Posts Tagged ‘unite community’

ESOL Donation

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During the run up to Christmas, Barnsley Trades Union Council launched an appeal to assist asylum seekers and refugees in the town.

On Saturday at the end of an Anti-racist 5 a side Football tournament held at the Barnsley Football Club Dave Gibson, on behalf of the BTUC presented a cheque to the value of £300 (part of the total appeal) to Richard Vivian and Brian Clarke, 2 of the volunteers at the Unite Community Support Centre, based at the NUM Headquarters on Huddersfield Road.

Callum Stanland’s funeral

Leafleting outside Jobcentre Plus office in Leeds

The following letter to Unite members is from Unite Community Regional Co-ordinator, John Coan, about the arrangements for Callum Stanland’s funeral following the announcement of his passing in November.

Dear Colleague,

Many of you have been in touch after the sad passing of our dear friend and comrade Callum Stanland. I know how many of you knew Callum and that many of you will want to pay your respects and attend his funeral service.

The funeral is Weds 16th Dec 1:30pm at Grimsby Crematorium, Weelsby Ave, Grimsby, DN32 0BA

The wake will be at Grimsby Central Hall, Duncombe St, Grimsby, DN32 7EG

We will be providing a coach from the Leeds office. Can you please contact the Leeds Unite office on 0113 2364830 if you are wanting to travel on the coach.

Please bring union banners for display outside the service.

Callum’s family have asked that instead of flowers that we make a donation to the WEA in Callum’s memory

The link is below:

http://www.wea.org.uk/donate

John Coan – Unite Community Coordinator NEY&H

A Letter to Dan Jarvis

Barnsley Central MP, Dan Jarvis (c) Andy Hemingway

Barnsley Central MP, Dan Jarvis

Dear Dan,

Dan, you have set out your stall to the killing of more innocent civilians and for me and my wife Janet, you will always be remembered for this and not for the many good things that you have done since you were elected as a Barnsley MP. You, as a soldier should know that despite all the fairy stories about ‘smart’ bombs, innocent people will be killed in Syria because of your decision. That is the way of bombing from aircraft as demonstrated in every war since the beginning of airstrikes. Nothing has changed. This is sad and unfortunate as far as we are concerned as we admire the progress made in Barnsley from your efforts as our MP, but we have our principles especially when it comes to war and the killing of innocent victims caught up in war. We are satisfied however, that we can hold our heads up high say to our grandchildren that the decision to go to War and join in the bombing is NOT IN OUR NAME and that you do NOT speak for us no matter what your record in other activities says about you.

Some of the fathers, mothers and children of these innocent victims that you have given the green light for British aircraft to pour bombs upon have managed to risk their lives in escaping to the UK with a few from Syria ending up in Barnsley as asylum seekers. Like you, I have had the honour and privilege of listening to their stories of the horror of terrorism, civil war and the bombing from above including the forces of the West. They, like the bombs that destroy their lives do not differentiate between friend and foe – all they see and feel is suffering and pain as well as a future of no hope. By voting for a continuation of the bombing you are making their misery continue without apparent end. I feel proud that me and my colleagues have been able to help our Red Cross migrants in their hour of need and I feel proud that Barnsley has welcomed them in the usual fine tradition of an ex-mining town with all the principles that entails. Today they told me that the bombing by the UK would not solve anything but endanger the people of Syria who have had enough of both the regime and the forces of opposition including the terrorists. They also state that more bombs would only create more migrants. I have no reason to doubt them.

I can tell you that I have apologised to them today for the actions of their own Labour Party MP’s across the UK including Barnsley and that these MP’s have sought to undermine the majority of their members and their leader. A leader elected by a huge majority on the principles he put forward. As well as this Janet and I cannot help but think that there could be an element of plotting against Jeremy Corbyn, the first genuine and principled socialist that we have had for many years and whose honest no nonsense views have resulted in a huge rebirth and restoration of the Labour Party that was withering on the vine before the leadership contest.

