Sunday, 31 October 2010

GUEST POST: Fired up by Manchester anti-cuts meeting

More than 100 people were at the Friends’ Meeting House in Manchester for a public meeting organised by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC).
The line-up of speakers included a trio of general secretaries - Jeremy Dear from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Matt Wrack from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who both made reference to the action their members will be taking this week, and Steve Gillan, recently elected at the Prison Officers' Association (POA).
They spoke alongside ex-MP Alice Mahon, an array of activists and John McDonnell MP, who gave a brief economic analysis of the crisis, as well as describing in gory detail the scenes he had witnessed in parliament of ministers delighting in an opportunity to tear apart state structures.
Although I am usually in favour of keeping speeches short and sweet, it would have been good to hear more from John McDonnell - his detailed analysis was insightful and thought-provoking.
Two main points appealed to me – first, the need for unquestioning solidarity with those taking action against the cuts.
People will come to these campaigns from an array of backgrounds/factions/viewpoints, but fundamentally the fight is a class one. We should be signing each other’s petitions, attending each other’s protests, and contributing to each other’s hardship funds.
Secondly, the need for a narrative to be created from people’s experiences as a counterpoint to the one constructed by the Tories, a narrative which would unite this struggle with others of the past and bring together all those affected on the same side to expose injustice and ideological attacks on services.
I attended this meeting with several newcomers to the LRC: it was, for all of us, an afternoon to put fire in the belly.
By Sarah Warden, National Union of Teachers member

Other guest posts are welcome.

Preparations underway for national protest against cuts before Christmas

Plans are being made to hold a national demonstration against the UK cuts before Christmas - even though the leaders of the trade union movement rejected the idea earlier this month.
The general council of the Trades Union Congress decided to organise a protest in March next year.
Some members of the council wanted a quicker response - as reported on The Workers United.
And the executive of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) met on October 26 and agreed to push ahead with plans for a national demo.
A briefing from PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and president Janice Godrich posted on the union's website says they will be asking the TUC public sector liaison group meeting on Monday November 8 to organise a protest within six weeks.
I understand the call will be for a national demonstration outside London.
It follows protests across the country last weekend - which were particularly successful in Edinburgh and Belfast.
If the TUC public services group does not endorse the plan I understand the demonstration will be organised by the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG).
The TUCG is an alliance of eight unions who work together, primarily on parliamentary lobbying through the office of left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell.
The members of the co-ordinating group are the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), PCS, the Prison Officers Association (POA), the Rail Martime and Transport union (RMT) and the United Road Transport Union (URTU).
The Trade Union Co-ordinating Group doesn't have a website - but here's a blog post about its launch.

The Sun apologises to Bob Crow

The Sun - Britain's most popular newspaper - has issued a fulsome apology to Bob Crow, the leader of the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT).
The Sun said:"An article on 15 September reported RMT General Secretary Bob Crow had a union-subsidised home and luxury car.
"In fact, Mr Crow's home has never been subsidised by the union and he does not own a car, union or otherwise, and champions public transport.
"We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Mr Crow."
You can see it on The Sun website.
As already reported on The Workers United there was a higher than usual number of trade union stories in The Sun last week.

Red Pepper magazine

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Strike union leaders speak in south London on eve of walkouts

A public meeting in south London on the eve of two strikes will be addressed by leading members of the unions involved.
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and Ian Leahair, from the national executive of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), will speak in the Salvation Army Hall, Princess Street, Elephant and Castle, SE1 6HH, at 7pm on Thursday November 4.
The meeting has been organised by local campaign group Southwark Save Our Services.
On Friday November 5 London firefighters will strike over changes to shift hours and BBC journalists will strike over pension cuts - as reported on The Workers United.

GMB takes on hostile employer in south Wales

The GMB union has cleared the first hurdle on the way to winning the right to represent workers at a plant hire firm in south Wales.
Under the union recognition laws introuduced by Labour in 2000 the GMB had to prove it was likely to win the support of half the staff.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) - the quango that deals with union recognition - ruled that this test had been satisfied in the GMB's bid to organise workers at Pontyclun-based Hire One.
The union submitted evidence that it had eight members out of 17 workers in the proposed bargaining unit and that 13 people signed a petition in support of being represented by the GMB.
The workers who would be represented are fitters, drivers, hire shop managers, and a hire desk operative. They are based in Ponyclun and at hire shops in Aberdare, Llandow, Newport, and Swansea
The employer has resisted dealing with the GMB.
Hire One bosses claimed some workers had been duped by the union into signing the petition.
Some workers were phoned at home by the managing director and quizzed about their support for the GMB.
And the company said it was considering job cuts which might hit some union supporters.
A detailed report is on the CAC website.
The next stage of the process is to agree the bargaining unit.
Well done to the GMB - formerly the General. Municiple, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union.
Organising small hostile employers is vital for the future of the trade union movement.
And it helps bring public and private sector workers together to fight the cuts.

Trade unionists protest at Brixton, south London

Trades unionists in Brixton, south west London, are demonstrating against the government cuts today (October 30) - at 12.30pm in Windrush Square.
The protest has been called by the Lambeth branches of the GMB union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Unison, and the University and College Union (UCU) and Lambeth Save Our Services; with support from the Right to Work, Defend Council Housing, Green Left, and Youth Fight for Jobs campaigns.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Industrial action forces unions right back into the national conscience

The Sun newspaper - where independent unions were banished in 1986 - has given a surprising amount of space to trade union affairs this week.
Here are just some examples.
On Monday the main story on page two of the paper was about the start of the Unite general secretary election.
Readers were told that "a left-winger is poised to seize control of the giant Unite union."
Candidate Len McCluskey, we discovered: "Supported the ultra-left group Militant in the 1980s and is surrounded by left-wing cronies."
"Moderate" candidiate Les Bayliss told the paper: "Some ultra-leftists would prefer a Tory government to throw brickbats at rather than a successful Labour Party."
Female candidate Gail Cartmail and rank-and-filer Jerry Hicks were not even mentioned.
The Sun on Unite
Yesterday the paper said London firefighters had the "flamin' cheek" to ask for £10,000 per year pay rises.
The Sun on the Fire Brigade's Union
Two days earlier there had been a much more reasonable story with a nice picture of strikers in Islington.
The Sun's website gets millions of hits - and comments are open.

