Archive | November, 2011

November 30 Day of Action – Ayrshire pickets

30 Nov

We visit picket lines in Ayrshire to find out why our members are taking action to defend their pensions.



We’re not going to be mugged by millionaires and billionaires any longer

30 Nov

As a potential three million people take strike action today in defence of their pension entitlement – the largest coordinated strike action ever seen in the UK- it’s crucial to reinforce why people working in the public sector have been forced into this corner.

The UK economy, like so many other countries across Europe and the rest of the world, is in crisis.  The mantra from Westminster and David Cameron has been to tell us time and time again, ‘We are all in it together’.  We must all share the pain of this economic crisis.

Why should we share the pain?  Look around us here today, thousands of people that provide essential public services joined in collective protest.  The teacher didn’t cause this crisis.  Neither did the nurse or the school janitor or the refuse collector.  While capitalism went crazy over the last generation, you were treating our sick, educating our children and caring for our most vulnerable, doing the jobs that keep everyday life going.

Many people from across the private sector also join us today in solidarity through their own volition.  Hard-working people like the engineer or the construction worker; they didn’t cause this crisis either.  And comrades neither did the ordinary shop-floor worker in our high street banks, many of whom come from our union’s finance sector and have joined the ranks today across the country.

Everyone knows where the blame lies for the economic mire we find ourselves in today.  It lies squarely with a corporate class who gambled and lost with every facet of our lives;  our savings, our mortgages, our pensions – the ‘1 per cent’.

It also lies squarely with the failure of governance.  Not one UK government since 1979 can wash their hands of the blame for this mess.  In the UK , successive governments bent to the demands of the city.  And if they didn’t openly encourage it, they certainly turned a blind-eye to what can be best described as corporate greed and at worst downright criminality.

Most galling for us all is that the ‘1 per cent’ are still being allowed to get away with it by our political class.  Look at the facts:

  • The pay of the head of Barclays increased nearly 5,000% in the last 30 years while average wages for you and I have increased just three-fold at best;
  • The very banks which we had to bail out with our taxes paid out £2 billion more in bonuses this year than they did at the start of the financial crash in 2008;
  • David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne & Vince Cable continue to resist a Financial Transaction Tax – the Robin Hood Tax – a miniscule charge on transactions between financial institutions which could generate billions.

This system works for the few, not the many but now it’s broke.  The free-market, casino capitalism, neo-liberal economics…whatever you want to call it…it has failed ordinary hard-working people and we aren’t going to prop it up any longer.

On pensions, we all know the realities:

  • The NHS pension scheme receives £2 billion more in contributions than it pays out in benefits;
  • Staying in the NHS, the average pension is just over £4,000 a year; and
  • In the Local Government Pension Scheme the average is also £4000 a year – and only £2600 for women who dominate the part-time ranks.

And yet Con Dem Ministers and their poodles in the popular press lie through their back teeth to tell all and sundry that your pensions are ‘gold-plated’, that you are lucky to even have a pension.  It’s sickening.

Why should you bear the brunt of austerity by having your modest terms and conditions frozen or cut?

Why should you work harder, for longer and for less? 

Why should you be forced to accept the prospect of a retirement in hardship?

In the years to come, David Cameron’s big lie that ‘We are all in it together’ will go down as one of history’s greatest cons.  But the truth is out and we’re not going to be mugged by millionaires and billionaires any longer. 

The solutions can’t be found in politics, but they can be found in people.  And everyone here today has a vital part to play.

The attacks on our pensions by this Con Dem Government merely represent the first waves of what will be a very long and sustained attack on the terms and conditions of working people.  And unless we want to be pawns in a rich man’s game, we must stand up for ourselves and fight-back.

I’m proud of the robust resistance you are demonstrating today to defend your modest pensions but when you leave here today, prepare yourselves for the long-haul.  Your unions will stand with you and we will support you every step of the way.

