Category: Unite the Union

Ross Pritchard Memorial Fund Annual Essay Competition

Annual Essay Competition, open to all trade unionists, first prize £750, closing date Saturday 26 September.

The RPMF was established to commemorate the life of one of the Graphical, Paper & Media Union’s best known rank and file members, Ross Pritchard.

The Trustees of the Fund invite entries to the annual essay competition on a subject dear to Ross’s heart, this year:

“How should we build the public struggle in defence of the NHS?”

1,000 words maximum

Essays should be submitted to by 26 September 2015 and you must include your name, postal address and trade union (including your Branch or Region).

Download the flyer: ad2015

Report from fight for 15 in Detroit


They said it couldn’t be done. They said $15 dollars an hour was a leap to far. But the working class of America and beyond are proving them wrong.

But workers in the fast food industry have been striking across America for over 2 years With one simple demand. $15 and a union.

On the 6th of june 2015 around 1500 low paid fast food workers travelled to Detroit Michigan to celebrate the success they have had in Increasing wages and building a hard hitting campaign for $15 dollars and a union.

I had the privilege of attending this conference as representative of the BFAWU (Bakers union), Along with delegates from unions from every continent on earth.

The International delegation arrived at the Cobo centre Detroit at around 9am the huge hall packed with some of the poorest most oppressed people in America. Many of whom had travelled 8,10,12 Hours on packed coaches from across The US.

The walls were covered in bright and bold Banners from every corner of the United States.

Electric Atmosphere.
Not only was I instantly hit by the visual impact of the campaign but the atmosphere was incredible. It felt more like the kick off to a football match than kick off to a union convention.

The stage was packed with the worker lead, organising committee which has been formed to strategies and coordinate action across America. The organising committee were leading proceedings whilst, dancing, leading chants and firing up an already electric atmosphere. The response from workers was incredible. Women with small babies jumping in the air people climbing on tables and chairs to chants of

“I Believe that we will win, I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win”.


“We work we sweat put $15 on our check”.

The convention kicked off with stories of the successes of the campaign in winning $15 dollar minimum wages in LA, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington. Announcing that the Mayor of New York had been pressured in holding a wage board to determine if wages where too low. Everyone seemed confident that this would lead to an increase in wages in New York and wider a field.

We heard stories of workers conditions and how they first engaged with the campaign.
I spoke to a worker from Kansas who told me she engaged with the campaign when a union organiser approached her near to her restaurant. And she started organising for the campaign after that. She had been on strike twice with her workmates. She told me about the fear she felt on her first strike, the fear of losing her job, and losing her home. But this fear was nothing compared to the fear she felt for her daughter if she couldn’t raise the money to send her to college in the future. She said “I was worried for my job but when I saw my fellow workers outside, I started to feel we had power. Coming here today I know we have power”.

What was notable was the presence of the big justice movements in the US like Black live matter and the campaign against deportations of migrant workers. With most delegates in being black and from a central American background it was hardly surprising that It was discussed how to support these campaigns and how these campaigns could feed back into the fight for 15.

This is a Global movement.
Fast food workers and trade union leaders from around the world were presented on stage to show US fast food workers that the campaign for dignity at work is a global campaign. Trade union leaders from Brazil and France spoke about the work they are doing and Mike Treen national director of Unite union in New Zealand spoke about how they had abolished zero hour contracts and accomplished recognition in restaurants across New Zealand.

The international delegation was greeted with great excitement in an emotional moment of international solidarity that no one who witnessed it will ever forget.

Getting down to work
After the whole conference ate together the afternoon was spent discussing some of the lessons with a Q and A session with the worker lead organising committee, whilst breaking down into to smaller groups to discus and reflect best practise across the campaign. It was wonderful to see workers grappling with the destiny of the campaign as big questions where asked of the workers like. How do we engage as a campaign with wider social movements? With the looming election how do we influence our local politicians? Each set of workers reported back to the conference on what they had discussed.