This morning there was a very straight report on the National Union of Journalists' plans for a strike over pensions at the BBC - but I can't find it on the web.

Firefighters, tube workers, and broadcasters all on strike next week

London is the venue for a week of discontent with tube workers, fire fighters and BBC journalists all set to strike in the next seven days.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) are taking action on Tuesday evening and Wednesday over hundreds of job cuts on London underground.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members in London will be striking for eight hours on Monday, and again on Friday and Saturday in a row over shift changes.
And across the world - but including Television Centre, Broadcasting House, and Bush House in London - National Union of Journalists members at the BBC will be walking out on Friday and Saturday over cuts to their pensions.
Latest releases:
RMT: Today is solidarity day
TSSA: Boris is like Pinnochio
FBU: Hardship fund
NUJ: Ballot result
As discussed on The Workers United two weeks ago there is a growing chance for co-ordinated action against cuts.
In London it would be a big step in that direction if the unions in dispute organised a joint event - maybe a big rally.
The NUJ, RMT, and FBU are all part of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG). Let's see some co-ordination.
Activists should be encouraged to visit each others' picket lines.
And union branches should be inviting speakers from all the disputes and holding collections for hardship funds.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Railway workers win pay rises and no redundancy deal with threat of action

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has announced that maintenance workers at Network Rail overwhelmingly endorsed a reorganisation of their work after management agreed it would include a seven per cent pay rise by the end of 2011.
The package, which will also deliver a £2,000 lump sum before Christmas and rules out compulsory redundancies, was accepted by a margin of around four to one after being recommended to members by the union.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Our negotiators were backed by a solid strike mandate, and at a time when working people have been told to shut up and take pay freezes our members have shown that if you stand together you can win.”
The 12,000 maintenance workers voted 77 percent in favour of strike action in a ballot earlier this year.
Industrial action - or the threat of it - is the only langauage bosses understand.
Union reps and members in negotiations all over the country can use this example to boost workers' confidence.

Politicians criticse National Express over trade union rights

Nearly forty members of the UK parliament have so far put their names to an Early Day Motion criticising the National Express travel group for refusing to recognise trade unions in the United States.
The EDM – a type of parliamentary petition – was tabled less than a week ago by Bolton North East Labour MP David Crausby.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) was reporting on the battle by unions to organise British companies running school buses in the USA as far back as 2004.
Since then – according to Crausby’s motion – First Group has adopted a “freedom of association” policy but National Express refuses to act.
The EDM concludes by calling on the UK government to refuse public contracts or subsidies to companies that refuse to recognise trade unions abroad.
Thirty-one Labour, three Liberal Democrat, and one Conservative MP have signed the EDM.
Read the full text of the motion and see which MPs have signed it.
It is excellent that so many Labour MPs are supporting trade union rights – but why didn’t they implement these changes when they were running the country.
If you live in the UK send a short note to your MP asking them to sign Early Day Motion 873. You can do it quickly and for free from .
British unions should organise solidarity protests – not just because its right, but because it builds up a bank of solidarity with American unions which will undoubtedly be useful the other way in the future.

Jon Gaunt supports striking fire fighters

Jon Gaunt - the usually right wing shock jock and newspaper columnist - has been posting on Facebook this morning in support of striking London fire fighters.
His solidarity with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) comes soon after The Workers United highlighted his column in a Spanish newspaper supporting the trade union response to the cuts.
Gaunt says - in a comment on his Facebook page: "This dispute is all about that fat pudding Brian Colman trying to act tough, the union wants to negotiate Coleman wants war. Not only that but as we head into this age of austerity first it will be the FBU banned and then other workers banned from striking. Please remember it wasn't the workers who got us into this mess it was the bankers and the winkers in Westminster."
Colman is the Conservative councillor who chairs the London fire authority.
Gaunt - who has worked for The Sun and TalkSport - tells his Facebook friends he is on the BBC's Daily Politics today to talk about the dispute and other issues.

Laura Ashley workers on strike in Dublin

Twenty-two members of the Irish retail workers’ union Mandate have been protesting outside a Laura Ashley store in central Dublin.
They are on strike over the closure of the shop – and the minimal redundancy terms which the profitable British company wants to pay.
Laura Ashley is refusing to meet the union at the Labour Relations Commission – the conciliation service in the Republic of Ireland.
Video from the picket line on Grafton Street.
Last year Thomas Cook workers occupied their shop – also on Grafton Street – after closure was threatened.
Solidarity leafleting outside shops in the UK would shake up the company.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Unite 2010 general secretary election: Christmas, machismo, wages and Routledge

Ballot papers will be posted today to Unite's million plus members as the biggest union in Britain and Ireland elects its first solo leader.
The poll closes on November 19 and all the procedural details are on the union's website.
The Workers United welcomes comments from supporters of all the candidates, Unite members, and anyone else with an interest in this election which could shape the direction of the Labour movement under a hostile Conservative-led administration.
Today is a crucial one for the campaigns of the four candidates.
In the early hours of the morning Les Bayliss sent an email to the private addresses of Unite members.
There is a confusing reference to "Mirror readers" in the second paragraph - presumably it is the text from Sunday's newspaper advert which must have cost a fortune.
Bayliss bigs up Ed Miliband - who Unite supported in the Labour leadership election - and says if he is elected: "There will be no more strikes called over Christmas."
Gail Cartmail's blog features a one minute 41 second audio pitch from the candidate.
Today's newest post is a personal message of support from Ann Field, a retired national officer from Unite's graphical, paper and media section.
Field says: "Gail has a steely determination, with the nerve to do the job. And she has no need to disguise any frailties with the artificial macho that is a tedious characteristic of some aspiring trade union leaders.I have worked with Gail on and off over three decades."
Unfortunately for Jerry Hicks his old campaign website still apears above his new campaign website on Google.
Both feature an update, posted yesterday, designed to coincide with the sending out of ballot papers and re-iterating that Hicks is the grassroots candidate who would do the job on an average wage.
As his rivals are all senior figures in Unite already Hicks says: “It’s too late to tell us what you are going to do tomorrow or next month. Why didn’t you all do it when you had the chance?"
The "latest update" on Len McCluskey's website is a statement issued weeks ago after nominations closed.
But there is a link from the front page to a story that refers to the start of balloting - and which reveals that Daily Mirror columnists Paul Routledge and Brian Reade have come out for McCluskey.
Routledge says: "If I had a vote it would go to Len. He has fire in his belly, and a serious political agenda."

