Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of 2011 - Keep on keepin' on 'till the fight is won

2011 has been a challenging year – we’ve won some and we’ve lost some. Thanks must go to all North Somerset UNISON members who have got involved in the branch, either by becoming branch officers, reps and contacts, or by simply standing up and being counted on picket lines, and at marches and rallies.

In January and February the branch did a lot of work lobbying North Somerset Council in the run up to their budget setting meeting, where they were proposing to make £18.5 million of cuts, including cuts to services to the elderly, disabled, children and young people. We spent a lot of time trying to get the council to undertake equality impact assessments on all their cuts proposals. We provided councillors with numerous documents and spoke at and lobbied both January and February council meetings. The council finally produced a 100 page document of equality impact assessments for their budget cuts 1 week before their budget setting meeting.

In March the branch took 2 coach loads of members and their families to the March for the Alternative in London. 500,000 people marched against the Tory Cuts and for the alternative, which is about making our taxation system fairer, clamping down on tax avoidance and tax evasion, and taxing those that caused the financial crisis. It was a truly historic day.

In March the branch was involved in a number of events on Weston High Street and at Weston General Hospital talking to members and non-members about the NHS bill.

In April UNISON members met in Liverpool for the annual Health Conference, where most of the debates were about Tory plans to privatise the NHS. We also saw what has become the video of the year – the Andrew Lansley Rap – “Andrew Lansley greedy, Andrew Lansley T****r… The NHS is not for sale you grey-haired manky codger.” Sadly, later in the year, the bill passed through parliament almost un-noticed by national TV news, and is currently making its journey through the Lords. But it’s not too late to stop it.

Also in April the branch finally made in onto Facebook, even though we’d had a website, blog and Twitter account for quite a while. Facebook was the final frontier.

In May the branch banner played a starring role in an exhibition of Trade Union banners designed by Ed Hall at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. The banner went backwards and forwards between Manchester and Weston a couple of times, as we needed it for the 30th June Day of Action against the Cuts, and the Tolpuddle festival.

In May the local elections returned the Conservative administration in North Somerset with their majority only slightly cut. This was very disappointing and the low numbers of opposition councillors continues to make things difficult for us, despite many of the opposition councillors being sympathetic to UNISON’s aims.

Also in May our branch secretary Helen Thornton stepped down after almost 3 years in the role. Helen had always intended to step down after 2 years away from her job, and with a temporary secondment to UNISON regional office, and her strong feeling that it was time for somebody else to have a go, Helen stepped down to become Communications and Service Conditions Officer. The branch was without a branch secretary for a few months, although our Chair Helen Davies was during this time effectively branch secretary in all but name. After a few months Helen eventually took on the role, and is doing a brilliant job.

In May the branch moved office twice – first to another location in the town hall, and then to Badger House – this is a temporary location due to the refurbishment of the town Hall.

In June a couple of North Somerset UNISON delegates spoke at UNISON’s national conference in Manchester. Toni Mayo spoke about the cuts to Sure Start, and Pat Barrett spoke about the cuts to the NHS and pensioner poverty.

Also in June North Somerset UNISON showed its support for the 30th June strike by our sister unions PCS, NUT, ATL and UCU, with a number of our retired members attending the march and rally in Bristol.

Through the summer our pensions campaign started to get off the ground. Our retired member Pat Barrett was the “poster woman” for the UNISON South West campaign, with a particularly good video performance, where Pat talked about her so-called gold-plated pension! Through September, October and November, the branch held numerous meetings throughout North Somerset on pensions and cuts.

On 30th November North Somerset UNISON members took industrial action over pensions. After some picketing in the morning, members travelled into Bristol to join 20,000 other trade unionists from 30 different unions in a march through Bristol and a rally at Castle Park.

For most of the year we successfully fought off attempts by North Somerset Council to remove / reduce unsocial hours payments from some of our lowest paid members. The council began its attack with the Home Care START team. In the last few months of the year our members accepted a compromise deal negotiated by UNISON. But this issue is set to rear its ugly head in the new year.

Throughout the year the branch has been involved in numerous service reviews, and represented well over 100 members in individual cases.

In the final quarter of the year we have been involved and resisted the massive reorganisation of Children’s and Young People’s Services, which will result in a service focusing on only 300 families in North Somerset, with little early intervention or preventative work done, along with the complete removal of Youth Services. Young people from North Somerset Youth Clubs have shown their feelings about the cuts by launching a campaign to save youth services, and we have helped them by providing transport to council meetings and putting them in touch with the media. We’ve had some great local TV coverage for our lobby of the November council meeting, and the Youth march in December – on both occasions the young people really did themselves proud.

Throughout the year we have worked with colleagues in other Trade Unions through the Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council, and the Weston Anti-Cuts Alliance. We held a number of public Anti-Cuts meetings, and also a few Weston High street events, where we have spoken to members of the public about the cuts. Colleagues from the PCS, NUT, UNITE and RMT also joined us at our many council demonstrations.

For our Anti-Privatisation campaigns we have had some successes and some failures. Throughout the year most North Somerset secondary schools either became or plan to become Academies. Our members at the Winter Gardens, Playhouse, Tourist Information, Museum, and Dual Use Sports Centres were transferred to the private and voluntary sector. Our members at North Somerset PCT were transferred to a Social Enterprise in October.

We continue to put pressure on the council regarding their outsourcing of Support Services, as we believe it is not making the savings claimed, and that services are poorer as a result of the privatisation. Throughout this year we put numerous freedom of information requests in regarding the performance of the Support Services contract, and finally got access to some crucial documents in November. We also did our own survey of members on the performance of the contract – both those members who had been transferred, and those council workers who continue to receive support services. We wrote to the council to ask them to review the contract – their initial response was that they had no plans to do so, but they have since changed their mind. The results of our members survey will be shared with the council as part of this review.

As we start 2012 we will continue to fight the cuts in North Somerset – we have lobbies planned for the council meetings in January and February, as well as weekly members meetings in the run up to their budget setting meeting on 21st February. In 2012 it looks likely that we will be fighting against pretty much all of Adult Social Care going into a Social Enterprise, along with cuts to the Library service, which may result in the increased use of volunteers, and maybe even library closures. We also have a possible reduction in our facility time to contend with.