As delegates drifted off to catch flights and coaches back to every corner of the US it was clear that this campaign had real solid roots that would continue to play a huge role in influencing main stream politics in the United states. Its clear that the strike is back as a tool that can galvanise the support of communities and oppressed groups not only in applying pressure to political and business leaders but in the liberation of the individuals and the communities involved in the action.

I believe that we will win.

The international conference
Met the next day to discuss the global prospects of delivering victories for workers across the world. Union leader’s spoke of McDonald’s as the leading company forcing down wages in industries across the world. Where ever McDonald’s goes it forces down wages to the lowest possible rate it can get away with. Its drive to maximise profit puts pressure on wages in the farming industry as McDonald’s are the largest purchaser of beef, lettuce, tomatoes napkins ect ect we should see workers in these industries globally as allies also. It was also made clear we should highlight the billions of pounds McDonald’s avoids in taxes by pretending its headquarters are in Switzerland and should act to make this known.

An agreement was reached to work closer together, think big, and attempt to improve conditions for workers in fast food internationally and co-ordinated. Engaging more workers in more industries.

What Next
Here in the UK the BFAWU which is organising food workers in the UK has Launched The Hungry for justice campaign. Our aim is to organise fast food workers with the support of communities and fellow trade unions. We are demanding a £10 an hour minimum wage, an end to 0 hour contracts and union rights at work to get involved email.
Gareth Lane
Fast Food Organiser
Northern England

Solidarity Summer 2015 edition

Here is the Summer edition of the Solidarity Bulletin of the Derbyshire One Fund for All.  In the next few weeks to ask for your personal support for our activities via OFFA.  With £12 Billion cuts to welfare we are going to need all the help we can get!

In this Quarter’s edition:
Welfare cuts affect us all!
Psychological Coercion and Manipulation – a daily part of claiming benefits
Unite targets ‘Victorian’ Sports Direct Warehouse
Chesterfield Max Your Money Campaign
Action Mesothelioma Day
Where to get advice.

Please circulate.

solsummer 2015

Ranting in colour!


An exhibition of the weird and wonderful social commentary of ex-miner, Ian Leadbeater (Leggy), called ‘Ranting in Colour’ is currently on at the Civic Hall, Barnsley until 13th June. Admission is free. The Gallery is closed on Mondays.

See more of Ian’s artwork on his Facebook page.

New short film: Stars urge missing voters to take part ‘for yourself, for humanity, for democracy’

Leading British actors Sue Johnston and Ricky Tomlinson are among the household names to share their voting stories in a short film launched today ( Tuesday 14 April) by Unite, the country’s biggest union, urging the country’s millions of missing voters to go out and vote: ‘for yourself, for humanity, for democracy.’

With 22 days to go before the 2015 general election – and under one week left to get onto the voter registration roll – the film is the latest initiative from the union in its efforts to persuade disconnected voters to have their say in how our country is run.

Falling voter turnout among women, young people and ethnic minorities is of particular concern. A total of 9.1 million women did not vote at the general election in 2010 and only 39 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted, compared to 68 per cent of over 65s.

In a direct plea to the country’s young voters, Ricky Tomlinson says: ‘There are some bright kids out there who given the chance can change things.’ He urges them ‘to get together with your mates, go along, do it together. Talk about it.’

Broadcaster Terry Christian tells viewers that ‘for democracy to work everybody’s got to take part’, while artist Bob and Roberta Smith says: ‘The link between human rights and voting is absolutely central,’ while award-winning director Mike Leigh says, ‘to have the vote and not to vote, is a terrible, terrible crime.’

Changes to the voter register system introduced by the government in September mean that around one million people – many of them young and working class- have fallen off the electoral roll. Many won’t even know. The deadline to register to vote is the 20 April.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “Millions of people go unheard in this country because they don’t vote. But in a tight election like this one and arguably one of the most important in generations, every vote really does count.

“The truth is, when you don’t vote you’re not heard by the politicians. 9.1 million women did not vote in 2010, they were hardest hit by the coalition cuts. Young people also stayed away from the polls in 2010 and they too have lost out under this coalition.

“People who vote get stuff. Those who don’t get stuffed. The only way to change this is to get out there – get registered and vote.”


