your regional reps - what are you doing to stop what is happening in Barnet?

We have less than a month to stop this: It is the thin end of the wedge.

Get in touch and find out how you can help, how you can support them.

John had been promised a new report (photo) by the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) - Keith Ewing is their President. The first thing I'll be doing on Monday morning is posting it to their branch first class. By the way, I have a couple of spares left if you want one.

What else can we do?

Keith Ewing said we should demand from our councils that they don't give public sector contracts to companies who use blacklists (and the same should apply to Universities). We should be saying:

"If you are going to blacklist us we're going to blacklist you!"
Keith Ewing also called on three things we should demand from a Labour Government:

  1. We want laws to stop black listing forever
  2. We want a law to stop victimizing trade unionists
  3. We should be demanding the restoration of trade union facility time

If you still have a facilities agreement and some money in the bank (more on that later) we should all affiliate to the Institute of Employment Rights, and get their reports sent direct to you office. That is, whilst you still have an office to send it to ... because that is more than Helen and John will have if we them get away with it.

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