Feel free to use the comments box to pitch on behalf of candidates - or to talk generally about the election.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

New Union City club night in Camden, London

A new club night of "radical" DJs and musicians in association with trade unions and community groups starts in north London this week.
The first event features My Elastic Eye, Terrible Splendour, DJ Stix (Electric Dreams Club) and is at Barfly, 49 Chalk Farm Road, Camden, NW1 8AN, on Monday, October 25 from 7pm to 11.30pm. Tickets cost £5.
There will be campaign stalls as well as music.
The organisers say: "Union City brings together the art of resistance with the resistance of artists – standing up against the effect of the Government's cuts, economic gloom and austerity, while getting down with the best of a new generation of radical young musicians."
More details here.
The event has been set up by union activists - mainly from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) - money raised is pledged to union campaigns and there will be union speakers.
It's a great idea - as long as there are very few speakers.
Trade unions should be do more social and cultural events - it's the best sort of social networking.
See you there.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

PCS figures show that Duncan Smith's bus advice is useless

A civil service union has proved that Iain Duncan Smith was talking rubbish when he told the BBC that jobless workers in the South Wales valleys could easily find work if they caught the bus to Cardiff.
Figures released tonight by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) - which represents JobCentre staff - show that there are already nine times as many unemployed people in the Welsh capital as there are jobs.
The combined number out of work in Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent - two of the areas a bus ride from Cardiff - is more than the total number of job vacancies for the whole of Wales.
Read the PCS press release.

Red Pepper magazine

Jon Gaunt backs unions over government cuts

Radio shock jock and newspaper columnist Jon Gaunt - generally regarded as a figure of the political right - has come out in support of the trade union line on Britain's spending cuts.
In his weekly column for the Spain-based ex-pat newspaper Round Town News Gaunt writes: "I find myself agreeing with the unions who are making the point that it is not their members that got us into this mess but it will be them who suffer the most pain as these cuts are introduced.
"George Orwell was right - all animals are equal but it would seem that the self serving pigs of Westminster and Brussels and the fat cat bankers are more equal than others."
But Gaunt - who has worked for The Sun, BBC London, and TalkSport - will be at odds with many union activists when he suggests that foreign aid should be axed to cut the defecit.
He also calls for Britain to stop spending so much money on the European Union - which will find an echo from some, like the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT) which backed the No2EU party in the last Euro elections.
In the same article Gaunt describes former Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chairman Jimmy Hill as one of his heroes and says he was right to smash the maximum wage.
I've produced Jon Gaunt's show on various radio stations. And even stood in as presenter.

"TUC general council has failed its first test"

A member of the body that leads Britain's trade union movement has criticised his colleagues for reacting too slowly to the massive public spending cuts that are hitting the country.
Jeremy Dear said the Trades Union Congress (TUC) general council had "failed its first test" of the anti-cuts campaign by not calling a national demonstration until next March.
Dear, who is general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said people losing their jobs now needed solidarity from the wider trade union movement.
He was speaking outside Downing Street - the home of the UK Prime Minister - on Wednesday October 20.
See Jeremy Dear's two minute speech
Jeremy is right - so who is going to step into the breach and organise a national demo?
The Coalition of Resistance, Right to Work, the National Shop Stewards Network, the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group?
Or a coalition of the coalitions?
If anyone picks up the baton - everyone should support them.

Red Pepper profiles community anti-cuts campaign

The November issue of Red Pepper magazine will spolight trades unionists in the north of England who are working together to defend public services from government cuts.
The Northern Public Services Alliance was set up in June following discussions between 14 unions.
Unison and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have been prominent in building the organisation.
Last week a 300-strong demonstration was held in the north east against government cuts.
The idea of the Alliance is to bring together community groups and people who use services with public sector workers.
The Trade Union Congress's northern region covers the north east of England - where a third of jobs are in the public sector - and Cumbria.
I do some freelance work for the PCS and edited an article on their website about the Northern Public Services Alliance.

Subscribe to Red Pepper

Law to make striking easier fails to make it through parliament

Not enough Labour MPs turned up in the House of Commons yesterday - October 22 - to support a new law which would have stopped employers using trivial legal loopholes to prevent industrial action.
The Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill had been tabled by John McDonnell MP to protect union members’ right to strike after a string of court cases in which massive votes for action were overturned on technicalities.
Under parliamentary procedures at least 100 out of the 650 MPs must support a private members' bill for it to survive.
Only 89 MPs were there to back it when the vote was taken - 85 Labour, one Green, one Plaid Cymru, one Scottish Nationalist Party, and one Conservative.
Find a spreadsheet listing which MPs voted here.
Last week The Workers United reported a lobby of parliament in support of the bill.

