Branch Secretary – Steven North Annual Report 2018-19

By March 2, 2018News & Blog, Uncategorized

Branch Secretary – Steven North
Annual Report 2018-19

In addition to my role as Branch Secretary, I act as lead officer for the branch on Adult services, the Integrated Care Organisation (ICO), Salix Homes and Salford City College. I have joint responsibility for the Place directorate at the Council and I take the strategic lead on all private sector employers that don’t relate to children’s services.

Every AGM report I have written since taking on this role in 2011, has referred to how challenging the previous 12 months have been. It won’t surprise you to learn that this report will not be any different. However, I have also found more reasons to be optimistic in the last 12 months than in any other since I started.

Our core employers continue to be hit by Government-driven austerity and our members who work for them are continuing to face attacks on jobs and the services they care about. If anything it is even worse for our growing private sector membership, who contend not only with public sector austerity, but also private-sector greed, zero hours contracts and often illegal wages.

Every day I walk into workplaces and see just how hard our members are working, with less and less support and resources. We help individual members with the impact this has on them personally, but our goal is always to try and convince people to work collectively to challenge what is going on. That’s what a union should always do and my cause for optimism is that I am increasingly seeing our members – across different employers – act collectively to demand fairer pay and fairer treatment.

It’s a common myth that people will fight back when they are at their lowest point. It isn’t true. At their lowest point, most people cling on to what they have and daren’t speak out in case they lose that. People tend to challenge when they can see things getting better and they aren’t allowed to share in it. They also speak out when they realise they have been lied to.

In the last 12 months more and more people have realised that we have been lied to. That the lie we were told about austerity – about us all having to tighten our belts for a few years – was just that – a lie. We’ve increasingly seen workers across the public and private sectors demand better and I’m pleased that as I write this, I’m also preparing for a consultation on pay, with a recommendation to REJECT a lousy 2% pay offer.

This realisation that we have been lied to has fed into national politics and it’s great to finally see some politicians who are proud to say they support public sector workers. For a long time we were painted as ghold-plated layabouts, but recent tragic events have reminded the public – most of whom knew anyway – that what we do matters.

I don’t believe a union should ever stand still. We have to be a living, breathing organism or we cease to be relevant.

That’s why just over 12 months ago our branch made a decision that we would not stand by, while private sector social care workers were exploited throughout Salford (as they are throughout the rest of the country). We determined to do something about it. I’m proud to have had the support of our team of officers and stewards in investing resources in recruiting a branch organiser, with the specific aim of bringing those care workers together into a union that would give them a collective voice. That struggle has been (and continues to be ) difficult, but we are getting somewhere ad one of my proudest moments as a trade unionist came last year when our organising and lobbying efforts helped deliver a more than 10% pay increase for home care workers in Salford.

Last June, I was honoured to be elected onto UNISON’s National Executive Council. I’m, glad to have the support of our branch and I am committed to representing Salford as well as I can.

The next 12 months will be hard, but the resistance has begun and increasingly people are saying “we’re not going to take it any more”. I hope all our members have a great 2018.

Assistant Branch Secretary – Diane Ogg

In addition to my role as Assistant Branch Secretary, I act as lead officer for the branch on Schools/Academies, Pupil Health Referral Units (PHRUs), City-wide, Spie contracted staff, Salford Credit Union, Salford Open Learning Team and Salford Loaves & Fishes. I act as joint lead officer for the Place directorate at the City Council.

It’s been a really challenging year for all of our branch officers, me included! We are collectively a finite resource and have increasing case and workloads.

Continuing Austerity measures across the piste in the public sector are having significant and potentially long-term effects on the quality of services our members are expected to deliver against a background of diminishing financial and staffing resources. This naturally creates massive stress on our members both in terms of their ability to deliver services and in their relationships with their employers.

Consequently, really demoralising issues around harassment and bullying raised by members have been at the forefront of many cases I have dealt with during the year both on an individual and collective basis.

At a conservative estimate, like my colleagues, I have dealt with over 100 individual cases during the year.

Schools, in particular, are facing critical issues around their funding formula. So the forthcoming year is going to be fraught. Concern is being expressed that 9 out of 10 schools are facing real-term cuts. School budget increases are being swallowed up by inflation and other costs. This is resulting in threats to our members’ jobs, decrease in resources and increases in class size. All of which significantly impacts on the education of the next generation.

We are looking at a situation that is so dire it may lead to compulsory redundancies and potential industrial action.

