Friday, 22 February 2013

People's Assembly Against Austerity - 22nd June

People's Assembly Against Austerity
Saturday 22 June 2013, 9:30am – 5pm,
Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, London, Westminster, London SW1H 9NH

PAAA mike and rebecca

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched with a letter to the Guardian:

This is a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government. With some 80% of austerity measures still to come, and with the government lengthening the time they expect cuts to last, we are calling a People’s Assembly Against Austerity to bring together campaigns against cuts and privatisation with trade unionists in a movement for social justice. We aim to develop a strategy for resistance to mobilise millions of people against the Con Dem government.

The assembly will provide a national forum for anti-austerity views which, while increasingly popular, are barely represented in parliament. A People’s Assembly can play a key role in ensuring that this uncaring government faces a movement of opposition broad enough and powerful enough to generate successful co-ordinated action, including strike action. The assembly will be ready to support co-ordinated industrial action and national demonstrations against austerity, if possible synchronising with mobilisations across Europe. The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will meet at Central Hall, Westminster, on 22 June.

For more information and to add your support follow this link:

Campaign for Trade Union Freedom - Launch and Rally - 23rd March

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

North Somerset Council Budget Meeting - The Living Wage for North Somerset

North Somerset Council met tonight to set their budget and council tax for the forthcoming year. A few members of North Somerset UNISON lobbied the meeting. A UNISON Rep spoke at the council meeting asking the council to set up a working group with trade union involvement to look at the costs and benefits of  implementing the living wage for council and schools staff, with the aim of implementation for council and schools staff by April 2014, and shortly thereafter for council contractors and to encourage employers across North Somerset to pay their staff the living wage. After a question from Labour Councillor Bob Bateman, Council Leader Nigel Ashton confirmed that Councillor Tony Lake the Executive member for Human Resources could set up a working group. When questioned by Independent Councillor Don Davies, Nigel Ashton also confirmed that it would be a cross party group.

The Council voted against all the Opposition amendments to the Budget, including re-instating the £250,000 which had been allocated for the youth commissioning networks. It voted through a budget including £10 million of cuts for 2013/14 and a 1.5% council tax increase.

Here are a few pictures from tonight:

Here's my speech from tonight's meeting:

UNISON has submitted a paper to all councillors ahead of this meeting and we hope that you have had time to read it and that you will consider our requests and suggestions. I want to mention a few of them.

Your budget papers for tonight contain an update on the latest position of the Youth Commissioning networks. Councillors can now see that the majority of the commissioning groups are unlikely to exist after September. As a result, and also given the forthcoming legal action, it would make sense to use some of your reserves to put back the £250,000, which had been allocated for positive activities for young people.

We are also asking you again to review all your contracts to ensure that they are providing value for money for the people of North Somerset, and consider bringing services back in house where you will have more control and flexibility over them. More and more public sector organisations are doing this.

Finally we are requesting that you consider how you can mitigate the impact of some of the cuts you have already made and those that are yet to come by giving the local economy a boost. It is now absolutely clear that the government’s economic policy is not working. The public spending cuts are hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. Austerity has choked off economic growth, ordinary people’s incomes are not keeping up with prices -  they have less money to spend, and in some cases are forced to choose between eating or heating. As a result there is no demand in the economy. But you can take action to address this lack of demand, and all you have to do is agree to pay your staff the living wage, ensure through your procurement practices that your contractors pay their staff the living wage, and use your influence as a community leader to encourage all North Somerset employers to pay the living wage.

Paying the living wage will also address one of the risk of a worsening economic situation leading to increased demand for council services, which was outlined in your original 4 year Medium Term Financial Plan for 2011 – 2015. Unfortunately this prediction has come true and the council is experiencing increased demand for its services, including adult social care, and looked after children. From April the government’s welfare cuts will really start to bite - the Institute of Fiscal Studies has predicted that child poverty will increase as a result. This means that the numbers of looked after children in North Somerset are also likely to increase. But it really is a shocking state of affairs when half of all children living in poverty, live in a family with at least one working parent, and that these families are so low paid that the state has to top up their incomes with in-work benefits.

According to the TUC there are 22,463 workers in North Somerset, who earn under the living wage of £7.45 per hour. The living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing. Almost 20% of the council’s own workforce, including schools staff, or 869 people, earn under the living wage – the vast majority of these are women. Over the past 3 years, while local government pay has been frozen, the council has underspent on the staff pay bill by about £2 million, and this underspend has been put into the council’s reserves. As a result there is a pot of money here, which the council could use as a one off to increase the wages of all their employees currently earning under the living wage. We have estimated that it would cost the council a one off £435,000 to implement the living wage, but given that most of the council’s low paid workers also work low numbers of hours it could actually be a lot less. But this one off payment would result in £325,000 cash injection into the local economy every year, along with annual savings to the benefits bill of £1.3 million every year, plus increased tax and national insurance revenue of just over £700,000 per year. If you multiply all these figures by 25 you can see the economic benefits of paying the living wage to all workers in North Somerset. And of course in paying the living wage you also lift families out of poverty.

