Activists hone skills to help Win Campaigns

Barnsley Unite/NUM Community Centre recently staged a two-day Public Speaking Course (Level 2) which was attended by 6 Unite Community Activists, Branch Officers and Union Learning Reps.
The course took place over 2 full days (18th and 25th November).  On the first day, activists learned about how best to approach preparing a speech.  They examined the importance of three elements of public speaking: logos (logical order), ethos (building trust) and pathos (generating emotion).  Following this, activists participated in a mini-debating session.
Before the second day of the course activists constructed their own 10-minute speeches. When they returned for day two these were delivered to the group in the iconic main hall.   All speeches were filmed and analysed collectively.  They covered a variety of subjects including Lifelong Learning, Unite Community, Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign, increasing Trade Union Awareness, Effective Branch Communications and Zero Hours Contracts.
The course provides a valuable experience for activists. Knowledge and experience of public speaking gained from the course helps to build practical skills and confidence in people who have an important role in co-ordinating campaigns in the community and the workplace.
“The analysis and collective critique of each speech is what assisted me mostly in developing my line of argument. The practice of actually delivering your speech in such an iconic venue gives you the confidence to do more. I can’t wait to do the media training next”. Dan Marcus Community Activist.
If you want to gain practical skills in courses such as Public Speaking, Graphic Design or  New Media  please contact David Condliffe on 0779 111 3806 or email
2013-11-25 14.05.27 2013-11-25 14.25.04

Barnsley College UCU Strike Tuesday 3rd Dec

University and College Union (UCU) members at Barnsley College as part of a one day national strike across post 16 Education. The strike is against a derisory pay offer of 0.7%. In the universities, UNISON, UNITE and UCU are on strike, in the colleges just UCU.

UCU members will be picketing the main sites of the college from 7am – 9.15am and then heading through to Sheffield for a regional rally.

Barnsley College UCU has been in the forefront of showing solidarity for other workers who are taking action. In 2013, they have held collections for strikers including those at Mid Yorks Hospitals UNISON and Chesterfield College UCU, Also in 2013, UCU members have supported PCS, CWU, NAPO , UNITE Yorkshire Ambulance and FBU picket lines.

I would ask you to get your union branch/activists to do 2 things in solidarity with this strike:

1. Send a message of support to the UCU branch secretary Lee Short at:

2. Get a delegation to visit the picket line (and in my experience of UCU picket lines some Christmas cake/parkin etc will go down well!)  You will be made very welcome.

 The UCU branch buys a breakfast for all picketers after the picket and financial donations to the cost of that will be gratefully received. (cheques payable to Barnsley College UCU)

The branch hopes that lots of retired UCU members will come and join the picketline for a while too.

in solidarity,

Dave Gibson

Grand opening of Durham Community centre

Photo copyright Mark Harvey
Photo copyright Mark Harvey

“Educate, Agitate, Organise”

150 people attended the grand opening of the Durham Miners Association (DMA) and Unite Community Support Centre on Friday 15 November 2013 in Durham City.

This is the second joint initiative between miners’ and Unite Community members. Earlier this year the National Union of Mineworkers and the country’s largest union set up a similar centre in Barnsley.

Unite has also established a further four support centres across the UK including in Tower Hamlets in London. The City of London may see £billions of pass through it every day, but many parts of England’s capital city remain blighted by poverty. Liane Groves, Unite Community national coordinator, is currently examining if similar centres can be opened in many more locations to help counter this government’s sustained attacks on the unemployed and working people.

In each centre a body of professionally trained volunteers provide welfare and employment rights advice, whilst there are multi-skills courses for unemployed people plus opportunities to join Unite as a community member and get active in campaigning against the likes of the bedroom tax.

The support centre in Durham is located in the DMA’s Redhills building. This was opened in 1915 and is a handsome, impressive building that stands as a fitting tribute to the Durham miners’ struggles for decent pay, safe working conditions, justice and equality. The building is a masterpiece both architecturally and in the materials and craftsmanship. When miners met coal owners there to negotiate over wages and conditions it placed them on an equal footing.

Today, the grandeur of Redhills stands in direct contrast to the situation facing the former mining communities in a region which urgently requires regenerating in order to boost employment opportunities.

