Monthly Archives: July 2014

Solidarity with Argos workers

Unite Community Members showed their Solidarity with  striking Argos workers by standing with them on the Picket Line, they then continued their support by leafleting outside the Argos Store informing shoppers about the strike leaflet

 In this climate of attacks on the unemployed it’s so important to show workers that the unemployed are standing in Solidarity with them when they take Industrial action. Solidarity is the key to success.

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People’s March For Jobs

HEALTH campaigners will retrace the steps of the original Jarrow Marchers as part of their fight to protect the NHS.

Several hundred people are expected to take part in a mass rally outside Jarrow Town Hall on Saturday, August 16, before a group of NHS campaigners head off on the 300-mile march to London.

Evoking memories of the famous 1936 Jarrow Crusade, when 200 jobless men marched from the town to Westminster to demand work, the event is billed as The People’s March for the NHS, with health protesters aiming to cover up to 16 miles a day, reaching the capital on September 6.

If you are able to join the march at any point then please do. Show your support for the NHS, show this Government that we are against their plans to privatise it and that it is our most prized, and best loved, national asset.

                                People's March POSTER colour

We’re Not Going Back

We’re Not Going Back is a musical comedy about the 1984/85 miners strike as seen through the eyes of three sisters. if you fancy a night out and can make any of the dates it is well worth a watch.

 

WE’RE NOT GOING BACK

9 July 2014 – 21 February 2015

 
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We’re Not Going Back is about the 1984/85 miners’ strike… more or less.

But, in this hard-hitting musical comedy there are no miners. Instead, we follow the fortunes of three sisters in a pit village, hit hard by the Government’s war against the miners and determined to set up a branch of ‘Women Against Pit Closures’

Olive, Mary and Isabel are like any other sisters whose everyday squabbles became a background hum to the strike that forced them to question their lives, their relationships and their family ties.

We’re Not Going Back tackles the resilience of working communities, the make-and-mend fabric of family and the power of sticking two fingers up to a government hell-bent on destruction… and all with humour, song and a six pack of Babycham.

Red Ladder are delighted to be working with Unite the union, North East, Yorkshire & Humberside on this production. For further information about their work visit their website

Unite the union website

Stacey Sampson, who plays Mary in We’re Not Going Back, is currently writing a new blog about being the main ‘bread winner’ in her home following returning to work after having a baby. It makes for a really interesting read, have a look here

http://winningthebread.wordpress.com/

Booking information for the below tour dates are to be announced shortly.

Dates


Duncairn Cultural Arts Centre
11 Sep 2014 – 12 Sep 2014
 

Fruit, Hull
15 Sep 2014
 

The Civic, Barnsley
18 Sep 2014 – 20 Sep 2014
 

Hebden Bridge Trades Club
21 Sep 2014

Coming Soon

 

University Campus Oldham
22 Sep 2014 – 23 Sep 2014
 

CAST, Doncaster
24 Sep 2014 – 25 Sep 2014

Coming Soon

 

Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
26 Sep 2014

Coming Soon

 

Welfare, Ystradgynlais, Swansea
2 Oct 2014

Coming Soon

 

Cwmaman Theatre, Aberdare
3 Oct 2014
 

The Savoy Theatre, Tonyrefail
4 Oct 2014

Coming Soon

 

Congress Theatre, Cwmbran
6 Oct 2014 – 7 Oct 2014

Coming Soon

 

The Royalty, Sunderland
8 Oct 2014

Coming Soon

 

Arts Centre Washington
9 Oct 2014
 

Seaton Delaval Arts Centre
10 Oct 2014
 

Queens Hall Arts Centre, Hexham
11 Oct 2014

Coming Soon

 

Regal Theatre, Bathgate
15 Oct 2014

Coming Soon

 

Hemsworth Miner’s Welfare
18 Oct 2014

Coming Soon

 

 
 
 

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Unite Community Report From Policy Conference

