Category: Unite the Union

Barnsley Unite Centre Report

Attendees at our 2nd Anniversary gathering
Attendees at our 2nd Anniversary gathering

Introduction – Solidarity is the key.

The Barnsley area of South Yorkshire has a long tradition of a strong Labour and Trade Union movement working together in defence of jobs and conditions and supporting the communities that since the industrial revolution have produced coal, glass, steel and cotton in the mines and factories on behalf of the country.  I came down to Barnsley during the Miners’ Strike of 1984 to work in the Barnsley Centre Against Unemployment, a TUC affiliated centre that was part of the South Yorkshire/North Derbyshire Forum of Unemployed Workers Centres and we organised along the same principles as the Labour and Trade Union Movement.  The Barnsley Centre Against Unemployment, along with others, was a model TUC Centre and now 12 years after it closed some of the people involved were lucky enough to be still around and in a position to utilise many of the experiences of the centre and the TUC Forum into creating the Barnsley Unite Community Support Centre. Unite Community nationally have adopted the principles of education, agitation and organisation to face similar challenges to Thatcher’s era brought about by austerity measures and an even more hostile Tory government than Thatcher’s, if we ever thought that was possible!

Soon after our union’s bold declaration to start up a Community Union as part of Unite the Union, Joe Rollin, who had been appointed as a full time organiser for the North East approached me, Brian Clarke, Pete Smith and other well know Barnsley activists, all experienced and dedicated trade unionists to lend a hand in creating the very first Unite Community Support Centre in Barnsley. Joe had already approached the Yorkshire Area National Union of Mineworkers for permission to use spare office room at their headquarters in Barnsley which contains the famous miner’s hall and they agreed, much to our delight. It is worth noting that the agenda of today’s conference is very similar to one that we discussed at our early planning meetings held at the NUM nearly 3 years ago. This is a brief report of the main issues that we have faced and dealt with over the past 3 years, following our initial planning and strategy meeting.

The NUM granted us the use of two rooms and unlimited telephone use. The main office which also happens to be Arthur Scargill’s former office is used for administration, campaigning meetings, storing the campaign leaflets and advice work. It has four computers. The other office, The Women Against Pit Cosures, with who we have a strong coalition, doubles up as a computer training room with 6 computers. Our working relations with the NUM is excellent and our centre and South Yorkshire Unite Community branch was heavily involved in the 30th Miners anniversary events across the country, and of course the creation of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. It is very important to have a strong local branch in areas that we are growing our membership and South Yorkshire branch is just that.


Main Broad Based coalitions (or partnerships as we like to call them)

Note: In our experience the key to building broad based coalitions is a non-judgemental , non-partisan and friendly approach and stressing the point to other organisations that Unite can help ‘their own’ organisation and Unite’s contribution to the anti-poverty agenda can be in all our interests. Wherever possible it is preferable for the personal approach to be carried out by our members to potential partners, stressing also the benefits of joining Unite, if not already in a union. This approach has reaped rewards in membership for us and helped build up our capacity to achieve our objectives. Here are some of our main partners.

Barnsley Trades Union Council is an active and vibrant arm of the trade union movement in our area and we have 2 delegates to the BTUC. We have regular joint events and demos

Barnsley Council and local councillors and our MP’s It helps our cause that Barnsley is a Labour controlled local authority and that from the start we involved the council in our development, invited the relevant council functions to our planning meetings Unite are represented at their key anti-poverty joint meetings. For example, the partnership we have with Homelessness Team and the Barnsley Advice Network is invaluable as an exchange of ideas and resources. We have excellent relations with the Housing and Benefits section and this helps us smooth the benefit problems between our clients and the council whilst of course retaining our right to represent and support clients at reviews and appeals against decisions made by the council. We have a direct line to local councillors and MP’s and regularly call upon them if needed on behalf of our members.


PCS and the Job Centre:   We have strong links with the local PCS branch through their representative on the trades’ council and who also happens to be a member of the CAB  trustees in which I am also a member. The main contact in working situations to other PCS members is through the Job Centre Plus staff. We regularly leaflet outside the Job Centre in Barnsley but always contact the local PCS rep to inform him/her. We also make an effort not to blame or scapegoat Job Centre staff for the plight of claimants, especially on the sanctions issues. On behalf of Unite we wrote a letter to the PCS Barnsley branch to explain that, whilst we vigorously campaign against the Tory Welfare Reforms, we recognise that staff is given targets to fulfil on sanctions and Job Search. It is important that the two unions take each other along and talk to each other on the rocky path that the Tory Government has set for us when it comes to Welfare Reform and the problems it has caused.