Recruitment, retention and organising in Schools thus assumes great importance if we are to do a good job on behalf of our membership. During the year we saw the merger of the NUT and ATL to form the National Education Union. Potentially this could have had a significant impact on our ability to recruit, retain and organise but thanks to a national agreement between UNISON and the NEU this situation has been alleviated – however we still remain vigilant.

Part of my role and function is also to represent the Branch at Authority-wide consultations and negotiations on a range of issues from terms/conditions, policy development and corporate restructures. Currently we are immersed in the Council’s proposals for budget cuts for 2018/19 and this necessarily is occupying much time and deliberation.

Despite the continuing attacks on our members’ jobs and services I continue to be amazed at the resilience and fortitude of the members I come into contact with in the course of my work and this makes me so proud that I am part of the Salford collective!

Branch Chair – Michael Willis

I have only been our Branch Chairperson for a short period of time and am really enjoying this role. I am continuously gaining valuable experience at ever Branch Meeting and have recently been on a training course to help with this duty.

It’s been a really challenging year for all of our branch officers, me included! Due to the Austerity measures being forced by the Council, cuts in all but name, to the workforce have started to be implanted.

In addition to my new role as Branch Chairperson, I have been a Unison steward for approximately 15 years and am the Unison steward for the newly formed Regulatory Services department. There are several teams within the Regulatory Services Department including Environmental Health, Trading Standards, Housing Standards, Landlord Licensing to name but a few.

There are over 50 Unison Member within the Regulatory Services department. Regulatory Services are currently going through the Transform process as well as just completing an office move.

Regulatory Services has a completely new format and structure, where previous qualification was once essential criteria for a position, there is now a more generic requirement, with the emphasis more on transferable skills that can be utilised across the various teams.

This has resulted in members being reclassified and re-graded; this has led to some of our members being forced into lower paid roles and feeling de-skilled.

Regulatory Services has also gone digital and moved into the 21st century. It is intended to help workers with their work by allowing clients to apply for assistance online. Remember the slogan Quicker, Better, Easier (this sound great in principle; however in reality it has created more work to be carried out by less staff)

As always, Unison is there to support and help those members in need,

The fight continues…

Branch Treasurer – Ameen Hadi

The Treasurer’s Report is usually the annual accounts. This will be submitted separately for ratification at the AGM.

 

I am also a seconded officer for the Branch dealing with consultations with the employer as well as representation work.

 

I am the lead officer in the union for members in:

 

Children Services

Service Reform

 

In the last year I have supported members involved in following consultations:

 

Transformation in Customer & Support Services now known as “Project Connect”.

Children’s Safeguarding.

The Grange Residential Home for children with disabilities.

Children’s Special Educational Needs Services.

Regrading of Residential Child Care Workers.

0 to 25 Children Services

Youth Services

Children’s Admin Review.

 

I have also represented individual members through disciplinary, grievance and attendance management.

 

This work alone takes up my seconded hours but I am also responsible for members in Salford Community Leisure and City West Housing( both ex council employees) and those in the private child care sector.

 

I also represent the Branch at a Regional level for Local Government , Regional Council and I have recently become the NW Black Members Chair.

 

I am proud to represent the members of our Branch who are dedicated to public service despite horrendous conditions caused by austerity. I will continue to fight for your jobs and our services. I will strive with the members for a world that puts people before profit and opposes bigotry and discrimination.

 

I would encourage you all to get involved. Think about becoming a steward or workplace rep. Contact the Branch Office on 01617947425 or email ameen.hadi@salfordcityunison.org.uk

 

Education Coordinator – Jan Boden

During my second year as Education Officer for Salford Branch I have made some progress with the planned actions I outlined in my Officers Report from February last year.

These actions included arranging face to face induction meetings for all new stewards and creating an induction pack for each one which included useful contact numbers, help sheets, branch committee dates and Activist Training Booklet and application form.

Further to this and with the help and support of Steve North, the Salford Branch Secretary, we have managed to arrange for each new steward that came on board last year to have a workplace buddy/mentor who they can contact for support when needed and who they can shadow where possible to help them gain valuable experience.

Early last year I also arranged an in house ERA training course delivered by Region to mop up any existing stewards who were outstanding their accreditation.  Due to availability and work commitments not all stewards were able to attend this so there is some work to be done in the coming year to make sure all our stewards at Salford are ERA accredited.

As a branch we have also made some progress in getting our officers on the relevant officer training for their role but again due to other commitments it has not been possible to arrange this for all officers  – again I hope to get this done in the coming year.

