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UNISON North West Disputes Seminar 2019

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Mechanics Institute

103 Princess Street

Manchester

M1 6DD

United Kingdom

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UNISON North West Disputes Seminar 2019

Collective disputes - a means to a strategic end.

Join other UNISON delegates from across the North West Region for a day of talks and workshops focusing on the history and future of collective disputes.

The event will include a morning of speakers, offering insight and analysis on historical disputes and strategies and lessons learnt from more recent ones. The confirmed speakers and an overview of their talks are below:

Confirmed speakers include:

Shirin Hirsch - People's History Museum
From the Dockers to Grunwick: Race, class and resistance
When Enoch Powell made his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968, hundreds of dockers in East London walked out in defence of the Conservative politician. This was a highly organised section of the labour movement. The political strike action was met with shock by trade union leaders, while the media dwelt on the inherent racism of the white working class. By 1976, however, things had changed. The Grunwick strike, led by Asian women, demanded the right to a trade union in protest at their working conditions. The strike became a seminal moment in labour movement history as a range of trade unionists, including a section of those same dockers who had walked out in 1968, rallied to the defence of these Asian women. This talk discusses the dispute and what it can tell us about organising in an unorganised workplace, as well as how racism was challenged during a high point of struggle. The talk will be illustrated with photographs from the People’s History Museum archive documenting the two year strike.

Stephen Mustchin - University of Manchester
In most industrialised countries, including the UK, US and much of Europe, strikes and industrial action have declined in terms of overall numbers, numbers of workers taking part and strike duration. However, strikes are still one of the most important sources of power for trade unions and continue to be both relevant and contentious. The talk will look at the historical incidence of strikes in the UK and beyond, using data on strikes to explain how and why patterns of industrial action have changed over time, along with indications that strikes appear to be increasing in more recently industrialised countries including China. The current context in the UK will be looked at in more detail – despite the programme of legislation restricting strikes introduced from 1980 onwards, and the highly restrictive 2016 Trade Union Act, strikes remain significant. Current examples of relatively effective strike action and the occurrence of strikes among workers with little history of engaging in such disputes will be drawn on to provide some insights into strike tactics and strategies, highlighting the importance of understanding context and power relations when considering industrial action.

Emiliano Mellino - IWGB
Can you defend your rights at work without collective bargaining rights and with minimal industrial power? Since 2012, migrant workers organised through the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) have shown that it's not only possible, but that through high-impact protests and campaigns you can significantly transform your workplace. The talk will focus on the strategies used by the “Back in House” campaign, which secured a commitment by the University of London to end outsourcing and make all workers direct employees, and the successful campaign to stop cleaner redundancies at Ernst & Young.

Lizanne Devonport - UNISON
Formed in February 2018, the UNISON Disputes Team leads on organising around disputes to support collective bargaining in the Region. Engaging with Branch leadership and members in employers where a dispute is active, the Team focus on building collectivism and identifying and supporting leaders amongst the affected workforce in order to ensure that the strength of UNISON is maximised in the bargaining process as well as delivering the necessary industrial action ballot thresholds where these apply. Their work also includes garnering community and political support for campaigns and delivering internal and external communications to support the aims of the dispute. Since inception the team has achieved successful outcomes in numerous strategically important disputes, which (at the time of writing) include UNISON members in WWL Trust overturning the decision to outsource more than 900 jobs from the NHS, in North West Ambulance Service where we assisted members to improve contractual terms and conditions, and in Stockport where a damaging and unsafe reorganisation was halted.

Following the talks, and lunch, there will then be a selection of workhops on offer. When registering for the event, each delegate will be able to elect two preferences in terms which workshops they would like to attend. We will, of course, attempt to ensure that everyone's preferences are met as far as possible, although we cannot guarantee that this will be the case for everyone.

The workshops available, and an overview of each of them are below:

Martyn Moss - UCU
Martyn will be running a workshop which will focus on how UCU has turned the Tory anti-trade union bill to the union’s advantage – organising a Get the Vote Out (GTVO) campaign to beat the 50% ballot threshold involving greater engagement with members, organising effective industrial action, the use of leverage and relationship to the bargaining process, growing the union in the process and emergence of new activists.

Claire Breeze - UNISON
The workshop will show delegates how to use the technique of charting to understand the strengths and weaknesses of union organisation in the workplace, where to focus union work and how to build the power for workers to win in disputes.

Ian Hodson - BFAWU
The workshop will focus around organising the unorganised. Experiences of engaging with precarious workers, although this is about our experience in the fast food sector, can be adapted to any sector and the workshop will cover how we have engaged with workers and provided an opportunity for those working in the sector to organise. The workshop will discuss the strategy around winning in the workplace and building a wider movement. The workshop will explore links with the global campaign and how the recent UK strikes built a broad coalition that included 5 different unions covering workplaces such as McDonalds, TGI Fridays and Wetherspoons as well as the Deliveroo and Uber riders and drivers.

Jack Hannam-Pearson - IWW
Organising in the Gig Economy
Jack's Seminar will look to give participants a greater understanding of what the ‘Gig Economy’ is and the particular challenges of Trade Union organising within the sector. We will also look at how this can be instructive in organising across the world of precarious work. The ‘Uber for x’ model is one that has been applied across several industries, we will focus on our experience of organising with bicycle couriers in Deliveroo. The features which typify companies operating in the Gig Economy are the piece rate payment of staff through the use of legal loopholes to miscategorise workers as self employed, and technology to broadly eliminate the physical workplace. Justified through the false dichotomy of flexibility at the expense of security, organising in the Gig Economy poses both new challenges and opportunities for Trade Union activism.

Ben Patrick - UNISON
This session will outline the legal requirements for making a successful application for Statutory Recognition through the Central Arbitration Committee. This will include guidance on:

Defining the appropriate bargaining unit under the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992;
Making the a formal request for recognition;
Evidencing the membership and employees in favour;
Dealing with bargaining units covering more than one work place;
Evidencing the requirement to show that recognition is in the interests of “good industrial relations”;
Avoiding the requirement for a ballot in the bargaining unit;
Time limits and unsuccessful applications.

Louise Chinnery - UNISON
The workshop will look at the role social media can play in building support amongst workers and the public for our big disputes. We will discuss how we can generate, build and sustain interest and activism through social media. Where does online activism meet organising on the ground? What are the pitfalls that we need to be aware of and how can we create a sense of solidarity amongst workers who work many miles apart? The workshop will explore the technology needed as well as creative framing of our messages.



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Mechanics Institute

103 Princess Street

Manchester

M1 6DD

United Kingdom

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