Archive of ‘Barnsley Community Center’ category

AUGUST Action Update

unite

AUGUST Action Update

Lots Going on right across our Region! come along get involved! get active!

 

Unite Community NE, Yorkshire & Humberside

 

Dear Community Member,

In the three months since the Election of the Conservative Government we have seen an escalation of the attacks on worker’s rights and on the poor and vulnerable in our communities. As Unite Community Members many of you are at the forefront of resistance to this government and its attacks on our communities. As you know, Community branches across our region are working tirelessly to stand up for public services, fight welfare sanctions and support communities and workers who are under attack from the Tories.

Listed below are just some of the campaigns and events which we are organising over the coming weeks and months. It is by no means exhaustive and new events are being organised every week. Our blogs and facebook pages are constantly updated and carry updates on all our events and campaigns.

 

 

TORY PARTY CONFERENCE

Many members have contacted us enquiring about travel provision for the demonstration outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on October 4th. Unite NEYH will be providing transportation to and from the demonstration for all our members and places will be available to book via the Unite website. Unite Community are hoping to have a strong presence at the demonstration as we did at the People’s Assembly march in London and the Durham Miners Gala. More detailed information will follow as buses and schedules are confirmed.

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CAMPAIGNS

* PIZZA EXPRESS – Unite Community members across the UK have been supporting1 Unite members in the hospitality industry in their struggle for better terms and conditions. As you may have seen recently our campaign in support of Pizza Express workers was featured in the National media. Unite are running a campaign to stop Pizza Express stealing their workers tips. Workers in this sector have to survive on very low rates of pay and often rely on their tips to make ends meet. Community branches will be helping to recruit Pizza Express workers to the Union and supporting them through pickets and demonstrations outside restaurants. This is a well organised nationwide campaign and we would encourage as many Community members as possible to get involved.[1]

 

* SPORTS DIRECT – An article in today’s Guardian newspaper reports that 25% of job seekers are being pushed into Z hour contract positions. One of the worst offenders in the abuse of casualised workers is Sports Direct. Unite Community will be holding a nationwide Day of Action against billionaire Mike Ashley and his Victorian employment practices. This will be timed to coincide with the Sports Direct AGM on the 9th September. Unite Community NEYH are hoping to co-ordinate events in all the towns and cities in our region.[2]

 

* FRESHERS WEEKS – We have so far arranged a number of events for the upcoming Freshers Weeks. Events are confirmed for Sheffield University, Sunderland University, Leeds and Keighley Colleges amongst others. With the continuing attacks on student financial provision and on further education funding it is imperative that we recruit and organise amongst students in further and higher education. We are hoping that every branch can organise a Freshers recruitment event in the Universities and Colleges in their area. I have ordered a new gazebo for the North East of the region and am producing student specific leaflets for these events.

For information on how to get involved in the Pizza Express, Sports Direct campaigns or how to help recruitment at Freshers events please contact me directly at john.coan@unitetheunion.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

DURHAM & SUNDERLAND

Demonstration against benefit cuts, Durham

 

First of all I’d like to thank the Durham comrades for the fantastic welcome they gave members from across the region at this year’s Unite Political School and the Miner’s Gala. I know that our members from Yorkshire and the East Midlands who came to the Big Meeting this year enjoyed themselves immensely and that there will be even more of us making the journey up the A1 next year!

Our members in Durham are cementing the great relationship we have with the Durham Miners Association and the local community by organising outreach work around social security rights and the fight back back against benefit sanctions in communities across Co Durham. The first training days in this programme take place on Wednesday 30th September and Thursday 1st October at Redhills, Durham. The second part of the course takes place across two days on the 7th & 8th at the same venue. A half day course on Benefit Sanctions and how to combat them is in the process of being booked. All the training is being led by professional Benefits Rights advisers from Durham County Council. We urge all our members in the NE who are interested to join us over these two weeks. If you are interested, please contact me directly and I will pass on your details to the team at Durham.