Other Red Pepper blogs

Friday, 22 October 2010

Bayliss emails attack Woodley and BA strikers

An email sent to the private addresses of Unite members by general-secretary-candidate Les Bayliss's campaign has opened up the old enmity between the Amicus and TGWU sides of the merged union.
Bayliss's supporters accuse Unite's joint general secretary Tony Woodley of using his speech at the Trade Union Congress's Protect Public Services lobby on Tuesday to intervene in the election.
Ron Pursey, Unite convenor at the engineering company Cummins, said: "I attended the rally against the cuts in London, with the deputy convenor and two of my shop stewards.
"I would just like to say we were disgusted that our joint general secretary Tony Woodley used that occasion to have ago at Les Bayliss and use it has a campaign message for Len McCluskey."
Pursey went on: "Tony Woodley is the Unite joint general secretary not the T and G general secretary and I believe he should remember that."
Earlier this week a Bayliss email sent to Unite members’ private addresses attacked the high profile strike by BA cabin crew over job cuts.
Bayliss said of the dispute: "It has been disastrous. It has lowered our standing and reputation. We need to make sure it never happens again."
Many Unite activists, and other trades unionists, see the BA dispute - by largely women workers - as a crucial battle against a dictatorial style of management.
The other candidates for Unite general secretary are Jerry Hicks and Gail Cartmail. The ballot starts on Monday.
Unite members at BA voted massively in favour of industrial action to defend working conditions in the airline industry.
In those circumstances the job of the union leadership is to throw their support behind the strikers.
BA workers should be helped to speak at every Unite branch in the country, explaining their dispute and raising cash for their strike fund.
Other airline and airport workers who have disputes with their bosses - and there is always something bubbling under - could be encouraged to co-ordinate action with the cabin crew.
I don't think the current Unite leadership has done enough to back the BA workers.
It seems a Bayliss-lead union would do even less.

Red Pepper reports: from the picket line at BA and from the deserted airport.
Unite brings together activists

The professor, his wife, her job, and a free house

A teaching union wants the Welsh Asssembly to investigate the appointment of a university boss’s wife to a highly-paid new job at the same institution.
Professor John Hughes has just taken up the post of vice chancellor at Bangor University, north Wales.
His wife Xinyu Wu has been appointed the university’s first director of international development on a salary of £75,000.
The couple will live in a £475,000 house, bought by their employer.
Philip Dixon, director in Wales of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), told the Western Mail newspaper: “It is a miraculous coincidence that these two people should find two highly paid jobs at the same institution at the same time.”
Possibly not. Professor Hughes was previously president of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, where Wu was director of the international office
Dixon from the ATL went on: “This comes as university budgets are being slashed in a way they have never been slashed before.
“It seems extraordinary that a new post is being created at this time. I am not aware that Bangor University has any problems recruiting foreign students.
“I think the assembly government should put our minds at rest by having a look at this matter."
Bangor University said there was no cause for concern.

Industrial action on the way at firm that "makes a lot of money"

Two groups of journalists in the south of England – employed by the same multi-national company – are preparing to take industrial action over a pay freeze and cut backs.
Members of the National Union of Journalists at Newsquest Hampshire have voted 78 percent for strike action and 95 percent for industrial action short of a strike.
The ballot result was announced on Wednesday.
Yesterday – October 21 – the Hampshire journalists were joined by colleagues at Newsquest Sussex in Brighton who also agreed to hold a ballot for industrial action.
Both chapels – workplace branches – are angry about a pay freeze for staff that has lasted more than 1,000 days.
But Newsquest’s employees aren’t all in this together. The company accounts show that last year the highest paid director trousered a rise of 21.5 percent.
In Brighton there is also concern that some editorial tasks are being moved to Southampton.
Newsquest, Britain’s second biggest regional newspaper publisher, is an arm of the big American company Gannett.
Gracia Martore, Gannett’s chief financial officer, said on Friday 15 October 2010: "Let me once and for all dispel the myth that Newsquest doesn't make money. Newsquest makes a lot of money.”
The company’s journalists wonder why they are facing a pay freeze and attacks on their pensions.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Trades unionists take alternative economic message to the people

The North West TUC has produced 5,000 leaflets putting the alternative to cuts in public services which will be handed out in Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester on Saturday (October 23).
In Manchester, leafleters will be gathering in Albert Square from 10 am.
In Liverpool, leafleting will begin in Lord Street from 10 am.
And in Chester activists will be outside the Town Hall in Northgate Street from 10am.
The sessions are set to continue at least until noon and help is welcome at all three venues.
North West TUC regional secretary Alan Manning said, on their Proud To Serve The Public website: “There is an alternative to the coalition’s cuts which now put tens of thousands of jobs at risk in our region.
“We can bring back the windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses – after all they caused this mess. We can crackdown on tax avoidance and tax evasion, raise billions through a tiny tax on financial deals, stop spending a fortune on privatising services and introduce a property tax on vacant properties."
The TUC leafleting in Manchester coincides with a rally in a different square which was announced earlier this week by the regional arm of the National Shop Stewards' Network and reported on The Workers United.
A source close to the regional TUC - the official umbrella organisation for unions in the north west of England - said: "We're not aware of any split. There will be lots of activity happening in towns all over the region."

Not quite a dozen seek bakers' top job

Eleven candidates are battling it out to become the new national president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
The full-time job, voted for by the union’s 28,000 strong membership, is vacant because the incumbent Ronnie Draper was elected general secretary in August.
The ballot closes on October 29. Two women and nine men have been nominated for the post.
Read their election statements.
Draper will replace Joe Marino who has been general secretary for 31 years.
The Bakers’ Union is traditionally on the left of the Labour movement. It is affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee as well as the Labour Party.
In May of this year Marino and Draper wrote to Labour MPs urging them to nominate left-winger John McDonnell to be party leader.
Draper beat three other candidates to the job of general secretary in a first-past-the-post election with a 15.5 percent turnout.
Two of the defeated candidates – Tony Richardson and Ian Hodson – are also running to be president.
BFAWU general secretary election result.

Council parking charge is an opportunity to organise

Swansea council will today – October 21 – vote on imposing car park charges for its own staff.
Annual passes will cost between £99 and £399 – and won’t guarantee a space.
Mike Davies, of the local government union Unison, told the Western Mail newspaper: “Staff are particularly aggrieved that councillors have the ability to reclaim the charges on expenses."
This unpopular act is a golden opportunity for the council unions – usually GMB, Unison, and Unite – to strengthen their organisation.
I would call a mass meeting – giving control of the campaign to the members.
Let the meeting listen to everybody’s ideas – and come up with some innovative ways to fight the parking charges.
Everyone who used to have free parking should take out a grievance. That would leave the council with thousands of hearings to organise – and appeals.
Managers and union reps would be unavailable for weeks as they went through the procedure.
In my experience as a union organiser guerrilla grievances were a very effective form of action – usually winning.
Council workers could boycott the car parks when the charges start. The visual image of big empty spaces would ram home the unpopularity of the move.
The union should leaflet door-to-door in the streets where members will now have to park. Apologise to residents for the inconvenience, explain what is happening, and give them the direct lines of the council chief executive and local councillors so they can complain.
Workers could agree to start half-an-hour later and finish half-an-hour earlier to make up for not being able to park close by.
And keep the rest of Swansea on side by demanding free public transport for everyone.
This potential campaign offers a great chance to build team spirit among union members, to recruit new people to the union, and maybe even to win.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Anti-cuts coalition holds in south east London

