Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review of the Year 2014

2014 was another challenging year for the branch, and 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 attending lobbies, marches and rallies.

The year began with some good news and some bad news. The bad news was that North Somerset Council's Living Wage working group had concluded that for financial reasons they could not afford to pay the living wage - it would have cost them £435,000. Only one month later the council's budget documents showed the council's reserves had shot up to £11.6 million - £3 million above their approved prudential level and a sum which had been built up in part by the £3 million underspend on staff salaries over the previous 4 years - the Living Wage now seemed very affordable indeed! In January the Information Commissioner ordered the council to release the detailed version of KPMG's report into the Support Services contract. The council had tried to keep this report secret, even denying its existence at one point. UNISON had spent over a year trying to get the report, but our work finally paid off. We also got lots of good news coverage, and a UNISON Rep spoke on BBC Radio Bristol.

In February as part of the 2014 Local Government pay claim the branch ran information events at the Town Hall and Castlewood. We also finally got to see the detailed KPMG report, which outlined some serious issues with the Support Services contract, and which also came at a time when the council had begun negotiations with Agilisys on extending the contract. The branch wrote to all North Somerset councillors outlining KPMG's and our concerns with the Agilisys contract. Also in February we held our annual lobby of the council's budget setting meeting, and a UNISON Rep spoke at the meeting. We were joined at our demo outside the Town Hall by Labour and Lib-Dem councillors, and members of the Green Party. Tory councillors went on to vote through another £11 million of cuts, including 50 full-time job losses, as well as freezing council tax for the majority, but increasing it for the poorest.

In March North Somerset Council announced it's 4 year Transformation Programme - effectively a massive cuts programme, which is likely to result in further privatisation of services, as well as more redundancies for council staff. Although the initial proposals were for more staff and services (admin and front office) to be transferred to the Agilisys contract, the branch wrote to all Local Government members to make them aware of the impact for all council staff. The council are also looking to further integrate Health and Social Care, as well as share services with other councils, and this is likely to lead to redundancies. We also started to run regular members meetings to keep members up to date, and conducted a consultative ballot on the Transformation Programme. In March we also ran a consultative ballot on the Local Government pay claim. 12th March marked the 30th anniversary of the 1984-85 Miners strike and the branch made a donation to help fund the making of a new documentary - Still the Enemy Within. Sadly in March the world lost two great socialists, when Tony Benn and Bob Crow died.

On April Fools Day we published the results of our Transformation Programme consultative ballot - members voted overwhelmingly to campaign against privatisations and redundancies (75%), with 20% saying they'd like redundancy and 5% saying that they would transfer to Agilisys if it meant saving their jobs. In April the TUC published statistics on workers earning less than the living wage - it was 28% in Weston super Mare parliamentary constituency, over a third of whom are women, and many are Local Government workers. Also in April North Somerset Council created some new Assistant Executive members, and gave the councillors that took on those roles pay increases - but they still couldn't afford to pay their staff the living wage! At the end of April our consultative ballot of Local Government and Schools members over the derisory 1% pay increase showed that 70% wanted to reject and move to a ballot for strike action.

May was taken up with campaigning against the council's Transformation Programme, including a lobby of the council meeting on 6th May where councillors met to approve entering further negotiations with Agilisys to transfer more staff and services into the Support Services contract. We had a really good turnout at our lobby, a UNISON Rep spoke at the meeting, and we had also submitted a long list of questions to councillors ahead of the meeting. As a result of our work one of the opposition councillors proposed an amendment to include an in-house service plan, at the same time as negotiating with Agilisys. This amendment, slightly reworded, was voted through - a victory for the councillor and for UNISON, but one, that as we were to find out later in the year, was not all we thought it was. In May we also began the ballot for strike action over the Local Government and Schools Pay Claim. Also in May European Elections were held with UKIP gaining ground in North Somerset - a very worrying prospect for next year's General and Local elections.

In June we got the brilliant news that Weston General Hospital had decided it would stop the open procurement process which allowed private companies to bid for the hospital, and look at NHS partners only. Three local hospitals were now in the running to take it over - University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Taunton and Musgrove Park NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The branch had been working with the local Protect Our NHS group campaigning against the privatisation of Weston Hospital for over a year. The work we did on raising the issue in the media, and collecting hundreds of signatures on a petition had paid off - it was a victory for common sense. Also in June UNISON members in Local Government and Schools rejected the 1% pay offer and voted for industrial action. At the end of June the People's Assembly held a demonstration against Austerity in Parliament Square in London, and a few North Somerset UNISON members attended it.

In July UNISON members working in Local Government and Schools (excluding Academies) took industrial action, along with UNITE, GMB, FBU and PCS. We had a brilliant turnout on our picket lines at Castlewood and the Town Hall, had huge support from members of the public, and were blessed by glorious sunshine. It was so hot on the day we used our branch banner to create a tent to give us some shade, and at lunch time we had a Picnic for Pay on the grass outside the town hall . Also in July we started a petition for an Ethical Care Charter for North Somerset. At the very end of the month UNISON announced it would be balloting NHS members for industrial action after the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt overruled the NHS Pay Review Body and announced that only those NHS staff not due an increment would get a 1% pay increase. This meant that 60% of NHS staff would not be getting a cost of living increase this year.

In August UNISON members previously working for Learning Partnership West TUPE transferred into the council to become the Youth Employment Service. North Somerset UNISON branch officers met with UNISON colleagues at Bath & North East Somerset Council to discuss both councils decision to share services. UNISON also announced a second day of industrial action for Local Government and Schools workers in October - this time including Academies. At the end of the month the strike ballot for NHS workers began.

In September more of our work on the Agilisys contract paid off, with the council taking a decision to postpone their vote on awarding the contract from 23rd September to 21st October, pending more scrutiny. UNISON had made numerous submissions to the Agilisys Contract Working Group, as well as attending and speaking at the meetings. We also attended a Scrutiny meeting, where council officers tried to get councillors to vote to exclude the public from the meeting on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, but councillors disagreed and the public (consisting of 1 UNISON Rep) were allowed to stay. The so-called commercially confidential presentation that councillors were given made it apparent that no work on an in-house plan had been done. In September, before councillors had voted to approve extending the contract, 200 council staff received letters either advising them they would be TUPE transferred or have their service redesigned and then possibly be transferred, if the councillors voted in favour of it in October. In September the People's March for the NHS arrived in London - the Darlo Mums had marched 300 miles from Jarrow to highlight what is happening as a result of the Health and Social Care Act, which has opened the NHS up to privatisation. A few members of North Somerset UNISON were part of the huge crowd that met them in Trafalgar Square. Also in September UNISON members working in the NHS voted yes to industrial action, and action short of industrial action, i.e. work to rule.