Also, in January and February we will be running meetings to update members on the latest news on the pensions dispute. 2012 will be another challenging year for UNISON members, but we have shown by our action on 30th November that we’re up for the fight. We will, in the words of the Redskins, that great Socialist band of the 1980s “Keep on keepin’ on ‘till the fight is won.”

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Latest Update on Pensions Negotiations - 21st December 2011

Local Government Pensions Update - click here

NHS Pensions Update - click here

To keep up with all the latest news on the pensions negotiations go to the UNISON national website

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Youth March coverage in Bristol Evening Post

Marching youngsters protest over proposed cuts to Somerset youth services

PLACARD-waving youngsters marched through the streets of Weston-super-Mare to protest against planned cuts to North Somerset’s youth service.

More than 40 youngsters took part in a march from the Grand Pier to North Somerset Council headquarters to hand in a petition protesting against the cuts.​March
Youngsters march through Weston-super-Mare
Molly Ashman and Sophie Miles present a petition against cuts to youth services to Mike
Sophie Miles, Molly Ashman and Charlie Lane with the petition at the Grand Pier

Authority leaders announced earlier this year it intends to slash its youth service budget from £1.142 million to just £282,736 by 2013.

Youth worker jobs will be deleted and funding currently allocated to a number of youth clubs across the district cut, with the authority asking community groups, parents, churches, schools, and town councils to help plug the gap in provision.

The move has left a question mark hanging over youth clubs right across the district, including Portishead which has just undergone a £1 million redevelopment.

The march was organised by teenagers Sophie Miles, 15 and Molly Ashman, 14, who both attend Nailsea Youth Club and Charlie Lane, from Portishead Youth Club.

Sophie – who handed a 600-name petition from Nailsea Youth Club members against the cuts – said: “I hope this protest sends a strong message to those in charge of the council. I hope they will now listen to what we are saying and will continue to put councillors under pressure.”

Molly said: “We are not going to let this issue lie and plan to lobby the council again further at its next meeting in January.”

Youngsters from The Barn, Clevedon, also joined the protest.

Vicky Bussey, 12, said: “If the youth clubs close, young people will have nowhere to meet and enjoy different activities. The youth club provides a safe place for us all to go and I am worried lots of young people will end up on the streets if they are closed.”

Charlie questioned the authority’s executive member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Jeremy Blatchford, who spoke with the teenagers outside the town hall.

Charlie, 18, said: “What the council is doing is not best for young people. I hope councillors realise we mean business and we will keep fighting.”

Overall the youth service will see the equivalent of 24 full-time youth worker posts cut.

The youth service will be replaced by a new community family service providing support to the 300 most vulnerable families.

North Somerset Council is facing making overall cuts of £47 million to its budgets over the next four years – £18.6 million this year alone – in a bid to balance its books.

Mr Blatchford said: "“I commend the young people but it is not possible to keep things as they are.

“We are talking with town and parish councils and a lot of other people who are seeking to work with our assistance to set up in the same buildings with the youth clubs.”

Youth workers who are currently part of the general provision would no longer be employed by North Somerset. They could be employed by others or self-employed and work for centres both within North Somerset and in other adjoining districts. Those organising youth clubs could call in other expertise in specific areas.

“This is a big change because the present system is very structured,” said Mr Blatchford. “We have 19,000 young people in North Somerset and only 300 use youth centres.”

He said youth centres are currently not open on Fridays and weekends because of staff terms. The issue will next be on the agenda at the budget-fixing meeting on February 21.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Youth March - 19th December 2011

You can hear the Youth Services campaign leader Charlie Lane and Helen Thornton from North Somerset UNISON talking about Youth Services with Councillor Jeremy Blatchford on BBC Radio Bristol this morning on the iplayer for the next 7 days. Fast forward to 1 hour 35 minutes into the progamme:

BBC video of the march is here:

Members of Nailsea, Portishead, Clevedon, Weston and Pill Youth Clubs marched through Weston super Mare in the pouring rain today. Here are some photos of the march, protesting outside the town hall, and then Charlie Lane speaking directly to Councillor Jeremy Blatchford.

A great banner - "Blatchford Get Your Facts Right".

Liberal Democrat councillor Mike Bell with the protestors.

Councillor Blatchford was on Radio Bristol this morning saying that the young people would need to make an appointment if they wanted to see him. He obviously realised his mistake and came back from a meeting at Nailsea to talk to them outside the town hall today.

Charlie Lane tells Councillor Blatchford that North Somerset Council are concentrating too much on older people and not investing in young people who are the future.

Charlie Lane tells Councillor Blatchford that she attended a council meeting where councillors were more interested in whether or not they'd have to pay for parking than in providing youth services.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Save North Somerset Youth Services - Sign the Petition

Please help save the North Somerset Youth Service! We need 10,000 signatures by mid January to have a platform to speak.

‘Add your signature’ to the e-petition:
And spread the word by liking them on facebook, search ‘Save North Somerset Youth Service’.
Let’s fight together!
(Please be aware that the e-petition site is occasionally under repair… If it doesn’t work straight away don’t forget to try it again later!)

Youth March - 19th December

Members of Nailsea, Portishead, Clevedon and Weston Youth Clubs will assemble at the Grand Pier in Weston super Mare on 19th December at 12 noon, and then march to the Town Hall, where they will hand in a petition to stop the closure of their youth clubs.

North Somerset UNISON members are strongly encouraged to give your support by marching with them - it is the lunch hour!

Coach Pickups:
Portishead, Youth Club, Harbour Road (opp Waitrose)10.30am
Nailsea, Youth House, 65 High Street, Nailsea, BS48 1AW 10.45am
Clevedon, The Barn, Great Western Road, Clevedon, BS21 6HB 11.00am

Grand Pier Weston super Mare 3.00pm (drop off at Clevedon, Nailsea and

You need to book your place on the coach by contacting Charlie Lane at Portishead Youth Club and Sophie Miles at Nailsea Youth Club.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Let's End In-Work Poverty

The Fair Pay Network is dedicated to leading the fight against endemic levels of low-paid work in the UK and the increasing prevalence of in-work poverty that blight our social and economic landscape. They believe that fair pay levels are a right, not a privilege and that no one who works should live in poverty. To this end they work to shape a country in which both the incidence and social and economic costs to the public of low-paid work and working poverty are sharply reduced.