Trades unionists in Southwark, south east London, will protest outside the town hall tonight – to urge the newly elected Labour council not to implement Tory cuts.
Activists from the Southwark Save Our Services (SSOS) group have been leafleting in recent weeks in Bermondsey, Camberwell, Dulwich, Elephant and Castle, and Peckham.
They’ve supported students protesting about big price rises for adult education classes in the borough, and against the closure of the language school at London South Bank University.
The campaign was instigated by Southwark Trade Union Council – the umbrella body for unions in the area.
It has brought together activists from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), Unison, Unite, and the University and Colleges Union (UCU).
Those involved have worked hard to stay united after the anti-cuts movement in neighbouring Lambeth was torn asunder by splits between rival left groups.
Tonight Southwark council will meet to discuss its budget in the wake of the government’s spending announcement.
A delegation of trades unionists will meet representatives of the ruling Labour group- who took control in May's election - and urge them to put people in Southwark before the spurious need to cut the deficit.
The lobby of the council starts at 6pm tonight - October 20 - outside the town hall on Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UB.
Tomorrow - October 21 - there is a meeting to organise the next stage of the campaign, at which a convenor will be elected. Everyone who lives or works in Southwark is welcome. It's at 7pm in room A3, London South Bank University, London Road, SE1 6LN.
There will be a SSOS public meeting on Thursday November 4, at 7pm in the Salvation Army Hall, Elephant and Castle.
I've been involved in Southwark SOS and was delighted to learn that between 100 and 150 people attended tonight's protest - which is brilliant on a freezing night.
I'm very pleased we have held everyone together and have some words for my friends in small left organisations.
If someone in another small left organisation does something that annoys you, think of your obligations to the wider trade union movement. Bite your lip and carry on - don't go off and form a rival campaign.
Until the latter becomes the default position we will rarely win.
In Southwark - so far - it has been.

Monday, 18 October 2010

UKIP gives political cover to bosses who discriminate against women

UKIP's most prominent politician has this morning joined the war of words against plans to give more protection and support to pregnant workers.
Nigel Farage MEP tweeted: "Cross party support amongst British MEPs on the plane to Stras that Pregnant Workers Directive is bad news. Can we stop it? Unlikely."
Last week - as reported exclusively on The Workers United - Farage's colleague Godfrey Bloom told a female trade union leader who wrote to him about the directive to "stick to giving advice on nappies and breastfeeding".
Bloom also told Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, that: "You clearly have no idea how businesses work or recruitment policy in the private sector."
On UKIP's website Bloom says: "Absurd legislation such as this closes the door on opportunities for young women and consigns them to a role as second class citizens, trapped at home by the stupidity of legislators.
"It will single-handedly turn back the clock to the 1920s by forcing employers to avoid exposure to the penalties by not hiring young women."
The UK charity Maternity Action supports the proposed amendments to the directive which it says: "Significantly improve the rights of pregnant women, new mothers, women who are breastfeeding, and their families."
Nigel Farage's tweet talks of "cross party" opposition to the directive. I've asked him which other parties' MEPs were on the plane. No reply so far.
UKIP MEPs insist they are not anti-women but no-one would have replied to a male trade union leader in the way Bloom wrote to Stanistreet.
He should resign his seat on the European parliament's women’s rights and gender equality committee. Or be removed if there is a procedure for that.
It's a shame discrimination against women is a civil rather than a criminal offence.
If it was the latter Bloom could have his collar felt by police interested in his expert knowledge of private sector recruitment policy.
He clearly knows of companies that discriminate against young women. He should be naming and shaming them, not giving them political cover.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Appeal but no ballot for sacked bus union leader

Unite activists are still campaigning for action to defend a bus drivers' union rep who was sacked in April.
A financial appeal on behalf of Abdul Omer Mohsin was distributed to everyone who attended Jerry Hick's election rally in London last week.
The appeal was written by Unite's London and eastern regional secretary Steve Hart and originally distributed around the capital's bus garages in May.
Hart's letter explains that Omer was sacked by the Sovereign company and goes on: "Our regional office who represented him at the disciplinary hearing and at appeal has provided me with a full report on the case, and is quite clear that the decision to dismiss is not only unfair, but is also tantamount to an attack on our union organisation within the company."
Hart says Unite "will be conducting a ballot of members in London Sovereign".
But a report on the Socialist Worker website earlier this month says that - nearly five months later - no ballot has been organised.
Cheques for the hardship appeal should be made payable to "Unite the Union" with "Abdul Omer appeal" on the back - and sent to the union's regional office at 218, Green Lanes, London, N4 2HB.
Messages of support should be sent to defendabdulomer at .
VIDEO: Abdul Omer on organising the workers at Sovereign.

Jerry Hicks is one of four candidates for the post of Unite general secretary.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

500 Foxconn strikers arrested in India

Police in India are reported to have arrested 500 workers who went on strike to demand that their employer, Foxconn, should negotiate with their chosen union.
It happened in the state of Tamil Nadu after the giant electronics manufacturer signed an agreement with a union belonging to the local ruling party - which had no support among the workers.
Foxconn's Chinese factories were the scene of a series of worker suicides earlier this year.
The workers want to join a union called Foxconn India Thozilalar Sangam (FITS) - part of the Centre for India Trade Unions (CITU).
The union is holding protests and asking for international support.
Send a protest to the Director General of the Police, the Commissioner of Labour, the Chief Minister and the Minister for Labour of Tamil Nadu from here
Read more about working practices at Foxconn.