As well as the fantastic ongoing work taking pace at Durham, recent months have witnessed the emergence of the beginnings of a new branch in Sunderland. Our Dynamic Duo of Kathrine and Dave have been joining scores of new members, been running street stalls and have even found time to set up a clothes bank in Penshaw! We will be leafleting across Sunderland and running street stalls in the run up to a public meeting in the city, after which we will constitute an official Unite Community branch there.

Unite Community will also be in attendance at the Easington Heritage Day on the 12th September in the Welfare Park, Easington, Co Durham. The event is a celebration of the town’s industrial and political heritage and will feature a mix of music, arts and politics. Unite Community will be marching with our various banners and running a stall, transport ds being organised from across the region so get in touch if you’d like to join us for what looks being an excellent day out.[3]

In other good news from the North East, we note that far right extremists from the EDL have cancelled a planned march through Shotton Colliery on 5TH September. Nice to see the far right being pushed back in our region, let’s hope it continues.

 

A nicer event altogether is taking place in Easington, Co Durham on Saturday, 12th September. As part of the National Heritage Open Day programme, Easington Colliery Heritage Group would like you to enjoy a day of celebration, reflecting on our past and highlighting our future.

This FREE ENTRANCE family event will begin with a musical parade from our former pit site, then follow with arts/crafts for children, rides, live music and guest speakers, poetry, film and photography, bar, local food and much more! Unite Community will be there, marching with our banners and running a stall. We will be organising transport from other parts of the region for any members wishing to attend. [4]

 

 

LEEDS / YORK

 

Over recent months the number of members living in and around York has seen steady growth. This is mainly due to the hard work put in by various members of the Leeds branch who have recruited scores of new members in and around the city at a variety of events. Until now members in York and much of North Yorkshire have been included in the Leeds City Branch but as their numbers have grown it has become apparent that we need to constitute York as its own branch.

We will be contacting all members in the York area this week to ask for volunteers to sit on the branch committee. Full training is given to all branch officials and the Leeds branch committee will be on hand to assist with the setting up of the new branch. Again, please contact me via e-mail if you would be interested in taking up one of the positions.

LEEDS CITY COLLEGE: Leeds members will be running a stall this Thursday, 27th August, at the Leeds City College Fresher’s` event. This event is being organised in conjunction with the Students Union there. We expect the event to be packed out and it should be a good opportunity to recruit members and engage with the students about the great work Unite Community is engaged in. Again, please get in touch if you would like to help out.

 

 

 

 

SOUTH YORKSHIRE




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Unite Community are planning to hold a recruitment stall at the Jeremy Corbyn event on Saturday 29th at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. We had stalls at the hugely successful events in Middlesbrough and Newcastle last week and signed up several new members. If anyone is available to help out in Sheffield please get in touch.

Unite Community members have been helping out with industrial recruitment in recent months and we are hoping to continue this at a range of sites across South Yorkshire. Officers are currently running recruitment drives at ASOS in Grimethorpe and IPL in Normanton. If any members have an hour or two to help out with this it would be very useful indeed.

Please contact Richard.Bedford@unitetheunion.org if you can assist at ASOS, Grimethorpe or speak to Sarah.Mitchell@unitetheunion.org if you can help out at IPL, Normanton. Travel from Leeds, Barnsley or Sheffield will be arranged for any members living there.

As well as running the hugely successful Community Support Centre in Barnsley, a number of our comrades there also find time to help out at the local Drop In club which feeds Barnsley’s homeless three times a week. The work the people do there is a lifeline to some of the area’s most vulnerable people. Unfortunately, as with many other projects, they really need more people to assist them. Anyone in the area interested in helping out should contact Peter, the project organiser on 01226 247652 or 0752 846 8327.

 

 

BOTTON VILLAGE.