Watch their new video

More information at

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The People's Charter - Meeting 10th December

Meeting 10th December

Since the People’s Charter was adopted by the TUC in 2009 it has gone from strength to strength in the Trade Union movement, with 16 national trade unions now signed up to the Charter. Now the Trade Union Councils, who are playing a leading role in the anti cuts movement in many areas have put their weight behind the Charter, taking up building the People’s Charter in its current work programme.

All Trades Councils are being invited to send a member to a meeting to discuss work to build the Peoples Charter, convened by Bob Crow, RMT and President of the TUC Joint Consultative Committee and Bill Greenshields, Trade Union Officer for the People’s Charter. Bombardier Works Committee are also invited.
The meeting will take place 1 – 3pm, at the Waterfall Bar, Midland Railway Institute Building, Railway Terrace, Derby DE1 2RU.

If you are a member of your local trades council please consider attending so that you can be part of this important meeting.

Find out more at:

The People’s Charter is an alternative to austerity, cuts and unemployment

The People’s Charter is for all people who don’t agree that soaring unemployment and cuts to public spending, pay, pensions and benefits are unavoidable. Who think a fairer system, for the majority, would be more stable.

1. A fairer economy for a fairer Britain
  • Claim back the £120b unpaid tax owed by the super rich, and end tax avoidance and evasion which costs us £70b each year
  • Nationalise banking & finance industry and use the £90b a year this brings to the public purse to facilitate lending with low interest rates and invest in jobs and communities
  • Progressive income tax, a new higher rate for £50,000+ and a wealth tax on the richest 10% to raise £83b a year
  • Raise Corporation Tax and levy a windfall Tax on company superprofits to raise £26b a year, reduce VAT
  • A tax on financial transactions, ban hedge funds to raise a further £20b
2. More and better jobs
  • Legislate to prevent redundancies in profitable industries.
  • Compel re-investment of a percentage of profits in industry
  • Government support and private investment to create new jobs.
  • Prevent the super-exploitation of migrant workers, which entrench poverty and undermines established rates for the job
  • An education/work/training guarantee for young people.
  • End casual work, and abuse of short contracts.
  • Reduce working hours, not pay and enforce and increase the minimum wage.
3. Improved public services
  • Publicly funded and accountable public services based on the needs of Britain and its people
  • End all fragmentation, competitive market models, privatisation and profit making in public services
  • Re-nationalise energy, transport, water, post and telecommunications.
  • Get rid of the market from our Further and Higher Education systems, ensure access regardless of wealth
4. Fairness and Justice
  • Redistribute wealth from the richest 10% who current own 80% of the nation’s wealth
  • Pay, pensions and benefits policies for better standards of living
  • Women’s equality in work and community
  • Stop racism and scapegoating of migrant workers
  • End the demonisation of young people
  • Stop discrimination against disabled people; equal access to jobs and social provision
  • Respect and equality for people of all sexualities
  • Stop the erosion of civil liberties, and the use of oppressive policing
  • Restore Legal Aid funding
  • Repeal anti-union laws, restore union rights
5. Decent homes for all
  • End repossessions through no-interest loans from nationalised banks
  • Bring back rent control and security for private tenants, stopping the exclusion of the poor from our city centres
  • End council house sales and transfers to the private sector
  • 3 million new council homes and security for council tenants.
6. A secure and sustainable future for all
  • Action and investment to defend the environment, for a million new green jobs.
  • End the waste of billions of pounds on war for oil, and on nuclear weapons.
  • End the debt economy in Britain and cancel the debts of the poor of the planet.
  • Sovereignty and independence for all nations, and solidarity between ordinary people of all nations
  • End economic competition between workers in different countries. Stop the race to the bottom.
  • Stop the forced movement of millions of people in search of work and security.
  • End austerity, economic collapse, war, famine and misery.
A Charter for the people!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

March for Mothers - 18th March 2012?

At a meeting of the Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council last night a suggestion was made about further action over pensions and cuts - that we organise a march for Mothers Day on 18th March 2012.

Women make up two thirds of the public sector workforce and are being hardest hit by cuts to jobs, cuts to terms and conditions and cuts to pay and pensions. In the area of North Somerset the gender pay gap is higher than both the average for the South West and the country. At North Somerset Council female workers are seeing their unsocial hours payments reduced, having their jobs downgraded, as well as being made redundant. Female unemployment, along with youth unemployment is at record levels.

In addition, as the excellent report by the Bristol Fawcett Society has shown, women are being hit by public spending cuts in the areas of: employment, housing, incomes and poverty, education and training, violence against women, health, social care and other support services, legal advice services, women's voluntary organisations, and transport - download the report here:

Anyone who is a mother, or has a mother, could take part in the march, and this would pretty much cover everyone.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Weston Mercury article on 30th November strike in North Somerset

The mass walkoutforced 34 schools across the region to be closed or partially shut, giving pupils a day off school and causing problems for working parents who had to find a way of looking after their children. No secondary schools were open anywhere in North Somerset.

Health services, libraries and Bristol Airport were also similarly affected by the industrial action. Protesters outside Somerset House said what the Government had proposed was unfair.

Sam Taylor, who works in adult social services, said she hoped the strike action would force Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to change his mind and said she was prepared to strike again if his position did not change.

Her views were echoed by colleague Nikki Askins who said the pension reforms had been the final straw. She said: “We haven’t had a pay rise in many years. The Government has already announced that we won’t get one for another few years which is essentially a pay cut when you consider how quickly prices are rising.”

She accepted that changes to pensions would in all likelihood have to be made in the future given the difficult economic climate, but questioned the severity of the current proposals.