Finally, for the second year running I also attended the Branch Development Day which took place on the 27 January 2018 and was open to all stewards and officers.  This day involved speakers both at the start and the end of the day plus workshops in the morning and afternoon with a break for lunch. I found this day a very rewarding and valuable experience and it gave me some ideas going forward for in house training courses that may be useful for stewards such as ‘Representation’ and ‘Organising’.  Please see below for actions I hope to achieve as Branch Education Officer in 2018

Planned Actions for Education Officer for 2018

  • Ensure that any new or existing stewards still needing ERA accreditation are booked onto a course this year and receive the training and accreditation
  • Check through the current stewards list and arrange refresher training for all stewards whose ERA accreditation needs renewing
  • Ensure any new or existing officers are offered the officer training relevant to their role
  • To continue to arrange an induction meetings for all new stewards and where not possible email over an electronic version of the induction pack
  • To continue to offer new or less experienced stewards a mentor/buddy for them to shadowing etc and point of contact
  • Have regular email communication with reps regarding courses on offer at Branch and Head Office
  • Offer and arrange bespoke in house training events such as ‘Representation’ for stewards

Lifelong Learning Coordinator – Alec McFadden

The work that I made a priority was to link learning with recruitment and membership retention in the care industry, working closely with Matthew Dickenson the Salford Unison Branch Local Organiser. A number of potential members do not have English as their first language and are either working in care homes or seeking to get jobs in care homes, but their lack of spoken and written English is of course a problem.

 

After discussions with Matt we agreed to look at the possibility of providing ESOL courses English as a second or other language for our care workers. We recruited a specialist tutor and drafted bids to Unison and the WEA to fund. The key was to find a Care Provider who was sympathetic.

 

Unison would provide free English training, and we wanted the training if possible to take place on site in the care homes. It was very clear that some care homes were not keen on Unison teaching their workers English or Unison recruiting workers into our union. However, Matt was able to persuade Fountains Care Homes to start this project. They had 100 staff many of them international workers who would greatly benefit, and they also had training facilities.

 

So, the deal was agreed and was due to start end of September 2017. However, Hedge Funds that owned the lease for Fountains property ended the lease and Fountains were forced to move out on 28 September. A great deal of planning, organisation and hard work came to an end.

 

Our aims were to provide free ESOL teaching linked to employment rights we hope to;

  • Teach English
  • Recruit into Unison
  • Build an organisation model
  • Teach them their employment law rights
  • Encourage and educate them about credit unions
  • And to tackle racism in the work place through better communication

 

However, we do have a blue print for this ESOL /recruitment project ready when another opportunity arises. Discussions have also taken place with the Lifelong Learning Coordinator of the Salford NHS branch regarding the possibility of this project being run in the Salford Royal. “and the Salford Unison University secretary has also expressed interest

 

The National Unison Life Long Learning Conference is in early February in London, and up to 100 Life Long Learning organisers will attend and I am very much looking forward to learning from the other branches.  It is very interesting that Unison is the lead Union in this field.

 

At the 2017 conference the list of learning projects included:

 

  • Return to learn
  • Mental Health Awareness
  • Making the most of the internet
  • Valuing the skills of older workers
  • Woman’s Lives
  • Dementia Awareness
  • Coping with change
  • ESOL
  • Your skills your future

 

And I am sure that I will encounter new learning projects. This could be an area that the three Salford UNISON Branches could develop jointly which would further create closure understanding in the future.

 

Equalities Coordinator – Sue Wray

 

As Equalities Officer and steward (Children’s Services) within the Salford City UNISON branch I have not has as visible profile as I would have liked this year due to disability related illness and work capacity issues. However, I have continued to make myself available to members and UNISON colleagues when they require help, support or advice in relation to Equalities issues.

I have supported members in relation to challenging inequality and discrimination in the workplace, represented Unison members during the attendance management process and assisted members to challenge line managers around reasonable adjustments (Equality Act 2010).

I have provided advice and guidance to members in respect of PIP (Personal Independence Payment) applications and the PIP process.

Disability related illness permitting; I have attended Branch Committee meetings and Children’s Services Stewards meetings. I am also a member of the Equal in Salford staff group for employees with disabilities.

I was actively involved in preparing for and participated in the Branch Development Day.

As an activist, I am an active member of the Labour Party and I am involved in community campaigns across the city and I campaign at a local and National level in respect of discrimination in the work place. When too unwell to attend meetings and be physically involved in campaigning, I become a ‘keyboard warrior;’ turning to online campaigning supporting Black triangle, DPAC and 38 Degrees. I also advocate on behalf of people with Fibromyalgia, ME, auto immune conditions, and mental health conditions, in particularly PTSD and Bipolar disorder

More recently, since the passing of my dad, I have also become a carer for my 86 years young disabled mother.