It is with huge sorrow and not a little anger that we followed your seemingly plausible and reasoned argument for bombing. I have to say that although you support a peaceful and negotiated settlement through the UN, the fact that you have chosen to use bombs as a supplement to this process does not excuse your decision in the slightest. Killing is killing Dan despite your ‘honourable’ and studied motives as they could be described in choosing violence as a one means to solving the violence of ISIS as if violence was normal in a package of solutions to a complicated problem. In our opinion that is the most ignorant and stupid way to solve any argument and is an admission of failure by our elected representatives in an area that we have been involved for many years usually ending in force through arms to bring ‘foreigners to heel’. History has proven, however, the massive mistake of going to war in Iraq, Afghanistan and the pouring of tons of bombs on Libya, hailed a huge success by the Tories but now seen as another failure by British politicians as that country plunges into even more violence.

You have chosen to be part of that continuing failure because you have not learned the lessons of history as if this is a ‘special case’ and history starts with bombing Syria! What arrogance this appears! Britain is no longer the power it was in the pre colonial days even although Cameron may desire to elevate Britain to a position that is of little interest to working people striving to survive in the age of austerity. I fear, with great sorrow, that once again we will have to go through the experience of taking another wrong turn before we once again realise the error of our ways. We should not have fallen into the Tory and Cameron trap of raising our profile among the great powers through the bombing of Syria.

Karl Marx said that history repeats itself – “the first as tragedy, then as farce” That quote is most appropriate in this case, in our opinion.

There is also another very practical reason why you should not have voted for war, Dan you have recently visited Scotland and you are aware of the huge gap between Labour and the SNP. Recent polls show 70% of Scots do not support the bombing of Syria. Our one Scottish MP gallantly voted in favour of the will of the Scots as did the SNP. The fact that many English Labour MP’s voted for the bombing and completely ignored the will of Scottish people is a huge body blow to the efforts of our activists in Scotland in trying to close the huge gap between us and the SNP. The SNP must be rubbing their hands in glee at another huge mistake by Labour and they could increase the gap once again because of the rank stupidity of those who voted for war.

Finally (from Richard) despite the adulation of the press, the Tories and the Blairite right wing of the Labour Party over Hilary Benn’s speech (reminding me of Tony Blair before Iraq) this decision to increase the bloodshed in Syria is an own goal of enormous proportion by the Tories ably supported by you and your colleagues and will cost us dearly in the future. I do not relish this fact and I despair at our lack of intelligence and principle in this matter.

I am afraid to say that as it stands at present, and with the enormous seriousness of the issue, I can no longer shake your hand or support you as our MP in Central ward Dan knowing that you have blood on your hands. Incidentally that goes for our other Barnsley MP’s (thank goodness for the sanity and principles of John Healey MP, a man of honour ). As a Unite activist, a long standing socialist within the Labour Party and an adviser and friend to our migrant members I would be rightly classed as a hypocrite (if I did shake your hand).

Yours sincerely

Richard, and Janet Vivian
Central Ward and Unite Community
(In a personal capacity)

Trade Union and Community Football Tournament

5 aside football Joe rollin
Celebrating Diversity Through Learning

5 a -side Football teams required.

Unite-the-Union-Community-5-a-side-Football-Tournament
Saturday, 16 January 2016 from 13:00 to 18:00 (GMT)
Barnsley FC – Oakwell Ground Barnsley, South Yorkshire S71 1ET

Celebrating diversity in Barnsley as a City of Sanctuary
Welcoming Asylum Seekers and Refugees.

Free Parking will be available at the ground.
Ten minute walk from centre of town and all train and bus connections.

To Register Contact
Linda Hughes – linda.hughes@unitetheunion.org 07958 511 578
Joe Rollin – joe.rollin@unitetheunion.org 07814 336 545
John Coan – john.coan@unitetheunion.org 07711 375536
Please bring your banners, family, friends and supporters!

A buffet will be provided, dietary needs will be considered.
Find us on Facebook: Unite-the-Union-Community-5-a-side-Football-Tournament

Unite Community report from Social Security Summit

This fantastic report from Gerry in the Leeds Community Branch originally appeared on their website here.