 

As many of you will have heard our Community branch at Botton Village, North Yorkshire have won significant concessions from the charity managing the village and have retained “shared living” there for the time being. The Co-workers at Botton have been supported by the wider Unite membership and Officers and staff throughout the union. They are undergoing media and campaign training and establishing a very active branch up in North Yorkshire. As we have discussed with several branches over recent months I am currently organising a visit to our newest branch for members from other branches. As with all other events listed above, please contact me directly and to express your interest. Once we have an idea of numbers, I will make firm travel plans. [5]

 

 

TRAINING & UNITE IN SCHOOLS

 

As we prepare to start a new academic year I am beginning the task of contacting FE Colleges and schools across our region as part of Unite’s “Unite in Schools” project. This project aims to take educate the next generation of workers about the benefits of Trade Union membership and explain the positive role unions play in civil society. We are currently organising training for members to deliver the Unite in Schools programme and would encourage any members who are interested in taking part to get in touch.

In addition to our Schools project we are also providing a wide range of training to our members. A full list of the courses available is detailed in the attached document.

 

 

So, it looks like being a busy couple of months coming up for all our Community branches. I look forward to working with you all in the coming weeks and months and to forging ever more successful campaigns across our region.

 

Yours in solidarity

 

John Coan – Unite Community Coordinator NE,Y&H region.

[1] http://www.unitetheunion.org/campaigning/fair-tips-for-waiting-staff/

[2] http://www.unitetheunion.org/campaigning/fair-tips-for-waiting-staff/

[3] https://www.facebook.com/689035931205066/photos/gm.476039935910758/751096181665707/?type=1&theater

[4] https://www.facebook.com/events/458862440961841/

[5] https://www.facebook.com/events/458862440961841/

Jeremy Corbyn is coming to Sheffield!

Jeremy Corbyn is coming to Sheffield!

He will address a meeting at 2pm on Saturday 29 August at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, with overspill in Tudor Square….

Unite Community South Yorkshire Branch will be running a stall at this event come along and help out and say hello!

Below are Pictures from Previous Rally’s! Come and join 1000’s of others the time for real change has come!

Pizza Express – Fair Tips Campaign Get Involved!

Congratulations to the activists who staged the first ‘Meal of Justice’ at Pizza Express. As part of the campaign to get Pizza Express to stop deducting a 8% ‘admin’ charge from tips paid by card Unite will be holding mini occupations of Pizza Express restaurants.
How does it work? It’s simple:

  1. have a meal at Pizza Express
  2. Pay the tip in cash
  3. Stand on chair and explain to the other diners that pizza Express take 8% from card tips and ask them to tip in cash. (Most people assume the tip goes to the staff).

There will be many more Meals of Justice at Pizza Express and as they are not the only ones at it – Côte Brasserrie, who take all the tips (see Evening Standard http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/restaurant-chain-c-te-takes-entire-service-charge-instead-of-giving-it-to-staff-a2918366.html )

 

This campaign links with the call for workers to be paid the Living Wage.

 

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Barnsley Unite Community Center ESOL Classes

No matter what you read or hear in the main stream media, Trade Unions have always existed to help others in society and Unite Community is doing just that in our center with our ESOL Classes. Much of the provision to help Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Barnsley has been cut back or just does not exist at all now due to Austerity.

See below a brief report an a couple of photos from our weekly class, and don’t forget to check out our Computer Class, Radical Library and Welfare Advice!

“Busy morning at the Barnsley Community Support Centre first ESOL session after a 3 week break, 12 learners, 6 of them new, all very enthusiastic”

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Two years of Barnsley Unite Community

Attendees at our 2nd Anniversary gathering

Attendees at our 2nd Anniversary gathering. Brian Clarke and Richard Vivian kneeling with their gifts.

The Barnsley Unite Community Support Centre reached its second anniversary this week and we held a small gathering to celebrate, at the Miners’ Hall.

Head of Unite Community, Liane Grove awarded Centre Volunteers Richard Vivian and Brian Clarke with a book each, a small token of her appreciation.

Neil, Linda,John, Brian, Tigsiti Tekleab, Mekdes Zewde, Saron Alehayeku.

Neil, Linda,John, Brian, Tigsiti Tekleab, Mekdes Zewde, Saron Alehayeku.