Social worker Susannah Weeks from Weston said at the moment public sector workers were being made a scapegoat and being forced to work longer and pay more for their retirement package.

Unite, Unison, GMB and teaching unions NUT and NASUWT were among the unions that voted for strike action earlier this month after negotiations broke down.

Nationwide an estimated two million public sector workers went on strike despite the Chancellor’s claims it would not force the Government’s hand.

Councillor Jeremy Blatchford, executive member for education, said people had to realise the Government’s decision was one made out of necessity.

He said: “I think the union has made its point but it has to accept the simple explanation that there is no money, whether it’s for schools or unions - unless they want to be another Italy or Greece.”

The biggest disruption was seen in schools across the region and in the Mercury’s online poll, two-thirds of those who voted did not agree with teachers striking.

The council closed libraries in Banwell, Congresbury, Weston, Winscombe and Worle due to staff shortages. The mobile library was not in operation either.

But a spokesman for North Somerset Council said the majority of its services were carrying on as normal and there had been no reported disruption to waste or recycling collection.

NHS services were also disrupted by the strikes but GP surgeries remained open as usual.

A spokesman for Weston General Hospital said the emergency department was unaffected and no appointments or operations had to be cancelled. She said doctors and nurses were not part of the strikes which was confined to radiographers and physiotherapists.

UK Border Agency staff also walked out leaving passport control from Bristol Airport leading to some minor delays to incoming passengers.

No further industrial action has been planned but with protestors outside Somerset House prepared to strike again, more strikes could yet take place.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

30th November Day of Action - pictures from North Somerset

North Somerset UNISON pickets at Somerset House in Weston super Mare.

Some star pickets here - sorry if I forget anyone but thanks to Eve, Becky, Nicky, Julie, Susannah, Angela, John, Jon, Kevin, Pete, Mark, Deborah, Josh (21 tomorrow) at Somerset House; Fran, Pat, Jean, Nick, Roxie, Toni, Becky, Jakob and everyone at Weston Court; Helen, Louise, Lucinda and everyone at Castlewood:; Christina, Ian, Sandy and everyone at Weston General Hospital. Not forgetting North Somerset Council Home Care members who were on our picket lines everywhere - without whom we wouldn't have had such a presence.

North Somerset UNISON members on the march and at the rally in Bristol

Cresten from the Green Party joined us.

Jean and Pat - our fabulous retired members - what would we do without them!

This is a great placard - sums it all up really.

Vicki and her daughter Tilly. Vicki was the sole picket at her workplace in Knowle West this morning and also a first time striker - Congratulations to her.

These last photos are from the Guardian (Photographs: Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How many more reasons do we need to strike?

George Osborne has today announced that public sector pay increases will be capped at 1 % for the 2 financial years beginning April 2012, once our current pay freeze has ended. He also announced even more public sector job losses.

Public sector workers have had their pay frozen for 2 years - because of the increasing rate of inflation this amounts to an estimated 6% pay cut. On top of that the proposals for public sector pensions amount to another 3% pay cut, so the news that our pay will increase by no more than 1% over the next 2 years is another massive kick in the teeth for our members. Many of our members are low paid women who do important work, such as caring for the elderly and disabled, children and young people. They are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet and today's news will make that even worse. If we didn't already have enough reasons to take action on 30th November we've now got another one. Tomorrow's industrial action will be the biggest in a generation and will send a powerful message to the government that ordinary working people will no longer pay for the financial crisis with cuts to our pay, pensions, jobs and services, and we hope that members of the public will join our campaign.

As George Osborne has revealed in his Autumn statement there is no growth in the economy - quite simply his plan isn't working. Those in work are seeing their wages failing to keep up with inflation and are also worried about job security and so aren't spending. Thousands of both public and private sector workers are being made redundant, unemployment is increasing and as a result tax revenue is falling, while the cost of benefits is rising. The private sector are not creating new jobs and in fact George Osborne's announcement of a youth contract demonstrates that the only way the private sector will create jobs is if the government pays them to do so. Quite simply the government's massive public spending cuts are going too far and too fast, and they are damaging the economic recovery. They are also hitting some groups like young people and women particularly badly. He needs to come up with a plan B fast - either that or we need a new government.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Public Service Pension Pinch

Key pension facts
If closed today the LGPS could still pay all its liabilities for 20 years.

The Treasury gets £2bn more in NHS pension contributions than it pays out in benefits every year.

The average Local Government pension is £4,000 pa - hardly gold plated!

The average NHS pension is £7,000 per annum - again hardly gold plated!

Half of NHS women pensioners receive less than £3,500 per annum.

The bosses of Britain's largest companies have an average pension 34 times bigger than the average public sector pension.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

30th November - a taste of what life will be like without public services

It's exactly a year ago since I started writing this blog. Today public sector workers in Portugal are taking action against austerity. Next week we will be doing the same - our industrial dispute is about pensions, but our protest on 30th November will be all about the cuts.

If the public are worried about what's going to happen to public services when we take 1 day of action, then to put it bluntly they may want to consider what it will be like when there are no public services, because this will be the result if we allow the Tory led government to continue with their austerity measures.

There will be no welfare state - no safety net if you or a member of your family gets sick or loses their job. You will be poor in old age, and there will be no one to look after you. Your children's education will suffer, they won't be able to afford to go to university, and there will be no decent jobs for them. There will be no one to look after our most vulnerable children and young people, and people with physical and learning disabilities. Do we really want to live in a society like this - a society without public services?

Over 300 years ago the philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the life of human beings outside the state as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". This will be what life is like without public services.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Rise Up on 30th November

Here's the 1st of May band's contribution to the struggle against this lethal Con Dem government. Support the 3 million on strike on 30 November, support Banner Theatre and TURN ON, TUNE IN, AND DOWNLOAD 'RISE UP' at

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Let's hear it for all public sector staff

Headlined, 'Let's hear it for all public sector staff', the following letter by Gerrard Sables appeared in 15 November edition of the Western Morning News in response to a previous reader's letter criticising public servants who will be on strike. The letter was forwarded to me by our local Trades Union Council.