Here is a report from the recent Unite Policy conference. Thanks to Unite Community Leeds for preparing it

 

Unite Policy Conference 2014-07-14

 

 

The general secretary, Len McCluskey opened the conference with his keynote address, urging that Unite’s major focus had to be the election of a Labour Government in 2015. The main reason is to stop the austerity programme of cuts. The two major themes of the conference was planning how to the defend the NHS from privatisation, one of the biggest threats being TTIP, which will prevent any attempts to renationalise the NHS if it is sold off, but will prevent the renationalisation of any sector of our economy, even if Labour won the 2015 elections and was willing to fight for it. There was a explaination of Unite’s new leverage campaign to save the NHS, through building public awareness and to put pressure on MP’s (in particular Labour MP’s) to vote against the privatisation and to defend it and to vote against TTIP (even if the NHS is not included) as it is being done in secret in the interests of creating trade agreements that will allow for the exploitation of workers across the globe in the interests of big business.

 

Overall, it’s been successful years for Unite, with many gains, including the win at the Optare Strike Dispute in Leeds. Steve Turner gave a report of Unite’s campaigning against the austerity programme. Not just through demonstrations and strikes, but also with the forming of Unite Community, which gives an opportunity for Unite to build in the local communities.  There was also a video of interviews of community members on the people’s assembly demo, including Steve Johnson form Leeds Branch. The community branches have been a great success, with many groups forming and the opening of several community centres, particularly across Yorkshire. It has also helped boost the profile of Unite in general, by being at the forefront of the protests and campaigns against austerity.

 

The most relevant policy on Unite Community was J4 (Building and Strengthening the Unity of the Movement Against Austerity: twinning Unite industrial branches with Unite Community Branches). This motion covered the use of Unite Community in building a unified movement against austerity and the way to link industrial branches with the wider community is by twinning industrial and community branches. The industrial can provide education, funding and support to community and help the industrial in the wider movement against austerity. This motion was passed and many of the speakers and delegates showed strong support in helping to build the community branches. I spoke on this motion, outlining the importance of community in building branches in non-unionised workplaces and the support we can lend to the industrial members and vice versa, giving the examples of some of the leafleting of workplaces we’ve done in Leeds and the zero hour contract and Bedroom Tax protests.

 

The most moving speeches came from Aidee Moreno, FENSUAGRO EC Member and Head of Human rights explaining the attack on trade unionists in Columbia. We also saw a video message from a political prisoner in Columbia, Huber Balleseros and we all held up posters calling for his release. Ricky Tomlinson gave an inspiring speech on the Shrewsbury 24 campaign, which is now on its 40th anniversary.

Unite at the Durham Miners Gala

Gala UNITE members were well represented in a crowd of well over 100,000 people at the 130th Durham Miners Gala on 12 July 2014. The sheer spectacle of the occasion increasingly makes this annual event, first held in 1871, one not to be missed. The ancient cobbled streets of Durham City and its magnificent Castle and Cathedral were a fitting background for an impressive display of well over a hundred trade union and labour movement banners that were accompanied on the march to the Racecourse rally ground by booming brass bands.

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The continued existence of the gala is something of a minor miracle. With Durham’s last mines having closed two decades ago it means there have been no contributions since 1993 to the gala organisers, the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), which still continues to represent at industrial tribunals those made unwell by harsh working conditions.

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With the DMA having lost a lengthy, highly expensive court case in defence of former miners suffering from osteoarthritis on grounds that the three-year time limit for claims had been exceeded then the future of the gala has been left in doubt. It currently costs in excess of £60,000 for what is the biggest union event in the country. Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala was launched last year and asks people to make a minimum donation of £2 a month or £24 a year. Over a thousand people have so far signed up. Meantime, major unions and UNITE in particular have contributed generously to the organising costs.

When UNITE was formed in 2007 it was felt that the Gala should be a key event in the North. The Tolpuddle Martyrs festival has been a focus for trade unions to celebrate in the South and UNITE wanted a similar show of solidarity in the North.