……………oh, I also have a day job too!

Communications Officer – Magda Sachs

The Branch Development Day in 2016 identified some suggestions for changes to communications and some of these were implemented during the year.

A separate Facebook group was set up as a closed group for discussion.  The website has been revisited. With the aim of making content more interesting and helping people resolve easy queries themselves.

A focus has been on keeping the volume of emails down so that people are more likely to access the information.

Social media presence has continued for events where Branch members have attended.

In early 2018, we launched a survey with members to ask their views on how we can further improve communication. At the time of writing, we are awaiting the results and this will then lead to a discussion on the next steps we need to take.

Membership Officer – Kevin Corran

This has been a busy year as a Unison steward & Membership Officer. The TUPE transfer of Adult Social Care to Salford Royal Hospital Trust (SRFT) continues to create major challenges for our members.

I played an active part in the planning and launching of a campaign to improve the Attendance Management Policy at SRFT.  I continue to  be involved in the Staff Side Meetings, Staff Side Policy Sub Group, HR Policy Sub Group, Staff Partnership Forum, and our Branch Committee meeting and  Officers Meeting. Giving our members a say in the workings of the ICO, as well improving communication between the employer and members is an important part of my role.

The bulk of my union work is representing members. This year I have represented members during Attendance Management reviews, gave advice to members on bullying & discrimination in the workplace, probationary reviews and gave advice about issues related to the ICO.

This year I have been involved in the Save the Grange campaign, set up to stop the closure of this service for children,  attending their public meetings and helping to develop their campaign.  With colleagues from the branch, we helped to organise our intervention at the Tory Party Conference in October, as part of the Unison block on the march. During the summer I was part of the Branch contingent that went to Rochdale to oppose the EDL march. I supported the “Eclipse of the S*n Campaign”, that was adopted by our branch. The Branch also helped to organise a public meeting in response to the disaster at Grenfell Towers, focused on the need to remove the cladding from the tower blocks in Salford.  We feel that it is an important role of the union to get involved in the political life of the community, and our branch take pride in the campaigns we get involved with in Salford.

As Membership Officer I produce a monthly report for the Branch Committee, that highlights the number of new members joining our branch and those leaving the branch. I remain supportive of any initiatives that help to build our branch, particularly the union`s  “ Meeting the Organising Challenge” initiative.

I am an active member of the Salford City Branch Committee, attending our monthly meetings, as well as attending our Officers meetings. I remain committed to our members, fellow stewards, committee members and comrades in Salford.

International Officer – Lisa Millar

I have only been in the International Officer Post for 2 months, and I have not had any active involvement in any campaigns or discussions. I am excited to be undertaking this role and I hope to become fully involved in the future. I am attending a new officer course in March and also attending the International Officers seminar (also in March)

I have worked in Children’s residential services for 17 years now in most of the children’s homes. I became involved with Unison approximately 4 years ago as a workplace Steward. I have taken part in many campaigns through Children’s services the most recent one being opposing the closure of the Grange. I have supported campaigns in other areas such as adult services and have taken part in marches around issues such as low pay and support for the NHS. I took part in a rally in Valencia in September last year with the Trade Union CCOO who are supporting Spanish airport workers protesting about pay and working conditions.

Our recent campaign to move all residential staff onto the same pay band was successful and in December last year staff were paid back pay from February and the Bank rate of pay was also increased.

I have taken part in Grievance procedures and disciplinary cases with workers in the Children’s homes. I am at present involved in the temporary closure of our biggest Children’s home and the subsequent relocation of staff.

I am looking forward to the Seminar in March where hopefully I can network with other International officers and find out more about their role within the Union.

Labour Link Officer – Alec McFadden

I was elected as the Labour Link Officer in February 2017 at the AGM. I was very excited at the prospect of both involving our 13000 members who paid the political levy and developing political work and activities with the progressive policies of the Labour Party lead by socialists like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and local Member of Parliament Rebecca Long-Bailey.

 

The Labour Link committee had not functioned for many years and little correspondence and contact had been forthcoming.

 

Throughout the year I had the support of 4/5 Officers and Branch Committee Members who are now all members of the Labour Party. We worked out a strategy on monthly meetings, and regular circulation of new LP policies, consultations on future policies, conferences, and speeches of Jeremy Corbyn the Labour Leader and a number from Lynn Morris the Regional Labour link leader. We also tried to get members to become delegates of local Labour Party Branches and Constituent Parliamentary Party.