End of year Benefits Report

Since opening we have dealt with 170 people who have had at least two problems, and many had a multitude of problems and issues that took more than one appointment. In fact we have conducted around 350 interviews. Here is a brief snapshot of the issues that we have dealt with:

All benefits including ESA, IS,JSA, Sanctions, Bedroom Tax PIP, Pensions, DHP, Right to Reside issues for EU nationals and all issues previously dealt with by the social fund and money problems. We have represented 18 people at Tribunals with a 70% success record. We have two Tribunals pending at the Upper Tribunal, one on Bedroom Tax and the other on Right to Reside for a Polish EU national.

From the above around one third have joined Unite Community.

Richard Vivian

Volunteer at Barnsley Unite Community Centre

This is the real Big Society!

Barnsley Unite CSC Staff

Volunteers Richard Vivian, Pete Smith, Muhammad Tariq, Coordinator Joe Rollin and Brian Clarke, outside the centre.

When the Unite Community Support Centre in Barnsley opened its doors on a blazing hot day in June 2013 to a fanfare from the Unite Brass Band, it was with a sense of much needed optimism.

The shadow of the Miners’ Strike has hung like a pall over Barnsley for thirty years. The coal mines that once defined the town are now gone and with little remaining industry, Barnsley has been particularly vulnerable to the storms that have swept the economy in recent decades.

Harry Leslie Smith, in his excellent book, ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ described the grinding poverty of his early life in Barnsley during the 1920s. Not much has changed and what did, such as the NHS and our Welfare State are now being severely eroded. Currently standing as the fourth most deprived local authority in Yorkshire and the Humber, low wages, benefit cuts, sanctions and the hated Bedroom Tax are taking their toll. It seems appropriate that the office is situated in the NUM Headquarters, once known as ‘Arthur’s Castle’.

The centre is open for two days a week and is run entirely by volunteers. It offers a range of advice on benefits issues, including support for appeals and representation at tribunals. It also runs courses on welfare advice training, helping people with computer skills and internet access with the ‘Learn My Way’ course.

Richard Vivian is a retired Welfare Benefits Advisor, who moved to Barnsley thirty years ago, “I came down from Scotland in the middle of the Miners’ Strike and established the Barnsley Centre Against Unemployment, which I managed for over twelve years. The idea of a community union for people not in work, students or retired, organised within one of the biggest unions in Europe not only caught my imagination, it also fulfilled a long time personal aim to unite those in work with those out of work. So when the opportunity arose to become involved in the development of a community support centre in Barnsley, I grabbed the chance. We continue to apply the original aims of the centre and will carry on as long as the problems of working class people remain and we can create and achieve a better and fairer society.

Unite launched its Community Membership Scheme in early 2012, with the aim of bringing the principles of trade unionism to the heart of our communities, such as the values of solidarity, dignity and respect.

During Cameron’s numerous launches and re-launches of his beleaguered ‘Big Society’ flagship policy (a thinly veiled attack on public sector services, under the guise of community involvement), he can’t have imagined Unite Community, even in his darkest nightmares.

Unite Regional Co-ordinator, Joe Rollin explains, “our initiative was a response to massive unemployment, especially amongst young people. Unite saw this as disastrous for the country as a whole and thought it had a moral duty to these people. The whole trade union movement I think, was shocked by the savage way in which the Tories implemented their austerity programme, dismantling our public services and unravelling our welfare state. The movement needed to engage with our communities to help organise a fight back.”

Joe was instrumental in setting up the centre, “the vision is to reach into our communities which once had thriving industries, where joining a union was as normal as having a cup of tea. Now with de-industrialisation, the toll of unemployment has meant that the reality for working class people is bleak. No work at all, minimum wage jobs or zero hours contracts. We want to instil a feeling of dignity and respect back into these communities and show through collective organisation we can stop some of the vicious Con-Dem cuts.”

Volunteers Muhammad (Mo) Tariq, Brian Clarke and Peter Smith play a huge role in helping to run the centre. Mo moved to Barnsley from London in 2011 and advises visitors on welfare rights, helps with admin work and keeps the centre’s social media channels and blog up to date. He says, “I wanted to help people in whatever capacity I could, as the current economic climate is very harsh and communities are suffering.”