We knew October was going to be a busy month with strike action at Weston General Hospital and at North Somerset Council, Schools and Academies - all over pay. But the Local Government and Schools strike was called off at the eleventh hour after a very slightly improved offer from the employers, and UNISON balloted members on whether they were prepared to accept the offer or continue with industrial action. UNISON members working in the NHS, along with members from many other Health Unions went out on strike over pay on 13th October followed by a week of working to rule. On 18th October the branch took a coach load of members to London for the TUC's Britain Needs a Pay Rise march and rally, and we ended up meeting former UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe and Russell Brand - who says there isn't power in a union! Just a few days later UNISON members did themselves proud at our lobby of the council meeting on 21st, when despite our best efforts Tory councillors voted to extend the Support Services contract to a 15 year term, and transfer 130 full-time jobs to Agilisys. Opposition councillors and UNISON found out that our definition of an in-house plan was not the same as that of senior council officers and Tory Executive members. Straight after the lobby a few of us drove up to the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon to see a documentary we had helped to fund about the 1984-85 Miners Strike called Still the Enemy Within, followed by a Q&A with one of the film makers and a former miner.

In November we continued to hold regular meetings for UNISON members who will now TUPE transfer to Agilisys as a result of the council's decision to privatise more services. The first week of November was Living Wage week, and the yearly increase of the Living Wage was announced - it now stands at £7.85 per hour outside London. UNISON workers in Local Government and Schools voted to accept the latest pay offer, which through industrial action had been improved, but still only brings the lowest level of Local Government pay up to £7.06 an hour - still well below the Living Wage, with a 2.2% increase over 2 years for most staff. At the same time North Somerset Council appointed a consultant as the interim Head of Finance on a salary of £825 a day - but they still couldn't afford to pay their staff the living wage! Also in November the branch wrote to all members with the good news about a European Court case won by UNISON, which had ruled that workers  who receive regular additional payments such as unsocial hours and overtime payments, should still be paid them during annual leave, and if they do not receive them then they may have a claim against their employer. Towards the end of November UNISON members in the NHS took their second day of industrial action, again joined by many other Health Unions and again followed by a work to rule.

In December UNISON announced that there will be two further days of industrial action in the NHS in January and February, with a work to rule in between those dates. We also found out that Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust were the only bidders for Weston General Hospital and so will take it over in Summer 2015. We ended the year as we began it with some good news and some bad news. The good news was that North Somerset Council have begun consulting on the recommissioning of Home Care services - the majority of which is now privatised - and have included stage 1 of UNISON's Ethical Care Charter as part of the quality assessment of bids, along with a commitment to stages 2 and 3 in the future. Our Ethical Care campaign had begun just over a year ago. The bad news was that it looks likely that the council's only remaining in-house Home Care - the START reablement team - will be outsourced as part of this recommissioning. In addition just before Christmas the council presented the trade unions with their proposals to reduce enhancements such as overtime and unsocial hours payments, call out and standby allowances. Just over 2 years ago UNISON had managed to get the council to postpone reductions to enhancements pending a cost of living pay increase - now they are back on the table and early in the new year we will be balloting UNISON members on whether they want to accept the reductions or whether they are prepared to take action to stop them.

As usual, throughout the year the branch has been involved in numerous service reviews and consultations on policies, as well as meetings on the integration of health and social care.. The branch has also represented well over 200 members in individual cases. We have also sent delegates to a number of UNISON conferences and regional councils.

2015 looks like it will be another difficult year. Our Branch Secretary Helen Davies and our Branch Chair Martin Toleman are retiring. Whoever steps into their roles will have their work cut out for them as North Somerset Council plan to make another £15 million of cuts to services in 2015/16 on top of £63 million of cuts made since 2010, with a further £22 million of cuts to come up to 2018. This is likely to mean redundancies for a number of council staff, as well as further privatisations of services. On 31st January the council will transfer many of their admin and front office staff to Agilisys and Liberata - we'll see how that works out for them, particularly as it coincides with the implementation of the ICT transformation. UNISON members in Health will be taking further industrial action - it's going to take a lot to get Jeremy Hunt to back down, although the closer we get to the election the more likely that might be. Our members at Weston General Hospital will also face being TUPE transferred to Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust by Summer 2015.

George Osborne's Autumn statement, delivered in December, confirmed that if re-elected the Tories will continue with their austerity programme. It is now crystal clear (if it wasn't already) that the public spending cuts are not necessary, and that the Tories always intended to roll back the state, and return the country to 1930s levels of public spending - that is before the creation of the welfare state. But in 2015 we have an opportunity to decide what sort of country we want to live in when we vote in both the general and local elections. If the Tories get another 5 year term nationally, they will have destroyed what remains of the welfare state, local government will cease to exist or only exist as a commissioner of services, our NHS will have been mainly privatised, and employment and trade union rights will have been further reduced. If this is not the country you want to live in then you need to seriously think about voting for parties other than the Conservatives. And don't be fooled by UKIP - they are racist wolves in sheep's clothing or "pound shop Enoch Powell's" as Russell Brand described Nigel Farage.

Over the past four and half years the Tories both nationally and locally have shown that they govern in the interests of the wealthy. Those at the very top of society - the 1% - have been completely unaffected by the government's austerity programme, while ordinary people have seen their incomes and living standards fall. Here in North Somerset the council thought it was absolutely fine to increase the allowances of some councillors as well as hiring an interim Finance Chief and paying her £825 a day, but at the same time they claim that they cannot afford to pay their staff the living wage, and in the new year they want to reduce payments for unsocial hours working. In addition right at the beginning of the year the council froze council tax for the majority, but increased it for the poorest when they reduced the Council Tax Support Scheme.

2014 has been another year of headlines about food banks, the bedroom tax, homelessness, social security cuts, zero hours contracts, underemployment and low pay. UNISON members in the NHS, Local Government and Schools, as well as trade union members in other industries and public services have taken industrial action over pay (and pensions in the case of the Firefighters). Low Pay and the Living Wage have been the big issues of 2014 for the trade union movement, and will continue to be the big issues for 2015.

In 1857 Frederick Douglass, the great African American abolitionist said that "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." Almost 100 years later in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote "it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily." If workers want their fair share of the enormous wealth which is currently owned and controlled by the 1% we need to demand it and be prepared to fight for it. If we do that then we've got a good chance of winning - as the Occupy movement have so aptly put it - we are the 99% and if we stand together against the 1%, 99 to 1 are great odds.

Image above (c) Jared Davidson -

Saturday, 27 December 2014

North Somerset Council includes UNISON's Ethical Care Charter as part of its recommissioning of Home Care Services

North Somerset Council have included the following reference to UNISON's Ethical Care Charter in their recently opened consultation on the new model of commissioning domiciliary care in North Somerset

'Ethical care charter

The "Ethical Care Charter" was developed by Unison in 2008

The Council wants to ensure that care in North Somerset meets stage 1 of the charter through the new contract model and will be working towards stages 2 and 3.