Return to your workplaces and communities – agitate, educate and organise. 

Today isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning. 


Transcription of Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty’s #N30 ‘Day of Action’ speech, delivered at the Glasgow Barrowlands Rally. 

N30 – Solidarity messages from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

29 Nov

Bangladeshi garment workers marching in solidarity with N30 strikers in the UK

– by Jackie Simpkins, War on Want

We have been very pleased to receive messages of support from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for public sector workers taking strike action on 30 November. The messages come via War on Want, an organisation Unite is affiliated to.

The messages come from trade unions, affiliated through the Global Union Federations and ITUC. They have been involved in plenty of action themselves recently. The Sri Lankan has also been campaigning against imposed changes to their pension schemes, and many have been arrested for speaking out.

Solidarity Messages from War on Want partners

War on Want partners, the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) will be organising a rally as a strong signal of their solidarity for our UK union members and supporters who are taking strike action on 30 November.

“The National Garment Workers’ Federation (NGWF) has been fighting for the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh since 1984. We will stand with the public sector workers in the UK on 30 November in your fight against the attacks on your pensions and the cuts that your government have imposed. We know that these abuses and the programme of cuts will make thousands of you poorer as a result and as workers, we stand united against poverty wherever it is found.” 

– Amirul Haque  Amin  – General Secretary,

National Garment Workers’ Federation, Bangladesh

And from Sri Lanka

The Free Trades Zones & General Zones Employees union (FTZ & GSEU) extends its fullest support to the UK Trade Unions joint actions which is scheduled to be held on 30th November 2011 against the unilateral decision of the UK Government to make people more and work longer for a lot less

Yours in Solidarity

Anton Marcus

Joint Secretary


Sri Lanka




N30 – hear the truth

29 Nov

Watch and share Unite’s latest video about the pensions dispute. We are the 99%.

Unite Adult Apprentices in ScotRail

28 Nov

Adult Apprenticeship to SVQ Level 3 and a National Certificate in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering. 

– by Pat McIlvogue

Unite negotiated and organised with ScotRail an apprenticeship programme to facilitate progression paths through the skills grades for our members. This group of members had hit a “glass ceiling” within the employer as they were not accredited as being skilled despite having a huge amount of skills, knowledge & experience. The group were all semi-skilled “B” grade fitters with ScotRail. This apprenticeship will allow them to have the opportunity to move to the skilled “A” grade position within ScotRail or will give them the opportunity to gain skilled employment elsewhere. This progression would not be possible without this qualification.

The Adult Apprenticeship programme was negotiated and arranged by Unite, train drivers’ union Aslef, ScotRail & SEMTA. Prior to the commencement of the apprenticeship, the members undertook an Open College Network accredited “Brush Up Your Skills Course” arranged and delivered by Unite & Aslef through Stow College’s trade union education department. This course gave our members the confidence and skills to undertake the National Certificate studies & the skills to compile the portfolio for the SVQ Level 2 & SVQ Level 3. This everyday skills support was beneficial as a lot of our members had been away from learning for over 20 years prior to commencing the apprenticeship.

All 9 members who under took the apprenticeship programme have completed their studies to SVQ Level 3 and have completed a National Certificate in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering within the last 2 years. They have combined practical knowledge with vocational learning and are now accredited as being skilled. They now have national industry recognized qualifications that will allow them to progress to skilled positions within ScotRail or if they wish gain skilled employment with another employer.

The next step for our group of learners is have their skills utilized within the workplace & to achieve “A” grade status within ScotRail. Having completed the training our members are undertaking CV & interview training provided by Unite, Aslef and Stow College.

In undertaking this apprenticeship programme our members overcame many barriers. Some of these were being away from learning for over 20 to 30 years in some instances, doubt that the employer was committed to the scheme, doubt that the skilled workforce within ScotRail would recognize their apprenticeship as being “pucker”, learning in their own time, attending night school, incorporating learning into their rotating shift patterns and still managing to for fill their substantive role as a “B” Grade Fitter within ScotRail. It is testimony to the groups determination that they have overcame all of the above and completed their Apprenticeship & their National Certificate in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering.