Safe Journey and Better Journeys Cards

Stay safe on board with a First Safe Journey Card

The Safe Journey Cards has been designed specifically with the needs of many of our customers in mind.

They let you tell the driver know that you need some extra help to make your journey on the bus. It may be that you need more time to reach your seat or that you want the driver to speak up because you are hard of hearing. Whatever your need, you can use these cards to let the driver know in a private and discreet way – there are even blank spaces for you to fill in yourself for details of your destination or special instructions.

Disabled customers may also want to carry a Better Journey Card

This card has been designed following consultation with disability groups around the UK, and is intended to give disabled people a way of letting the driver know that they may need additional help. It includes messages such as ‘Please be patient I have a hidden disability’, ‘Please face me and speak clearly I lip read’, and ‘Please help me find a seat’. There are also some blank spaces for you to use if you want to include a different message.

Using the Better Journey and Safe Journey cards is simple

  • You can download either card using the links at the bottom of the page
  • There are several different messages on each card, so you simply choose the one that best suits your particular needs and then cut out or fold the card so that the message you want is visible
  • Keep the card in your wallet or travel pass and when you get on the bus show it to the driver
  • The driver should then offer you the necessary assistance

Carrying these cards is voluntary – you do not need to use one if you don’t want to, but you may find it a useful way of asking for any assistance you may need.


Latest from the Freedom Riders

We had a really positive Freedom Riders meeting on Thursday.

We have a huge number of leaflets advertising what we are doing and inviting people to our anniversary rally on March 31st.

Dave announced at the meeting that our old friend Tosh McDonald (who is now National President of ASLEF) is coming along to that rally.

We already have loads of leaflets that have been taken for leafleting clubs, bingo etc. We decided that we will organise leaflet distribution in Barnsley every day next week.

Meet at the bus station under the overhang:

Monday: 11am
Tuesday: 11am
Wednesday: 1pm
Thursday: 1pm
Friday: 11am

We’ll see if any leaflets are left after that!

Do pass on to friends, neighbours, family. We want to get as many new people along as we can and also as many of the original Freedom Riders as possible.

We have done a tremendous amount in the last year and this should be a great chance for us to celebrate.

If you just want to get leaflets to use round your area then come to the bus station at one of those times and you can have as many as you need.

As you will know March 31st marks the anniversary of the first Freedom Ride.

We intend having a celebratory rally and are inviting along people who have spoken at our rallies. I hope you are able to join us at Barnsley train station at 11am on Tuesday March 31st at our rally.

Below are PDFs of the leaflet. Please pass on the information and invite to anyone else you think might want to join us.

150305 public leafelt front

Len McCluskey speech: We are preparing for Tory attacks – they will force unions outside the law

The country’s biggest union is preparing for a future Tory government to destroy the remaining freedoms of UK workers, the leader of the country’s biggest union warned tonight (Thursday 20 March).

In a major speech to the leading professional body for the country’s lawyers, the Industrial Law Society, Len McCluskey says that decades of attacks on workers and their unions have allowed power and wealth to be accrued by a few like never before. But, he warns, the Tory party has not finished yet – further attacks are planned to silence opposition to attacks on jobs and public services.

Such are Unite’s concerns, the union’s executive is recommending to members that the words “so far as may be lawful” are removed from the rules governing the union’s actions in recognition that a Tory government will introduce laws to prevent working people mounting a decent defence against employer abuse.

In a far reaching speech covering the journey from the Margaret Thatcher’s assaults on unions to the present day, whereby a single judge can deny hundreds of workers the ability to take lawful industrial action mandated by legal ballots, Len McCluskey warned that the fundamental human right to strike is “hanging by a thread”.

Emphasising that Unite is committed to operating effectively within the law, he says that the time has come to ask “can unions stay within the law any longer?”

Delivering the Bill Wedderburn lecture, Len McCluskey said:

“This proposed change in the constitution of the biggest union on these isles marks the sorry place we have reached in our national democracy.