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A well-attended conference took place on Saturday 31st October in Birmingham. It was called by Unite Community (Unite the Union’s community wing) and the Public Services and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents workers in the Department of Work and Pensions. It was not only attended by members of these two organisations but also by other groups concerned with social security problems and reform, such as Black Triangle, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres. Two delegates from Unite Community Leeds also attended the conference. The purpose of the summit was ‘to challenge the myths around ‘welfare’ and build a coalition to fight for our safety net’.

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Fran Heathcote, President of PCS’s DWP Section, opens the conference

Setting the scene

The welfare charter

The day was set by Fran Heathcote, President of  PCS’s DWP Section, who outlined the points of a welfare charter recently agreed between PCS, Unite Community, the Unemployed Centres Combine, Trades Union Councils and London Unemployed Strategies. The charter recognises increasing poverty in the UK despite being one of the richest countries on earth but where hunger and eviction are seen as ‘legitimate punishment for not being in work.’ Social security should involve ‘a safe warm home, good food, proper clothing and being able to participate in society.’ The charter lists the following demands:

  • a political commitment to full employment achieved with decent jobs;
  • a wage you can live on for all and a social security system that works to end poverty;
  • no conscription – keep volunteering voluntary;
  • representation for unemployed workers;
  • appoint ombudsman for claimants;
  • equality in the labour market and in access to benefits.

On the basis of the charter and in the context of the current climate, Fran argued for the need for joint campaigning.

The wider context

Steve Turner, Deputy General Secretary of Unite, gave the main opening address in which he painted the broader political and economic context of the struggle for improved social security. He rooted today’s political situation in the rise of neo-liberalism, which began in Chile in the 1970s and was then imported to Britain by Mrs. Thatcher. Following the banking crisis, the Tories are now engaged in an attempt to reinforce this system by means of austerity, through ideological attacks and by silencing the opposition.

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Steve Turner, Unite’s Deputy General Secretary

The interests of rich people are being upheld through tax cuts and tax avoidance totalling some £70 billion each year, while poorer people experience welfare cuts. As Steve suggested: ‘champagne in the board room, foodbanks for the poor.’

An essential part of the Tory project, it was argued, has been to change the narrative about the relationship between the economy and society in order to justify government policies. So, for instance, divisions are drawn between so-called  ‘strivers and shirkers’, suggesting that the social security system is too generous, even though spending on it  is proportionately lower today than it was in the 1980s. But even in-work benefits are now being targeted for cuts.

Steve also argued that the Trade Union Bill is a means of attacking the organised working class and silencing the opposition, a tactic reminiscent of the early silencing of trade unions under fascism. Meanwhile the changes in constituency boundaries will disadvantage Labour and up to 2 million votes may be lost under the voter registration process, which will inform the boundary changes. These and other policies are far-reaching changes, yet the Tories only have the electoral support of 24 per cent of the voting public. In other words, their policies lack legitimacy.

Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, Steve suggested, has given us a moment of hope. The trade union movement has to stand up to attacks and the groups represented at the conference are key in that. There is a long tradition of civil disobedience and bad laws have been broken in the past. He urged the conference to be confident and to resist.

Campaigning workshops

There were also a series of ‘campaigning workshops’ throughout the day. There was one on building a broad based coalition on how to engage with charities, religious bodies, foodbanks and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Another looked at equality and the participation of women, disabled people, young people and black and ethnic minority communities, who are all disproportionately affected by the cuts. One workshop considered the Welfare and Work Bill and what it will mean and how it can be campaigned against. There was also a session on lobbying political representatives to win political support to stop the cuts.

Following Steve’s Turner’s point about the ideological attacks involved in Tory policy, one very well attended workshop focused on reversing or ‘changing the narrative’, which asked the question: ’how do we use the media to get stories out of the true effects of the cuts to the welfare budget’. This is a tough but necessary task, otherwise it will be difficult to shift public opinion.

The struggle over social security

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, kicked off proceedings in the afternoon and his focus was specifically on social security. Echoing some of Steve Turner’s themes, Mark observed how millionaires had been enriched at the expense of poor people. Austerity, he argued,  was indeed ‘a political choice’.