The most difficult elements of the charter are likely to be: reimbursement for travel time; the paying of a living wage and sick pay. The national minimum wage currently stands at £6.50 whereas the current UK Living Wage is £7.85 an hour. Whilst it is recognised that there are elements within the charter that are difficult to attain, within the resource envelope, it will form part of the tender assessment process (Invitation To Tender) and points will be awarded for the factors achieved.'

If you receive Home Care, or are a relative or friend of someone that does, or you are a Home Care Worker, or simply and interested and concerned citizen, then please give your views by going to the following link:

The consultation closes on 25th January 2015.

Friday, 19 December 2014

NHS staff to strike again in January and February 2015

UNISON members working in the NHS in England will walkout for 12 hours between 9am – 9pm on Thursday 29th January.

They will then work to rule between Friday 30 and Tuesday 24 February which means they will be working their contracted hours and will take their breaks and not do unpaid overtime. This will be followed a 24-hour strike on Wednesday 25 February.

UNISON members along with workers from 11 other Trade Unions have already taken two four-hour stoppages in October and November. This third round of action is in protest at the Government’s decision to reject the 1% pay rise for NHS staff as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body in 2014 and the fact most will be denied a pay increase in 2015/16.

Christina McAnea UNISON Head of Health said:

"We warned months ago that this dispute is here to stay unless the Government and NHS employers are prepared to negotiate with us.

"Today (Friday 19 December) is likely to be the busiest day in the NHS with ambulance and A&E staff put under huge pressure to deal with the fallout from the many Christmas parties taking place across the country.

"We have decided not to take strike action over the Christmas period as services are already at breaking point at this time. Our members are demonstrating their concern for patient safety. I only wish the employers and Government would do the same.

"Instead they are being completely irresponsible by refusing to have meaningful negotiations on how we resolve this dispute. And they are putting patients lives at risk.

"Our members’ pay has been frozen or held down for the past five years and there is no end in sight. On average, they have lost around 10% in the value of their pay over the life of this parliament.

"We now have no option but to escalate and plan for longer strikes.  The anger among health workers has reached levels where they are now ready to walk out for 24 hours.  NHS staff have been singled out by this coalition government for the worst treatment across the public sector.

"Other groups will get their recommended pay increases – for MPs this is 11%.

"In the NHS, many workers are facing serious financial hardship especially at this time of year. It is a national disgrace that 77,000 NHS staff still don’t receive the Living Wage and that many have to rely on food banks. The governments in Wales and Scotland have committed to paying this.

"All we are asking is for fair and decent pay for NHS workers."

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

United We Stand - 16th & 17th February at Bristol Bierkeller

United We Stand, a new play by Neil Gore at:

Bristol Bierkeller Theatre, All Saints' Street, Bristol BS1 2NA,
Tickets: £11.00/£6.00 (Unwaged/Students/Senior Citizens) 
19:30 - 21:30
Box office: 0117 9302464

In 1972 tens of thousands of building workers won the first national strike in the industry for better pay and conditions. 'Flying pickets left the contractors reeling. The Tory government and the large building companies wanted revenge, and the 'Shrewsbury 24' were put on trial in the following year.

'Townsend Productions' new play, UNITED WE STAND, follows in the traditional of their highly successful productions The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and We Will Be Free!-the Tolpuddle Martyrs Story, and focuses on the true and still very current events that led to the imprisonment of building workers Des Warren and Eric Tomlinson (Ricky Tomlinson of 'The Royle Family').

It will reflect the great tide of anger, which rocked the very foundations of the established political elite, examine the extraordinary political will of all the participants and share the anguish of falling prey to a flagrant miscarriage of justice.

Combining Townsend Productions' trademark small-cast, grand theatrical style and wit with popular and political songs of the early seventies (directed by John Kirkpatrick) and Ricky Tomlinson's poems from his time in prison, this production aims to bring the full story of this compelling dispute to life, and will guarantee a powerfully challenging and entertaining evening for all its audiences.

More information:

Thursday, 11 December 2014

North Somerset Council's Budget Cuts proposals for 2015

North Somerset UNISON is advising all our members who work for North Somerset Council to make sure you read the council's Medium Term Financial Plan to see how their proposed budget cuts will affect you and your service users.

Your 2.2% pay increase from January 2015 covering the period up to 31st March 2016 only cost them £73,000 more than they'd budgeted for, but now they're looking to remove overtime payments and pay enhancements, and changing the criteria for paying mileage when you use your own car for council business. UNISON will be receiving more detail on this soon, and we will be consulting members on the proposals, and what you are prepared to do to stop them.

The projected variance on all of the council’s salary budgets identified at month 6 is a minor net under spend of £0.190m, which equates to 0.42% of the annual budget. North Somerset Council have underspent on staff salaries every year for the last few years - and this money has been put into council reserves.

They've put £2 million aside for a severance reserve - that is a pot for all the redundancies they expect to make.

There are £15 million of cuts to the services you deliver in 2015. Make sure you have a look at the Medium Term Financial Plan. Appendix 3 - page 17 onwards lists the proposed cuts, line by line.

The latest version of the Medium Term Financial Plan (9th December) is at this link:

The draft version was first published on 21st October -

Monday, 24 November 2014

Friday, 21 November 2014

NHS Strike - 24th November - Weston General Hospital

UNISON members working in the NHS, along with members of many other Health unions, will strike again for 4 hours on 24th November, followed by a week in which they will not undertake any unpaid overtime. There will be picket lines at Weston General Hospital from 7 am to 11 am on 24th November – all are welcome.

Here's a reminder of when the NHS was first established.

Sunday, 16 November 2014


As a result of our strike action on 10th July the Local Government employers made an improved pay offer, and over the last month UNISON members have been consulted on the latest proposals. The joint trade unions UNISON, UNITE and GMB announced on Friday that members have accepted the pay proposals.

This means that UNISON members will receive small unconsolidated lump sums in their pay packets in December and in some cases April next year, along with a pay increase covering the period 1st January 2015 to 31st March 2016 – for the vast majority this is a 2.2% increase over 2 years, with larger percentage increases for the very lowest paid.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

UNISON's Organising Space - a new resource for Reps

Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram? UNISON is pioneering a new secure social learning microsite exclusively for our activists and staff.

The Organising Space is a secure and safe online resource developed to support our activist and organising communities. Its aim is to support building relationships, sharing knowledge, learning and experiences.

The space will allow us to share content, have discussions, ask experts and seek support from our peers.

The Organising Space will encourage the sharing of content that is innovative, creative, flexible, interactive and dynamic.

If you want to join the Organising Space you will need a MyUNISON account (sign up here).

Visit the Organising Space.

Union is Strength!

A great video I found on UNISON's new Organising Space:

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Do you receive regular additional payments such as unsocial hours and overtime payments, shift premiums, commission or bonuses, but you aren’t paid these when you take annual leave? 

The European Court has recently ruled in a UNISON case that workers ought not to suffer financially when they take annual leave. This means that if you receive any of the above payments or any other additional payments when you are at work (other than expenses) but do not receive them for periods when you are on holiday, you may be able to claim back pay in respect of non-payment of these additional sums.