Once proud locations such as Easington Colliery now have over half the shops on the front street boarded up. Easington survived after the tragedy that killed 85 miners in May 1951 and the small town was the scene of heroic resistance during the year-long miners strike in 1984-85. John Major’s government made people pay for fighting for their communities when the mine was closed in 1993 with the loss of 1,400 jobs. The brief media attention, which followed the filming of Billy Elliot there in 2000, failed to halt the inevitable decline with young people facing a future without work. Many people have relocated and there are now a large number of empty houses. Sadly, the example of Easington Colliery is not unique in Durham.

Which, as Dave Hopper, the DMA general secretary, said is “why it is great to be opening this support centre. We have got tens of thousands of people who are being denied benefits they because they don’t know what or how to claim even if they are working. Many infirm people also need help as they are wrongly being classified as fit for work and thus denied what are already meagre benefits.

“There is a lot of despair in our communities, especially amongst young people. Even those who manage to find work are on zero hours contracts where if they don’t jump to the employers’ demands they get sacked. We want to make sure they join a union. We are organising a series of meetings across Durham and want people to get much more active in campaigning to protect services and for jobs to be brought to the region. The DMA and Unite can do a lot of good work together through this support centre.”

Initially, the centre will be open between 10am and 5pm every Wednesday and Thursday.  Amongst the ten volunteers is Aurelia Smith, a former civil servant and activist in the PCS trade union, and John Kelly, the Unite branch secretary for the Durham geographical branch and part-time lorry driver. Both have a wealth of experience in providing welfare and employment rights advice and wish to introduce people to trade unions as organisations that can help them. The hope is that someone who comes into the centre for benefits advice and/or to enroll on one of the many skills courses will also become a Unite community member. Then, once they find work they will switch to becoming an industrial member of Unite.

The skills courses that are planned under the direction of Unite learning organiser David Condliffe include english, mathematics, information technology, public speaking, graphic design and new media. These new skills will improve people’s employment prospects – thus boosting their confidence – as well as being able to help them in any campaigning initiatives they may wish to get involved with locally. “We have put on media courses in the Barnsley support centre and by the end we have had people designing their own posters as part of campaigning against the bedroom tax. The blogger courses we have organised have seen people design their own blogs in order to involve friends in fighting to protect a local bus route,” says Dave. The support centre has a suite of computers and is newly decorated. A visitor will pass along corridors packed with history including old miners banners and a plaque to those from County Durham who fought in the Spanish Civil War between 1936-39.

The struggle against fascism is an ongoing one. The weekend prior to the opening of the support centre witnessed the English Defence League march in nearby Shotton Colliery and opposition was limited. “That is an example of why we cannot allow our communities to be left to rot. We must fill them with progressive politics and restore the old socialist values of the trade unions. We need the Labour Party to then recognise it must support the communities that back them.”

The local Labour Euro MP, Stephen Hughes, was one of many dignitaries at the opening and he “warmly welcomed this new initiative in these troubled times.”  Ian McFaul from Thompsons solicitors did the same whilst Howard Beckett, head of legal and affiliated services at Unite, said, “we can learn everything from this initiative. What we are doing is nothing more than what the DMA has done historically in providing services, including housing, to its members.  Which is why it can still bring out tens of thousands of people each year to its Gala despite there being no working mines locally.”

It was left to Karen Reay, Unite regional secretary for the North East, Yorks and Humberside, to sum the day up: “What a great turnout of local trade unionists, elected representatives and members of the local community. We are sure we can utilise this great building to help rebuild our local communities.”

Strong Unions Need Women

On Saturday the 23rd November  the Unite Industrial and Community Doncaster Branch held ‘A woman’s part in the trade union movement’ event at The View in Doncaster. Over 20 people attended to listen to Kate Connoly, the author of a book titled ‘Sylvia Pankhurst – Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire’, and to watch Ellie Harris (Red Ladder) perform the ‘Wrong Un’, a one women suffragette play. A lively debate followed, led by Barbara Jackson (Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaigner) and Unite Community Member Louise Harrison, challenging more women to get involved. More people joined Unite Community on the day and were invited to attend the next branch meeting to make the sentiments of the event a reality.

2013-11-23 12.13.47 2013-11-23 12.46.49 2013-11-23 15.12.17

Historical Perspective Breathes Fire into New Campaigns!