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Mark Serwotka, President of the PCS

The stakes were high in the campaign against social security restructuring, literally, at times, a choice between life and death given the increasing concern about links between the suicide of some claimants and government policy. It was time, Mark argued, that the trade union movement took social security in general more seriously than it had done in the past. He therefore welcomed the conference and the grassroots activity that had inspired it and that had forced social security more on to the trade union agenda.

Historically, the social security system has changed. Mark noted that when he worked within it in the 1980s it was more supportive of people but now staff were pressured to trip claimants up and threaten them with sanctions. Job centre staff increasingly operate under the threat of disciplinary action. Mark argued that there shouldn’t be any sanctions; sanctions don’t create jobs or help people. However, he said that it would take more than the PCS to defeat sanctions. While the fact that the DWP Select Committee report on sanctions had called for an independent review was a start, more needed to be done.

The presence of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell at the dispatch box in parliament presents us with an opportunity to raise our concerns. Social security needs to become more firmly part of the anti-austerity campaign. Mark suggested we need to argue for more housing, particularly for younger people, and that rates of housing benefit to landlords should be lowered. He raised the idea of strike action across the public sector against the one per cent pay freeze. Signs of hope were also reflected in community campaigns, in the recruitment of new members to the Labour party and in the launch of Momentum. The PCS win on the struggle at the National Gallery has also been hopeful and inspirational. The TUC, he argued, should be put under pressure from below on social security questions, to argue for a more generous social security system with higher benefit rates.

Experience from the grassroots

Towards the end of the conference there was an opportunity for grassroots activists to talk to the conference as a whole about their work. Issues that emerged here seemed to revolve around two broad themes: campaigning work and support work, although in reality they often overlap. Speakers from DPAC, Unite Community Durham and Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres spoke with great experience, clarity and inspiration about their work.

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On campaigning, Paula Peters from DPAC, for example, emphasised the importance of maintaining maximum visibility in fighting for campaigns like those against Work Capability Assessments. Examples of DPAC’s work that were given reflected this, such as their social media campaigns and direct action, for example, the ‘balls to the budget event’ earlier this year. She also rightly urged campaigners to put aside differences and unite on common ground in defence of the welfare state.

The other two speakers, Angela Appleby from Unite Community Durham and Colin Hampton from the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres both combined support activities, such as welfare rights advice and food and clothing banks, with more explicit campaigning work, for instance, DWUCs die-in organised in protest against the suicides of people who were unemployed and, in Durham’s case, campaigning work against sanctions. Unite Community Durham also emphasised the importance of skills training such as IT training, which is available in their centre. Interestingly, Durham are also developing work with prisoners.

Colin commented that the election of Jeremy Corbyn provides a moment of hope and less nervousness in the Labour Party about their connection to welfare. Such a moment, Colin suggested, would be a good time to lobby politicians to press for support for the welfare charter.

The final part of the conference involved questions and contributions from the floor of the conference. These included a brilliant suggestion from a member of Black Triangle who proposed that Jeremy Corbyn and Angus Robertson from the SNP be lobbied from the conference to devote a whole Prime Minister’s Question Time to the death of claimants subjected to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The case of Michael O’Sullivan is very relevant here as the coroner drew the link between his suicide and the WCA.

Other issues and questions included the rights of people with Down’s Syndrome, funding the Morning Star as ‘our newspaper’ and the suggestion that Unite Community take up the cause of carers who receive less than recipients of JSA. There was also a plea to take people with addiction problems more seriously. They are often excluded from mainstream society as many of them – in the experience of one delegate – were often more capable than the stereotypes attributed them. Once empowered, their contributions can be ‘impressive’.

Liane Groves, Head of Unite Community, closed the conference by emphasising need to follow up with a campaign strategy and, for starters, suggested a national day of action against sanctions on 16th March, 2016.

Conclusion

Overall, this excellent conference was an opportunity to understand the wider context and issues in the struggle for better social security as well as to be inspired by many outstanding contributions. All of this should help in developing more effective local and national campaigning. However, one key lesson from the day is that ‘changing the narrative’ is crucial in the struggle to mobilise opinion in wider society if social security policy is to be moved in a more humane direction.

Kirklees library cuts plan delayed as scrutiny panel refers decision back to councillors

This story by Dave Himelfield originally appeared in the Huddersfield Examiner.

