Branch newsletter – read it here!

You can read the first issue of our newly-launched branch newsletter here

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Joint trade union statement on the Labour Party

Many Unison members will feel disappointed that, at a time of national crisis, with jobs threatened more than ever, and the ruling Conservative Party seemingly giving up running the country, and with a General Election possible, Labour MPs have picked this moment to launch an attempt to remove their leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis has joined other union leaders in making this statement. It is on the national website too.

 

“The current crisis within the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply regrettable and unnecessary.  Last week’s vote to leave the European Union presents the entire labour movement with unprecedented challenges.  Above all, we need to be fighting to preserve our members’ jobs, already under threat in several industries and across the public sector as a consequence.  The government is in crisis, but already serious debates are taking place and decisions being made which profoundly affect the interests of working people.

Under these circumstances, our members and millions of others will be looking with dismay at the events in parliament.  It cannot be right to seek to denude the Labour front bench at this time, when the government more than ever needs to be scrutinised and held to account by an effective and united opposition that does the job it is paid to do

Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically-elected Leader of our Party who secured such a resounding mandate less than ten months ago under an electoral procedure fully supported by Labour MPs.  His position cannot and should not be challenged except through the proper democratic procedures provided for in the Party’s constitution.  We urge all Labour MPs to abide by those procedures, and to respect the authority of the Party’s Leader.

While we have stated that we believe a Leadership election would be an unwelcome distraction at this time of crisis, if one nevertheless occurs through the proper procedures we would expect all parts of the Party to honour the result and pull together in the interests of the country, and working people in particular.  The only party that can win for working people is a strong and united Labour Party.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU

Brian Rye, Acting General Secretary, UCATT

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF

Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU

Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM”

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Unison wins better pay and conditions for home care staff

Over some time, this branch of UNISON (as well as nationally) has been working hard to try and ensure some basic standards of employment are agreed by outside providers of home care to service users in the community and are being written into employment contracts.
This is in accordance with the national union’s Ethical Care Charter campaign.
We are very pleased to announce that the new Home Care contract drawn up by Brighton & Hove City Council, due to commence in September 2016, will include the following for the first time:
Home Carers will be paid the Living Wage of £8.25 per hour
Travel time between visits to the service user will be paid by the employer to the employee, together with any costs associated with their work (i.e. mobile phone use)
Carers will be given the freedom to provide appropriate care and the time to talk to their client; 15 minute visits to the service user will not be used
Staff will have the choice of either fixed term contracts or nil hours (if they want flexibility of work)
This has certainly gone a long way from previously, where staff were being paid under the minimum wage because of not being paid for travel time/costs etc. Many of our members working for such employers had a very rough deal and this Charter goes a long way to addressing that.
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Defend the NHS public meeting – June 30th

Defend the NHS public meeting on 30th June
Politicians and media are not telling the truth about attacks on the NHS.
We didn’t vote for this. We have to stop it.
Come to the Defend the NHS public meeting at St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Kemptown, on Thursday 30th June, 7-9pm.
Speakers:
Caroline Lucas MP; Joanne Land Co-convenor NHS Momentum; Todd Leckie Junior Doctor; Stephen McLean Mental Health Nurse & UNISON Sussex Partnership (pc); Charles Harrity GMB; Doctors of the World; Mitch Alexander Save Bevendean Surgery;Dr Carl Walker Brighton University; Danielle Tiplady Bursary or Bust; Brighton SolFed members; Mike Campbell Protect Our NHS Bristol; Vicky Penner Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign & 38 Degrees
Building accessible; Induction loop; Refreshments; Street parking
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Council cuts cleaners pay – due to Living Wage increase!

 

Cleaning staff employed by Nviro at Council Offices have had a unilateral pay cut - they have been
forced to reduce their hours by half an hour per week, to pay for a Living Wage increase. The council
and Nviro expect them to do the same amount of work, but take home less pay!
Why?
Council Officers were instructed to refuse Nviro's request to increase the contract price to take
account of this paltry pay rise, so they told their staff their hours would be cut. This, from a
firm whose own website states they are a "Company with a conscience", and whose turnover
in 2014 was a mere £70 million.

And the Council?
At Policy and Resources, on 29/11/2012, with cross party support, it was agreed to pay the
National Living Wage (currently £8.25) to Council staff and to give a "commitment to meet
any annual increase in the Living Wage rate (for Council or relevant
contracted staff)".
When other companies took similar action to avoid forking out for the new legal “Living
Wage”, even George Osborne said it made him “angry” as they weren't acting “in the spirit
of the law”. He said “"I think that companies these days should be much more careful about their
reputation and much more aware of their social responsibility to their workforce as well as
to their community." 

Meanwhile, the GMB have forced Carillion, cleaners contractors for Nationwide (a principle partner
for the Living Wage Foundation!), to reverse their cut-pay-by-cutting-hours by
preparing to ballot for strike action.

UNISON is now seeking urgent clarification from the Labour administration as to whether it will
force officers to comply with a Council Policy. Similarly, that the Council ensures that Nviro will both
pay the Living Wage (at £8.25 per hour), this is backdated to 1st April, and cleaners hours are
restored to 31st March onwards.  
Brighton & Hove City Council is in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and UNISON, in the
local Living Wage Campaign (267 organizations are "signed up") - we ask, is this campaign just a
good PR opportunity for them, or will our politicians stand up for the lowest paid in the City?

 

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An Open Letter to Cllr. Tom Bewick : Don’t Fine Parents For Their Kids’ Strike Against SATS Tests

Dear Councillor Bewick,

I hope this finds you well.

I am writing on behalf of UNISON members, who are both parents of children in our local schools and employees within school support.