Mr Sables, who is a rep in PCS's retired members section, writes:

"I worked in the public sector for 25 years and have reason to be grateful to public sector workers.

I wish to thank the following:

My school teachers who taught me my letters and numbers, an appreciation of Shakespeare, how to conjugate French verbs and the co-efficient of linear expansion

The nurses who came round and inoculated us against small pox and tuberculosis

The air traffic controllers who saw to it that my flights took off and landed safely

The benefit officers who helped me out when I was skint

The registrar who married us

The midwives who helped in the safe delivery of my children and grandchildren

The court officers who officiated at my divorce

The radiographers who X-rayed me

Those at the blood transfusion service who helped me to help others

The firemen who put out my chimney fire

The gardeners who keep our parks looking nice

The refuse collectors, without whom we would be in a terrible state

The paramedics who looked after my parents on their way to hospital

The probate officers who sorted out my mum's estate

The nice lady who works for Barnstaple Town Council and books rooms for meetings for me

The physiotherapist who is helping me through a frozen shoulder

And even the police officers who arrested me when I was doing a non-violent action at RAF St Mawgan

These people are to have their nationally agreed pension rights cruelly slashed. [The previous letter writer] says: "They have to take the pain just like everyone else."

Just because the private employers offer such lousy pensions does not justify underpaying public service pensions.

Nobody joins the public sector to get rich. They do it to serve the public. They have a public service ethos. We should value that.”

Fight the Cuts in North Somerset

North Somerset UNISON will be continuing its campaign against the £50 million of cuts that North Somerset Council plan to make, which will impact on services for the most vulnerable people in North Somerset including children and young people, older people and people with disabilities. And we won't stop fighting until they set their budget on 21st February 2012, and even then we'll keep fighting.

30th November 2011 - Demonstration against the cuts and against the attack on public sector pensions - 11 am assembly at College Green in Bristol, and march to Castle Park.

Here's some dates of meetings coming up that residents of North Somerset can attend and request to speak at. All meetings take place at the Town Hall in Weston super Mare.

1st December at 10.30 am - Children & Young People's Scrutiny panel - councillors will examine cuts proposals.

13th December at 2.30 pm - North Somerset Executive meeting - the budget may or may not be on the agenda.

14th December at 11 am - Adult Services and Housing Policy and Scrutiny panel - councillors will examine cuts proposals.


17th January at 6 pm - North Somerset Council meeting - the budget may or may not be on the agenda.

31st January at 2.30 pm - Community & Corporate Organisation Policy and Scrutiny panel - councillors will examine cuts proposals

2nd February at 10.30 am - Children & Young People's Scrutiny panel - councillors will examine cuts proposals.

7th February at 2.30 pm - North Somerset Executive meeting - the Executive will approve the budget for the council to vote on at 21st February meeting.

21st February at 6 pm - North Somerset Council meeting - this is where they'll set the budget and impose the cuts to services - UNISON will be lobbying the meeting from 5.30 pm.

28th February at 6 pm - possible North Somerset Council meeting, if no decision made on budget on 21st February.

Meetings for North Somerset UNISON members

15th December at 12.30 pm – Old Council Chamber, Town Hall

21st December at 12.30 pm – Badger House room 2

5th January at 12.30 pm - Castlewood rooms 8-9-10

17th January at 5.30 pm – UNISON lobby of Council meeting at the Town Hall – be there!

18th January at 12.30 pm - Old Council Chamber, Town Hall

24th January at 12.30 pm – Badger House room 2

8th February at 12.30 pm - Badger House room 2

14th February at 12.30 pm - Castlewood rooms 8.9.10

21st February at 12.30 pm - New Council Chamber, Town Hall

21st February at 5.30 pm - UNISON lobby of Council budget setting meeting at the Town Hall – all reps and members need to be there!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Youth March on North Somerset Council

Members of Nailsea Youth Club are planning a march on 19th December from the Grand Pier in Weston super Mare to North Somerset Council to hand in a petition to Council Leader Nigel Ashton to save youth clubs. They are asking members of other youth clubs throughout North Somerset to join them. The march will start at 12 noon on 19th December.

Search for Save Nailsea Youth House on Facebook to contact them.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Your local council can help fight inequality

Ask your councillor to help reduce the gap between rich and poor

UK income inequality is among the highest in the developed world and evidence from The Equality Trust and others shows that this is harmful for almost everyone. People in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health and are more socially mobile. Community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower, children do better at school and they are less likely to become teenage parents. When inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence and rates of imprisonment are lower. If we want to build a better society, it is essential we take action now to reduce the gap between rich and poor.

Evidence presented by The Equality Trust shows that there are different ways to reduce income inequality. Societies can either redistribute income (as they tend to do in Scandinavia) or narrow pay gaps in the workplace (as they tend to do in Japan and certain US states such as New Hampshire).

The British Social Attitudes Survey in December 2010 showed that a majority of people think the Chief Executive of a large company should be paid no more than six times the pay of a typical factory worker.

Evidence collated by One Society indicates that pay gaps are, on average, 15 to 1 in local authorities, 10 to 1 in large charities and a huge 262 to 1 in FTSE 100 companies. Inequality is built into the very foundations of our economy.

But we can change this. Councils can be a great force for reducing the pay gap. They can tackle inequality through their own pay policies and also, crucially, through their influence on private-sector contractors.

Email your councillor by following this link:

North Somerset has the 7th largest gap between rich and poor in the country.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Young Protestors Stormed Council Meeting

Young protesters stormed council meeting
Bethan Evans, Reporter, Weston Mercury Thursday, November 17, 2011

CROWDS of young people stormed the North Somerset Executive meeting on Tuesday night, protesting against the proposed £600,000 cuts to their youth services. Many youth workers and young protesters made their case to councillors to urge them to stop the cuts which are proposed in the council budget for next year. One of the youth workers, Charlie Lane, said: “The young people want their views and opinions heard. You are trying to steal their future and if you do that you will pay when these young people could be sat in your seats.” Another speaker, on behalf of youth workers, Jean Lord said: “If there is no youth services run by experienced and trained workers, untrained volunteers may move in their own agendas, the extremes of which could be religion and political agendas. “They could then impart that on to young people and who knows how many others will become troubled.” Dozen of young protesters came with placards and chanted in the Town Hall to get their voices heard, while supported by family and friends. Councillor Mike Bell, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on North Somerset Council, said: “The plans to cut the youth service to almost nothing are absolutely the wrong kind of choice to be making. We will do everything we can to persuade Conservative council leaders to think again. “It was great to see so many young people turn out at the Town Hall. It is so important that councillors listen to the voice of local people and I hope the force of this protest ruffled a few feathers in our stuffy council chamber.”

