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.