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Friday, 15 October 2010

BBC pension figures denounced as a sham

The leader of the National Union of Journalists is calling on the BBC to abandon a planned cut to staff pensions and come clean about the true finances of the corporation’s pension scheme.
Unions have been leaked figures – drawn up for the BBC by financial consultants – which put the pension deficit at just under £1 billion.
In previous public statements BBC bosses have said the deficit would be £2 billion.
The pension scheme’s actuaries are believed to be quoting a figure of £1.5 billion.
The amounts are different because some things are variable – like the length of time pensioners will live.
The actuaries and the BBC will have to agree on a final figure
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “The BBC sought to sell it's pensions robbery by claiming it had to plug a £2bn deficit. If today's figures are true, that has now been exposed as a sham. The BBC's credibility is in tatters and their justification for these punitive changes completely undermined. The BBC must come clean.
“The BBC should re-start negotiations with everything on the table.”
Members of the NUJ, the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU), and Unite working for the corporation have already voted more than 90 percent in favour of strike action over changes to the pension scheme.
BBC workers are voting in a consultative ballot on whether to accept a new offer.
There is a rank-and-file campaign for a no vote as The Workers United reported on Sunday.
I am a member of the NUJ. I have worked for the BBC but I am not e member of the pension scheme.

Manchester unions rally against the cuts

Trades unionists in Manchester and Salford will be holding a day of action against government cuts on Saturday October 23.
A whole series of events have been organised by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Salford Trade Union Council, and the north west arm of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN).
Leafleters are wanted in St Peter's Square, Manchester city centre, M2 5PD, from 9.45am to 11am and again from 12.30pm to 1.50pm.
Between 11am and 12.30pm there is a demonstration and rally in St Peter's Square backed by branches and regional bodies from PCS, the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT), Unite, and Unison.
Speakers include Andy Beehan from south Manchester RMT, Gavin Hartley a member of PCS executive for the Department of Work and Pensions.
At 2pm there will be a public meeting organised by the north west shop stewards network at the Mechanics Institue, 103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD.
Speakers include Andy Warnock-Smith, RMT regional organiser, Sarah Robinson of the PCS DWP executive, and Steve Acheson, an electrician and Unite member blacklisted for organising the union on building sites.
There will be also leafleting against cuts in Chester, Liverpool, and Preston.

Synchronised ballots have created a chance for unions to work together

The opportunity for co-ordinated union action against the massive cutbacks in the UK economy grew yesterday.
London firefighters voted heavily in favour of strike action over plans to sack them all and re-employ then on less favourable contracts.
The regional committee of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will meet today to discuss possible strike dates.
As this blog predicted on Sunday BBC union activists have now launched rank-and-file campaign to encourage a no vote in the ballot over new pension proposals.
Read their leaflet
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Broadcasting. Entertainment, Cinematograph, and Theatre Union (BECTU), and Unite have already held ballots to allow lawful industrial action at the BBC.
The Rail, Martime, and Transport union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) have an ongoing dispute on the London underground over job cuts.
On Wednesday (October 13) RMT members who work on tube fleet maintenance voted by 88% in favour of industrial action short of a strike over cuts which the union says have left brakes and other equipment in a lethal state of disrepair.
More than 2,000 UK border agency staff, members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) held a two day strike this week over changes to rosters and roles.
In anticipation of this rash of disputes the Trade Union Congress - the umbrella organisation for British unions - passed a resolution calling for co-ordinated action against cuts in jobs, pensions, and public services.
Strikes are about winning for ordinary workers. The best way to do that is to co-ordinate action to cause the maximum disruption for employers.
Britain's complicated trade union laws make it difficult for unions to synchronise legal strikes.
Having all these ballots completed at once gives a rare chance for joint action.
Union leaders need to talk to each other to stop the TUC resolution from being empty rhetoric.
FBU, NUJ, PCS, and RMT are all part of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, which doesn't have a website, but which brings togther a group of eight unions that pledge to work together on things like parliamentary lobbying.
This would seem to be a good time to co-ordinate.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

MEP tells union leader to stick to nappies and breastfeeding

A UKIP politician has told the deputy general secretary of the National Union of Journalists to stick to nappies and breastfeeding.
Michelle Stanistreet had written to Euro MPs, on behalf of the union, about a proposed directive on pregnant workers.
In an emailed reply Godfrey Bloom, UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, said:"To be brutally honest Mrs Stanistreet, I have never read such dreadful nonsense in my life.
"You clearly have no idea how businesses work or recruitment policy in the private sector.
"I am simply far too busy to go through line by line and pick up on the flaws in your argument.
"I implore you to stick to giving advice on nappies and breastfeeding or whatever it is that brought your organisation into existence."
In fact Stanistreet's organisation represents more than 30,000 media workers in the UK and Ireland.
The NUJ was founded in 1907, has always admitted women as full members - unlike other unions at the time - and concluded the UK's first equal pay agreement in 1918.
So Stanistreet was acting in a long tradition of campaigning for women's rights when she lobbied MEPs for improved maternity pay and better facilities for working mothers to breast feed their babies.
Bloom is a member of the European parliament's women’s rights and gender equality committee.

Hamas government closes down journalists' trade union

The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) office in Gaza has been closed down by the internal security department of the ruling Hamas party.
Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists said: "The action by the Hamas government is a violation of journalists' rights and a slap in the face of Palestinians who are courageously fighting for their rights and the independence of journalism in appalling conditions."
Jerusalem Post report
The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate is affiliated to the IFJ - like the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) of the UK and Ireland.
PJS members held regular demonstrations in Gaza when BBC journalist and NUJ member Alan Johnson was being held hostage there in 2007.
Johnson and the leader of the PJS both addressed the 2008 NUJ conference.
According to the IFJ, the PJS aims to unite journalists across Palestine who are currently divided both by Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement and the political divisions between the Hamas government in Gaza and the Palestine Authority in the West Bank.

Hat tip: Jon Slattery

Are supermodels fighting the cuts?