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Teenagers protest at cuts to Youth Service

Teenagers protest at cuts to youth service, Wednesday, November 16, 2011 Bristol Evening Post

Picture: Jon Kent

PLACARD-waving teenagers mounted a protest on the steps of Weston-super-Mare Town Hall to campaign against sweeping cuts to the youth service.

More than 30 teenagers from Portishead Youth Service, waving placards with the slogans Save our Youth Service, Save our Youth Workers, chanted as councillors walked into last night's council meeting.

​Teenagers, who attend the Harbour Road centre, stood on the steps before packing the council chamber chanting 'What do we want? Youth workers, when do want them – now'.

The protest follows news that the cash-strapped authority is to reduce the youth service budget from £1.142 million to £282,736 by 2013.

The move will see all 24 youth worker posts across the district deleted and funding currently allocated to youth clubs cut to almost zero.

But, as many youth workers work on a sessional or part-time basis, the actual figure of staff reductions could be far greater. Instead the authority is asking community groups, parents, churches, schools, parish and town councils to step in and fill the gap in provision left by the cuts.

The youth service will be replaced by a new community family service which will provide support to the 300 most vulnerable families – 900 children – across the district.

The news of the cuts comes at the same time as Portishead Youth Centre has just undergone a £1.1 million refurbishment. Youngsters addressed councillors at the meeting, highlighting the importance of the youth service.

Charlie Lane, 18, who has been attending Portishead Youth Club since she was 11, led the protest.

Charlie, who works as a senior volunteer at the youth centre, said: "The youth service is vital to all these young people and they are here today to show what it means to them. The council is stealing from our future."

Fellow volunteer Declan Marlow, 19, said: "The youth service helps young people develop key skills and social skills needed to grow and develop. The youth service is a vital service for the young people here."

Portishead resident Paul Maltby said: "Portishead has a state-of-the -art youth centre but the council is to slash its funding, throwing its future into doubt. The council has let the youth of Portishead down badly – please do not take away the lifeline of the youth club as well."

Portishead Youth Club management committee chairman Roger Sainsbury said: "I'm convinced that good professional youth work for all young people is the best way to support the vulnerable. If we don't invest in young people now, we'll end up paying for it tomorrow. We now have a £1 million world class youth centre and I've seen the value of good professional youth work for young people."

UNISON members – who paid for the coach to take teenagers to the protest – also spoke at the meeting about the impact of the cuts.

North Somerset Council's executive member for children and young people, Councillor Jeremy Blatchford, said a survey of provision in the district revealed there were already more than 600 providers of youth activities in the district, including Guides, Scouts, church groups and sports clubs. He added that youth provision was not just the responsibility of the local authority.

The protest came at the same meeting as the authority endorsed its medium-term financial plan which outlines cuts of £47.3 million over the next four years, including £18.6 million in the financial year 2012/13. The budget proposals will be agreed by the executive in February but will have to be ratified by the full council later in the month.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Young People are our Future

Over 50 children and young people from Portishead and Weston Youth Clubs demonstrated outside North Somerset Council's meeting tonight, over plans to slash Youth Services, close down Youth Clubs and make 60 part-time youth workers redundant. They were carrying hand made banners and placards, and chanting to councillors as they arrived at the meeting. Their request was simple - Don't Close our Youth Clubs.

Unusually for a North Somerset Council meeting there were 10 members of the public who spoke - many of them about Youth Services, emphasising the point that young people are our future.

Many of the young people who spoke talked about the help they had received from youth workers when they had experienced bullying, and that youth services had also helped them with training and new skills. Charlie Lane, leader of the Portishead Youth Club campaign, told the councillors that they were stealing her future.

One adult speaker warned the council that using untrained volunteers in youth clubs may mean children are subjected to extreme political and religious views. She also told them there were good economic reasons for retaining youth services, which would avoid extra costs for schools, the youth offending service and prisons. She went on to say that if North Somerset cuts the Youth Service there will be costs to the community in terms of anti-social behaviour. Another speaker warned the councillors that the young people present would become the councillors of the future and would be involved in making decisions about them, when they are older and vulnerable.

The budget, was as per usual, listed as the last item on the agenda. Earlier in the day we had put in a request for it to be moved up the agenda, so that the young people could hear what their councillors had to say and then would be able to get back home at a reasonable hour. Our request was denied.

At the last minute they did agree to bring the item up the agenda. Opposition councillors got up to express their concerns about the budget and the budget setting process. This took about 15 minutes, and then the councillors voted to endorse the medium term financial plan as a policy document, and to refer it and opposition alternatives to scrutiny panels. DEBATE WAS EFFECTIVELY SHUT DOWN. Hopefully people in North Somerset will see the coverage on both BBC and ITV local news, and when we demonstrate again in February there will be more speakers, and more people shouting, until the councillors here us.

ITV News link here -

Councillor Blatchford, Executive member for Children and Young People was on the 6 pm ITV Local News comparing the preventative work done with young people to fixing potholes. Doesn't Councillor Blatchford realise that Youth Services is preventative work, and in any case as a result of the council's reorganisation of Children's Services to focus on only 300 families, there will be no preventative work done.

