Thursday, 28 March 2013

Workers Memorial Day - Remember the dead, fight for the living

Sunday 28th April 12.30-2.30pm

Fill Bristol Cathedral with trade union banners

A historic event is being planned in Bristol Cathedral to remember those who have been killed or injured during the course of their work.

Open to people of all faiths and none, the event will bring together a range of people to honour those killed at work and commit to defending health and safety at work.

South West TUC Regional Secretary Nigel Costley said: "Workers' Memorial Day is marked around the world. This will be a historic occasion and one fitting to those killed and injured as a result of their work, while we redouble our efforts to keep workers safe."

Nigel Costley said: "Those that knock health and safety should be reminded what safety law is all about - preventing deaths and accidents like these. Not only do funding cuts to the HSE and local authorities mean there are fewer official safety inspections, the government has also said that workplaces like shops, offices, schools, docks and farms no longer need to be routinely visited.

Speakers will include NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, Julia Verne from the South West Public Health Observatory, Farzana Saker from Bristol Multi-Faith Forum, David Smith from the Blacklist Support Group, Sam Maher from Labour behind the Label and Canon Tim Higgins. Bristol's Red Notes Choir will provide the musical accompaniment. BBC Points West's Sally Challoner will interview the families of people who have died as a result of their work.

Download the flyer here

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Big Pay Debate

Introductory letter to The Big Pay Debate from High Pay Centre director Deborah Hargreaves.

Who gets paid what is at the heart of the debate about fairness and a more moral capitalism. The financial crisis has turned an already emotive issue into one that invokes deep-seated passions. What we are paid can create an important sense of self-worth as well as visceral feelings of bitterness.

Since 1979, remuneration for those at the top of our biggest companies has gone up sharply. This has been accompanied by a squeeze on wages. Pay for FTSE 100 bosses has more than trebled in the past decade from £1.5 million to £4.8 million or 185 times the average salary. During the same period, average weekly wages have risen by 51 per cent, barely keeping up with price increases: the retail prices index is up 45 per cent.

Share-based pay has driven up remuneration for top bosses as investors argue that stock awards align managers’ incentives with their own. However, this has made executive pay incredibly complex and hard to understand. The High Pay Centre is sceptical about the effectiveness of this so-called performance-related pay.

Corporate leaders have successfully argued that there is a global market for their talent and they need to be paid accordingly. At the same time, globalisation has meant those lower down the income scale are competing with poorly paid workers on other continents.

If the minimum wage had risen at the same pace as executive pay since its introduction in 1999, it would now be £19 instead of £6.19, according to the TUC.

The gap between top pay and everyone else on the income scale has opened into a wide chasm as the top 1 per cent and even 0.1 per cent has accelerated away from the rest. This has exacerbated inequality in Britain with taxpayers spending £4bn on in-work transfers to support low pay.

This does not have to be the case. There is strong evidence to suggest that businesses with lower pay gaps work better. The economy would also receive a boost if those further down the income scale had more spending power.

As part of The Big Pay Debate, we want to discuss what is fair pay at all levels. We need to harness as many voices as possible to discuss solutions to the disparity between executive pay and salaries further down the income distribution.

The High Pay Centre will be working with a range of partners to enable as many different bodies, from across the political spectrum, to get involved in the debate and to influence decision-making on issues of executive remuneration and corporate governance. A full list of our partners can be found on the Big Pay Debate homepage -

To develop this conversation and to bring forward new ideas and new thinking to pay issues, The High Pay Centre will be holding a series of events and carrying out a programme of projects and research to accompany them. See the events and publications pages of The High Pay Centre website for full details -

The Big Pay Debate will be highly interactive and we encourage people to get involved with the debate in a number of ways:
  • Respond to the polls on The Big Pay Debate homepage
  • Leave comments on The Big Pay Debate message boards
  • Attend debates and discussions
  • Join the Big Pay Debate on Twitter using the hashtag #bigpaydebate @highpaycentre
Alternatively email or see the website for more information.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Spirit of '45 at the Curzon Clevedon on 9th June

Ken Loach's new film The Spirit of '45 will be shown at the Film Club at the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon at 7.45 pm on Sunday 9th June.