We are deeply concerned that the apparent response to the decision made by these parents to remove their child from school as part of an action regarding concerns around testing in schools, was a legalistic response around fining these parents for removing their children! I am sure you will agree that these parents care very much about the good education of their children as well as about maintaining the good mental health of their child through their years at school.

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Don’t fine their parents for resisting Tory tests

I have no doubt that you appreciate the issue of why parents are taking such action and this issue requires careful thought rather than a “knee-jerk” response about being fined! A mature discussion needs to take place to understand parents’ concerns, and threats about fining do nothing to add to the conversations required. You have said they should express their views at the ballot box…..all very well but by 2020 the damage to these children will have been done. A response such as this again, in our view and those of our many members, is not helpful nor does it add to the content of the discussion needed.

Many of our members affected by this action who work in schools, are in lower paid posts and the comments I have received with regard to the response you have given (and presumably agreed by the Labour Group as a whole) are not printable here. To not engage in a somewhat more open and detailed discussion does little to help find resolution.

I would also like to make you aware of the stress levels faced by school support staff – teaching assistants, admin workers and others. In part this level of stress is down to how the school copes at SATS time. A new UNISON survey has revealed that more than half (52%) of these staff within the UK have and are experiencing stress, anxiety and/or depression. Almost half of support staff are considering leaving their job thanks to low pay, stress and unmanageable workloads. Teaching assistants in particular are forced into taking on teaching roles on a regular basis, covering classes with no support and causing high stress levels and ill-health,. Is this the kind of environment that any of us wish to see our children being educated in?? I’m sure not!

The current Labour Group rightly asks the public to consider who is to blame for the current ills in public services at this time. We can agree that the blame lies fairly and squarely on the decision making of this current government. For you to then respond to such an impassioned action as that taken earlier this week by parents surely evidences that this Labour administration appears not to care any more than the Government does on this issue.

I would be grateful to receive a more detailed response to the Group’s view on this action so that this (together with this e-mail) can be shared with our affected members, both parents and employees of the Council in schools.

I look forward to hearing from you

Regards

Sue Beatty

UNISON Branch Secretary

Brighton & Hove Branch

Reply From Cllr. Tom Bewick

Dear Sue,

Thank you for your letter which I have noted.

I stand by the public comments I have made in this matter. As a father of children at council schools in the city, I am very attuned to the concerns about testing and the impact that can have on them.

I am clearly on record, going back many years, that I oppose the current top-down testing regime as it has been constantly changed and used by this government.

I have a duty in public office however to ensure the law is applied fairly. Parents know the law. They cannot expect me to support them in this regard therefore, whatever the specific merits of the case regarding the current SATs regime.

I believe council officers have also been fair and proportionate in the guidance they have issued to schools. It is for head teachers to take the responsibility to record absences.

You should be aware that parents who did not engage in this action have written to me asking why the Administration has not taken a much tougher line.

Best wishes,

Councillor Tom Bewick
Lead Member, Children, Young People and Skills
Labour and Co-operative Councillor for Westbourne Ward, Hove
@Lab_Westbourne
www.westbournehove.org

Reply From Sue Beatty, Branch Sec Brighton & Hove Unison

Dear councillor Bewick,

Thank you for your response.

I do not believe I requested that you should support breaking the law; my mum had an old adage which was “if you can’t say anything helpful, don’t say anything at all” and this is what I believe our members feel.  It is not the lack of “support” that our members are criticising, it is the fact that you chose to make  such a statement around fining parents when the issue is clearly a far bigger and deeper one than that and other comment could have been made which was more pertinent!

As an elected member and given that a significant number of these parents are traditional Labour supporters, it was interesting that of all the comments that could have been made, mentioning parents being fined seemed inappropriate and upsetting.

I’m curious as to how the Administration could take a tougher line; it is not for any elected member to impose sanctions on parents acting in the best interest of their children, but the Heads of the affected schools.

Regards

Sue Beatty

UNISON Branch Secretary

Brighton & Hove Branch

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Three Strikes But We’re Not Out

Brighton and Hove Unison members have been involved in supporting three strikes in the last week. But we won’t be balloting for strike action ourselves this year.

 

Last Tuesday saw two strikes, by doctors and railway workers – patient and passenger safety being central to both disputes. Branch members joined hundreds of Unison Health Conference delegates to march with the doctors to their picket line at the Sussex County, where they were addressed by Unison general Secretary Dave Prentis as well as strikers from the British Medical Association.

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Unison’s General Secretary listening to striking Junior Doctors

 

 

Some branch members, as parents, also took part in the country’s first strike of school students against SATS tests. Thousands of parents too their primary school children out of school for the day, despite threats of fines, to protest against new testing regimes which parents say causes unnecessary stress to children. Teaching unions have also criticised the “exam factory approach” and have expressed fears that test results will lead to forced academies.

 

Brighton & Hove Unison will be releasing a statement on the school strike. Our members are not just parents with stressed out children, but work in schools as teaching assistants, admin workers and other vital roles. Teaching assistants have also been affected by the SATS as many lessons requiring small group work such as swimming have been cancelled so that teaching assistants can help out with the SATS.

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Protesting against new grammar tests!

 

 

Perhaps its not surprising that “A new UNISON survey has revealed that more than half (52%) of school support staff in the UK have experienced stress, anxiety or depression.” The survey revealed that “two-fifths of those …… had difficulty completing their work, and more than one in eight said they found it impossible to manage all that was being asked of them.” Little wonder that “almost half of support staff (47%) said they are considering leaving their jobs thanks to low pay, stress and huge workloads.”

 

As for our own pay dispute, many branch members will have been disappointed not to have been able to join with other trade unions resisting this government. However, we can be certain that the governments drive to pay us pay for their crisis is far from over. We will continue to strengthen union organisation locally, and our links to other union branches, in preparation for what is yet to come.

 

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