UNISON Speech to Council

This is the speech I would have made if I hadn't been cut short by the Chairman

Those of you that were here in February may remember that I expressed UNISON’s view that the public spending cuts are unfair, because they hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, and are also unnecessary, because there are other ways to cut the deficit, such as clamping down on tax avoidance, introducing a Robin Hood tax and making our taxation system fairer. 9 months since I last spoke at a council meeting, we are now starting to see more clearly the impact of the cuts, and we are also seeing greater anger at our very unequal and unfair society – anger that ordinary people are being made to pay for the financial crisis with cuts to services, jobs, pay and pensions, while those who caused the crisis are actually getting richer. Occupy protests are springing up all over the world, including in nearby Bristol, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have recently expressed their concerns over corporate greed and massive inequality.

As I have also said previously we have some sympathy for councillors because the cuts have been imposed on you by central government. BUT the party that governs North Somerset is the party that governs the country – at least currently. And you have a duty to your constituents to make it very clear to your colleagues in Westminster how the cuts are affecting local people, and demand that they change their course of action. BUT it is also our view that you as a council have made the situation worse for yourself by previous actions you have taken, including outsourcing services, whereby you have effectively put large parts of your budget outside your control. Councillors might want to ask what penalties are being imposed on the support services contractor for the delay in procurement savings?

This evening you are considering the medium term financial plan – appendix 3 of which contains a spreadsheet of figures representing money and jobs to be cut. But what this spreadsheet doesn’t tell you – is anything about the impact of these cuts on people’s lives - for that you need to talk to your constituents and you also need to look at the equality impact assessments. Those assessments with high impacts have been summarised for you in Appendix 6, but you should really download them in full from the council’s website. Once you’ve read them, you will need to seriously consider whether the statements made in these assessments about how the council will mitigate the impact of these cuts go far enough, or are even in fact possible, given the current financial situation.

I want to briefly mention some of the cuts you are considering.

In Adult Social Services you are proposing to cut a massive £14 million from the services you provide to elderly and disabled people. Councillors will be aware that in a recent survey commissioned by the disability charity Scope, which assessed the impact of local authority cuts to services for disabled children and adults, North Somerset came out 7th from bottom out of 152 local authorities. Your budget also contains proposals to cut the services you provide to people suffering domestic abuse, services to prevent anti-social behaviour, reoffending, and homelessness – all of which will have huge impacts for some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens, and will also have a significant impact on the council’s ability to meet its equalities duties.

In Children and Young People’s Services you are considering another massive cut of £12 million, involving a complete reorganisation of integrated services, which will see work focused on only 300 families, with little or no early intervention and preventative work being undertaken, and which also includes a reduction in the numbers of already overworked social workers, and downgradings of almost exclusively female admin staff. In addition you are planning a complete decimation of our youth service, only a few months after we saw the country engulfed by riots. Children and young people are our future – but their life chances are being badly affected by the public spending cuts, and this, as the recession of the 1980s has taught us, will come back to haunt us in future years.

As a trade union we are of course concerned by the proposed staffing cuts, which will not only impact on the council’s ability to deliver services, but will also have major equalities impacts because over two thirds of council employees are women, and many are part-time and low paid. In addition the economic impact of public sector job cuts is already taking its toll, with Weston super Mare seeing the 14th largest increase in unemployment in the country. A 25% reduction to the workforce of the council, which is still the district’s largest local employer, will have further serious implications for the local economy.

Over the next few months, up until when you set the budget on 21st February, you will have to decide whether your budget proposals also include enough concrete actions to mitigate the impact of the cuts, or whether you will need to use all or some of your reserves and contingency to lessen their impact, or indeed whether the proposals contain such serious equalities impacts that the legal duties imposed on you mean you cannot implement these cuts. We firmly believe that if you go ahead and implement many of the proposals in this plan then the worst case scenario is that people will die, while the best case scenario is that people will take legal action against the council, as they have done in Birmingham and more recently the Isle of Wight.

Friday, 11 November 2011

UNISON lobby of Council Budget Meeting - 15th November

Members of North Somerset UNISON will be joined by members of Portishead Youth Club on 15th November at 5.30 pm at the Town Hall in Weston super Mare to lobby North Somerset Council as they debate their budget proposals which involve cutting £50 million from services to our most vulnerable citizens.

We need as many of our members and other residents of North Somerset to join us on the 15th November to make it clear to councillors that we won't accept these cuts.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Impact of the cuts on Women

I've just read Bristol Fawcett Society's report on the impact of the cuts on women in Bristol. You can download it here

It shows that the impact of public spending cuts in the areas of: employment, housing, incomes and poverty, education and training, violence against women, health, social care and other support services, legal advice services, women's voluntary organisations, and transport are likely to disproportionately impact on women in Bristol, and that the cumulative effect of the cuts have serious equalities and human rights implications for women in Bristol. It makes for very worrying reading indeed.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Great Regression

Have a look at economist Robert Reich's visual representation of how the rich in the U.S.A. have got richer while ordinary working people have got poorer. Exactly the same applies here in the UK. Click on the link below:

You have to remind people what you're worth

'You have to remind people what you're worth'


For many UNISON members, the thought of industrial action is scary – not least because many of them have never been on strike before.

And with that comes the fear that any action we take is pointless – that the odds are just too great.

So it's always good to remind ourselves exactly what industrial action can achieve – and here are four brief examples.

In 1888, the workforce at the Bryant & May match factory in London faced 14-hour days, poor pay and fines for various 'offences' – plus serious health problems caused by working with white phosphorus.

But management was a bit put out when an article appeared describing the conditions as akin to "white slavery", and tried to get the workforce to sign a paper contradicting the claims.

When they refused, this became the pretext for sacking one of the workers – and 1,400 women and girls walked out immediately.

Many helped raise money for a strike fund, and a deputation visited Parliament. The management instantly offered to reinstate the sacked worker, but her colleagues decided to demand other concessions, including ending the system of fines that they faced.

Eventually, management agreed to scrap the fines and other deductions – and allow meals to be taken in a different room, avoiding contamination of the food with the white phosphorous.

The women had won – and their action had started a campaign that, a few years later, would see the outlawing of white phosphorous.

When the gas workers of Beckton, East London, took action a year later, in 1889, they wanted something that seems absurdly normal to us now.

They wanted an eight-hour working day.

For some time, skilled workers' unions had been asking for this, but no progress had been made.

Gas workers in Beckton were working a 12-hour day, seven days a week.

But then the so-called unskilled workers started to organise, including the gas workers, and led by Will Thorne, they set about winning that aim by industrial action.

Mr Thorne told a meeting of gas workers: "The way you have been treated in your work for many years is scandalous, brutal and inhuman.

"I pledge my word that, if you will stand firm and don't waver, within six months we will claim and win the eight-hour day, a six-day week and the abolition of the present slave-driving methods in vogue not only at the Beckton Gas Works, but all over the country."

After the speech, 800 workers joined the union. Within a month, another 3,000 had joined.

Mr Thorne was right and the members stood firm. In response to a 'petition', the Gas Light & Coke Company cut the working day without a strike being called. It was the first time in the history of industrial workers that such an agreement had been struck.

At the Ford factory in Dagenham in 1968, the women machinists, who sewed the covers for the car seats, found themselves on the end of a regrading exercise.

It left them classed as 'less skilled production workers', thus meaning that they were going to be paid 15% less than their male colleagues, who were classed as doing 'more skilled production jobs'.

They were joined in their walkout by machinists at Halewood and, as the stock of seat covers ran out, it halted car production.

After intervention from the then secretary of state for employment and productivity, Barbara Castle, the women ended their strike after three weeks.

They had won an immediate increase in their pay to 8% below that of their male colleagues, with the promise of a further increase the following year.

Although the machinists only won a regrading into the higher job category in 1984, after a further six-week strike, their action paved the way for the 1970 Equal Pay Act – the first time that there had been any legal attempt to prohibit inequality between men and women in terms of pay and conditions.

In 2009-10, refuse workers in Leeds went on strike for 11 weeks over attempts to slash their pay.

The Tory-Lib Dem council was trying to use the implementation of equal pay as an excuse for cutting pay by up to a third. It was an attempt to divide and rule that didn't work.

UNISON members stood shoulder to shoulder with their GMB colleagues – and they never wavered.

And the women, whose right to equal pay was being used as an excuse to cut the men's pay, helped their male colleagues, handing out leaflets and campaigning to raise sympathy and understanding among the public.

As Dave Prentis said when the strikers won: "Leeds members have shown what can be achieved by old-fashioned solidarity and discipline. I am proud of them."

It's something that workers down the years have learned – and it's as true today as it was when the matchgirls finally refused to accept their appalling working conditions.

(InFocus, November 2011)

Monday, 7 November 2011

You deserve better - join a union

Watch President Obama talk about why he supports trade unions. These are the rights trade unions have also won for workers in the UK, and they wouldn't have done it without members STANDING UP, STANDING TOGETHER & TAKING ACTION. Think about what your job would be like if members of trade unions had not fought for these rights.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Decent Pensions for All

UNISON members have voted massively in favour of industrial action over pensions, but the day of action on 30th November is not just about our pensions, but about fair pensions for all. We live in a country, which pays the lowest state pension in Europe - our pensioners live well below the poverty line. The majority of the UK population don't even have a decent occupational pension scheme, as many of the good private sector schemes have been closed down so that the companies involved can make even greater profits for their shareholders and bonuses for those at the top. Our day of action is for all those workers who have not been given the opportunity of a decent pension scheme, and our belief that it should be every worker's right to have a comfortable retirement after a working lifetime of contributing to society.

This government's proposals for public sector schemes are an attack on all working people, not just those in the public sector, because if public sector schemes are reduced to the level of what remains of private sector schemes, then all of us will be poorer. But their proposals are also a false economy. If public sector workers can no longer afford to contribute to pension schemes, they will withdraw and then be more reliant on state benefits in their retirement. We have record levels of youth unemployment in the UK and yet the government's answer is to make people work longer, and to provide them with such poor pensions that even in so-called retirement they are forced to continue working in order to pay the bills. The government have already made many existing pensioners poorer by switching the yearly cost of living increase from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index – this applies not only to public sector pensions, but to some private pension schemes and to the state pension.

The government are saying that their proposals will improve public sector pensions – why then is it the case that none of the extra contributions will go into our pension pots? - but will be used by the government to pay off the deficit – a deficit caused by the greed of the bankers, which we as tax payers have been forced to pay for. Public sector workers have had their pay frozen for the last 2 years – given the rate of inflation I estimate this pay freeze has amounted to a 6% pay cut. The government’s pension proposals amount to another 3% pay cut for public sector workers. Does anyone really think that any working person in this country can keep on taking pay cut after pay cut, while the bankers continue to pay their bonuses? I find it very difficult to understand why we as a society seem to find it acceptable that some people struggle to support their families with minimum wage jobs, while those at the top earn 300 times as much. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have also expressed their concerns about corporate greed and huge income inequality and its negative impact on society in terms of social cohesion, health and social problems. The Occupy protests in London, Bristol and many other parts of the country are also demanding changes to a system, which works in favour of the 1% and not the 99%.

This government of millionaires don't have to worry about how they make ends meet on a daily basis or about their retirement, and despite David Cameron's protests they are not interested in helping ordinary working people. If they were they would have chosen to cut the deficit by clamping down on tax avoidance and increasing taxes on those individuals and corporations right at the top. Instead they have chosen to cut the deficit by slashing spending on public services, which hits the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. In North Somerset alone £50 million, or one third of the council’s budget, is being cut from public services, impacting on children, young people, the elderly and disabled people. Our day of action on 30th November will also be a protest against the cuts to public spending, which we believe are unfair and unnecessary. The proposals for our pensions, and the cuts to jobs and public services are all part of the government’s decision to make ordinary working people bear the brunt of a financial crisis that they were not responsible for. We would like to invite anyone living in North Somerset who is feeling the impact of the cuts, either because they don’t have a decent pension, or they’ve lost their job or been forced to take a pay cut, or because their benefits have been cut, or because they’ve had a public service they relied on cut, to join us on 30th November, either on our picket lines or on the march and rally in Bristol. If you want to find out more please give us a ring – 01934 634759 or have a look at our website It is now time for ordinary working and non-working people to stand up and demand that our society needs to change.