Has supermodel Lily Cole sign a petition against government cutbacks?
The 22-year-old - who is a Cambridge University student when she is not advertising big brands like Marks and Spencer - has certainly been asked.
A Daily Mail article about the model's hair colour shows her being asked for an autograph by a punk.
Eh, no.
If you follow the link below and scroll down you'll see the "punk" is in fact a Socialist Worker supporter handing her a petition!
The Daily Mail advertises Socialist Worker

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Jobs to go at Metronet today

Rail union activists are predicting that 800 more job losses will be announced on the London Underground today.
The cuts are at Metronet - which runs the infrastructure on the tube.
There have already been strikes over job cuts organised by the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA).
If the announcement is made it will mean 2,600 jobs cut on the underground in recent weeks.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

After Chile remember 'the stronger the union the safer the mine'

According to the international federation of miners unions Chile has 900 private mines but only 18 mining inspectors.
And the San Jose pit where 33 men have been trapped for two months only had one exit - which is in breach of the International Labour Organisation convention on mining safety.
The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM)estimates that at least 12,000 miners are killed on the job every year.
Joe Drexler, the mining secretary of ICEM, said: "A chief cause of continued mining tragedies in most countries is government and employer opposition to unionisation.
"So long as miners do not have rights protected by a union and a legal collective bargaining agreement, they will be forced to work under conditions that jeopardise their lives.
"In Chile existing labour laws are weak. Employers have no obligation to negotiate even after a trade union is formed, and multiple trade unions can exist at any one site, which plays into the hands of employers to keep workers divided."
In a BBC interview this evening the president of Chile, Sebastion Pinera, admitted that safety was bad in small mines - but he claimed large companies had better procedures.
Read the full ICEM statement on mining safety across the world.
Even before the drama in Chile the federation was running a campaign called: "The stronger the union the safer the mine".

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McDonnell's bill aims to give workers the right to strike

Nearly 150 people crammed into a committee room at the Houses of Parliament, in London, to express their support for a private members bill to stop employers using trivial legal loopholes to prevent industrial action.
Two hours and 15 speakers later the numbers had dwindled considerably.
Those who stayed heard union leaders describe how - despite massive votes in favour of strikes – they had lost legal cases because the wording of a ballot notice had been slightly wrong, or there had been a short delay in telling bosses the result.
John Hendy QC, a top employment lawyer, said: “These irregularities do not harm the employer or cause them a damage or detriment.
“And the legislation has no concern for the democratic vote of members. The court takes no regard of whether the vote for action was 91 percent or 51 percent.”
Labour MP John McDonnell has tabled the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill to protect union members’ right to strike.
The meeting heard that where union members are strong and determined they can defy the law.
Maria Eagle, from the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said of postal workers: “When the law doesn’t fit our members walk out anyway – and the employer doesn’t take action.”
In 1994 it was made unlawful to induce prison officers to take industrial action – but there have been unofficial strikes since.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association (POA), said: “If any public sector prison is privatised, we have already decided, we will have a workplace ballot and strike.”
Other union speakers were from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT), Trades Union Congress (TUC), Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), Unite, and the United Road Transport Union (URTU).
The bill is before parliament on Friday October 22. Rules say 100 MPs must attend for the legislation to go any further.
Trades unionists can lobby their MPs and urge them to turn up and support the bill by using
UK union laws are draconian and should be scrapped so union members can decide their own rules democratically.
John McDonnell’s bill is a small step in that direction.
But highly paid union officers shouldn’t be allowed to use the complications in the law as an excuse for making mistakes or frustrating workers who want to take action.
And expecting people to sit through 15 speakers is an affront to their solidarity.

Made in Dagenham - sort of a review

They didn’t have a ballot, they didn’t give seven days notice before they went on strike, and they travelled the country persuading other workers to join their action.
If it happened like that now the women from Made in Dagenham would probably be sacked, and their union would be bankrupt – its funds sequestrated by the state.
Since the strike portrayed in this film women have won the right to earn the same wages as men – but in reality they still take home about 18 percent less.
And the only organisations that can close the gap – trade unions – have been neutered.
When dispute leader Rita O’Grady asks a conference of sceptical men “when did we stop fighting in this country” it seems more appropriate now than in the strike torn days of 1968.
Rita is played brilliantly by Sally Hawkins. She’s vulnerable and nervous but blossoms as she outsmarts her bosses and the more conservative union officials.
Hawkins is destined to be an A-list star. Check her out as the primary school teacher in Mike Lee’s Happy-Go-Lucky – a film that would have won every award going if it hadn’t been released in the same year as Slum Dog Millionaire.
This movie is full of familiar faces – Geraldine James, Bob Hoskins, and Richard Schiff from the West Wing – as it tells the fictionalised story of 187 female Ford machinists who objected to being re-graded as unskilled.
It’s an accurate portrayal of the emotions people feel as they progress through an industrial dispute.
Fear, uncertainty, elation, power, and sometimes boredom.
They don’t win everything but they take back their dignity from a corporate monster which thought it owned them.
The film is nicely shot with the flats of Dagenham looking like a show estate from the former Soviet Union.
And it shows ordinary people that if they stand together they can win.
That’s why the bosses hate unions – and that’s why the workers who win us back the right to strike effectively in the UK will be heroes.
They might even make a film about them.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

NUJ says members will reject BBC pension deal

Further to my story about a rank-and-file campaign to reject the BBC's latest pensions proposal the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has now predicted a no vote in the consultative ballot which is about to start.
The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph, and Theatre Union (Bectu) and Unite are also balloting members over the offer.
BBC workers will work-to-rule on October 22 as some action must be taken to keep their ballot alive under the UK's restrictive trade union laws.
A big no vote from all three unions will give strength to their negotiators and confidence to everybody if the threatened strike action goes ahead.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) - the umbrella organisation for unions in Britain - voted for co-ordinated action against cuts. Are any other workers going to join the BBC in taking action?