After the main film the Curzon will also show a recording of a Ken Loach Q&A.

Trade Union members will be granted Honorary Film Club member status for the night and will get a discount - the ticket price will be reduced to £6.50 or £5.40 concessions.

The Curzon have also offered a £6 a head deal if we make a block booking of 20 people or more. If you'd like to attend please contact the branch on

The box office, exhibition and Lounge Bar will open at 6 pm, the auditorium will open at 7.15 pm, and the main film will start at 7.45 pm.

If you've never been to the Curzon Cinema before you're in for a real treat. The films start when they say they're going to start, the staff are really friendly, you don't get ripped off when you buy popcorn and if you're really lucky there'll be someone playing the organ.

On 10th June from 7 to 8 .30 pm the new Curzon Conversations group will be discussing the Spirit of '45, amongst other films. Ticket prices are £2.50 / £2 concessions.

For more information on the Curzon Cinema go to their website:

The film combines archive footage and interviews to explore the creation and development of social welfare institutions by the Labour Government after the Second World War. It has a strong historical feel, but also ties in with current policy debates on cuts, the privatisation of healthcare and threats to the NHS.

Watch the trailer at this link:

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Local Government Pay - It's Time to take a Stand

Local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been living with a pay freeze for the last three years. Our members haven’t even received the £250 promised by the government and given to other public sector staff in 2011 and 2012.
The bottom line:
  • since 2009 your pay has fallen by 16% after inflation
  • those on the lowest pay get little more than the national minimum wage
  • over two thirds of staff fall below the government’s low pay threshold of £21,000 pa
  • local government pay is by far the lowest in the public sector
  • more than 75% of the workforce are women so pay inequality is rising
  • many UNISON members are in debt and struggling to pay their bills.
Councils are cutting pay, freezing increments and slashing conditions. This is the thanks you get for keeping local services going and covering the 260,000 local government jobs that have been cut. Local promises of job security in return for cuts to pay and conditions have been broken everywhere.

We believe it’s time to take a stand!
Now, to add insult to injury, the employers have offered an initial pay deal that UNISON cannot accept.

Let’s take a stand together

UNISON believes that you have shown your commitment to keeping council services going. Now your employers need to show their commitment to you. 
The employers have offered:
  • 1% on all pay points – but only if you accept lower mileage rates from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the union gives up the right to go to arbitration if we can’t agree a pay  offer or other changes to your conditions
  • an increase in basic annual leave of one day to 22 days – which would only benefit a small number of staff
  • an extension of continuous service protection from five to 10 years if you return to local government employment after a break.
They also want us to discuss further cuts to your conditions – including sick pay – next year. If we don’t agree they have threatened to offer a ‘punishment option’ of 1% for those on scale  points 4-10 – that’s over 200,000 employees – and 0.6% for those above.

UNISON believes it’s time to take a stand against poverty pay to start making up for the earnings we have lost over the last three years.

Councils can pay more

The government has hit local government hard, but councils can still afford to pay more:
  • many have already said that they can pay 1% or more without strings
  • councils outside the NJC bargaining group have all offered at least 1% this year – some 2%
  • some councils have already paid the living wage and others are promising to - that’s a 15% pay rise on the bottom rate so they can afford a better deal for everyone
  • council reserves have risen from £13bn to £16bn in the last two years - just £1bn would mean a 5% pay rise to make up for lost pay
  • the amount spent by councils on pay has fallen by 10% – £1.4bn - in the last year alone as jobs and pay have been cut and that’s on top of huge savings in previous years too.
We don’t believe that the employers’ offer reflects what councils have said they can afford.

What happens next?

