July 2013 update - Pete Kavanagh's column

July 2013 update - Peter Kavanagh's column

02 July 2013

New campaigns, a wave of industrial action delivers and challenging the Con-Dems to help #SaveOurNHS

Pete Kavanagh

Summer has finally arrived and things are hotting-up on the industrial and political as well as the meteorological fronts.

London & Eastern activists, officers and organisers are engaged in a series of critical campaigns and struggles across the region. Our organisers and activists from the construction sector have been demonstrating outside of the principal contractors on the Crossrail project, as well as their customers, investors and organisations down the supply chain in a carefully planned leverage campaign. Our demands are simple – re-instatement of our shop steward, Frank Morris, a clear commitment to denounce black-listings, full access to workers on site and a union agreement for Europe’s largest infrastructure project.

Leverage is also being applied and will be escalated against DP World, who seem to be intent on creating a huge non-union container port on the Thames, undercutting and undermining the hard fought for terms and conditions of our docks’ membership in Felixstowe, Tilbury, Thamesport and beyond.  We will be calling for assistance from Unite activists from all sectors in this crucial battle to secure union recognition. The warehousing and logistics operation associated with DP World’s “Gateway” is set to employ 36,000 workers and will be an enormous organising target for the region.

A wave of industrial action in our not for profit sector has demonstrated that members are not prepared to accept the race to the bottom being created by cuts to funding and huge wage cuts. Workers at Equinox and One Housing have been on the picket lines highlighting the inequities of those at the top of the organisations being protected or even seeing bonuses being awarded while already low paid workers are expected to take pay cuts of several thousand pounds.

Our local government membership has just completed a consultative ballot for action in response to a below inflation pay offer, while members working for Veolia in Croydon and Bromley have secured an excellent two year deal following strike votes.

In aviation our membership in British Airways Mixed Fleet, the staff taken on following the historic Cabin Crew dispute in 2010, have secured a recognition agreement after a long and very effective organising campaign.

Health sector activists have been at the forefront of activities to defend our NHS, proving, once again, that we are the fighting back union in the public as well as the private sector. Local members and lobbies, a London march, public meetings – and even a successful foray into health minister Jeremy Hunt’s Farnham constituency, have all been strongly supported by Unite.

We intend to continue to raise our profile within these campaigns alongside local communities and to build organisation amongst workers within the NHS who are crying out for direction and leadership. The region is also committed to establishing a “Peoples Inquiry into the NHS in London” with public meetings and panels of experts, including our experts – those who work in the NHS.

Summer also brings with it a host of trade union events where our members can celebrate our history and traditions.  Unite coaches taking members to Tolpuddle and Burston to remember individuals central to the history of our movement.  The annual Barge Race celebrated those who work on the Thames and July also saw a magnificent Unite sponsored commemoration of the Bryant & May “Matchgirls” on the 125th anniversary of their heroic strike.

So, while we have waited a long time for it, the summer is well and truly here.   Our hopes are that  it turns into a long, hot and happy summer for all of our members in these tough times. Our aim, however, must be to turn the heat up on all those employers who are exploiting the climate of fear created by this government of austerity.  Let us make sure we play our part in joining the entire trade union movement in directing our heat and energy at the Tory party conference on the 29 September 2013 in Manchester in a major demonstration in defence of our NHS.

Long range forecast – hot, even in Manchester!

Peter Kavanagh
London & Eastern regional secretary