Red Cross:   The British Red Cross operates from Quaker House almost next door to ours. We have a partnership with the Red Cross to provide ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) to all asylum seekers and refugees that are referred to us by the Red Cross. At present this consists of around 60 all at different stages of entry into the UK. We also provide benefits, money and housing information and along with the Red Cross support and advise them on their applications and support for asylum. We have an Iranian volunteer member who speaks several languages and is vital to sound advice delivery. This is ground breaking work that we are very proud of.

South Yorkshire Credit Union: This is another vitally important partnership as many of our members and potential members cannot access a High street bank account. Also the membership of a credit union allows both borrowing and saving at the same time and benefit can be deposited in a credit union account. As a founder member of the SYCU I understand the importance of a credit union in alleviating poverty and debt and enabling people to budget their income and outgoings.

Foodbank 1

Food Bank and Churches: we have a close partnership with the local food bank and we have a volunteer member working in the church which provides daily hot meals

Others (not exhaustive)    Pensioners groups (Freedom Riders!) Bedroom Tax Campaign, Northern College, Barnsley College, Unison and other unions, the CAB and Students Union.

Advice Work and Networking

Networking with other advice organisations is essential if you are giving welfare rights advice. Voluntary and statutory organisation, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Council Welfare Rights teams ( now becoming rare) Shelter and Age Concern can be referred to and welcome Unites input and support in our experience. Our experience is that it desirable to get to know the key workers of our main partners and encourage them to join Unite. Also ask them to volunteer for us and even take training sessions. Since opening, Barnsley Unite have supported and advised over 300 people seeking our advice, conducted around 800 interviews with many joining Unite. We have taken 36 Tribunals with a 75% success rate – but win or lose, it’s our support to people who are at their wit’s end that is the main thing.

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

Changing the Narrative Equality, Lobbying, Campaigning and Recruiting

It follows that strong partnerships and networking can bring their own practices of delivering meaningful equality to the Unite table. Also the referrals and the cross-referrals from voluntary and charitable organisations mentioned above can instil a natural social approach to equalities in all our functions as a union. Equalities are complimentary to everything that we do. This approach is important within the Barnsley community and along with other likeminded partners we try to lead by example in treating everyone equally and with the same careful attention to detail that we would if we were in an industrial setting dealing with our workplace members. Unite Community can provide that bit extra with our campaigning role that gives us an edge over other voluntary and charitable organisations working in the community The ‘we really are in this together’ approach gains us credibility when we are lobbying, campaigning and recruiting especially when we conduct visible campaigns, demos or promotional activities on the street. Student work should now be a priority for Unite as these are our future members who will carry the banner forward, hopefully to a better world. Against a background of poverty and anger it can be difficult to achieve even small gains in a system that is loaded against us. In working together towards our aims it goes without saying that we must have total unity of purpose between ourselves.

The elements of all conference workshops should link into each other and the report backs from the workshops should combine to form a feasible strategy to take Unite Community and the PCS forward. We must keep in mind that we are now nearly 3 years old and many of our more active areas are beyond the basics and are setting their own priorities and strategies according to the needs of their communities. I hope this brief report of our experiences and those who are attending the conference help you to achieve the aims of the conference.



With the seeming success of Unite Community, the volunteers at Barnsley are of the opinion that the work of Unite Community nationally would be enhanced enormously with an increase in the number of full time Regional Organisers. The present limit of one organiser for every region seems wholly unreasonable and unrealistic.

Yours fraternally,

Richard Vivian,

Volunteer, on behalf of Barnsley Unite Community Centre


Red Tattoo Donate £1500 towards Unite Community ESOL Classes!


Barnsley Unite Community Activists would like to say a massive thank you to everyone at Red Tattoo and piercing in Leeds for their generous donation of £1500 towards our ESOL project link to the website here Red Tattoo donated a whole days takings from their shop as well as receiving art work, gifts, cakes and donations on the day which was sold to customers both new and old! Thanks again for everybody who helped! The donation will go a long way to help provide English Classes through the Unite Learning project which the Unite activists are planning on expanding. Watch this space for more developments ……………. Photos from the day below.

ref2 ref3 ref4 ref6 ref7 ref8 ref9 ref10 ref11

Stop Cuts and Privatisation of Health Visiting and School Nursing in Barnsley

Please sign this petition to stop the cutting and privatisation of health visiting and school nursing services in Barnsley.