Brian helps to facilitate the centre’s various computer courses, such as Learn My Way and Learn with Unite ICT. He is from Sheffield and is a retired engineering worker, first joining the AEU in 1955. He also served as Secretary and General Manager of the Wortley Hall collective until 2005 when he retired, remaining on the management board as Political Secretary until 2013. He says, “after reading an article in the Morning Star I contacted Joe and asked if I could help, as I wanted to keep in touch with our Union. I have been involved in the centre from the early organising meetings and really enjoy the work. We have a very good team in Barnsley with a good mixture of skills and abilities to help the local community.”

Pete has always been active in the trade union movement and was an officer in the Transport & General Union from 1983 until his retirement in 2007. He helps with benefits advice, industrial problems and tribunals. Pete says, “I see Unite Community as more of a movement than anything else. I’d like to see it grow and spread its influence throughout the community, creating links with industrial branches. The centre is the ideal opportunity for me to put something back by helping people.”

In its first year, the centre conducted 180 interviews, giving advice on a range of issues such as Employment Support Allowance, Job Seekers’ Allowance, Housing Benefit, Council Tax, Bedroom Tax and Discretionary Housing Payments. Advisors attended seventeen tribunals and closed 83 cases.

Richard expands on this, “We cannot win all the time but by taking a claimant through the process of claiming and appealing at tribunals, we are helping that person regain their dignity and showing that we do care.

“Mr R was one of our first cases, seeking help with his Working Tax Credit claim. We managed to recover a total of £4,795.68 from HMRC on his behalf.”

“Another successful case,” continued Richard, “was Ms C. “By successfully claiming the Personal Independence Payment and Carers Allowance, as well as winning two Bedroom Tax appeals we increased her benefits from £71.70 per week last year, to £190.80 per week this year.”

Alongside the advice service, another important aspect of the centre’s work is supporting local campaigns. Over the last year, the centre has supported campaigns as diverse as the local Anti-Bedroom Tax campaign, Orgreave Truth and Justice, the strike by Care UK workers, the celebrated South Yorkshire Freedom Riders and the NUM’s 30th anniversary commemorations of the Miners’ Strike.

Joe explains, “The NUM have been a symbol of resistance in the local community. People remember clearly the heroic struggle against the last Conservative government and what loosing that struggle has meant to the trade union movement as a whole. Unite wanted to educate people about our past struggles and learn lessons for the future.”

For this reason, the centre has also set up its own Community Library, with a focus on the history of the trade union movement and radicalism. The growing collection has received donations from Unite members, Red Pepper magazine and would welcome any further donations.

There is no formal lending system, “people just turn up and we record their name, phone number and the books that they have borrowed on our record sheet. There is no need to become a member or make any payments, we just trust people to be honest,” said Joe.

The Unite Community Support Centre in Barnsley has covered a lot of ground over the last year, offering support and advice to the local community. This is especially impressive when considered that the centre is only open for two days a week and stands as a testament to the passion and dedication of its volunteers.

“We have come a long way in a short period of time,” says Joe, “ we want to continue our unique blend of practical support, radical education and direct action against the cuts, so that we can continue to live up to our slogan, ‘educate, agitate, organise’!”

Arthur Scargill’s NUM inspires trade union drop-in centre

This article by Matthew Taylor originally appeared in the Guardian.

The Barnsley HQ of the 1984 miners’ strike is buzzing again, as host to a Unite scheme aimed at empowering the community.

Joe Rollin, Unite member

Joe Rollin, pictured in the Barnsley NUM hall, says Unite wants to bridge the gap the coalition has made between the employed and others in society. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.
The small wood-panelled office, where piles of “Coal not Dole” stickers vie for space with posters decrying the government’s bedroom tax, has already seen its fair share of history.It was from this room in the Barnsley headquarters of the National Union of Mineworkers that Arthur Scargill fought the 1984/85 miners’ strike – one of the most bitter industrial disputes of the 20th century.Now most of the mines are closed and the union movement is a shadow of its former strength. But Scargill’s old office is buzzing with activity once again.Unite has started up a community scheme, launched two years ago, that offers membership of the union to those not in work – unemployed people, students and pensioners – and the cost is just 50p a week.