 

These strategies have not been successful and it is very clear that a number of Labour Party members do not pay the political levy and may be active in their local party but are not Trade Union Delegates. New Tory legislation effecting political levy for Trade Union Members comes into effect in April 2018, which will discriminate against new members and new Labour Party political levy payers. Unison has carried out a consultation which will be announced in March 2018.

 

The way forward suggestions:

  • Move to quarterly meetings
  • Meeting with all Unison Elected Councillors
  • Joint meeting with the three Salford Unison Branch Labour Link Officers
  • Invite the Regional Labour Link Officer to a special meeting of Labour Link levy payers.

 

I welcome any comments or contributions other members would like to make.

 

Welfare Officer – Paula Lawless

 

Austerity is making life difficult for our members and UNISON is always on hand to lend support wherever we can.

 

My role is to help those who need individual support with personal problems that relate to finances, debt etc.

 

If you need to contact me, you can ring the branch office and I will make an appointment to meet with you and see what support we can provide.

 

Over the last 12 months I have worked closely with our Women’s Officer to support homeless people and food bank users and I hope to continue this.

 

As a steward in Children’s Services, I am always on hand to support members and at the moment I am busy helping out with the pay campaign.

 

Black Members Officer – Amira Taha

 

As a Black Member Officer, during last year I have attended many events such as Stand Up To Racism Annual Conference, anti-Trump demos in Manchester and London, Annual Black Members conference, a number of Islamophobia Awareness events for SCC staff, union members and also with Stand Up To Racism. I have also participated in the demo for the bombed mosque in Moston in solidarity with the community and the representation from our UNISON branch was much appreciated.

 

It has been quite an active year due to the fact that unfortunately racism has become and even bigger issue and the growth of hate crime has increased as a result of the events happening in the world and the irresponsible statement from the Tory government in relation to refugees, migrants and mainly Muslims.

I as well as other UNISON members are planning to attend the Stand Up To Racism Trade Union Conference this February as well as this year’s UN Anti-Racist Day Demonstration. I would encourage others to do so.

 

I believe UNISON should focus on Racism as an essential issue that covers Islamophobia, discrimination against refugees and hate crimes. Black and Asian members as well as non white British members suffer from a lot of subtle, unsubtle, direct and indirect discrimination and it seems that such racism and hate crimes are not properly resolved even when reported. We still struggle with mainstreaming of racist programmes such as prevent; and defended by many lies and wrong statistics that are reported by the police even in conferences. It is about time that UNISON decided to actually “Never Again” and Stand Up To Discrimination, Hate crimes, Racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

 

The facts and figures show the need for supporting Black members in all issues related to discrimination is essential or else we would be blinding ourselves and not doing the least of our duties according to our values and principles.

 

I have also participated in a trip to Calais and witnessed the great injustice by the world against refugees. We can’t keep watching and feeling sorry. We should try to do all we can to change the reality not just by sending very needed materials, but also by actively participating in every way we can to change the policies and to support human rights and humanitarian laws for refugees and asylum seekers. In addition to try to actively change the stereotype on refugees and asylum seekers via eradicating the ignorance that is widely spread and challenging such stereotypes and misleading information disseminated by media and far right organisations.

 

Regarding racism at work there has been a higher number of reported racist actions and comments by either staff or the community, which can be considered positive as well as negative. We need to encourage staff to report and that has already started by providing the tool to facilitate reporting hate crimes including racist as well as any discriminatory action from staff to their colleagues as well. We also need to address complaints in reports efficiently and provide the support needed so staff members keep having faith, respect and trust for UNISON.

 

As for Recruitment & Selection of Black and Asian minority ethnic, it is vital to challenge Council to have more proactive policies.

 

It is possible to encourage more involvement of black workers in Unison, simply by doing what is necessary to make black members feel that Unison has good understanding of the challenges that black or maybe non-white members face and actively working on finding solutions and supporting staff who face such challenges. Once this happens, I am positive that many more Black members regionally and locally will join and be active members.

 

Women’s Officer – Yvonne Edison

 

2018 is the year we celebrate 100 years since some British women won the right to vote. However, we still live in a society where women are generally paid less than their male colleagues and have to overcome barriers such as sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

My role is to ensure UNISON – a union with more female members than any other – recognises and respects the role women play.

 

I also like to use my role to lend support to social justice campaigns, such as the work I have done with our Welfare Officer to support homeless people anf those who use food banks.

 

Please see  reports from LGBT Officer and Local Organiser as separate documents.

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