There will be a stall in Barnsley town centre on Saturday, 3rd October starting at 10.30 am to raise awareness and get more signatures. Please come and help if you can.

Watch the trailer for Sleaford Mods’ Invisible Britain

Unite Community Activists from Barnsley helped with the making of this hard hitting documentary from the Sleaford Mods “Invisible Britain”

The band’s “state of the nation” documentary combines interviews, live footage and a look at how individuals and communities are campaigning against austerity measures

Refugees Welcome Here

Saturday 12 September
Barnsley Demonstration and Rally, May Day Green, 1.00pm.

This day of action has been called in response to the unfolding human tragedy across Europe as thousands of refugees flee war, persecution, torture and poverty. Thousands have lost their lives in the process or are living in appalling conditions as they struggle to find a safe haven.

Over 2,400 refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean already this year. The shocking picture of baby Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach epitomizes the appalling humanitarian tragedy taking place. But the response of David Cameron and the government to this has been disgraceful.

On Monday 14 September Home Secretary Theresa May will meet with EU leaders to discuss the refugee crisis. We must learn the lessons of history and call on the government to take a humanitarian and compassionate response to refugees, and to meet its share of the responsibility for providing protection.

Let’s send a strong message: We say refugees are welcome here.

Download the flyer: Refugees_welcome_here_NATIONAL_A5

Take Action against Sports Direct! Scrap Zero Hours!


Trade Unionists, Community Groups and Activists Plan wave of Protest against Zero Hours September 9th! Get Involved! Direct Action Gets the Goods!

Get Involved! Email Your Unite Community Coordinator for more info!

Direct Action Gets The Goods! See our Win against Pizza Express here:

Guardian Article on Unites Pay Claim


Pressure Mounts on Sports Direct Chairman

Previous Action From Unite Community Pictures Below


Sticker Campaign against the Rip off Sports Direct!

st1 st2 st3

Unite Community Education

Educate, Agitate, Organise!

Unite National Education Department

logo com

Community membership education programme


Since its inception, Unite Community has had education at its core and as a key driving force for growth and activism.

It was seen from the outset that education would enable and empower community members to develop their activism in relation to all areas of community action which were to be tackled. In relation to advocacy, street activism, campaigning, public speaking, design of materials and ability to use online methods of activism, education has assisted our members to strengthen their ability to undertake the issues faced in our communities and organise around those issues.

A range of specific customised education courses were built in order to accommodate the needs of community activists and that range of courses is always changing, growing and developing to meet new challenges. The education provision for Unite Community members has been sculpted with the aid of community coordinators working closely with the Unite National Education Department, with learning organisers and key tutors in our regions and nations and with our key activists.





The full range of specific Unite Community courses are listed below, followed by short descriptions of each event.


Community Activist training

Introduction to Unite in the community, looking at the concept of community membership, how it fits into the core values and principles of Unite and links to Industrial activism. The course examines why we launched community membership to provide a voice for those who felt voiceless. We also look at some of the successes of community activism and examine how those wins were achieved. We look at campaigning and organising and examine the key three pillar vision of Unite around organising, politics and internationalism, embedded in the cement of equality. Attendees should acquire a detailed understanding of Unite in the community and  broad knowledge of Unite as the largest trade union in Britain and Ireland.

Community organising

Our community initiative has been successful in recruiting almost 8700 members over the last two years however we need to look at growth in a more strategic manner and therefore this one day organising course has been designed to specifically look at community organising and how to recruit, activate and retain members.

Campaigning in workplace and community

This is a campaigning course which concentrates on how to build effective campaigns, identifying issues, testing those issues, and building wider support. The course looks at existing campaigns analyses a strategic approach to campaigning, considers campaign tactics and is largely skills based. Attendees should develop confidence in their ability to organise and run campaigns within their community.

Public Speaking

This course is delivered over two days which would normally be a few days apart. Day one will concentrate on the theory of public speaking and address some of the anxieties people encounter when attempting to speak in public. The course uses video footage to illustrate the tips and techniques which are covered. Day two concentrates on the practice of speaking in public and the days in between are used to aid construction of a speech which is delivered on day two with positive critique from peers and the tutor. There is an opportunity if attendees wish, for the final speeches to be filmed. Attendees should feel more confident in the art of construction and delivery of speeches in public by the end of this course.

Debating  skills

This course was inspired by community activists who wanted to hone in on their skills in debating. The course looks at debating skills and how to influence through argument. The course looks at a range of techniques in debate and has cross over skills to negotiation and public speaking. Attendees should probably have already attended the public speaking course or at least be confident public speakers. Attendees should feel more confident in engaging in debate.

Social media campaigning

This course is developed to equip people with new skills to develop social media profiles for their campaigns, in order to augment and amplify those campaigns. The emphasis is on building alliances through social media and widening their reach. The course will also examine setting up simple blogsites for branch organisation and exploring the positive aspects of social media for linking our industrial, political and community strands.

Digital publications

This course is designed to look at the quality of our communications in particular focussing on posters, leaflets and electronic communications used in a community setting. It examines drip feed campaigns and looks at techniques which can be used to highlight events and boost attendance.

Street Campaigning

This course is designed to tackle the issue of street campaigning, whether door to door, street stalls or surveys. The course looks at and develops the skills of engaging with people in their own environment and encouraging them to share issues with a view to recruiting them into campaigns and membership of Unite Community. The first day is focussed on the theoretical side of street campaigning, the second day, a few weeks later focusses on the practicalities and gets activists out on the streets actually campaigning and engaging with the public, the intervening weeks concentrate on building for day two with activists working in teams to build for day two.

Speak up speak out

This course looks at the art of advocacy by phone, in person, informally and in formal situations. The course is based around a series of case studies which test and debate these skills using housing, social security, disability, education, energy and fuel poverty as examples. The course is skills based and very practical

Community branch officials course

This is a condensed version of the standards branch officials/branch secretary course run over two to three days and concentrating upon the nature of community branches and how to structure and build these effectively


Regional Workshop

Contact to book you class!

Davey Hopper From the Durham Miners Gala, on Corbyn.

Lots of People are worried that their ballot paper hasn’t shown up yet here is the latest from the Labour Party …………….

To make sure this is a fair and independent election, the Electoral Reform services are administering the ballot on behalf of the Labour Party.

The Electoral Reform Services are sending out ballots over the next couple of weeks. Emails will come from ‘’.  If you haven’t received your ballot by 1 September then please let us know at and we will resend it.

People who applied to become members, registered supporters or affiliated supporters close to the final registration deadline (12 August) may not receive their ballot until the end of August. If you haven’t receive a ballot by 1 September please get in touch via Alternatively you can call us on 0845 092 22 99.

Once you’ve received your ballot you can vote online at

You have until 12pm (noon) on Thursday 10 September to cast your vote.

For Members:

You will receive a paper ballot in the post, and an email containing a link and two-part security details to vote online if we have an email address for you. You can choose how to vote, but only one set of votes will be counted.

Changed address recently? Fill out this form to let us know and we will make sure your ballot gets sent to the correct address.

For Registered Supporters (supporters who have paid £3 to register themselves):

You will receive an email containing a link and two-part security details to vote online. You will only be able to vote online.

Affiliated Supporters (supporters who have registered as supporters through an affiliated organisation, for example a trade union):

If we have your email address, you will receive an email containing a link and two-part security details to vote online. You will not receive a postal ballot paper and will need to vote online.

If we don’t have your email address, you will receive a ballot paper in the post. You can vote using this ballot paper by post or online.


If you are a Labour Party member or affiliated/supporter, your ballot in the leadership election should have arrived today or within the next few days. For registered and affiliated supporters this will be by email (unless you do not have an email address) so please check your inbox!
corbyn 2
United Left is supporting Jeremy Corbyn. UNITE Executive Council recommendation is also to vote for Jeremy. If you want to use your second preference then UNITE’s recommendation is to vote for Andy Burnham as your second choice. Please see attached UL statement explaining why we think Jeremy Corbyn is the best choice.
For Deputy Leader please choose between Angela Eagle and Tom Watson. Whoever you choose as first choice please place the other as second choice.
These are crucially important elections which really could change the face of Labour Party and indeed British politics! But that’s only if the Labour Left vote turns out and delivers!