Blending practical support, on issues ranging from welfare cuts to housing, with often radical direct-action campaigns, the union has attracted 7,000 members spread across 70 local groups in the past 24 months.

“It is about reaching out to people who might not even know what a trade union is and making it relevant to them and the struggles they are facing in their own community,” said Joe Rollin, as Unite community volunteers offer advice and support to a steady stream of Barnsley’s unemployed going into Scargill’s old office.

Rollin, 36, is one of 10 regional coordinators and the Barnsley office was  a donation, given free of charge, by the NUM. He says that with the economic slump and increase in short-term, zero-hours jobs, the idea that trade unions should only help those in work is outdated.

“We are saying the union is not an exclusive club. If you find yourself out of work we can’t be saying ‘oh sorry we haven’t got a place for you any more’. It is about that duty to our members and crucially bridging the gap that this government is trying to create between people in work and the unemployed.”

At 7am that morning Rollin and about 15 other Unite community members had been on a local picket line at an Argos factory to support a dispute and then staged a protest outside the company’s store in the town centre.

Other volunteers help out at a local food bank and soup kitchen before opening the doors to the drop-in centre at around 10am.

“We are trying to link more radical direct action type stuff with practical support for people in their communities,” said Rollin. “It is about offering help first, then education and organisation … that mixture seems to be creating quite a buzz in Barnsley.”

The Barnsley group has been at the forefront of the anti-bedroom tax campaign and has initiated scores of challenges against the government’s benefits sanctions. Its members have also been involved in Unite’s wider direct action, or leverage, campaigns. Other groups scattered around Britain have launched hundreds of similar grassroots campaigns, from saving women’s refuges to opposing youth club closures. Some have teamed up with migrants’ rights groups to fight discrimination and others have successfully secured apprentices for young people.

Rollin says that the activism gives people who have often felt ignored and isolated a feeling of empowerment and of being useful again. Just as important were the growing links between community members and those in work.

“We want to give workers the confidence to take industrial action because bosses are constantly telling people ‘if you don’t like it there are millions out there that do’. But if we can show that unemployed people are supporting workers on the picket line that is a really powerful thing to do.”

The small team working out of Scargill’s former office are all volunteers, some of whom became involved after going to the centre for help.

Rollin said: “When the government are saying unemployed people are lying in bed until 2pm with the curtains drawn we can actually say, no, they are down on the picket line at 7am in the morning, then volunteering all day helping other people, as well as desperately searching for work.”

One of the campaigns the Barnsley community membership union has backed is the effort to protect free bus and train travel for elderly people and people with disabilities in the region.

Hundreds of protesters, many Unite community members, have taken part in weekly Freedom Rides – a tactic made famous by America’s civil rights campaigners – refusing to pay for tickets as they travel en mass from south Yorkshire towns to weekly rallies at Meadow Hall station near Sheffield. Unite has provided transport, printed leaflets and offered legal support to the campaign.

The protests, which organisers say have had widespread public support, have forced a partial U-turn by local transport chiefs, who have agreed to restore free travel for disabled people and offered half-price tickets for elderly citizens. But the campaigners say the protests will continue until full free travel concession are restored.

Unite says that, across Britain, its community membership scheme has helped tens of thousands of unemployed people, students and pensioners, the membership growing all the time.

With British trade union membership hovering at about 6.5 million (compared to its 1979 heyday of 13 million) it is thought the union movement can do with all the fresh thinking it can muster.

As he shows off the NUM’s meeting hall festooned with colliery banners recalling that union’s past industrial might, Rollin says Unite’s effort to reach out to those without jobs is breaking new ground and could be the start of a significant chapter in Britain’s labour history. “It is reconnecting our community with trade union values. People who might never have come across a trade union, apart from what they read in the papers, suddenly see what we are about and see that together we can stand up and be counted.”

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