What an amazing day!! It was well organised, informative, fun and inspirational!
Unite/Community is 3 years old. Last September Yorkshire and Humberside and North East Region had 480 members. Now there are 1000!
No other union is organising people who are out of work. There are 5 branches in this region , with South Yorkshire the biggest and two other branches are on the way.
This was a day for three or four activists from each branch in the region.
Members came from Newcastle, Durham, Barnsley, Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster, Grimsby and Teesside. It was inspiring to hear what campaigns they had been involved in and were achieving with the support of Unite/Community.
Unite/Community is helping to release an absolute powerhouse of energy. It is involving people from all sections of the community regardless of age, ability or eperience. Campaigns include support for the Freedom Riders which has grown into a national campaign; Justice for Orgreave; the Bedroom Tax, opposing benefit sanctions, boycotting workfare, demonstrating against ATOS, campaigns against the closure of children’s centres and campaigns around student fees.
Branches have petitioned, held public meetings, rallies, demonstrations and supported picket lines. Two branches have had joint meetings with PCS members to encourage union staff to refuse to carry out unfair and cruel sanctions .
Some branches have helped to set up food banks and clothing banks – with a laundry in one branch area, washing and ironing the clothes for free. The provision of clothes has been very helpful for people attending job interviews who may be unable to afford smart interview clothes.
Unite Community members can access courses for public speaking, learning computing skills, welfare benefits training; banner-making – whatever the need to take a community forward- it can be done with Unite/Community support.
It was agreed that we needed to be clear about our aims which are to raise political awareness and give a voice to people who are not working; to help people shape and build strong working class communities.
Many of our campaigns are and will be about resisting austerity, cuts to jobs and services and challenging discrimination of any kind. Activists considered it was important that we link up with industrial unions and with other community organisations who work with the unemployed and that Unite Community members become actively involved in their local Trade Councils.
Legal help and advice is available to members from the experienced trade union law firm, Thompson’s solicitors. Services include personal injury and accident compensation, criminal law, clinical negligence, free legal advice, pensions and conveyancing etc etc.