UCL cleaners must wait five years for a living wage

Campaigners who thought they had secured a big pay rise for cleaners at one of the UK’s most prestigious universities have been shocked to learn that some of the low paid workers won’t get the money until 2015.
University College London (UCL) announced it would be implementing the London Living Wage of £7.85 per hour after a campaign by cleaners, students, trade unions, and the local media.
The London Evening Standard reported the victory just five days after the paper had ambushed the provost of UCL, Malcolm Grant, at a community outreach event and questioned him about low wages.
Mr Grant earned £404,000 last year – more than the bosses of Oxford University and Cambridge University.
The small print in the UCL promise to increase cleaners wages said that the rise would not be implemented until the current agency contracts come up for renewal – in some cases that will take five years.
Students and staff lobbied the university’s governing council meeting on Wednesday October 6 to complain about the delay.
And now the UCL branch of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) has appealed for information from other workplaces where cleaners have won the London Living Wage.
The UCU wants the answer to these four questions:
- How long after your campaign was told that the London Living Wage would be paid did the cleaners get the money?
- Who paid for the wage increase, the institution where the cleaners worked, the agency that employed them, or a combination?
- What changes to the existing contracts were actually made?
- How did you argue to management that the agency staff shouldn't have to wait?
Organising low paid workers employed by private companies should be at the forfront of the trade union movement.
And our employment laws should allow university lecturers and other workers to take industrial action in support of low paid colleagues.

Kruschevite revisionism in Glasgow

If you've always wondered what effect Kruschevite revisionism had on the working class movement, then it's your lucky week.
There's a discussion on exactly that subject at the Patrick Burgh Hall, Burgh Hall Street, Glasgow, G11 7LW, this Saturday October 16 between 2pm and 5pm.
It will be lead by Zane Carpenter who, according to wikepedia, is the general secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
The event is organised by the Stalin Society.
I'm grateful for an advert in the Morning Star for this information.

Jerry Hicks vows to defy strike laws to save jobs

Unite general secretary candidate Jerry Hicks told a rally of his supporters that if he was in charge the union would support the occupation of workplaces to defend jobs - even if it meant breaking the law.
He said that Unite should have supported the Vestas workers on the Isle of Wight who took over their factory last year - instead of repudiating their action to avoid having the union funds sequestrated.
Hicks said members of the union would not have noticed when "officials cars ran out of petrol" but that employers noticed when Unite failed to stand up for jobs.
He told the 60-strong meeting at the Indian YMCA in Fitzroy Square, London, on October 11,: "Employers watch what we do, they listen to what we say, and when we say nothing they come for us."
Hicks said he would take only the average wage, "not the £200,000" earned by the current joint general secretaries.
He said more officials should be elected.
Hicks added that people called him an extremist - but that employers who sacked people for organising a trade union were the real extremists.
Also speaking was film director Ken Loach - who's movies include Bread and Roses about union organisation.
He said: "Trade unions represent all that's best of our experience: mutual support; solidarity; collective action; and looking after the weak by the strong.
"Jerry Hicks represents all that's best in trade unionism."
The winner of the election will be the first solo leader of Unite - a union of more than a million members formed by the merger of Amicus and the TGWU.
Hicks's suppporters say it's a two horse race between their man and Len McCluskey who is supported by the United Left organisation.
The other candidates are Gail Cartmail and Les Bayliss.
The vote starts on October 25.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

BBC workers organise their own campaign over pensions

Rank-and-file trades unionists at the BBC are to launch a campaign for a no vote in the consultative ballot over a new pension deal.
A strike was postponed last week after the corporation improved plans for a career-average pension to replace the final salary scheme which covers most employees.
Reps from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU), and Unite agreed to consult members – without making a recommendation about whether to support the new deal.
Anger amongst BBC staff, who are losing thousands of pounds of pension rights they thought they had earned, has not been eased by the new offer – which will take seven pages to explain in documents to be sent out with ballot papers later this week.
A meeting of the NUJ Left on Saturday – attended by the union’s general secretary Jeremy Dear and president Pete Murray – agreed to support reps from all unions around the corporation who want to campaign for a no vote.
The plan is for leaflets arguing for a no vote are to be drawn up and handed out around the BBC’s offices all over the UK and the world.
The aim is to give BBC workers who don’t like the deal the confidence to vote no.
The NUJ ballot was due to start last week but was delayed because the BBC wanted to revise its “final offer”.
This is a vital dispute to defend the whole concept of decent workplace pensions – especially in the public sector.
BBC workers who oppose the new pension scheme should keep voting no even if they are wary of striking.
A big no vote will be a negotiating tool for the three unions even before any industrial action takes place.
I'm a member of the NUJ and the NUJ Left. I have worked for the BBC but I'm not in the pension scheme.

Unite brings together activists to fight cuts

On Thursday October 7 around 80 union activists from Unite the Union gathered in central London to start a new network for workplace reps.
They came from the public, private, and voluntary sector and heard joint general secretary Tony Woodley talk about the crisis facing workers with attacks looming on jobs, pensions and community services.
The meeting, at the massive union’s Theobald Street headquarters, is being mirrored by similar events in Dagenham, Heathrow and around the country.
Unite members say it's the first time that activists from different parts of the union have been encouraged to come together to share experiences and express solidarity with each other.
There was also a plug for the lobby of the UK parliament, to stop the cuts and protect public services, on Tuesday October 19 at 12.30pm.
No-one mentioned the splits between the former Amicus and TGWU sides of the merger.
Around 20 of the people present were women and half-a-dozen were from ethnic minorities.
Unite members were invited to attend by full-time officials – but those asked included members of far left groups who have been critical of the union leadership.
The union is about to elect its first lone general secretary to replace Woodley, formerly of the TGWU, and Derek Simpson, formerly of Amicus.
It was agreed that there would be no electioneering in the hall but one of the candidates, Len McCluskey, attended for a short period.
Outside the meeting leaflets were handed out for McCluskey and his rival for the left-of-centre vote Jerry Hicks.
The other candidates are Les Bayliss and Gail Cartmail.
"An excellent initiative that should be repeated in every town and city in the UK – the trade union movement needs to become one united force as it has been in the past.
"Activists from different unions working together is the next step. The National Shop Stewards Network would seem to be the perfect vehicle for this. "

The workers united will never be reported

Last month the Guardian published an article bemoaning the fact that trade unions aren't covered properly.

Unions deserve to be covered by specialists

It's by Christine Buckley, democratically elected editor of The Journalist, the magazine of my own union, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

As a journalist who used to be a trade union organiser I decided to rise to the challenge.

So welcome to a new blog - The Workers United.