And The Struggles Continue…..

It’s been more than six months since the last update to this page, as the membership has been preoccupied with a number of key activities aimed at providing help and support for those still living under the shadow of Tory austerity. These include Durham Unite Community’s highly successful campaign to provide support to local people subsisting below the poverty line through the County Durham Socialist Clothing Bank; as well as its on going Welfare Support at appeals and tribunals with those currently contesting benefit decisions made by the DWP.

In addition to this, some of the membership have been conducting their own independent research into the full impact of the sanctions regime locally. According to a recent report published on the Welfare Weekly website previous proposals from the DWP that were agreed last October, in which it was envisaged that a ‘less aggressive approach to sanctions’ was scheduled for preliminary trials, now appear to have been sidelined by Ministers. The proposals, which are said to have included the issuing of warnings in place of the immediate implementation of a benefit sanction, when ‘a claimant breaches the conditions imposed on them for the first time’, now appear to have been ‘quietly’ dropped ‘in response to sustained criticism that sanctions are often applied unfairly’, according to Welfare Weekly.

Although the reasons why the new proposals appear to have been systematically sidelined are still unclear, some sources appear to be pointing the finger at Esther McVey, who took over from David Gauke at the DWP earlier in the year. Research into the impact of sanctions at local level between May 2010 and September 2016 suggests that in the Sunderland area alone there were 39,150 referrals for benefit sanctions. Nationally, a report published earlier in February on the Guardian website suggests that in excess of a million sanctions appear to have been applied to disabled people alone since the Tories came to power. The publication of this report comes directly after a damning assessment from the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which found that Iain Duncan Smith’s much championed ‘welfare reforms’ ‘systematically violate’ the rights of the sick and disabled.


‘New’ (Recycled) DWP Minister Esther McVey. No champion for the Disabled!

Other issues that the membership have been looking into include matters relating to social housing in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, with particular reference to possible breaches of government guidelines and tenants rights outside the Greater London area; where the subject of what has been referred to by tenants as ‘social cleansing’ has been widely discussed by activists. According to a number of recent postings on the Community Voice Carlisle website, some of the issues raised since the Grenfell Tragedy about the general treatment of tenants by senior management within the social housing sector appear to be common place over the Pennines in the North West. In the light of these revelations CSC activists have been carrying out detailed research within County Durham as a means of assessing as to whether or not tenants here in the North Eaast have similar grounds for complaint. More in detail about that in a future post.

With the continued roll out of Universal Credit taking place at more jobcentres throughout County Durham, and yet more suffering being engendered as a result, we hope to be able to bring you continual updates about how this is impacting the most vulnerable in our society as Tory Austerity continues to reap its harvest of death and destruction across our region. We also plan to be focusing on some of the issues that have been raised locally in relation to the influence of private sector involvement in public sector contracts in the light of the collapse of Carillion. In the Unite Community North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional sector Leeds has been particularly badly hit, and we shall be endeavouring to assess the overall effect of this on the local economy and services over the coming months. So, bookmark this page and we’ll keep you posted!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons




A triumph for the politics of the working class movement

Unite Community locally and nationally were among the first to support Jeremy Corbyn and become part of the new Corbynista movement. which aimed to take control and change the Labour party and then the country.

There remains lots of work to be done on both counts of course, but already our work has paid off handsomely. Our members and our communities have suffered terribly under austerity and if there is one thing we have won it is this – THE TORIES HAVE SAID AUSTERITY IS OVER – but we will believe that when we see it. Things are definitely changing for the better and in our direction too, but we continue the campaigns until policy changes and our communities are seeing real improvements everywhere. Foodbanks and clothing banks need to become things of the past.

What led to the Corbyn surge

Most of his MPs expected him to lead Labour to a shattering defeat; in the event, he has inspired an astonishing revival. Theresa May called an early general election in the expectation of achieving the first Conservative landslide majority since 1987. An inept campaign left her humiliated, and her tenuous hold on power dependent on the support of the unpleasant and reactionary Democratic Unionist Party; she looks like a dead woman walking. The Tories were deservedly punished by the electorate for their failures in office and for their joyless, arrogant MAYBOT campaign (May as robot = Maybot).