Martin Mayer
Chair United Left

United Left is the left shop stewards network in UNITE the Union

United Left Statement on Support for Corbyn



The progressive left network in UNITE the Union





 for Labour Leader


United Left, the highly influential left network of shop stewards and activists in UNITE The Union*, urges all trade unionists, their families and friends to participate in the forthcoming ballot for Labour Leader and cast their vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Union members who are not Labour Party members can have a vote if they become “affiliated supporters”, if – like UNITE – they are members of a trade union affiliated to the Labour Party. Contact your shop steward or full time officer, go on your union’s website or use the Unions Together website


Members of unions not affiliated to the Labour Party, and family members and friends who are not in a union can have a vote by becoming a “registered supporter” for £3. This can be done online using the Labour Party website


In both cases, you will need to sign a declaration that you support Labour values and are not in a political party opposed to the Labour Party. Registration closes 12th Aug



We urge a vote for Jeremy Corbyn because he is the only candidate who stands for a return of the Labour Party to working class values; for an end to austerity; for trade union rights; for an economy that works for ordinary people; for fairness and justice; for peace and international solidarity.


We reject the criticism that a vote for Jeremy as Leader will alienate the voters and cast Labour into the wilderness for decades. On the contrary, there is huge support in the country for a return to a genuine centre-left agenda. The massive surge of interest and support for Jeremy’s campaign is witness to that. By contrast the other contenders have run uninspiring campaigns with no new policies except a lurch back to the right. A return to the policies of New Labour will be disastrous for Labour’s chances in the 2020 election.


People are fed up with thirty years of right wing neo-liberal politics which have seen:

  • Working class living standards decline in real terms, so that today there are 5M jobs on minimum wage, 4.5M in bogus self-employment and countless numbers on zero hours contracts
  • Trade unions and collective bargaining marginalised and attacked. Only Jeremy Corbyn understands the need for Labour to embrace trade unions and stand up for our rights in a free and democratic society
  • Public services privatised including the Post Office, utilities and public transport, and now our NHS! Opinion polls have consistently shown majority support for a return to public ownership.
  • A housing crisis that puts a decent home out of reach for working class families. Council houses have been sold off and private rents are sky high
  • A welfare state all but dismantled, pushing millions into real poverty and reliance on food banks here in one of the richest countries in the world
  • A massive increase in the gap between rich and poor unequalled anywhere else in Europe, with a seemingly never ending programme of tax cuts for the rich and big business
  • Pensions attacked and a culture of “work till you drop” with millions facing poverty and deprivation in old age
  • A deregulated labour market that permits employers to exploit low cost foreign workers in place of workers who live here, fuelling racism, fascism and Islamophobia.


People are fed up with a Labour Party which has no answers to the above. We don’t want a Labour Party that supports “austerity-lite”; that can’t even vote against Tory welfare cuts; that supports yet further pay restraint for public sector workers; that has no answers to the housing crisis affecting working class households across the country; that is embarrassed by its trade union connections and won’t reverse anti-union laws.

corbyn 3


Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who says there is an alternative to austerity.

Austerity means massive spending cuts on vital public services and welfare, making the poorest in our society pay for a crisis not of our making. But this depresses the economy, reducing tax receipts and increasing public spending on poverty and unemployment. Instead we should be investing in our economy, getting businesses working again and creating jobs. This would generate tax receipts and reduce spending on welfare – and reduce the deficit.


We CAN reclaim the missing tax billions (estimated to exceed £100B a year in taxes evaded or avoided by big business and wealthy individuals, or simply uncollected by an under-resourced Inland Revenue ravaged by senseless public sector job cuts).


We CAN create a public investment bank to invest in our infrastructure, new council homes, public transport, renewable energy, insulation and much more, using the public sector as the motor for recovery.


We CAN create decent well- paid jobs and place orders with private sector businesses which will generate tax receipts for the Treasury and reduce public spending on welfare benefits as we raise people out of poverty.


We CAN offer a vision of hope for working people under a Labour Government, but it’s good for business too. Indeed it’s a much surer way of paying off the deficit than the destructive and divisive right wing policy of austerity.


There is a brighter future under Labour. Vote for Jeremy Corbyn!


Note for Editors:

United Left is an informal network of shop stewards and lay activists, but also includes full time officials. It is the largest broad left organisation in any union in the country. It campaigns for a strong fighting back trade union delivering for its members and for a left voice on political issues that affect working class people. It leads and influences the debate over policy within and without the union. United Left also supports candidates in union elections including for General Secretary and for the UNITE Executive Council (46 of the 63 members are United Left supporters).


Jeremy Corbyn addressed the United Left national supporters meeting in Manchester on Saturday 25th July.


For comment please contact Martin Mayer United Left Chair  email