Over 30 councils have committed to paying their staff the living wage, including Plymouth City, Gloucester City and most recently South Gloucestershire. So our request to you is that at tonight’s meeting you agree to set up a working group with trade union involvement to look at the costs and benefits of paying the living wage to council staff and to all workers in North Somerset, with the aim of paying the living wage to all council and schools staff by April 2014, and shortly thereafter for employees of council contractors, and then encouraging employers across North Somerset to pay their staff the living wage.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

UNISON Lobby of North Somerset Council Budget Meeting - 19th February

North Somerset Council will meet on 19th February to set their budget for the forthcoming year. The cuts they are proposing for the forthcoming financial year - approximately £10 million - come on top of £33 million of cuts over the previous 2 years.

The proposed cuts include:
  • More Job losses - 300 jobs over 4 years
  • Cuts to Adult's and Children's Services
  • Final Cuts to Youth Services
  • Reduction in support for Bus Services
  • Transfer of public toilets to parish councils


UNISON's submission on the council's budget proposals can be downloaded at the following link:

UNISON will be lobbying the meeting from 5.30 pm on 19th February - meet outside the Town Hall in Weston super Mare. All residents of North Somerset are welcome to join us.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

North Somerset Youth Services Cuts - Councillor Probert's Survey and letter

Below is Weston Town Councillor Tony Probert's letter in this week's Mercury regarding the cuts to Youth Services in North Somerset, along with a link to a survey to give your views. Here's the survey link and here's his letter.

Councillor Probert writes: "I am absolutely disgusted at the latest sickening cuts policy of North Somerset District Council who has decided to withdraw the sum of £250,000 from an earmarked budget for the establishment of a youth network across the county.

They promised this money to volunteers – Cameron’s ‘BIG SOCIETY’ - who have been working flat-out to establish youth facilities across the county because North Somerset Council has already axed such services throughout the region.

So in effect NSC is saying it couldn’t care less about our young people of today or tomorrow!

However I have investigated certain financial information on the NSC website and am once again totally nauseated to find out that some of our district councillors are earning more money than many people in full-time work but also note that throughout the publicity surrounding the devastating cuts being made to public services non refer to councillors deciding to take a reduction in their earnings.

Yours readers may like to know that in the last full financial year our district councillors cost the taxpayers £796,792.00p (go to:  pages 67 & 68) to get confirmation of my statement.

I certainly think that our councillors should be prepared to take a substantial cut in their allowances for one year in order to provide the £250,000 for our youth networks or perhaps assume the same role for one year as Weston Town Councillors – of which I am one – who claim absolutely nothing for all the time and energy they spend supporting Weston-super-Mare.  If the District Councillors did this it would supply sufficient funding for three years of support for our youth networks.

I certainly agree with Lib Dem councillors Clare and Mike Kingsbury-Bell’s attacks on these ruthless cuts but I do wish they would organise a nationwide Lib-Dem revolt against their buddies in Parliament who are supporting the Tories vicious cuts each and every time!

Finally if your readers wish to air their views about my suggestions please go to: and answer my questions.

So come on readers let’s have all your responses to my survey and show North Somerset District Council what you think."

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Local Government Pay and Trade Union Facility Time - my letter in today's Weston Mercury

Here is my letter on Local Government Pay and Trade Union Facility Time published in today's Weston Mercury:

"I write to correct some of the misinformation, which was published in one of the letters to the Mercury last week, specifically regarding public sector pay and trade union facility time.

The letter writer seems to be unaware that since 1975 employers have been legally obliged to give union reps from recognised trade unions paid time off to undertake trade union duties. Public sector organisations, which tend to be larger employers, also tend to have the most trade union members and therefore recognised trade unions. In addition many larger employers – both public and private sector – find it both necessary and advantageous to cover the work of their trade union reps with a budget for facility time. The letter writer quoted some figures for the costs and numbers of employees involved in taking time off for trade union duties. I assume he has obtained these exaggerated figures from the Tax payers Alliance – a well known Conservative party off-shoot made up of people who don’t want to pay taxes, and are both anti-trade union and anti-public sector. A 2007 review of trade union reps and facility time, undertaken by the Department for Business, showed a very different picture, and found that trade union reps saved the tax payer millions, if not billions of pounds in reducing the number of cases going to employment tribunals, reducing workplace injuries and sickness, reducing dismissals and increasing productivity.

As far as comparing public sector and private sector pay goes it’s actually not that easy, because jobs in each sector are so different, and people working in the public sector tend to have higher levels of qualifications – it’s like comparing apples and pears. But it’s when we look at the top jobs that the difference is most pronounced – with Chief Executives in the private sector earning in some cases ten times as much as their public sector counterparts. In addition the lowest level of Local Government pay is now only a few pence above the minimum wage of £6.19 per hour. 20% of local government workers earn under the living wage of £7.45 an hour, while about half of all local government workers earn under the £21,000 annual salary defined by George Osborne as low paid, and as a result excluded from the pay freeze and promised an annual £250 increase. It should be noted that most local authorities, including North Somerset Council, have refused to pay this increase. Public sector workers have had their pay frozen – in the case of local government workers our pay has been frozen for 3 years, amounting to a real terms pay cut of 13%. Local government workers, along with other low paid groups, have taken more than their fair share of the cuts in terms of loss of pay, reduced hours and redundancies. The government’s public spending cuts have hit local authorities’ budgets harder and faster than other public sector organisations, hence this year councils have very little alternative but to increase council tax to protect vital public services.  The so-called non-jobs that the letter writer referred to, such as Equalities and Diversity officers, are absolutely essential in the current climate to ensure that groups such as older people, children and young people, and disabled people are protected from the severity of the cuts."