‘Wrong Un’, a one women suffragette play, was performed to 21 students at the University of Sheffield  on the 20th November.  Unite Community, Red Ladder and the Students Union worked collaboratively to stage the event. Following the play, a Q&A – which was filmed – took place where Ellie Harris (actor), Barbara Jackson (Unite Community and Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaigner) and Kat Chapman (Students Union Womens’ Officer) were the guest speakers. This thought provoking event provided not only an historical debate but, more importantly, it resulted in a full discussion on campaigning today.  Led by Unite Community, campaigning tools including direct action were  discussed. Future campaigns such as:  Equal Pay, The Living Wage, Human Trafficking and democratic processes were also debated. The event resulted in more people joining the Sheffield University Unite Community Branch. Meetings were arranged to evaluate and progress current campaigns such as the Bedroom Tax and, in light of the discussion, to explore new tactics and new campaigns.

 “Many of the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today only exist because of the struggle and sacrifice made by individuals, groups and organisations who had the courage to stand up and speak out.  These struggles have taken place over hundreds of years – in different countries across the world – and where battles have been won, this has had a direct result in bringing about change to improve the existence of millions of ordinary people in the world of work and in wider society, helping to advance civil society. The only way to maintain the freedoms we enjoy is through a collective voice;  Unite Community is the vehicle our collective voice’’. M.Kelvin

2013-11-20 18.50.50 2013-11-20 18.45.36 2013-11-20 18.45.25

UCATT deplores heavy handed security on peaceful Leeds blacklist protest

Protests at the Robert McAlpine offices in Leeds.
Protests at the Robert McAlpine offices in Leeds.

Construction union UCATT have strongly criticised the heavy handed security which occurred today (November 20) during a peaceful protest outside the Merrion Centre in Leeds.

The protesters were demonstrating as part of the TUC Day of Action on blacklisting outside the Merrion Centre where leading blacklisting company Robert McAlpine has an office.

The protesters had obeyed all the instructions to protest outside the building. However trouble occurred when some of the protesters were invited to access the building to visit the offices of the PCS union which is situated inside the Merrion Centre.

Security barred anyone from entering the building and then assaulted several of the protesters. One of the protesters was hospitalised after the confrontation.

Rob Morris, Regional Secretary of UCATT Yorkshire, said: “This was an appalling incident and was totally unnecessary. This was an entirely peaceful and good natured protest and for security to act in this way is reprehensible.”

This article orginally appeared at:



Durham Community support centre

Unite, the UK’s largest union and the Durham Miners Association (DMA) have joined forces to open a community centre in Red Hill, Durham which will support the local community. The new centre at Miners Hall, Red Hill, Durham, Co Durham, DH14BD, had its “Grand Opening” on Friday 15 November.

The centre will be open for two days a week (10am — 3pm, Wednesday -Thursday) offering help and support for individuals and for the community as a whole. The centre will allow people to learn new skills, provide support with welfare problems and support for people looking for work. The centre will also become a hub for the local community to campaign on welfare changes.

With devastating cuts, such as the Bedroom Tax, housing benefit cuts and ATOS to name a few, the centre will introduce Benefit Buddying, which will offer peer-to-peer support for many of the most vulnerable people who will suffer as a result of these cuts and who have difficulties with benefit claims. Unite Community aims to bring together and help give those in our society who would not normally have a voice.


Support the FBU this Wednesday

As Firefighters walk out on Wednesday 13th November
for their fourth strike, join Barnsley Trades Council Rally in support.
12.30 to 1.15pm, in Barnsley Precinct.

If you are free at 9.45am, join trade unionists cheering FBU members as they walkout.
More information:07594 857960.
Download the flyer here Support FBU Weds 13 Nov


Defend Workers’ Rights Demo

Saturday 16 November

On Saturday 16 November we will be marching in Doncaster to defend workers’ rights.

Last winter 183 Doncaster-based Unite drivers were sacked by Eddie Stobart Ltd (ESL) following a TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment) transfer from Tesco.

Outsourcing and TUPE transfer is bad news for workers in many industries as more and more employers are exploiting the legislation to their advantage – and the disadvantage of our members. The whole point of TUPE is to protect workers when a business changes hands.

At the same time the government is planning to dilute TUPE legislation further. These changes will drive down workers’  terms and conditions and put jobs at risk.

We must stand united and strong to protect workers’ rights and let people know that exploitation through the TUPE process is unacceptable.

We are asking members and activists to meet at Doncaster Rovers football ground, Keepmoat Stadium, Stadium Way, Doncaster DN4 5JW at 11.00 am on Saturday 16 November for a march past the gates of the Tesco depot, returning to the football ground for a rally.

If you can join us in Doncaster – bring your flags and banners – and let’s make a stand against worker exploitation.