“These words will go not because we are anarchists, not because we are suddenly planning a bank robbery – but because we have to ask ourselves the question, can we any longer make that commitment to, under any and all circumstances, stick within the law as it stands?

“Unite remains determined to operate ever more effectively within the law, even when that law is an ass and ill-serves our people. But restricting the right to strike, attacking the capacity for trade unions to organise and conduct our own business in line with our own rules, belong to last century’s consensus.  They fail working people today.

“Other aspects of that ‘consensus’ – a deregulated financial sector, a flexible labour market, being intensely relaxed about the filthy rich – have been discredited since the global crash. Yet trade union law remains untouched and politically untouchable; the great unmentionable of British politics.

“The ugly reality is that widening inequality, wealth concentrated at the top, a shrinking percentage of GDP going into the pockets of workers, and governments unable or unwilling to confront the vested interests necessary to bring about change is the world in which trade unions now operate.  It is not by chance that these trends have accelerated at the same time as the role and function of trade unions have been restricted and diminished.

“It is not trade unions who need a change in the law – society as a whole needs a change in trade union law, or little else can change for the better.

“Labour’s victory in 1997 was one of the happiest days of my life, but that first Labour government, with its huge parliamentary majority, did nothing to alter the legal superstructure that allows the skewed accrual of wealth and power in our society. Tony Blair even boasted to business audiences that Britain’s labour laws were the most restrictive in Europe.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the right to strike in this – the first country of free trade unionism – was and is hanging by a thread. But should there be a Conservative majority in May, there will be a new attack on trade union rights and democracy.

“The bar for a strike ballot will be raised to a level which hardly any MPs would get over in their own constituencies, by a government which has refused our requests to use modern, more effective balloting methods.

“Agency labour scabs will be licensed to break strikes. Restrictions imposed on our campaigning role in the Lobbying Act will be followed by laws to make picketing nigh on impossible too.

“Further Tory attacks on unions will come because they can only get away their desired assault on our national fabric if they neuter any potential opposition, reducing us to the role of concerned spectators while they tear to bits every advance working people have secured, every protection we have built up, over the years.

“People have intrinsic rights but sometimes these are violated even by democratically elected legislatures – the right of working people to combine, to organise, is one of those rights. So if partisan legislation is driven through parliament, designed to push the legitimate democratic work of trade unions outside of the law, then we in Unite will not go gently into the night.  We will rage against the dying of the light.

“A union’s job is to fight for working people’s rights. If in the year we mark the anniversary of Magna Carta, the government wants to challenge fundamental rights of the citizen, then I believe they will be facing not just the trade union movement, but a huge section of our civil society too.

“When the law is misguided, when it oppresses the people and removes their freedoms, can we respect it? I am not really posing the question. I’m giving you the answer. It ain’t going to happen.”

Unite activists will decide on the change of wording to union’s rules at a conference later in the year.


George Osborne’s record is one of ‘long term economic pain’ warns McCluskey

George Osborne’s record is one of ‘long term economic pain’ with today’s budget pointing the way to unprecedented austerity if the Tories win the general election warned the leader of Britain’s largest union, Unite.

Commenting Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “George Osborne’s smugness today is utterly out of place for someone who missed every target he set himself.

“He cannot hide the long term economic pain he caused to the decent people of this country with his senseless austerity, run away from the living standards that he levelled back to 2007, or hide from the record levels of personal debt swamping the people of this country.

“People simply aren’t feeling the economic growth and the sun which the chancellor says is beginning to shine is clouded by insecurity and low wages for millions of families.

“Behind the short-term sweeteners and budget bluster, the reality for millions is that their wages won’t last the month. Millions more are trapped in ghost jobs with pay so pathetic they need benefits to make ends meet.

“Osborne’s is not an economy where the gains are shared fairly, and people know this all too well. Take away today’s gimmicks and this budget is a window onto five more years of Tory rule – more savage cuts to essential public services and the deepening spread of inequality.

“If you’re a hedge fund, wealthy retiree, or a business shy of providing fairly paid, secure employment, Osborne’s Britain is the place for you. If you’re looking for decent job, a home in which to raise your kids or a safe NHS, then it is not.”