After seven years of austerity economics, they could not explain how they would improve public services or return hope to the British people. During the election, she abandoned the language of compassionate conservatism and used robotic clichés. Rather than seeking to earn voters’ trust, she assumed that the promise of a “hard” Brexit and antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn and slurring him as an IRA supporter would suffice. Were it not for 12 Conservative gains in Scotland, where the Scottish National Party recklessly promised a second independence referendum, Labour might well be in power. As it is there were many tight marginals, & 2500 votes in key constituencies would have given Labour power.

Yet though they lost 13 seats, the Tories achieved their highest vote share since 1983 (42.4 per cent). It was not a Conservative collapse but a Labour surge that cost Mrs May her majority.

The Conservatives will be wary of calling an early election because they now fear that Labour could defeat them. Much credit for this unlikely turnaround resides with the much maligned Mr Corbyn. The Labour leader delivered on his original promise to revive the party by attracting young voters, non-voters and former SNP, Ukip and Green supporters. He ran an optimistic and even joyful campaign, defined by policy initiatives rather than slogans.

Labour unexpectedly won 32 seats and increased its vote share from 30.4 per cent to 40 per cent – the largest rise since Clement Attlee’s landslide victory in 1945. No one would dare underestimate Corbyn again, certainly not as a campaigner, even if he has a different style as a Commons performer and day-to-day operator –this honesty is part of his appeal however.

Labour’s manifesto proposed popular measures, such as the abolition of student tuition fees, universal free school meals and the renationalisation of the railways. It eschewed the politics of generational warfare in favour of a social-democratic offer to young and old. Respect to the Greens and others who put aside party advantage to ensure that Tories lost ground, Labour should be respectful in future partnerships with Greens where possible. Arrogance is the most unpleasant of character traits.

Mr Corbyn was also pragmatic. By promising to renew Trident and increase police numbers by 10,000, he blunted Tory attacks over national security. Mr Corbyn recognised the positive role of immigration and the importance of public investment to the economy. And Labour’s position on Brexit was sufficiently ambiguous to attract both Remainers and Leavers.

The Summer of Corbyn Love

Under attack from much of the media and his own MPs because of his past associations, and doubted by the New Statesman, Mr Corbyn showed considerable resilience. He enjoys campaigning and it shows. Rather than condemning his party to a decade of opposition, he has improbably created the conditions for victory next time, as Neil Kinnock did by losing narrowly in 1992. In spite of his many shortcomings, Mr Corbyn has earned the right to lead the party into the next election, whenever it falls. He has won the Labour civil war.

Now, it is time for the party to unite behind him. Backbench critics should be prepared to serve in the shadow cabinet or as shadow ministers. For Labour, as its election campaign demonstrated, unity is strength.

The party must also recognise that, while it advanced, it did not win. For the third successive election, Labour finished comfortably behind the Conservatives when it should have won. Labour must do more to convince the many voters who retain doubts about its economic credibility, although these are based on lies spread by the Tory media.

Yet, after seven years of austerity, there is a real desire for transformative change of the kind that only Labour can deliver. We are all weary of the effects of neoliberalism, ultra-globalisation and the underfunding of public services.

On the eve of the Brexit negotiation, Britain faces yet more political instability. Yet, if there is any consolation, the election has demonstrated that there is no Commons majority for a hard Brexit. Nor is there one in the country. A reinvigorated Labour and MPs of all parties should compel the government to prioritise the economy, rather than immigration control, in the negotiations.

Finally, Labour need to win 32 Tory seats for power next time in Labours’ own right. Corbyn is right to say that the Tory administration is weak and wobbly and can collapse at any time. The next election could be as early as the autumn and so Corbyn has put Labour on permanent campaign footing, with visits to many Tory marginals to come. Respect to all our volunteers who helped with leafletting, canvassing and phone canvassing. Durham Unite Community are going to play our part in this future movement, so let’s redouble our efforts and see Corbyn as Prime Minister next time.

John Kelly

Please see the message below from Karen Reay, regional secretary. Our condolences to John’s family and friends

It is with deep sadness that I have to inform you of the death of John Kelly after a short illness.
John was a well-respected Activist and member of the Regional Committee, RTC RISC, Disability Committee and Branch Secretary of the NE/GEO/29 Branch.
Further details will follow in due course.
Kind regards
Karen H. Reay
Regional Secretary
North East, Yorkshire & Humberside
Unite the Union

Barnsley Anti-racism Football tournament

This story by Nick Stevens originally appeared on Hope Not Hate.

Some of the teams on show. Photo: Mark Harvey

Some of the teams on show. Photo: Mark Harvey

It’s fair to say that we at HOPE not hate have written extensively over the years about the relationship between organised football violence and the growth and movements of the far-right scene in the UK. That being the case, it is always a delight when we can write about the opposite: a positive story about the impact of ‘the beautiful game’, and its role in bringing people together.

And so was the case in Barnsley on Saturday 16th January, as 16 teams from across Yorkshire, and even as far afield as London and Leicester, came together for a 5-a-side ‘Anti-Racism Tournament’ organised by Unite the Union, with backing from Show Racism The Red Card and Barnsley FC Community Support Trust.

HOPE not hate was delighted to be invited to the fantastic, diverse, event in a freezing sports hall next to Barnsley football ground in the middle of the South Yorkshire town. The ground itself is situated in a residential area, and walking around, one really gets the sense of the unifying properties of the world’s most popular sport, as the game becomes a catalyst for a community to come together.

As teams such as ‘Yorkshire St Pauli’, ‘Barnsley ESOL’ and ‘Manchester Refugee Support’ clashed in their various groups, the viewing gallery and seating area was packed with people determined to stand in solidarity with those that some see fit to demonise and scapegoat.

Being as they were only 5 minutes long, and with 3 matches being played at once, the games themselves were played at a whirlwind pace, with some fantastic individual and team skill on show. Whilst we got a stitch just watching, the boundless levels of energy from all involved needs to be commended, as does the organisation of the day itself, which was superb. Also, a big thank you to the caterers who put on a great spread to keep the teams full of vitality.

In the end, Manchester Refugee Support emerged victorious, so congratulations to them!

DCC United put on a solid display. Photo: Mark Harvey

DCC United put on a solid display. Photo: Mark Harvey

Spot the ball, answers on a postcard. Photo: Mark Harvey

Spot the ball, answers on a postcard. Photo: Mark Harvey


Holocaust Memorial Day

Please find attached information regarding this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day Event, hosted by Teesside University and the Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies in partnership with Middlesbrough Council.


HMD 2016 Don’t Stand By, 27th January 2016, Teesside University

If you would like to book a place at the event please click on the ‘booking required’ section on the flyer to be taken to the booking page.

For more information please email

HMD 16 Programme

HMD 16 Flyer

Christmas Opening

Durham Community Support Centre will re-open after Christmas on 6th January 2016. We are open tomorrow, Christmas Eve

We would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.Christmas owls

Unite says “King Coal” Is Not A Lost Cause

King Coal’ has a future as a UK producer, despite ministerial short-sightedness, driven by treasury cuts, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 17 December).

And coal’s importance cannot be underestimated when there are big questions about the country’s energy security in the decades ahead.

Unite said that the closure tomorrow (Friday 18 December) of Britain’s last deep pit coal mine at Kellingley colliery, near Castleford, was yet another glaring example of the government’s short-termism in its overall energy policy.

Unite has repeatedly warned that industry, commerce and consumers face higher UK electricity prices and the prospect of the lights going out in the years ahead, because power reserves are so slim, especially during cold weather ‘snaps’.

Unite national officer for the coal sector, John Allott said: “Coal was responsible for kick-starting the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago and generating much of the country’s energy needs since then.

“The closure of Kellingley colliery is a sad end to the proud history of deep mining coal production in the UK.

“There is a future for coal in the UK and it is not a lost cause. We urge the government to turn more attention to surface mining and its future development and creation of much-needed employment. 

“We are sitting on a sea of coal that ministers now seem to have discarded in their energy calculations, despite the fact that we are living in an increasingly insecure world where oil and gas imports could be under threat.

“The last straw was the jettisoning of the £1bn carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition by chancellor George Osborne last month that would have given coal a real future, while keeping carbon emissions within EU limits. This technology is already used effectively in Canada and Sweden.

“Energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd does not seem to have a grip of her portfolio and appears to be rudderless under the weight of treasury pressure. Coal is a victim – as are the dedicated workers at Kellingley – of this policy of drift, cutbacks and short-sightedness.   

“Currently 31 per cent of electricity comes from coal burning power stations, but a third of this is expected to close by next year and by 2023 the National Grid expects all power stations to close leaving a gaping hole in the UK’s capacity to keep the lights on.

“When the sun is not shining, the wind is not blowing and there is peak demand, we need other affordable, reliable and secure sources of UK energy supply.”

Unite’s policy is keep UK coal production alive, utilising CCS technology to keep coal as an integral part of a UK coherent energy policy.