We are asking you to contact your local councillors and council leader to say that the offer is an insult you can’t accept. Most councils have a website which will tell you who your councillors are and how to contact them. Email us on if you would like model text to use.

UNISON’s priority is to get the employers back into negotiations to try and improve the offer.

We will also begin preparations to consult all affected members on the final offer.

Check out our website and our new Facebook page ‘Time To Take a Stand’.

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Spirit of '45 - a film about when Britain created a fairer society

Ken Loach's new film The Spirit of '45 opens this weekend. The film combines archive footage and interviews to explore the creation and development of social welfare institutions by the Labour Government after the Second World War. It has a strong historical feel, but also ties in with current policy debates on cuts, the privatisation of healthcare and threats to the NHS.

The nearest screening to Weston super Mare is at the Watershed in Bristol - times of screenings are here:

We've just heard that the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon will be showing the Spirit of '45 at their Film Club on Sunday 9th June at 7.45 pm. Further details and tickets at

Here's a link to the trailer:

Inline image 1

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Low Pay and the Living Wage - articles in this week's Weston Mercury

Good articles on Low Pay and the Living Wage in this week's Weston Mercury.

District’s workers struggling to cope (article by Bethan Evans)
WORKERS in Weston and North Somerset have been named the worst hit by the recession, according to a recent survey, leaving families struggling to pay food and house bills.

The result comes from campaigning trade union GMB’s survey, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, and revealed an 18.5 per cent drop in the real value of earnings in North Somerset since 2008.

The study, which is based on wage figures from April 2008 to November 2012, showed people living in the South West and Wiltshire were the worst affected.

In 2008 the annual earnings for resident employees in North Somerset was £28,304. This had dipped to £27,334 in 2012, a decrease of £1,069.

Ian Fraser, from Weston Foodbank, said there has also been an increase in residents being referred to the charity.

He said: “We are noticing people on low wages, who cannot keep up with utility bills and food prices, are being referred to us. In January the number doubled, compared to last year.

“Last year we were giving out an average of one tonne of food a month to the people of Weston. In November and December it went up to 1.5 tonnes and by January we were giving out 2.3 tonnes.”

But Ian said this also shows the amount of support members of the community are offering to help their struggling neighbours.

He said: “We are seeing the community come together and support local charities like the Foodbank.

“Unfortunately it looks like charities have to take on statutory obligations, which we are not equipped to do, but at least the community is stepping up and it deserves thanks.”

GMB’s survey also showed Somerset’s annual earnings in 2012 went down by £1,606 from 2008.

Helen Thornton, from North Somerset Unison, added: “I think this is an issue of fairness.

“Unison, as a trade union, has welfare funding, which members can apply for if they are in financial difficulty. My understanding is that applications have rocketed, particularly over the past three years where people have not had a pay rise.

“I think it’s outrageous we live in a society where we think it’s OK to pay people who do important jobs, such as carers for example, such a low wage. There is something immoral about that.”

Council workers could be in line for pay rises (article by Tom Wright)

THE lowest paid public sector workers could be set for a pay rise after the council announced plans to review its wage structure.

North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton has agreed to a request from trade union members to investigate the affordability of boosting the pay for some of the authority’s workforce.

Cleaners, school caterers and school crossing patrol workers all earn less than the living wage, according to Unison’s Helen Thornton.

She said while they earn above the UK minimum wage – £6.19 per hour for employees aged 21 and over – their wage is below the living wage of £7.45 per hour, meaning many council workers have to choose between ‘eating and heating’.

Cllr Ashton confirmed a working party would be set up to look into whether the lowest paid employees could receive an increased salary.

He said the group would be headed by Cllr Tony Lake, executive member for finance, and involve members of all political parties and trade union representatives.

Ms Thornton said she was glad the council was looking into the idea of the living wage following three years of pay freezes.

She said: “The public spending cuts are hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. Austerity has choked off economic growth and 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.