We have recently written to all our members to inform that if the above applies to you, you must contact us immediately and complete a case form. You can request a case form by phoning the branch office on 01934 634759 or you can download a case form from the branch website at:

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

NHS staff to strike again on 24th November

UNISON has confirmed that its members working in the NHS in England will stage a four-hour stoppage between 7am and 11am on Monday 24 November.

This will be followed by a week of action short of strike action between Tuesday 25 and Sunday 30 November when members will work to rule and not do any unpaid overtime.

A recent Income Data Services (IDS) survey for NHS trade unions revealed that increased workload, low pay, constant restructures and the stresses of the job are among the reasons why two thirds (66%) of NHS workers have considered quitting.

Christina McAnea, UNISON head of health and chair of the NHS staff side trade unions, said:

"For many in the NHS, last month’s strike was a first. The next industrial action will be bigger as more unions will be joining it. Jeremy Hunt needs to listen to NHS workers who feel this Government is treating them with contempt.

"NHS workers are overworked and underpaid. Most patients would be shocked to know that one in five of the NHS workers who care for them need to do a second job just to survive and many have to borrow money every month to make ends meet or resort to foodbanks."

The IDS survey of nearly 30,000 union members working in the NHS, including cleaners, radiographers, nurses and senior managers, revealed how workers are feeling the strain as more than a third of respondents work unpaid overtime.

This was confirmed by four in five of the managers during in-depth interviews. Around half of managers feel unpaid overtime is causing problems with morale, motivation, fatigue and ‘burning out’.

The research also shows a growing number (62%) have to rely on extra earnings compared to 54% in 2012.

Christina McAnea added:

"Low morale is endemic. And this is echoed by a King’s Fund report out today which shows staff morale is now one of NHS finance directors’ top three concerns. Twice as many from the previous quarter."

NHS workers took strike action over pay for the first time in 32 years on Monday 13 October. This was followed by a week of action short of strike action when members took their meal and rest breaks.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Agilisys Contract Extension - UNISON submissions to North Somerset Council

We can now publish our submissions to the council's scrutiny panel and Agilisys contract working group, because commercial confidentiality no longer applies.

UNISON Reps have attended and spoken at the council’s Agilisys Contract working group on 19th June, 1st and 23rd September. We have also made a number of submissions. Here they are:

UNISON Submission to Agilisys Contract Working Group 1st September 2014

UNISON Submission to Agilisys Contract Working Group 23rd September 2014

We have also attended the Council's Community and Corporate Organisation Policy & Scrutiny Panels on 8th July, 16th September, 8th October, 20th October, and made a number of submissions. Here they are:

UNISON submission to Community and Corporate Organisation Policy & Scrutiny Panel 8th October 2014

UNISON submission to Community and Corporate Organisation Policy & Scrutiny Panel 20th October 2014

Tory Councillors vote to privatise more services at North Somerset Council

UNISON members did themselves proud tonight with a brilliant turnout at our lobby of North Somerset Council , when councillors met to vote on extending the contract with Agilisys, including the transfer of 130 admin and front office staff. Recently the council's Head of HR told UNISON Reps that staff were happy to transfer to Agilisys - the turnout at our lobby proves him wrong.

The council's Chief Executive started the meeting by giving a presentation on the so-called benefits of extending the contract, including their ridiculous interpretation of the phrase in-house service plan - apparently they have asked Agilisys to provide their in-house service plan! Of course this means that the plan for services isn't actually being implemented in-house, because the last time I looked Agilisys are a private sector company, not a local authority.

Opposition councillors expressed serious concerns about the proposal, including the lack of an in-house service plan, the lack of information to enable them to vote and the impact on staff. The councillors who spoke up for staff and against the contract were Mike Bell, Tom Leimdorfer, Richard Tucker, Donald Davies, Geoff Combs, Deborah Yamanaka and Ian Parker. But 30 Tory councillors voted to approve the contract extension, with 13 Green, Independent, Labour and Lib Dem councillors voting against. There were 18 councillors absent. The named vote is published below.

The full council report can be found at:

The report was amended to include a third recommendation that councillors continue to scrutinise the contract negotiations through the due diligence period.

Here's a video and some photos from tonight's lobby.

How the Council voted:

30 Conservatives - all voted for the contract extension

Elfan Ap Rees, Nigel Ashton, Felicity Baker, Karen Barclay, Chris Blades, Jeremy Blatchford, Mary Blatchford, Charles Cave, Robert Cleland, Peter Crew, Bob Garner, Colin Hall, Ann Harley, David Hitchins, Jill Iles, David Jolley, Anne Kemp, Reyna Knight, Tony Lake, David Pasley, Dawn Payne, Nick Pennycott, Marcia Pepperall, Lisa Pilgrim, David Poole, Ian Porter, Sonia Russe, Clive Webb, Liz Wells & Roz Willis.

13 Opposition councillors voted against:

Green Party - Tom Leimdorfer
Independents - Geoff Combs, Donald Davies, Derek Mead
Labour Party - James Clayton, Catherine Gibbons, Ian Parker, Richard Tucker
Liberal Democrats - Mike Bell, Mark Canniford, John Crockford-Hawley, Robert Payne, Deborah Yamanaka

18 absent councillors:

Conservatives - Jan Barber, Peter Bryant, Bob Cook, Carl Francis-Pester, Stephen Fudge, Linda Knott, Tim Marter, Alan McMurray, John Norton-Sealey, Terry Porter, Arthur Terry, Annabel Tall
Independent - Andy Cole, Hugh Gregor, Tony Moulin, David Shopland
Labour - Bob Bateman
Lib Dem - Clare Kingsbury-Bell

Here's our speech from tonight's meeting:

On 6th May North Somerset councillors voted to amend the Agilisys contract report to add an instruction to officers to look at other options including an in-house service plan, alongside continuing the contract negotiations. Section 9 of tonight's report claims that an in-house option has been looked at, but this is not the case - managers have not been asked to look at how services could be restructured and savings made in-house. In fact managers have been silenced, and those who have spoken out have been given warnings. Councillors should therefore be very concerned that officers have failed to carry out their instructions.

The report you are voting on tonight is all about the money. It provides you with no information about the impact on council services, service users and staff. The equality impact assessment says nothing about the impact of the move to mainly online access for  council service users, the most vulnerable of whom will find this difficult.  There is nothing in the report to tell you that Agilisys are proposing to fragment teams by taking admin staff out and putting them into what amounts to a typing pool. Gone are the days when admin staff only typed, filed and answered the phone. These staff have specialist knowledge of the teams they work for - they are integral to the way teams work, and many staff fear the impact on services of centralising them.

