Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Big Equality Debate

There was a great turnout at the Big Equality debate in Bristol last night. Richard Wilkinson, the co-author of the Spirit Level gave a brilliant presentation on his very common sense idea, which is supported by huge amounts of data. That idea quite simply is: in societies with huge income inequality, such as the UK, there are more social problems. When societies narrow the gap between rich and poor they also see a reduction in social problems.

Professor Wilkinson showed us some truly shocking statistics, including the fact that in some private companies in the UK the chief executive's wages are 300 times that of the lowest paid staff in the company.

The audience discussed how we could take action on income inequality, and the suggestions included: clamping down on tax avoidance, making high earners in corporations accountable, by for instance having trade union reps on boards, calling for everyone to publish details of how much tax they pay, and encouraging people to feel proud that they pay tax because they're making a contribution to society, creating a rift between the small businesses that pay their taxes, and the multi nationals that avoid paying taxes, calling for legislation to restrict pay differentials, campaigning for a living wage. We as individuals could choose only to shop with companies who have small income differentials between those at the top and those at the bottom.

Half of Bristol City councillors have signed the Equality pledge. North Somerset has the widest social inequalities gap in the South West, and the seventh biggest in England. Weston-super-mare South ward is in the 3% most deprived areas in England and Central ward is in the 1% most deprived. Linked to this is a significant health inequalities gap, and a gap in overall life expectancy. Can we get North Somerset MPs and councillors to sign the Equality Pledge?

The Equality Pledge

"Compelling new evidence presented by The Equality Trust shows that more equal societies - those with a narrower gap between rich and poor - are more cohesive, healthier, suffer fewer social problems and are more environmentally sustainable. In view of these findings I am committed to making the UK a more equal society as the most effective means of building a better society. I will therefore actively support the case for policies designed to narrow the gap between rich and poor; and engage with the debate on which measures should be implemented to achieve that aim."

Can we also get North Somerset Council to set up an independent Fairness Commission?

You can get more information on the Equality Trust from their website.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Heat or Eat - what would you do?

North Somerset UNISON retired member Pat Barrett says: “This year prices are going to go up again and I’ll have to decide whether to heat or eat, so much for my gold plated pension.”

If you were in this position what would you do ?

Leave your comment at:

Monday, 3 October 2011

Survey on Support Services Contract for North Somerset UNISON members

It is over a year since North Somerset Council awarded a controversial contract worth over £100m to private company Agilisys to run the Council's support services. Councillors claimed that Agilisys would provide a better, more reliable service and improve customer satisfaction, all at lower cost. At the time UNISON opposed the privatisation of support services and seriously questioned the Council's claims.

Official Government guidance recommends that for contracts like this, an independent review should take place 6-12 months after the contract starts. Called a Gateway 5 Review, the aim is to confirm whether the claimed benefits are being achieved and the contract is running smoothly. In response to a request from UNISON over the summer the Council confirmed that it had no plans to carry out such a review! More recently it has announced it will commission a review.

UNISON has decided to carry out our own review and to help us we are inviting members to complete an our on-line survey. We have designed a survey for Council staff, and a separate survey for members who were transferred to Agilisys and Liberata last year.

We will be publishing the results later in the year and will raise any concerns voiced with the Council. All individual replies will be treated in the strictest confidence.

To complete the survey please follow the relevant links below. Deadline for completion is 30th November 2011.

For Council employees:

For Agilisys/Liberata employees:

Thank you for your help and support

North Somerset UNISON on Weston High Street - protecting jobs, services and pensions

Members of North Somerset UNISON will be on Weston High Street on Wednesday 9th November from 12 noon to 2 pm.

Come and meet us to get more information on the impact of the cuts in North Somerset, and tell us about the impact on you and your family. Find out why UNISON is balloting its members on industrial action over the attacks on our pensions.

The Big Equality Debate - Bristol - 26th October 2011

Come to The Big Equality Debate on Wednesday 26th October 2011.

The Debate will take place at Oddfellows Hall, West Park, Bristol BS8 2LT, starting at 7.00pm with light refreshments from 6.30pm.

The speakers are Professor Richard Wilkinson, co-author of the acclaimed book "The Spirit Level" and Dr. Hugh Annett, Director of Public Health, NHS Bristol. They will be addressing the question: "What are the effects of wide income inequality on our society?" They will be followed by an open forum when members of the audience can participate in The Debate.