“According to the Trades Union Congress there are 22,463 workers - 26 per cent of the working population - 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 per cent of the council’s own workforce, including schools staff, earn under the living wage and the vast majority of these are women.”

Local Government workers have nothing to lose but their chains - Reject the 1% pay offer

The joint Local Government Trade Unions submitted a pay claim for this year demanding ‘a substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the Living Wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point’.

The Local Government Employers have put two options on the table, both of which I think are a kick in the teeth for local government workers. We have had our pay frozen for 3 years, amounting to a real terms 15% pay cut. Local Government workers earning under £21,000 did not get the £250 pay increase promised by George Osborne. The lowest rate of local government pay is only a few pence above the minimum wage - if we'd had inflation pay increases over the last few years it would be closer to the living wage. 20% of local government workers still earn under the living wage. But not only have we had a pay cut over the last 3 years we have also suffered massive job losses, along with reductions in terms and conditions.

Where I work at North Somerset Council there have already been massive cuts, but because George Osborne has decreed that austerity will last even longer my council is now preparing to make another 30% cut to its budget up to 2018, including a 10% cut for 2014 - this will result in many more job losses. A 1% pay increase at a time when inflation is close to 3% and after 3 years of a pay freeze is just not good enough. But for me it's also very simple - if it is likely that potentially a third to a half of local government workers are going to be made redundant in the next 4 years, and given that our redundancy packages are based on our weekly pay then wouldn't it be a good idea to get our weekly pay increased by as much as possible, so when we are made redundant our packages are as good as possible.

Local Government workers have now got nothing to lose by taking action, but everything to gain. Those members who are worried they will lose their jobs if they take action to get a fair pay increase, don't need to worry, because if the government doesn't change course (and it won't!), half of us will lose our jobs anyway.

My own view is that along with the other local government trade unions we combine a work to rule, with individual days of strike action, and that we also put pressure on the TUC to call a general strike, and that we take action until the substantial flat rate increase that we demanded is put on the table, and my own view on this is that the substantial flat rate increase should be £2200 - which would then take all those local government workers earning just above the minimum wage, up to the living wage.

The options are below and here's the the link to Pay Matters Campaign Issue 1 outlining the reasons why members should reject:

Option 1

1.0% on all pay points from 1 April 2013

NJC mileage rates replaced by HMRC Approved Mileage Rates ( for those councils currently applying NJC rates, from a date to be agreed (Green Book Part 2 Para 12 and Part 3 Para 6 refers)

Unilateral arbitration clause replaced by bilateral reference, from date to be agreed (Green Book Constitution Para 17 refers)

An increase in the minimum paid annual leave entitlement from 21 days to 22 days, from a date to be agreed (Green Book Part 2 Para 7.2 refers)
Increase in continuous service entitlement for the purposes of calculation of entitlements to annual leave, occupational maternity leave / pay and occupational sick pay from return to service within five years to within ten years of the original transfer, from a date to be agreed (Green Book Part 2 Para 14.2 and 14.3 refers)
Joint statement providing a list of the issues on which both Sides agree to commence immediate serious discussions.

(NB: all dates for implementation of changes to be agreed as part of final deal)

Option 2

1.0% on pay points 4 to 10 from 1 April 2013

0.6% on pay points 11 and above from 1 April 2013

The branch needs members views on whether they are prepared to be balloted to take strike action, and/or action short of strike action in order to get an improved offer. Please let us know what you think by speaking to your workplace representative or by emailing

Friday, 1 March 2013

UNISON Recruitment Events in March

UNISON Regional staff will be holding two recruitment events at North Somerset Council offices in March.

  • 7th March from 10 am to 2 pm at the front staff entrance of the Town Hall in Weston super Mare
  • 14th March from 10 am to 2 pm outside the canteen at Castlewood in Clevedon
There will be information stalls, free goodies and a prize draw for members who recruit a colleague.

The branch is also advertising on Council TV screens dotted around the Town Hall in Weston. Here's a picture: