Saturday, 21 May 2011

Reaction to Steel Industry Job Cuts

The UK Steel Industry was rocked yesterday by the announcement of 1500 job cuts in its Long Products Business. All of these cuts are to be in the North of England with 300 coming from Teesside, Hartlepool and Skinningrove.
Teesside has only recently breathed a sigh of relief with the sale of part of the Redcar steel plant to Thailand steel company SSI. This sale came after a major campaign by the unions who had to issue a strike threat just to get TATA Steel to talk to prospective buyers.  Now the area will be subject to further uncertainty surrounding the future of workers’ jobs.
However the biggest devastation is occurring at Scunthorpe where 1200 jobs are set to be cut and the Queen Bess Blast Furnace being mothballed after 73 years of production. Also set to close is the Bloom and Billet mill.The promise of over £400m of investment in the business is welcome but this investment has obviously come at a price for those that will lose their livelihoods. It is a pity that this investment was not forthcoming when the record profits were being achieved, profits that Long Products contributed significantly to.
The lack of demand for its product is being blamed with very little demand in the construction industry which is one of the main customers for the Long Products part of TATA Steel.
This proves that the public sector cuts and lack of growth in the UK economy are beginning to take effect in the private sector.Sustainable growth will only be achieved by investment in the UK infrastructure to create a demand for the products of the Steel Industry and UK Manufacturing. Instead of cutting back we need a Government that is prepared to stimulate the economy and provide jobs for the UK workforce. The blame for these job losses lies at the door of the Con-Dem Government not the workers in the Steel Industry who now face an uncertain future.
Historically job losses in UK Steel have been accepted due to enough people wanting Voluntary redundancy but this acceptance cannot and should not continue. Unite needs to start punching its weight in the Steel Industry and begin organise the members. We must build workplace organisation, engage with the membership and encourage them to take ownership of their union. Then and only then will they realise that these jobs are not theirs to sell.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

UNITE members vote Left to back Len McCluskey

With nearly all seats now declared, UNITE’s Executive Council elections have delivered a thumping majority for United Left, which strongly backed Len McCluskey for General Secretary in the election last year. United Left has won 43 seats on UNITE’s new 65-seat Executive, ensuring Len McCluskey will have strong support for a left vision for UNITE, including opposition to all the ConDem Government’s spending cuts, vigorous support for its members who wish to take strike action and a much more proactive strategy to win back the Labour Party to trade union values.

“This is an excellent result for the Left in UNITE” said Martin Mayer Chair of United Left. “United Left has won two thirds of the seats on UNITE’s new Executive Council – and most of the others we believe will be supportive of Len McCluskey and our United Left agenda. This means UNITE can now go forward with a clear left vision for a strong, united fighting back Union – and put behind it the three years of division and internal struggle which characterised the Union under the dual leadership of former AMICUS and TGWU General Secretaries”. 

After at times quite bitter internal disagreements between former AMICUS’ leadership team under Derek Simpson and former TGWU’s leadership under Tony Woodley, UNITE’s 1.3 million members have decidedly rejected the more moderate, Labour-loyalist and pro-business approach of the former AMICUS’ leadership, which often stood opposed to moves for strong lay member democracy in the new Union. “Both the General Secretary election and the recent Executive Council elections gave UNITE’s membership a choice of which direction they wished their Union to follow,” said Martin Mayer. “The membership have chosen United Left’s vision of a fighting back union based on strong lay membership democracy and control – a Union which stands up for its members and backs them if they want to take on their employer – a Union which will fight the ConDem spending cuts including through co-ordinated strike action – and a Union which will punch a much stronger voice in the Labour Party and elsewhere for policies which benefit working people and their families.”

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Steelworkers to Receive Above Average Pay Rise

Annual pay talks at TATA Steel UK have now been concluded. The final offer from the company is 3.5% which is slightly above average for UK Manufacturing Industry.
Unite are now in the process of consulting members but the union is recommending acceptance.
The pay will be backdated to April 2011 but is reliant upon agreement being reached regards local quarterly bonus payments. The bonus arrangements should not be significantly affected but will include a new model on calculation. Surely this is an opportunity to rid ourselves of the usual practice of percentage bonus payments which only serve to reward the higher paid. The unions should be demanding that every employee receives the same amount of money from the pot.
Whilst I have no criticism of the pay offer I do have concerns about how our pay claim is formalised.
Little or no involvement of members occurs and they do not get updates of company offers until the final offer is made. Surely this is their pay rise and should be consulted at every opportunity.
Hopefully we will soon have a Workplace Branch and see a greater involvement of members in union issues.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Labour Lose Overall Control of North Lincolnshire Council

Now that the dust has settled on last week's local elections it's time to reflect on one of the few failures for Labour.
Labour held a one seat majority over the opposition in North Lincolnshire and with the current political climate  were firm favourites to retain control.
Early declarations showed that the Tories had gained 3 seats from Independents but this was not too worrying as the Independents were all but Tory anyway.
Then came the news that Dave Oldfield former Unite Convenor at Scunthorpe Steelworks had won by 1 vote in Burringham and Gunness thereby gaining a seat from the Tories. This news looked like securing the expected victory.
Throughout the day the other ward results  came in as expected leaving the two parties neck and neck at 20 seats each with only one ward left to declare.
Burton upon Stather and Winterton returned 3 Labour Councillors in 2007 so it looked on face value that Labour couldn't lose. Eventually after 6 recounts the news came through that Labour had lost all 3 seats to Conservative leaving them with a working majority of 3.
This leaves Labour with work to do over the next 4 years and surely must start to reignite the local branches into action and start connecting with local people.
This could lead to more members and a far more active party at grassroots level.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

United Left statement on the ConDem cuts

April 9th 2011 as agreed at United Left AGM, London

This United Left unanimously confirms its opposition to all the ConDem Government’s spending cuts. We commit ourselves to fight this ideologically-driven assault on our much valued public services and welfare state which is designed to make working people pay for the economic crisis of capital. Of course there is an alternative – reclaim the missing tax billions from the banks, the multinationals and the rich and powerful in our society who are getting away Scott free! Maintain public spending and invest in our future to keep people in jobs and boost the economy!

We congratulate our General Secretary and our UNITE Executive Council in their position of opposing all ConDem Government’s cuts and their call for co-ordinated industrial action, but much more needs to be done.
UNITE’s position needs to be communicated much more effectively to our officers and staff; our constitutional committees; our shop stewards and activists; our political (Labour Party Liaison) structures; UNITE MPs and Councillors – and to the media and the wider public. We have concern at the confusing messages apparently still being heard within certain sections of UNITE apparently sympathetic to the Labour leadership’s message of “Too Far, Too Fast” – the so-called “dented shield approach”. This must be robustly dealt with without delay.
We must do more to educate and engage our lay representatives, shop stewards and activists across all sectors of our Union and equip them with the arguments they need to use to engage our members and our local communities if the fightback against the cuts is to be effective. This campaign requires leadership from the top but also grassroots activity at local level.
We encourage all branches and constitutional committees to send resolutions to their Regional Committees and National Industrial Sector Committee and the Executive Council confirming their support for a robust strategy of fighting all ConDem cuts.
UNITED LEFT firmly believes co-ordinated industrial action is an essential tool in the fight against the cuts. Those decisions will of course be taken by our members in democratic postal ballots, but first they must know that they will have their Union’s full support and therefore the confidence to contemplate and then fight for industrial action. We therefore urge our General Secretary to write to all NISCs with a strong message of encouragement to take up the fight. This communication should go not just to those public sector NISCs who are in the direct firing line from the cuts, but to all NISC including those in the private sector. We are seeing an employers’ offensive unleashing itself against all workers - on their pay and conditions, their pensions and their collective bargaining rights. If workers vote to take strike action, they should be encouraged to co-ordinate their strike dates with others in dispute to maximise their effect. We particularly urge an immediate fight back through public sector co-ordinated strikes over pensions and job cuts, in conjunction with other unions.
UNITED LEFT believes we must take the fight to the Labour Party at all levels and make it clear that UNITE cannot support a position of “Too Far, Too Fast” – the so-called “dented shield approach”. We must urgently communicate with UNITE MPs and Councillors to make sure they have an unequivocal message from UNITE of opposing all cuts. They must know they will receive the full support of UNITE if they face disciplinary or other action for supporting UNITE policy. We must ensure UNITE supports candidates for election who oppose the cuts.
UNITED LEFT is determined that UNITE will never abandon those who face the most serious cuts of all; the poor and vulnerable in our society including the disabled, the unemployed and those on low incomes who are now beginning to suffer real hardship as the £18B Welfare Benefits cuts begin to bite. Some are our members but many are not. UNITE’s success in fighting the cuts will require us to stand shoulder to shoulder with those at the sharp end of these, the most vicious cuts of all, hitting those who often have no voice. We urge and encourage our UNITE activists, shop stewards and members to get involved in the fightback, linking up trade unionists with students, pensioners, tenants associations, community groups, the unemployed and welfare claimants.
This is a fight to defend our class. We must redouble our efforts to ensure we will win that fight. United Left believes UNITE’s leadership is now on board. Now we must ensure that message runs through UNITE at all levels in everything we do.