There is also nothing in the report to tell you that Agilisys' proposals for how staff will access admin support are likely to create more work for already overloaded front line staff - Agilisys have already proved with Itrent that they're good at pushing work back on to council staff. Neither does the report tell you that 130 and maybe more council staff will transfer, and then Agilisys will make 40 full-time jobs redundant, although the equality impact assessment does tell you that the staff affected are disproportionately female, part-time, under 20 and between 50 and 65. The report contains no mention of the cost of monitoring this extended contract, and also no mention of Schedule 15 of the contract, which outlines the procedure for further services approval. In fact there are many aspects of the contract which will require further negotiation after your vote tonight - these include detailed service specifications, and the business cases for the transformation proposals, which have not been assessed for value for money. So to put it bluntly you are being asked to vote on a contract for which the final specification and terms have not actually been agreed. We think that you cannot possibly vote on extending a contract on this basis.

Tonight's report also makes clear that the savings target of £3 million which you set for these contract negotiations has not in fact been met - it falls short by £300,000. And you can only reach the target if you agree to an investment to help Agilisys with transformation projects. In addition the difference between the 22.9% savings Agilisys are promising, and the PWC benchmarking figure of 20% potential in-house savings amounts to £87,000 - a relatively small amount in terms of the council’s overall budget. Councillors will need to balance this against the risks that services fail, that vulnerable service users are badly affected and that the council's reputation is impacted.

We also think that councillors need to consider the timing of this decision. If you vote for it tonight, staff will transfer to Agilisys on 31st January. Councillors will need to consider how this will impact on your plans to further integrate health and social care and share services with other local authorities. The transfer will also come only a few months before the social care reforms, which will place even more obligations on local authorities and is likely to lead to a need for extra staff. Officers claim that the Agilisys contract is a flexible contract, but the council have been in negotiations with Agilisys since June 2013 - a  16 month negotiation doesn't sound very flexible to us.

Because you have so little information on what this extended contract is actually going to look like, and because in our view the timing makes this dangerous for services, we think that tonight the only recommendation you can vote on with confidence is recommendation (i) a - the re-specification of currently contracted services. We think that you need to postpone your vote on all the other recommendations until you have all the information you need, including the full and final details of the contract, and the in-house service plan which you requested, and which is now essential to ensure value for money given that the Agilisys proposals fall short of your savings target of £3 million.

Finally, as you can see there are many staff here listening to what you will decide for their future, and the future of their service users. In some cases these staff have given you 30 years loyal service, they want to continue working for the council, they don't want to work for Agilisys, and they fear that services and service users will suffer if you decide to transfer them to Agilisys. Please bear that in mind when you vote tonight.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Britain Needs A Pay Rise - March and Rally on 18th October

Members of North Somerset UNISON, along with a few comrades from UNITE the Union took a coach to London and joined 100,000 people on the TUC march for a decent pay rise for all. We had a great day out. Highlights included meeting former UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe, one of our members getting her photo taken with Russell Brand, hearing some great speakers including Frances O'Grady and Harry Smith, and ending the day with a few pints in a pub at the bottom of Edgeware Road.

Here's a few photos from the day.

Former UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe
with Terry Hutt - our latest honorary member

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady

Terry's Hat

Julie and Russell

Monday, 13 October 2014

NHS Strike 13th October

Members of UNISON, UNITE and RCM on strike today

Veteran Campaigner Terry Hutt joined us

Local government and school support workers suspend strike on 14th October

The three unions which represent more than 1.5 million workers in local government and schools – UNISON, GMB and UNITE – have today (9th October) decided to suspend strike action planned for 14 October and consult their members on new proposals put forward by the Local Government Association as the best achievable by negotiation.

The proposals cover the period from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2016.

In doing so, all three unions have made it clear that they want to strengthen the collective bargaining machinery covering local government and schools and move quickly to jointly tackle important issues facing their members with the Local Government Association. Members covered by the National Joint Council for Local Government have the lowest pay in the public sector and have suffered significant attacks on their conditions of work in recent years.

The unions will now move forward together to consult their members.

UNISON Head of Local Government, Heather Wakefield said:

“These have been tough negotiations, in a tough financial climate for local government and our members. It is right that those members - who are keeping councils and schools going in tough conditions - will now have the chance to make their voice heard by voting on the LGA’s proposals.”

NJC Pay - Outline of new proposals

Here are the final proposals on NJC pay for 2014-16, which UNISON’s NJC committee considered on Thursday 10 October and agreed to consult on. The final bullet point on the outline of the propsal is an additional proposal.

We will be issuing the detailed implications of the proposals for members on Monday 13 October, following an NJC joint secretaries meeting at which we will agree pay calculations for consultation.

The intention is to ensure that the three unions and the LGA consult on exactly the same basis.


The consultation on the pay proposals will begin in the week beginning 20 October.

It will be carried out in accordance with the local government service group’s pay consultation procedures agreed at local government conference.

We will be asking branches to carry out local ballots of all members covered by the NJC, as far as possible.

Regions will be asked to support branches in the consultation process.

All members whose pay is determined by the NJC will be eligible to vote, including those not balloted for industrial action.


•£1,065 (8.56%) on Spinal Column Point 5 with effect from 1 January 2015
•£1,000 (7.93%) on SCP6 with effect from 1 January 2015
•£800 (6.19%) on SCP7 with effect from 1 January 2015
•£550 (4.13%) on SCP8 with effect from 1 January 2015
•£350 (2.55%) on SCP9 with effect from 1 January 2015
•£325 (2.32%) on SCP10 with effect from 1 January 2015

•2.20% on SCPs 11 and above with effect from 1 January 2015

•Removal of SCP5 with effect from 1 October 2015

•£325 non-consolidated payment on SCPs 5, 6 & 7 to be paid in December 2014
•£150 non-consolidated payment on SCPs 8, 9 & 10 to be paid in December 2014
•£100 non-consolidated payment on SCPs 11-25 incl to be paid in December 2014
•0.45% of proposed new salaries on SCPs 26-49 inclusive, of which £100 to be paid in December 2014 and the remaining balance to be paid in April 2015

NJC future work

Both sides recognise that local government is undergoing a period of unprecedented change.

The way that public services are designed and delivered is evolving at a rapid pace and against this background the NJC agrees that councils and their workforce need collective agreements that:

•reward employees fairly and recognise the diverse needs of the workforce;
•attract, retain and train people with the skills needed for the future;
•enable local service providers to react more quickly to changing circumstances;
•facilitate effective partnership working and collaboration across organisations;
•remove or modify existing barriers to ensure employees can move more easily between different public sector employers.

The NJC remains committed to national collective bargaining and aims to ensure that the bargaining machinery can reflect and support new ways of working.

The NJC will focus on producing outputs that are relevant, fair and beneficial to both employers and those employed to provide public services

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


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Agilisys have told the council that they can make savings by transferring what are described as Front Office (financial and transactional) and Business Support (admin) functions, and then transforming those functions by standardising and rationalising them, using technology and automation. Their proposal is to create a centralised Customer Services and Business Support Hub working across the council, rather than for individual directorates and teams. Within that hub they plan to create a specialist business support team, along with teams responsible for particular business support functions. Agilisys want to locate this hub centrally in one council building, and they want staff to access business support through a phone call or over the intranet – very much like we request ICT services currently. In UNISON’s view this proposal is bad for the staff transferring, because many of them are likely to be made redundant not long after the transfer, once Agilisys start transforming services – Price Waterhouse Cooper’s report suggested that the council could make £2.4 million of savings from about 70 full-time job losses. But it is also bad for the staff remaining, because we think it’s likely that professional staff will find themselves doing much more of their own admin, because in some cases it will be quicker to do that than fill out an e-form. Finally, we think the move to accessing many council services online will impact badly on some of our most vulnerable service users, and at this point none of these people, and the organisations that support them, have been consulted.


Some UNISON members will have received letters from North Somerset Council telling them that their job is likely to be TUPE transferred to Agilisys, if the council vote to approve the contract extension on 21st October. Some UNISON members will have received letters from the council informing them that their job and team will be reviewed and restructured, and they may end up on the TUPE transfer list. UNISON’s advice is that all our members who have received these letters should respond with their comments to the email address provided on the letters, and copy into your emails. You need to give your views on what will be the impact on you and your service of transferring to Agilisys, and you need to talk to your manager if you think you shouldn’t be on the TUPE list. You also need to start attending the UNISON members meetings listed in this newsletter, and attend our lobby on 21st October.


Staff who remain with the council will have their jobs and services transformed, with the possibility of jobs being down-graded as job families are brought in, along with more redundancies. Agilisys have been very good at using new technology such as Itrent and Agresso to give more work to council staff, and their plans for the future use of technology, along with staff accessing business support via the intranet, is likely to lead to increased workloads for the staff that remain at the council. In addition pretty much every team at the council will be restructured if they lose their Business Support and Front Office staff to Agilisys. Agilisys are also being asked to help the council with wider transformation projects, including sharing services with other councils and the Integration of Health and Social Care – these are all likely to lead to further job losses and/or privatisations. You also need to start attending the UNISON members meetings listed in this newsletter, and attend our lobby on 21st October.


UNISON sent out a special edition of our newsletter back in March to alert members to the dangers of the council’s Transformation Programme, including the possibility of more jobs and services being transferred to Agilisys. We have been running regular members meetings at both main locations since. We balloted our members on the Transformation Programme, with the result being 75% wanted to campaign against privatisations and redundancies, 20% would like redundancy, and 5% were prepared to transfer to Agilisys if it meant saving their job.

UNISON Reps have attended and spoken at the council’s Agilisys Contract working group on19th June, 1st and 16th September. A group of UNISON members lobbied the council meeting on 6th May, and a UNISON Rep spoke at the meeting. We also worked with opposition councillors and were successful at getting an amendment added to the Agilisys Contract Report – this amendment instructed officers to also look at other options, including an in-house plan, as well as outsourcing jobs and services to Agilisys. So far UNISON has seen little evidence that an in-house plan is being put together – this goes against the instructions of councillors, and UNISON continues to press for this to happen.

UNISON has signed an agreement with the council to allow us access to at least some of the Agilisys documentation. We have submitted our comments to the council officer in charge of the Agilisys evaluation, and also submitted a report to the Agilisys Contract working group. We have clearly told the council that in our view the transformation of Front Office and Business Support functions can be done in-house with much less risk to the council, and that because we know that some of our members would like redundancy, that the council can manage any job losses through voluntary redundancy, retirement, redeployment and retraining. We have also suggested that the council look at directorate hubs rather than a centralised hub, as this avoids the risk of losing specialist knowledge.

UNISON has been successful at persuading the council to postpone their vote on the Agilisys contract extension from 23rd September to 21st October. We attended the Agilisys Contract working group on 1st September and argued that the evaluation was being rushed through and that if the councillors voted on 23rd September they would be voting without knowing precisely what the terms of the contract extension would be. UNISON Reps will be attending and speaking at the Council meeting on 21st October, when councillors will be asked to vote to approve the extension to the Agilisys contract.


We need all UNISON members and all council staff to join the lobby of the council meeting from 5.30 pm on 21st October outside the old Town Hall in Weston super Mare, so that when councillors vote they can see that their staff don’t want their jobs and services transferred to Agilisys. Currently many of the councillors have concerns about extending the contract with Agilisys, particularly because of the proposal to transfer staff and then transform, rather than transform internally. In 2010 when councillors voted to approve the original contract with Agilisys, very few of the staff directly affected attended our lobby, and so the councillors thought that staff didn’t care whether or not their jobs and services were transferred to Agilisys. This time you need to show them that you do care, so be there!


We also need you to come to meetings to stay up to date on what’s happening with the council’s Transformation Programme:

18th September at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, Hutton Suite
30th September at 12.30 pm at Castlewood, room 2.07
2nd October at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, room 1.05
21st October at 5.30 pm outside the Town Hall – UNISON Lobby
22nd October at 12.30 pm at Castlewood, room 1.08
4th November at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, Rickford room
20th November at 1 pm at Castlewood, room 2.07
4th December at 12.30 pm at Town Hall, Rickford room
11th December at 12.30 pm at Castlewood, room 2.07

Thursday, 18 September 2014

NHS workers vote yes to strike action and action short of strike action

UNISON’s NHS workers, including nurses, occupational therapists, porters, paramedics, medical secretaries, cooks and healthcare assistants have voted yes to industrial action in a dispute over pay in England.

NHS staff have been denied a pay rise following the Government’s decision to ignore the independent PRB recommendation. This means 60% of NHS staff and 70% of nurses won’t get a pay rise for the next two years.

The result of the ballot is as follows.

Are you prepared to take part in a strike?

•YES: 68%
•NO: 32%

Are you prepared to take part in action short of strike action?

•YES: 88%
•NO: 12%

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said:

"This Government's treatment of NHS workers has angered them and this anger has now turned into action. Refusing to pay them even a paltry 1% shows what the Government really thinks about its health workers. Inflation has continued to rise since 2011 and the value of NHS pay has fallen by around 12%.

"We know health workers don’t take strike action lightly or often. The last action over pay was 32 years ago. But we also know a demoralized and demotivated workforce isn’t good for patients.

"If we move into industrial action we will work with NHS employers to minimize the impact on patients. But its not too late for Jeremy Hunt to act to avoid this and We repeat our offer to the Government to negotiate with us. To date the Secretary of State has refused to meet with health unions to negotiate pay."

Earlier this year, the Government decided to ignore the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendations and instead give a 1% non-consolidated increase only to staff at the top of their incremental scale. Because the award is non-consolidated it will not count towards pension entitlements or shift pay and will be wiped away at the end of March 2016 meaning wages will go back to their April 2013 level.

Jeremy Hunt is persisting in the pretence that he is giving staff a pay rise when in truth he has imposed a continued pay freeze for most NHS staff in England, with a small flat rate sum for around 40% of staff.

There are 10 unions balloting in the NHS over pay and we will now be coordinating with them over the date and type of action we will take.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

North Somerset Council Scrutiny of Agilisys Contract Extension - Councillors vote against excluding the public from a public meeting!

North Somerset UNISON Reps attended North Somerset Council's Community and Corporate Organisation Policy & Scrutiny Panel, where councillors were due to discuss the Agilisys Contract working group report, and receive a presentation on the council's evaluation of the Agilisys offer, along with details of an in-house plan outlining what the council could do internally to transform services, and what savings could be made so that councillors could compare that to the Agilisys offer to ensure value for money. We had requested to speak at the meeting, because the council's proposal to transfer more jobs and services to the private sector contractor Agilisys will, in our view, have a detrimental impact on the staff transferring, as many of them are likely to be made redundant once transferred to Agilisys. In addition it is our view that the transfer of front office and business support staff to Agilisys will also have a negative impact on service provision both for the residents of North Somerset and the staff at the council who face having their teams split apart and even greater workloads as admin staff are taken out and transferred to Agilisys.

We had previously submitted a paper to the Agilisys Contract working group, outlining some of our issues with extending the contract for another 5 years and transferring more jobs and services. These include: the lack of consultation with users of council services particularly around the transition to mainly online access to many council services, the risks associated with transferring admin staff who are so crucial to the smooth running of all teams at the council, the loss of the specialist knowledge of the transferred staff, the redundancies which Agilisys are likely to make, Agilisys' requirement for the council to provide them with enough space in council buildings to meet their job and rental income commitments and the current issues with Agilisys Westminster City Council staff being on the second floor of the Town Hall because there's no space in the 3rd floor call centre, the loss of the council's apprenticeship scheme, and the lack of an in-house plan setting our how we can transform services internally with less risk, and with equivalent or greater savings. We re-iterated some of these concerns at today's Scrutiny Panel.

At the Scrutiny Panel councillors were advised by officers to vote to exclude members of the press and public, including UNISON Reps, from what is normally a public meeting on the grounds of commercial confidentiality - that is the presentation on the Agilisys Contract negotiations apparently contained information which councillors were advised may affect the extension of the contract. Councillors present at the Scrutiny Panel quite sensibly voted against this (6 to 4 against with a number of abstentions), and the meeting continued as a public meeting, while the presentation was given - although all present were asked not to divulge the information once they had left the meeting. It was then a great surprise to UNISON how short and uninformative the presentation actually was, and with only a very small amount of financial information. The only reason we can think that they did not want us, or other members of the public, to see the presentation is that it made clear that no work has been done on looking at how services can be transformed internally, as instructed by councillors at their meeting on 6th May. We think that North Somerset councillors should be concerned that council officers have not followed their instructions. We also think that North Somerset residents should be very worried by the secrecy around this contract extension, secrecy which has existed right from the beginning when the contract was awarded and has continued since when UNISON had to go through the Information Commissioner to get the council to release the Detailed version of KPMG's review of the Agilisys contract. The public may not have been excluded from this meeting as officers had advised, but the only published document for this meeting was the report of the Agilisys Contract working group. The  presentation from today's Scrutiny Panel  has not been made available publicly.

Almost 200 council staff have already been issued with letters from the council advising them that if councillors vote to approve the Agilisys contract extension they will either be TUPE transferred to Agilisys, or have their service redesigned and then transferred to Agilisys. North Somerset UNISON will continue to campaign against transferring any more jobs and services to Agilisys, and will continue to press the council to look seriously at transforming services internally. It is our view that this can be done, at less risk to the council and council service users, and making equivalent if not greater savings. Why allow a private contractor to take on jobs and services to make savings, which will be reduced by the profit that a private company has to make to satisfy its shareholders? Why not instead make the savings in house, and in that way keep all the savings for ourselves to invest in excellent services for the people of North Somerset? It's really quite simple - private companies should not be making profits out of public services. UNISON members will lobby the council meeting on 21st October when councillors will vote on whether to award the contract extension.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Agilisys Contract Working Group Report to Scrutiny Panel for 16th September

The Agilisys Contract Working group, who have been meeting over the past few months to scrutinise the Agilisys Contract negotiations will submit a report to the council's Community and Corporate Organisation Policy & Scrutiny Panel on 16th September. UNISON Reps attended this working group on two occasions. On 1st September we submitted our own concerns to the working group - we cannot publish the document here because of a confidentiality agreement we signed with the council, but the working group report can be found at this link:

Saturday, 6 September 2014

People's March for the NHS

After 300 miles in 3 weeks the People's March for the NHS, led by the Darlo Mums arrived in London. At the rally in Trafalgar Square we heard some brillient speakers including the Mums, Owen Jones and Andy Burnham, as well as some great music from the Bristol NHS Choir, Question and Billy Bragg. Here's some photos.

All the video coverage is here:

More information on the march at:

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

TRANSFORM, DON'T TRANSFER! - Lobby North Somerset Council on 21st October (please note change of date from 23rd September)

North Somerset UNISON's submission to the Agilisys Contract working group on 1st September is in part responsible for North Somerset Council's decision to postpone the vote to approve the Agilisys Contract extension from 23rd September to 21st October, when a special Council meeting will be called immediately after the already scheduled Executive meeting. The precise time is to be confirmed, but we need all UNISON members at the council to attend our lobby at 5.30 pm on 21st October.

North Somerset Council are planning to transfer more jobs and services to the private company Agilisys who are contracted by the council to run support services. They are specifically looking at transferring staff who have either a front office or business support function as part of their job. These staff are then likely to face redundancy soon after the transfer as Agilisys start to transform services. Council staff that remain will also see their jobs and services restructured as a result, and are also likely to find their workloads increasing when they lose their admin support. Agilisys are also being asked to work with the council on sharing services with other councils and the integration of health and social care. The proposal also involves a massive change to the way North Somerset citizens will access council services - mainly online access, and yet council service users haven't been consulted.

UNISON have told that council that we think services can be transformed in-house, at less risk to the council, and with equivalent if not greater savings. We also think that the council can manage any job losses through voluntary redundancy, retirement, redeployment and retraining. We will be  lobbying the councillors on 21st October from 5.30 pm as they go into the council chamber. We will be urging them to keep council services in house - our message is TRANSFORM, DON'T TRANSFER. Please join us if you can.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Why Local Government and Schools workers are striking on 14th October

Here's our letter, published in today's Weston Mercury:

I write on behalf of UNISON members working at North Somerset Council and Schools across the district, and in response to your hot topic - Public Sector Strikes. First, I want to clarify that the date for our next strike is 14th October, not the 10th as reported in your paper. Second, I want to make Mercury readers aware that for trade union members strike action is always a last resort. In this case UNISON, GMB, and UNITE negotiators asked the local government employers for a decent pay rise, which included bringing the lowest paid local government and schools workers up to the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour, with an equivalent increase for everyone else. The employers have offered a below inflation 1% pay increase, with a slightly higher increase for the lowest paid - but still that does not bring them up to the Living Wage. The employers have refused to negotiate any further and have also refused to go to ACAS for arbitration as our agreement states they should when neither side can agree. As a result UNISON and the other local government trade unions had no choice but to ballot members for industrial action - a ballot which came out in favour of taking strike action, which after all is workers using the only power we have - withdrawing our labour.

Our first day of strike action on 10th July failed to get the employers back to the negotiating table, so reluctantly we are taking another day of action. UNISON members do not do this lightly - apart from anything else, already low paid workers, loose a day's pay every time they strike. In addition many local government and schools workers worry about what happens to the services they deliver when they are on strike. But this year UNISON members have said enough is enough. We have borne more than our fair share of the public spending cuts. Hundreds of thousands of local government jobs have been cut across the country. Our pay was frozen for 3 years, with a below inflation pay rise last year. We estimate that we have lost about 20% of our pay as a result. We currently have a situation in local government and schools where 20% of workers earn less than the living wage, and where people doing jobs of real value to our communities have not had a decent pay rise in at least 4 years, and yet we have still kept services running. We recognise that many other workers in both the public and private sectors have also seen their wages decline, and we would urge them all to join a trade union and fight for their right to a decent pay rise, and a fair share of the economic recovery. After all we've seen that there is money there, particularly for those at the top - it's just not being fairly distributed.

UNISON, and some of the other Health Trade Unions are also balloting NHS workers for strike action, and action short of strike action, which could result in a work to rule where NHS workers actually take the breaks they are entitled to. This has been caused by Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health's decision to overrule the NHS Pay Review Body and give only those NHS staff at the top of their pay band a 1% cost of living increase - although it won't be consolidated into their pay, which means they'll be back to square one next year. This also means that 60% of NHS workers won't get a cost of living increase this year. I'm sure Mercury readers would agree that a pay rise for some in the NHS, but not for others is massively unfair, and I'm also sure Mercury readers would agree that staff working in the NHS deserve a decent pay increase, and do not deserve the kick in the teeth that Jeremy Hunt has given them, along with the emotional blackmail that services will suffer if they take a pay increase. Instead all Jeremy Hunt has to do is fund the NHS properly rather than continuing the £20 billion cuts that his predecessor imposed on the NHS. If NHS workers vote for action, then it is likely they will join local government workers in our strike on 14th October.

Finally I would urge Mercury readers to consider their own situation, which should enable them to empathise with those who are taking action in local government and the NHS. Our strike is not just about a pay increase, it's about protecting our services, because if workers start leaving local government and the NHS because of poor pay (and they are already doing so) then services will suffer. After four years of austerity we are being told the economy is recovering, but wages are still not keeping up with costs for the vast majority of people, and it is now time to say that enough is enough and demand a decent pay rise. This is also why the TUC has organised a mass demonstration in London on 18th October and called it Britain Needs A Pay Rise.  North Somerset UNISON members will join thousands of other working people on a march through central London demanding a decent pay rise for all. If any Mercury readers would like to come along, we have coaches booked from Weston super Mare - details are on the False Economy website

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Still The Enemy Within showing at the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon on 21st October 2014

Still the Enemy Within is a unique insight into one of history’s most dramatic events: the 1984-85 British Miners’ Strike. No experts. No politicians. Thirty years on, this is the raw first-hand experience of those who lived through Britain’s longest strike. Follow the highs and lows of that life-changing year.

The film will be showing at the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon on 21st October 2014.

We are hoping to arrange a Q&A with the film-makers and a former miner.

For more information go to the Curzon website:

For more information about the film go to:

Friday, 25 July 2014

UNISON to ballot NHS workers for Industrial Action over Pay

UNISON members working in the NHS will be balloted for Industrial Action over Pay. The ballot will run from 28th August to 18th September.

The real value of NHS pay has been falling for five years.

Pay in the NHS has not kept in line with inflation and staff have not received an above-inflation pay rise since 2009. This year 60% of NHS staff will not get any pay rise and only those at the top of their bands will receive a 1% unconsolidated lump sum.

The 1% unconsolidated lump sum is a one-off payment which does not alter the hourly rate, so it will not count towards unsocial hours for evening, weekend or night shifts, it will not be added to overtime, it will not be added to any supplements (such as high cost area supplements, local recruitment and retention premia, or on-call arrangements) and it does not count towards pensionable pay.

If members vote ‘yes’, it is proposed that members will take action during a week in October. This is likely to start with a short stoppage followed by a defined form of action short of strike, such as insisting that members take their breaks.

Members will be sent a ballot paper with questions asking whether they are prepared to take strike action and/or action short of strike action.

We are urging members to vote yes for both strike action and action short of strike. However, we are also urging all members, whatever their view, to vote to ensure we have a high ballot turn out.

What do we want?

If UNISON members vote yes we will be taking action for an immediate 1% consolidated uplift for all and the Living Wage, to end the pay freeze for 2015-16 and increases in the future that will restore the value of NHS pay.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP ignored the recommendation of a 1% increase

The independent Pay Review Body for the NHS recommended a 1% increase to all pay points for all staff across all four countries, however health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP ignored them in March and announced an unconsolidated payment for only a minority of staff in England.

A third of NHS staff do not get paid enough to live on

More than a third of NHS staff, who are non medical, are paid less than £21,000 a year and the bottom two pay points - bands 1 and 2 - are below the living wage. The government has failed to lift those staff out of in-work poverty. But this does not save money as people not paid enough to live on rely on in-work benefits.

Cutting pay affects whole families
Over half of UNISON members working in the NHS have school-age children, a third are carers for elderly relatives and 20% have infants.

The UK can afford to pay people enough to live on

The current living wage rates (from 4 November 2013) are £7.65 an hour outisde London, and £8.80 an hour in London. To bring the bottom two NHS pay points up to the living wage would mean an annual increase of £664 for someone on pay point one and £305 for someone pay point two.

To do that would cost:

£17.6m in England
approximately £240,000 in Northern Ireland
approximately £1.4m in Cymru/Wales
or around £19m to £20m in total across all four countries.

The total NHS budget for 2012-13 was £108.9bn and the Clinical Commissioning Groups are already reporting an under-spend of £97m for 2013/14 – enough to pay the Living Wage in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

A pay rise for a minority is divisive

Giving an increase only to those who have reached the top of their grade is divisive and means that staff who are starting work now have to cope with increased workloads, more unpaid extra hours and fewer opportunities for promotion, but don’t get the same packages because they have not been there as long.

Cutting pay does not save jobs

Last year more than 10,000 jobs were lost as a result of the unnecessary restructuring of the NHS in England. The government has tried to argue that cutting pay means more jobs, but in fact it is making cuts to both pay and jobs. On top of that comes "downbanding", where whole grades of staff are re-graded for budget reasons.

Staff need to know they’re valued

Staff need to be treated well. The NHS is facing unprecedented challenges, telling more than half the workforce that they are not worth even a tiny pay rise will not help to engage them in meeting these challenges.