Sunday, 25 November 2012

West Midlands Police branch win TUC award

There was well deserved success for the UNISON West Midlands Police branch at the Midlands TUC reps' awards night on Friday 23 November.

Jill Harrison and Mark Bittle from the branch were joint winners of the "Campaign of the Year" award for their hugely successful campaign against privatisation of the whole of the police staff functions at West Midlands Police. The award was jointly award to Jill and Mark from the UNISON branch and two activists from the Unite branch at West Midlands Police as the campaign was a joint and determined effort from both branches.

It was quite fitting that the award was presented on Friday 23 November, the day after Bob Jones, the newly elected Labour Police and Crime Commissioner announced, on his first day in office, that he was formally scrapping the privatisation plans.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Birmingham Diwali Celebrants say no to austerity

Over 270 people at the Birmingham Diwali celebrations on Sunday 18 November signed our anti-austerity postcards asking their local MP to lobby the government to end their damaging policy of austerity.

UNISON (West Midlands) are determined to take our camapign out in to all parts of our communities and it's clear from the event on Sunday when we do, we find lots of people support us.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Birmingham says "no to austerity"

Yesterday UNISON we were out and about in Birmingham city centre taking our anti-austerity campaign to Brummies.

Over 400 people signed our postcards lobbying their local MP for an end to austerity. And we also got 8 people who joined UNISON on the day.

Day by day more and more people are saying they've had enough of austerity.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Staffordshire County Council row over a £2bn conflict of interest

A row has erupted at Staffordshire County Council where a council officer involved in drawing up plans for the privatisation of school support services has quit his job to work for one of the companies bidding to win the contract.

The Staffordshire Sentinal today reported that Phil Cresswell, council's transformation delivery manager, was leading the plans to privatise school support services and staff – including cleaners, cooks and grounds staff – to a profit-making private firm. But in September Mr Cresswell quit the council to work as business development director at the local government wing of Carillion, who it has now been revealed are one of the bidders for the contract worth £2bn.

Staffordshire UNISON are running a high profile campaign called "The Knot Unties" against this privatisation and we will be making sure that this conflict of interest is brought to the attention of everyone in Staffordshire.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

UNISON anti-austerity campaign hits Solihull

Today UNISON (West Midlands) took our anti austerity campaign to Solihull. Like the people of Cannock, the people of Solihull are keen to sign up our campaign to fight the government's failed austerity measures.

UPDATE: over 350 people signed our anti austerity postcards and we even had one person join UNISON.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Campaigning in Cannock Chase

Despite the rain, 10 regional office staff turned up in Cannock today to campaign for decent public service,s as a follow on from the 20 October Future That Works march in London.

The people of Cannock Chase are keen to sign our petition against Staffordshire County Council's proposed privatisation of education support services.

UPDATE: over 500 people signed up to our campaign!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Campaigning for a Future That Works in the West Midlands

After the huge success of the TUC Future that Works march in London on Saturday 20 October, UNISON (West Midlands) will be taking the campaign right into the West Midlands region.

On Monday 22 October we will be running a street stall all day in Cannock Chase town centre asking members of the public to sign up to our campaign for an alternative to the failed austerity measures. 

We hope that the local Tory MP Aidan Burley (he's the one who thought the Olympic opening ceremony was "multi-cultural crap") will get the message that the people of Cannock Chase want his government to change course.

On Tuesday 23 October, we will be in Solihull and we will put pressure on Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt to get Nick Clegg to revisit his view before the election, when he said ""we think that merrily slashing... is an act of economic masochism." Well, you were right about one thing Nick!

And finally, on Wednesday 24 October we will be bringing the campaign to the heart of the region in Birmingham City Centre.

Watch this space for updates on how we get on.

West Midlands UNISON hits London to ask for "A Future that Works"

Thousands of UNISON members from the West Midlands came to London on Saturday for the TUC march for A Future That Works.

Over 150,000 people took part in the rally and sent a strong message to the government that austerity is not working.

After marching through the centre of London people descended upon Hyde Park for the rally.

The rally was packed with marchers from trade unions, political parties, community groups and members of the public who wanted to stand up for public services and and alternative to the government's failed austerity measures.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: 

"This has been a tremendous day. A day when hundreds of thousands of us spoke with one voice in Belfast, Glasgow and London and told this vicious Tory government that we demand a different future than the one they have planned for us.

We demand a future that works . "Today is just the start of our campaign: health workers, council workers, education workers, police staff, workers in the voluntary and community sector and many more ... all standing up for public services.

I want to thank UNISON members from across the UK who took time out to speak out against austerity and to make these marches in London, Glasgow and Belfast such a success."

What next?

Watch this space for the follow up events that the West Midlands region are arranging.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Unemployment continues to rise in the West Midlands

Against the national figures, released today, which show a slight decrease in UK unemployment, there was no comfort for the West Midlands.  It recorded yet another increase.  Unemployment in the West Midlands has reached 8.8%, that is an additional 16,000 people made jobless.  

Ravi Subramanian, UNISON Regional Secretary said: 
“The West Midlands is one of six regions in the UK where unemployment is still increasing, so any talk of economic growth because of the very slight decrease in the UK average unemployment figures, would be very premature.   The Government need a long term plan, one of job creation to ease our economic woes.

The reality behind the numbers, 273,000 people now unemployed in the West Midlands, is yet more misery and suffering for thousands of families in our region and many others in the country, like Yorkshire and Humberside and our neighbours in the East Midlands. 

We are also experiencing another major issue, that of underemployment, there has been a substantial rise in part-time working as people are forced to take part-time jobs because they have no other choice, and we have record highs of young people either out of work or not in education or training – they are being are fast becoming the lost generation”.   

Unemployment and under-employment will remain the blight on our community and local economy without any real long-term plan for job creation."

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The fight to save North Solihull Sports Centre crèche

For the last 10 years the North Solihull Sports Centre and the Tudor Grange Leisure Centre have had crèches for people using the facilities.  This was continued when the centres were given to private sector company, Parkwood Leisure to run.  The staff at the 2 crèches were employed by Parkwood but a grant was paid by Solihull MBC to support the service. 

In 2012 the £35,000 grant to Parkwood was offered up as part of the Council’s savings.  It was proposed to entirely close the crèche at Tudor Grange and to only have the crèche at North Solihull open 2 mornings a week.

Solihull UNISON branch has worked hard to stop the closure of the North Solihull facility.  So far the branch has:
  • Presented a signature petition from crèche users to the leader of the Labour Group to present at full Council
  • Written to the Cabinet Member putting the case for keeping the crèche open
  • Met with the council officer responsible for the decision to close in order to understand his rationale and persuaded him see the affected staff to find out the truth and he discovered the information previously supplied to him about usage was inaccurate
  • Met with Leanne Byrne, fire-fighter, mum and crèche user.  Leanne had got considerable publicity in the Solihull News and was going to address the full council meeting on 16th October.  UNISON supported Leanne by helping to draw up a questionnaire for completion by the crèche users.  They also agreed to support any demonstration outside the October Council Meeting. Leanne is herself an FBU officer in Handsworth and so is able to draw upon that union for support in her campaign
This is a great example of how a UNISON branch has organised around an issue and involved the community in its campaigning.

The fight still goes one and the branch will be holding a demonstration outside the Council Meeting on 16th October.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

One of our favourite blogs no 1

One of our favourite blogs is False Economy - a great site that shows the devastating impact and false economy of the government's failed austerity measures.

The site is run by Clifford Singer, the person who brought us all the wonderful My David Cameron website.

Check it out - it is well worth a read.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

UNISON says - time for Plan B Mr Osborne

Responding to reports that government borrowing increased in July, while tax receipts dropped in the same period, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:
It beggars belief that this Tory-led government persists with a cuts and austerity agenda that is patently not working and is doing far more harm than good. This increase in borrowing and declining tax receipts is more evidence that the cuts agenda is the wrong way to go about solving the UK’s economic woes, the stagnating economy is moving the Coalition even further away from its deficit reduction plans.

The government needs to wake up fast to the fact that we need a plan B for real economic growth; that means creating jobs and investing in the public sector to get the economy going once more.
The West Midlands is being particularly badly hit: the recent announcement of the fall unemployment nationally was not mirrored in the West Midlands where unemployment actually went up 7,000 to 235,000.

Friday, 3 August 2012

More bad news for the UK economy

After the recent gloomy news that GDP had shrunk by 0.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2012, today the Financial Times reports the long term outlook for the economy is not good. The FT reports:
The UK economy will shrink by half a per cent this year and grow only anaemically next year as it grapples with the weakness of its biggest trading partners, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has forecast.

The institute predicted the economy would contract by 0.5 per cent this year and grow 1.3 per cent next year, a significant reduction from its forecast three months ago of zero growth this year and 2 per cent next year. 
The NIESR are a credible, respected and independent economic think tank. What they say carries weight, and their recent predictions have proved to be right. To see the full NIESR press release go here.

But you don't need to be an economics experts like those at the NIESR to realise George Osborne is wrecking the economy with his ideologically driven austerity measures. Time for Plan B.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Local Government Pension Scheme - Vote YES in the ballot

UNISON members will soon be receiving ballot papers about the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) asking them if they want to accept the offer.

It is important as many people as possible vote in the ballot and the closing date is Friday 24 August.

Full details of the LGPS 2014 proposals are available here, but a summary of the key items are below.

  1. For current scheme members, all pension benefits before 1 April 2014 are protected, and will still be calculated on final pensionable salary on leaving service or retirement.
  2. From 1 April 2014 move to a ‘career average’ scheme – using all pensionable pay to calculate your pension, increased in line with the Consumer Price Index.
  3. An improved 1/49 Accrual rate will mean the pension builds up faster each year. This is a significant improvement on the 1/60 rate in the LGPS 2008 scheme.
  4. Pensionable pay will mean all pensionable earnings and includes non-contractual overtime and additional hours – this is a clear improvement and means more earnings will count towards your pension.
  5. Employee Contribution rate – 90% of members will pay the same or lower contributions than they do now.
  6. Only those earning more than £43,001 a year will pay more.
  7. Most part time workers will pay less in the LGPS 2014, especially low-paid part-time women (who make up a high percentage of UNISON members) because contribution bands will be based on actual pensionable earnings – not the full-time equivalent as now.
  8. Each member’s normal pension age for pensions built up in LGPS 2014 will be 65 or their state pension age – whichever is higher.
  9. Contribution Flexibility – If you cannot afford to pay the full contributions, you can opt at any time, after 1 April 2014, to take the 50-50 option – paying half the rate for your contribution band in exchange for half the pension in those years, but with full benefits, such as death in service lump sum and ill health pension protection.
  10. You can opt back to paying full contributions and earning the full pension rate again at any time.
  11. The existing Rule of 85 protections will still apply.
  12. Members aged 55 or over on 1 April 2012 will have your pension compared with what you would have got in the existing scheme and increased if necessary when you retire.
  13. If you face a compulsory transfer (TUPE) from your public sector employment to a private or voluntary sector employer, you will still be able to remain a member of the Local Government Pension scheme.
UNISON is recommending acceptance of the proposed new scheme - vote YES in the ballot

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Police privatisation put on hold

The decision today at the West Midlands Police Authority to defer the controversial ‘Business Partnering for Police Project’ until after the new Police and Crime Commissioner has been elected is great news.

Well done to West Midlands Police UNISON branch on their relentless campaigning.

Charlie Sarell UNISON Regional Organiser said:
“Today the West Midlands Policing Authority has made the right decision. One that will be welcomed by police staff across the West Midlands Police Force who are extremely anxious about their future and by the wider community who value the integrated service provided by both police staff and police officers.

The election of the Police & Crime Commissioner in November can now focus on the how policing is provided in the future in the West Midlands”

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Is the economy in good shape

For a persuasive analysis of the current position read this excellent blog post on the TUC's Touchstone blog.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Get the T shirt

If you want to get your message across while you are out and about you could do worse than get yourself one of these T-shirts. They come in a range of sizes and can be ordered from UNISON here.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

West Midlands Regional Secertary calls on MP to retract regional pay comments

West Midlands UNISON Regional Secretary, Ravi Subramanian has called on Tory MP Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase) to retract comments he made in the House of Commons, which wholly misrepresented the union’s position on government plans to introduce regional pay into the public sector.

Questioning Labour MP Rachel Reeves, Burley used a sentence from a UNISON report to suggest that the union is in favour of introducing regional pay. But Mr Burley failed to mention the crucial sentences which follow, which qualify the statement. His cynical, selective editing presented UNISON as being in favour of government plans to introduce regional pay, when the opposite is true – as is fully explained in the report.

Ravi Subramanian, said:
“Parliamentary privilege is not an excuse to peddle half-truths and lies, and Aidan Burley MP’s disingenuous comments in the House of Commons must be retracted. UNISON is firmly against plans to introduce regional pay in the public sector. The entire thrust of the report he quotes sets out why the Government's policy is flawed and does not reflect practice in the private sector. The sentence he lifted is taken totally out of context and is very misleading.

“Public sector workers – including those in Aidan Burley’s constituency – know that the plans for regional pay are not about increasing fairness, but about cutting pay plain and simple. The plans would not only lead to staff shortages, but would spark an upsurge in expensive bureaucracy, and take money out of hard-pressed local economies, just when they need it most. They must be dropped.”
This is what Burley said in Parliament:
"I am glad that the hon. Lady read my quotation in The Daily Telegraph this morning. As she has read out a couple of quotations, perhaps I may read one back to her:

“location-based pay systems offer increased flexibility and a systematic approach to addressing recruitment and retention issues at a local level.”

That is from UNISON’s policy paper “Location-based pay differentiation”, which was published in September 2011. Does she agree with UNISON"
Later on he says:
"I noted that she did not reply to the quote in my intervention, so I will repeat it to her now. UNISON has said in its location-based pay differentiation paper of September 2011 that said “location-based pay systems offer increased flexibility and a systematic approach to addressing recruitment and retention issues at a local level.”

Government Members agree with UNISON in that analysis, and I shall be interested to hear whether any Labour Members, many of whom will doubtless be taking donations from UNISON to their constituency Labour parties, also do.

The Government are right to look at more local, market-facing pay and to end the anomaly of national pay bargaining —"
The full extract from page 4 of the report is below, with the part he quoted highlighted. The sentence which immediately follows makes it very clear “location based” does not mean “local pay” and that there are different models of “location based pay” which includes models exactly like those currently used in the public sector. The report says:
“In organisations with a national reach, it can be difficult to set a single pay rate for each job that is sufficient to recruit and retain staff for all of the company’s locations and location based pay systems offer increased flexibility and a systematic approach to addressing recruitment and retention issues at a local level. A common misconception is that such companies use a wide variety of different pay rates for every location, when in reality there are three broad approaches to varying pay by location:

- national pay scales with additions in London and the South East (and in some cases high-pressure areas known as ‘hot spots’)

- zonal pay systems with locations categories into a zones, each with its own pay rates

- complex local systems, which allow for more local variation and include devolution of pay setting to local level in parts of the public sector.”
In the very next paragraph, on the same page it says:
“Most large, multi-site, organisations have national pay structures with additions for London and the South East, even those with zonal pay systems tend to broadly mirror the traditional hierarchy of London, the South East and the rest of the country. These approaches are easier to manage and avoid the potential problems associated with having a large variety of rates.”
The full report can be downloaded here.

Welcome to our blog

Welcome to the blog of the West Midlands region of UNISON. Over the coming weeks we will be posting on local campaigns, national news, the economy, politics and assorted issues relating to trade unions and the public sector.

This blog has only just started and as time progresses, we hope to add extra functionality such as more links to UNISON branch websites, Twitter links and other social media gadgets.

Please feel free to comment on anything we post.