Unite has also helped expand the Gala into almost a week of events with various national education courses taking place around the occasion. This year, UNITE commissioned the Red Ladder Theatre Company to present a Musical Play about the 1984/85 miners’ strike. We’re Not Going Back – was very well received when it made its debut in the main council chamber of the DMA headquarters at Redhills on the Thursday before the Gala.

The NUM and UNITE have been working closely together on a number of projects such as the joint establishment in the last year of two advice support centres at NUM buildings in Durham City and Barnsley. Professionally trained volunteers from amongst UNITE community members provide welfare and employments rights advice, whilst also co-ordinaing campaigns against welfare benefit cuts and workfare. On Friday 11 July UNITE community members held a demonstration outside the Durham DWP Jobcentre plus office to ‘highlight the Coalition Government’s unfair and unjustified attacks on the benefits system and on the unemployed, the sick and disabled and their families who rely on these benefits.” Around 150 people participated in the protest.

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Around a thousand times as many turned up to the Gala the following day. On display were 80 miners’ union banners including new ones from Fenhall Drift mine in Lanchester, which operated between 1954 and 1963, St Hilda Colliery from South Shields, where on 28 June 1839 a fire damp explosion, ignited by a candle, killed 51 men and boys; and New Brancepeth colliery which closed in 1953.

Durham Miners' Gala 2014

West Rainton Primary School also ensured that West Rainton and Leamside community was represented at the Gala again with an Adventure Colliery, closed in 1978, banner on display for the first time. Following the successful collaboration between UNITE and the DMA there was also a first proud carrying of a UNITE community membership Durham banner. FIGHT FOR OUR FUTURE – celebrate our past was its slogan.

UNITE members from other branches also marched with their banners. They included members at Leeds City Council, fresh from their participation in the public sector strike of 10 July, and the Welsh region, who were celebrating the recent victory at the Supreme Court that paves the way for the creation of a Welsh Agricultural Wages Board to replace the one scrapped by the Con-Dem Government last year.

Durham Miners' Gala 2014

Tyneside Safety Glass UNITE members, who were also in high spirits after their recent successful pay strike, marched behind their banner with workplace rep Mark Robertson saying, “I came for the first time last year and I was intent on bringing my branch and its banner this year. I love the Gala as it is about working class solidarity and whilst it is sad that there are no working collieries represented it is great to see working class people coming along to maintain the tradition of this unique event.”

Durham Miners' Gala 2014

Tunefully accompanied by the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside (NEY&H) UNITE brass band, members waited patiently as the huge crowds made it difficult to move more than a few yards every ten minutes. A blistering hot day added to the carnival atmosphere and when the UNITE contingent, headed by the giant swaying highly decorative regional banner, was able to march past the assembled dignitaries on the overhead balcony at the impressive County Hotel a huge cheer and the applause of the packed watching crowds was a moment of real joy.

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Arriving at the Racecourse rally ground the sheer size of the assembled crowd, the banners on display and the noise sent a shiver down the spine. The sight of the UNITE marquee and accompanying facilities were a welcome relief for tiring limbs and served as a meeting point for members to sit and relax.

There were also dozens of trade union and labour movement stalls including one for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, which UNITE has supported, that has led the fight for justice for miners arrested and brutalised during the 1984-85 year-long strike in defence of jobs and communities.

One of the speakers, Paul Kenny of the GMB, remarked that if some newspaper reports were true and the trade union movement was really dead “then looking at this gathering then the after life is brilliant.” Kenny spoke of how he wanted a “normal” Labour Government with policies that prevented tax dodging, racketeering landlords, zero hours contracts and provided for a living wage and security at work.

Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan warned that if the Tories win next May’s general election they will introduce legislation similar to the one introduced in 1984 that makes it illegal for his members to take industrial action.

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NUT general secretary Christine Blower was at pains to point out, “a housing bubble in London and the South East doesn’t mean people are seeing a recovery in their living standards as evidenced by the increasing numbers forced to rely on using food banks.”

Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover, has long been a favourite at the Gala. He pointed out that new proposals by the Tories to only allow strikes if there are huge ballot turnouts is at odds with the fact that hardly any MPs are elected with a 50% voting threshold. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has pointed out that: “Britain’s anti-trade union laws are already amongst the most restrictive in Europe.”

Skinner also received warm applause and raucous laughter when he said he had been prevented by the Commons speaker at Prime Minister’s question time from asking David Cameron if “he intended visiting his close friend and former communications director Andy Coulson in prison.” The largest cheer, however, was reserved for Jane Lofts of the Communication Workers Union when she said: “Workers should unite with every refugee and asylum seeker.”

When the rally closed at just after 3 pm the local pubs were packed and the nearby fairground was buzzing. Dave Hopper, the DMA general secretary, had told the departing crowds that “the Gala will be on next year” and such is its growing appeal that what was the largest attendance in many years may again be exceeded in 2015.

“I’d recommend anyone to consider coming to the Gala at anytime,” said Karen Reay, UNITE NEY&H regional secretary, “as it is a colourful, special sharing occasion in which the trade union values of solidarity are upheld. Long may it continue.”

Gala 1

In defence of the Welfare State

Demonstration against benefit cuts, Durham Unite Community members from across the North East joined together with disability gropups and a range of other campaigning groups to protest on the 11th of July outside Durham Jobcentre against the draconian cuts to the welfare state seen under the coalition government. A combination of the cuts and a sanctions regime designed to unfairly force people off benefits have led to a million people being forced to use foodbanks in the last 12 months, a disgraceful figure in one of the richest nations in the world.

D07231458 Before the demonstration, a letter was given to jobcentre staff explaining that the demonstration was not aimed at them, but rather at the cruel policies the government is forcing them to implement. PCS – the union which represents jobcentre staff – is fully supportive of the campaigning work Unite Community are doing in this area, and have jointly produced guidance for claimants to ensure they know their rights when threatened with a sanction. The guidance can be downloaded by clicking here.

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As well as Unite Community members from the Durham, Teesside and Tyne and Wear areas, the demonstration was joined by Unite members attending a political school before the Durham Miners’ Gala, emphasising the importance of making sure that welfare cuts are seen as a purely political decision rather than believing the lie that they are in any way necessary.

In total, well over a hundred protestors attended the domonstration at its peak, completely blocking the road outside the jobcentre. Prominent at the protest was the new Durham Unite Community Banner which was just finished in time for the demonstration, which was it’s first – but certainly not it’s last – outing for a large demonstration.

Below are a short video clip of the demonstration and images from the demonstration.

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Demonstration against benefit cuts, Durham

Demonstration against benefit cuts, Durham

TONY BENN FILM – WILL & TESTAMENT – CORNERHOUSE MANCHESTER

If you are in the Manchester area on Saturday, why not support this event:

THE CORNERHOUSE MANCHESTER IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE LONDON LABOUR FILM FESTIVAL ARE PROUD TO PRESENT……Tony Benn: Will and Testament

Sat 5 Jul 18:20

Dir: Skip Kite
94 mins

In this unique autobiographical feature, Tony Benn – one of the UK’s most influential and charismatic political figures – presents his personal reflections on life, work, love and loss through intimate, confessional interviews, wonderfully illustrated by his personal photographic and film archives. Criss-crossing the UK, he bears witness to major social and political upheavals and events that influenced him during his life and political career.

Event
This event includes a post-screening panel discussion with: Ruth Winstone (Tony Benn’s long-time friend, colleague, Editor of his published diaries and Associate Producer on Will and Testament); Jim Mowatt (Director of Education at Unite); and Broadcaster Terry Christian.

This promises to be a very enjoyable evening.

For details and tickets please visit the Manchester CORNERHOUSE.ORG

Presented in association with the London Labour Film Festival.