Plan would lead to closure of two libraries and no funding for 14 of remaining 24

Campaigners against library cuts in Kirklees used a giant lion to get their message across outside Huddersfield Town Hall

Campaigners against library cuts in Kirklees used a giant lion to get their message across outside Huddersfield Town Hall

A controversial plan to cut library services in Kirklees has been delayed after a scrutiny panel referred it back to councillors.

Kirklees Council cabinet members plan to shrink the council’s libraries’ budget from £5.7m to £3.9m.

But the proposal, which would see the closure of two libraries and the end of funding for 14 of the remaining 24, was called before a scrutiny panel.

Now the Labour cabinet has hit another snag after the panel referred the plan, which could lead to 100 redundancies, back to members.

The panel said the cabinet’s proposal failed to supply financial information or evidence as to why certain libraries would be reducing their hours more than others.

Panel chair Clr Julie Stewart-Turner said: “The committee do not feel that the evidence provided makes its clear enough to the stakeholders and wider public about how the hours have been allocated.”

The cabinet was also asked to clarify its categorisation of libraries.

Libraries had been split between ‘community supported libraries’ and ‘town libraries’, affecting what support they would be given by the council.

Kirklees Lib Dem councillor Andrew Pinnock

Kirklees Lib Dem councillor Andrew Pinnock

Clr Andrew Pinnock, one of eight Lib Dems who called the plan in, said the panel had made a fair decision.

He said: “It’s got to be clear for people reading it and it wasn’t.”

But Kirklees cabinet member for resources Graham Turner defended his cabinet’s decision.

Clr Turner said closing two libraries was a ‘real achievement’ considering the Government had slashed his council’s budget.

“I don’t want to close libraries,” he said. “I would love to enhance our libraries.

“I would love to enhance our services but we have budget restrictions from national government. We have had a huge restriction in our budget.”

The Labour member for Denby Dale added: “Closing two libraries – that’s sad. But I would challenge you to find someone who has done so much for so little.

“To close two libraries in this time of austerity is a real achievement.”

It is hoped that libraries, which will remain open but cease to receive council cash, will be run by volunteer groups.

Unite and other unions protest outside Huddersfield Town Hall over the planned library cuts.

Unite and other unions protest outside Huddersfield Town Hall over the planned library cuts.

But ‘keen library goer’ Martin Jones warned the panel of the dangers of leaving community assets to their communities.

He said: “After the initial enthusiasm there is a repeated turnover of volunteers and the need for constant recruitment and training. I don’t feel that has been addressed.”

One protestor at the meeting accused Kirklees cabinet of failing to consider relevant factors while another accused it of making unnecessary, ideological cuts.

But members of newly-formed library volunteer groups were positive about the future of community-run libraries.

Jenny Tomlinson Walsh, from Friends of Mirfield Library, said: “We’ve made good progress and have good expectations for the future of Mirfield Library.

“Though we regret the loss of hours we understand the financial pressures behind this.”

Campaigners against the cuts used a giant inflatable lion in a demonstration outside the town hall.

As the lion was inflated, some of the protesters recited words from Shelley’s epic poem Masque of Anarchy which ends with the words: “Arise like lions from your slumber, In unvanquishable number, Shake to earth your chains like dew, Which in sleep had fallen on you, Ye are many – they are few.”

The protest was organised by Huddersfield, Halifax and Bradford branch of union Unite Community.

Among the protesters was 10-year-old Ava-Maria Dlallo from Salendine Nook, who said: “I’m here because we don’t want the libraries to close. It’s horrible what they’re doing. Everyone likes libraries but they’re closing them down.”

Inside the council chamber protesters handed in a 2,100-signature petition opposing library closures.

Unite Community spokesman Chris Strachan told councillors: “In the Second World War the number of libraries in our communities was increased. If it could be afforded then, why can’t we keep our libraries going now in one of the richest countries in the world? The cuts are not necessary.”

The Labour-controlled council says government cuts are forcing it to make “hard decisions” and that councillors are working to keep open as many libraries as possible.

More on this story: HuddsLibraries

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Footnote

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

23.10.2015

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