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Unite and OU programme at Rolls-Royce a huge success

21 Mar


Unite has had a successful lifelong learning programme at Rolls-Royce for some time, providing union members with opportunities to gain new skills.

Over the past few years, the union has been working with the Open University and the employer to deliver Bachelor of Engineering degrees (B Eng) to members. The delivery has been innovative, with workplace learning groups supported by tutorial surgeries held at work.

The environment of supportive peers created by the learning groups has paid off. The programme has been evaluated, and the significant findings include:

  •  Retention in 2011 was at 94% compared to an OU average of 58%
  • Progression at 100% compared to an OU average of 78%
In addition, students have been scoring very highly on their tutor marked assignments, with many achieving at distinction level.
We believe this is an excellent example of good practice, and shows how solid partnerships can deliver effective skills programmes.
You can read the evaluation report below.

OU Rolls-Royce evaluation


The construction workers' dispute enters a new phase

21 Nov


Unite engineering construction workers protested in Glasgow City Centre on Saturday against seven major construction sector employers tearing up long standing collective agreements. The companies’ reneging on these agreements will lead to the unilateral imposition of a pay cut of about 30%.

This attack affects skilled workers in construction, including electricians, plumbers and heating and ventilation engineers. This attack on our members’ terms and conditions is being lead by Balfour Beatty, in what Jim Sheridan MP described as “a perfect example of corporate greed”.

Balfour Beatty saw a 32% rise in profit last year. We believe this is an opportunistic attempt to use the recession and the political climate to force through changes to terms and conditions that loot the wages of our members to increase profit.

However, Balfour Beatty’s employees are other companies’ customers. When wage packets are reduced, people have less spending power, and so the economy contracts. By cutting wages, companies like this risk forcing the UK back into recession. Conversely, the best way out of recession is to improve wages and terms and conditions so that people can spend back into the economy. For that reason, strong trade unions are vital to economic recovery.

In addition to wage cuts, there are also serious skills and health and safety concerns to the changes, that amount to dangerous cost cutting that could potentially put both construction workers and the public at risk. It is part of a concerted effort to weaken union power in the sector, and it comes on the back of years of blacklisting of union activists.

Here is an earlier video of a construction workers’ demonstration held in Cambuslang on 5 October, in which shop steward John Hay explains the issues.


The dispute with the construction firms has erupted nationally, with regular protest throughout the UK. For instance, here is footage of Scottish engineering construction workers protesting outside a construction industry awards ceremony at the Radisson Hotel in Glasgow in October.

This attempt by major companies to undermine collective agreements is the same issue that lead to walk outs at Lindsey refinery in 2009, when the employer tried to undermine the NAECI agreement and use the EU posted workers directive to import cheap foreign labour.

Here is a Union News video report of the current state of the dispute at Lindsey:

There is clearly growing anger, as our members have demonstrated that they are not prepared to accept this assault on their terms and conditions. A major day of action was held in London on 9 November, where general secretary Len McCluskey addressed construction workers.

The anger is also clear to see in this footage shot on the same day as construction workers attempt to join student protesters and the Occupy movement in London.

 – by Walton Pantland

Construction Sector Demonstration

5 Oct

Construction workers, who face up to 30 per cent pay cuts because rogue employers are tearing up long held national agreements, demonstrated in good numbers early this morning.

Over 100 local workers staged the latest in a series of ongoing nationwide demonstrations outside the Strathclyde Fire & rescue training centre project in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire.

The project site has been targeted for the protest as its contractor Balfour Beatty is one of the seven employers behind the breakaway move.  The focus of their anger are plans by Balfour Beatty and another six breakaway construction companies to withdraw from five long-held agreements and replace them with a new agreement which will allow employers to introduce semi-skilled grades and dictate rather than negotiate on pay, holiday entitlement, overtime, and what constitutes away work.

Five of the seven ‘majors’ have upped the stakes. Balfour Beatty, Crown House Technologies, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services and NG Bailey have issued Unite with legal notice of their intention to dismiss, with notice, thousands of employees before re-engaging them on new inferior contracts.

You can find out more about Unite’s campaigning efforts in this sector on the national website here.

People First rally on 1 October

4 Oct

Despite terrible weather, a large Unite delegation joined thousands of trade union and community activists in a march from Glasgow Green to Kelvingrove Park.

It was the first outing of the newly-commissioned Unite Scotland banner, which you can see unfurled in alll its splendour in the video above.

In Kelvingrove Park, marchers were addressed by veteran political campaigner Tony Benn. After the march, there were a number of fringe events in nearby pubs which were well attended.

Yanis Varoufakis interview part 2

15 Sep

In the second part of our interview with Professor Yanis Varoufakis, we learn about the impact of the financial crisis in his home country of Greece and why things have got so bad so quickly in the home of democracy.

We also look at the spread of financial contagion across Europe and the Eurozone and why our politicians are refusing to act.   It’s all over for Greece, Italy and Spain, claims Varoufakis, and if France loses its AAA credit rating, it’s all over for the Eurozone.

Professor Varoufakis reveals just how close the Eurozone is to the economic brink and why it impacts the whole continent and its people – Scotland included.

Look out for parts three and four over the next few weeks.

Yanis Varoufakis interview part 1

7 Sep
Last week Unite Scotland met with Professor Yanis Varoufakis of the University of Athens to discuss his new book, ‘The Global Minotaur’, plus a host of issues concerning the eurozone crisis and the challenges facing the European left.
Part 1 of the interview focuses on The Global Minotaur – an explanation of the various tranches of capitalism and its agenda over the last century, culminating in the 2008 global financial crash and why it happened. 
You can make up your own mind about Varoufakis’ views but we believe you would do very well to find a better explanation of the economic and social mess we find ourselves in today.
If this whets your appetite a bit for economics, the euro-crisis and how this impacts us all or, like us, you (sadly) can’t get enough of this stuff, visit Yanis’ blog where you can find out more about his work and, of course, The Global Minotaur book.
Look out for Parts 2, 3 and 4 in the weeks to come.

Unite Young Members' Forum

4 Aug

A forum for young members was held in John Smith House in Glasgow recently.

To get involved, contact Elaine Dougall.