The entire group’s lives have been changed by undertaking union lead learning as they are now more confident & importantly accredited skilled workers. This progression path in learning that Unite & Aslef has created & negotiated has facilitated the opportunity for our members to break that glass ceiling on progression with ScotRail & indeed within all employers within this sector.

This group of adult union learners is particularly exemplary as they were a pilot group around skills utilization within the workplace, that looks to take the skills, knowledge & experience that workers have in a workplace and put them to use. This is matches with the Scottish Government policy of Skills Utilization. It is now hoped that this model can be rolled out across employers and sectors. Our members at ScotRail have now set the paradigm for others to follow.

Professional Development Awards for Union Learning Reps

28 Nov

Unite ULRs at the graduation ceremony at Adam Smith College

More than 20 Union Learning Reps (ULRs) from three different unions, including Unite, recently completed the SQA Professional Development Award in Developing Literacies Learning Programmes for the Workplace at Adam Smith College.  Adam Smith College presented certificates to the ULRs at a Graduation Ceremony on Friday, 7th October at 7:30pm.

The course, delivered by Adam Smith College and funded by Education Scotland, provided ULRs with the skills required to develop, plan and deliver literacies learning in workplace contexts.  The course was supported by Development Fund projects within Unite, PCS and UCATT.

The ULRs work in various workplaces throughout Scotland, such as Remploy, First Bus, the Simon Community and the HMRC in East Kilbride.  One of the ULRs who took part in the course was Unite ULR James Lillis, the recipient of the 2009 STUC Helen Dowie Award for Lifelong Learning.  Jimmy received the STUC award for his work in Everyday Skills with migrant workers and “Glaswegian” at First Bus inGlasgow.

Speaking on how this qualification will help his role as a ULR for Unite at First Bus Larkfield Depot, James Lillis said:

“I really enjoyed participating in and completing this PDA for the workplace. As expected, the course has developed my understanding of the needs of learners, but it also developed my knowledge and understanding of policies and funding. This has helped me become aware of new paths that I can explore in order to widen access to new opportunities for existing and potential learning centre users and help me to be more effective in my role as a Union Learning Rep.”

David Cairns, ULR/Branch Secretary for Unite at First Bus Parkhead Depot, said:

“We have achieved a highly sought after qualification, which could not have happened without the support of our unions.  It has given me a great personal boost knowing that I have gained this qualification.  I hope it will inspire others into the learning agenda to improve their Everyday Skills.”

Anne Jardine, Director, Learning and Community, Education Scotland, said:

“As the body responsible for the implementation ofScotland’s Adult Literacies Strategy, Education Scotland recognises the importance of workplace learning within that strategy and as a contributing factor inScotland’s economic growth.  We congratulate the successful candidates and wish them well as they work to develop literacies provision in the workplace.”

Christine Sinclair, Executive Director, Adam Smith College, said:

“Partnerships are central for Adam Smith College and we are always delighted to support trade union learning.  We are particularly pleased to offer this important Professional Development Award in Developing Literacies Learning Programmes for the Workplace.  Well done to everyone involved.”

Jim Aitken, Unite Education & Development Organiser, said:

“This is an excellent course and ideal for trade union learning representatives. It helps them gain an insight into the context in which we operate, overcome obstacles to learning for people with literacy and or numeracy issues and empowers reps to establish a learner friendly environment in their workplaces.”

Unite Scotland podcast episode 1

24 Nov

Welcome to the first episode of the Unite Scotland podcast. Peter Welsh and Andrew Brady of the campaigns and communications unit speak to Scottish chair Stephen Deans about this week’s hot issues.

We discuss the November 30 pensions day of action, as well as the ongoing dispute in the construction industry.