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Community Issue 18 | Autumn 2011

stronger together

R O F G N GOI

H T W O R G

US ON E YO OU UR BO R R VO OK UL TE E

Community in conference


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Going for growth Dear member, Welcome to the latest edition of Stronger Together. The primary focus of the union in recent months has been ‘Going for Growth’. It is vital to the union’s survival and to be able to win for you in your workplace and in your community that we are a growing union. But to grow, we must also demonstrate the true value of Community membership to our members and potential members. I am pleased to report that after some difficult years the outlook is improving – but we can still do more. That’s why the theme of our conference was ‘Going for Growth’. Inside, you can read more about what happened at conference, which was the opportunity for your delegates from across the union to set our priorities for the next two years. I am pleased to report that there was a high level of participation, with lots of first-time delegates and first-time speakers, and a high level of lively and sometimes robust debate! The backdrop to conference was the many challenges ahead. We are currently working on Tata Steel’s Ark Project, which we hope will secure the future of what has been a loss-making business in the construction and industrial steels sector. It is a challenge to us as a union to work together with the company when there are potential job losses involved. But we believe we owe it to present and future members to actively engage with management and do our utmost to ensure a long-term, sustainable future for UK steelmaking. The Tory-led Government is still going too far and too fast in cutting the deficit. George Osborne’s prescription is hurting but it’s still not working and with rising inflation, rising energy costs and flat-lining growth, it is working people who are feeling the pain. We continue to make the case to politicians from all parties that we need a strategy for growth, with industrial policy at its heart. Finally, enclosed with this magazine are papers for you to vote in our rules revision ballot. The recommended rule changes from your National Executive Council are intended to increase open participation in the union and bring our rules up to date so we can function effectively and deliver for our members as one strong, modern and independent union. I would urge you to talk about the changes at your branch meetings and in your workplaces and most of all to use your vote in favour. Yours in Unity. General Secretary Michael J. Leahy OBE

stronger together INSIDE … News4 1,000 new steel jobs on Teesside Awards for sacked textile workers Strike to end pay freeze New reps, new members at NSPCC BlindCraft rescue sought Scotland: Friends in high places Education, but not as you remember it

Conference8 Going for growth Union learning 10 Meet Union Learning Rep Carl Anthony New investment in learning Bringing the learning agenda to Victoria Carpets Laser Credit Union Community backs Rotherham-based social enterprise

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If you have any comments or suggestions for the next edition please contact the editor on editor@community-tu.org or on 020 7420 4000 Stronger Together. Autumn 2011 Editorial Office: 67/68 Long Acre, Covent Garden, WC2E 9FA Tel: 020 7420 4000 email: editor@community-tu.org Printed by The College Hill Press www.collegehillpress.co.uk

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news

£136,000 in awards for sacked textile workers COMMUNITY HAS won £136,000 for 36 members whose textile industry employers went into administration in February last year. Campaign Manager Sean Redgate successfully argued at an Employment Tribunal in Nottingham that their employers had failed to consult effectively with Community, the recognised union in their workplaces, over redundancies. Following a 16-month struggle, 14 employees of Nylatex Ltd of Long Eaton, Derbyshire, were each awarded a 90-day

protective award and 22 employees of Bentwood Ltd of Bulwell, Nottingham, were each awarded a 56-day protective award. Their respective employers had sacked them on the spot. Sean said: “I would like to thank the Community members of both companies for their patience during this protracted process. Sadly, these are not isolated examples of how badly some employers treat their staff and this proves the value of Community membership. It’s right that the union has ensured justice has been done for our members.”

Community members joined the march at the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs festival in Dorset. The event remembers early pioneers of the trade union movement, who were sent to Australia as punishment for forming a union. A national campaign secured their freedom and every year thousands remember one of the founding acts of British trade unionism.

No rise for three years: Join us so we can do something about it, says Community BUILDINGS HOUSING Bearward Engineering Ltd dominate Main Road, Far Cotton, in Northampton. The company is involved in steel fabrication, welding and repairing radiators for heavy industry. In recent weeks, Community has been busy leafleting at the gates, because, despite seemingly healthy profits, the workforce has not had a pay rise in three years. Premium payments for overtime and shift allowances have also been cut. Some employees say they now earn less than they did years ago. Having received a very positive response

4 Community  Autumn 2011

after leafleting different shifts, Community organised an open meeting at the local social club. National Operations Officer Terry Pye told the meeting: “I get a strong gut feeling that this place could really benefit from having Community here. But, let’s be honest, we can’t achieve miracles overnight. “It’s going to take time and a lot of effort. Nevertheless, Community has both the heart and resources to deliver. We want you to join us so we can help you make things better here.”

STRIKE TO END PAY FREEZE 50 COMMUNITY union members at BRC Barnsley, voted overwhelmingly to strike over the company’s refusal to offer a pay rise for the second year running. On an exceptional turnout of 86%, 91% of those that returned ballots voted for strike action and 97% endorsed taking industrial action short of a strike. Four days of strike action were taken at the end of July and have been followed by a work to rule and overtime ban. The branch is currently considering further action. “We have done everything we can to avoid this dispute but management refuse to budge,” said Campaign Manager Phil Sullivan. “Our members feel that, after two years of zero pay rises, enough is enough.” Members are receiving strike benefit from the union to compensate them for some of their loss of earnings.


STOP PRESS

1,000 NEW STEEL JOBS ON New reps and new TEESSIDE members at NSPCC

NSPCC reps with Community staff outside the NSPCC conference at Wortley Hall

COMMUNITY IS growing fast in the NSPCC as more employees join to get the benefits of membership. The growth is greatly helped by new reps coming forward to help the union get organised inside the charity. To help the campaign, the first Community NSPCC conference took place at the end of July at Wortley Hall in South Yorkshire. NSPCC members came from across the country and from a diversity of roles in the organisation. There was plenty to discuss, including staff re-organisation and a new pay and reward strategy that is a major issue of concern. “We are building a relationship with the NSPCC and we are building our organisation of NSPCC membership,” said Deputy General Secretary Joe Mann. “The future of NSPCC membership in Community is very positive and it was really encouraging to leave the conference with a strategy to recruit more members and create the structures members desperately need to have a strong, independent voice within NSPCC.”

Attendees said they were inspired and enthused to go back to their workplaces and organise members and recruit nonmembers to Community. New volunteers are coming forward all the time to be trained as Community reps. The NSPCC campaign is becoming all the more important as Community has been forced to take a number of employment tribunal cases on behalf of members because the society failed to consult the union effectively over redundancies. Community is concerned that other redundancy situations are not being handled correctly and is monitoring the situation closely. “We’ve made it clear that, although we want a constructive relationship with the NSPCC, if we have to, we will take appropriate action to defend our members’ rights,” said Joe.

AS WE went to press, SSI, which bought Teesside Cast Products in March, had launched a recruitment drive for 1,000 people to join the company and restart steelmaking. “This is fantastic news for the people of Teesside and a tribute to all those who worked tirelessly to keep the plant open,” said General Secretary Michael Leahy. “Community led the fight to get jobs back on Teesside and now Community will do everything it can to help people through the recruitment process.” Community has established a dedicated SSI Message Line to help members applying for jobs – 01562 749 174 – please leave your name, membership number and contact details and one of our advisors will get back to you. Community has also set up a support centre to assist members with completing their online job applications to SSI. The address for the support centre is 34/44 South Tees Business Centre, Puddlers Road, Middlesbrough, S6 6TL. If you would like to arrange an appointment please call 01642 438 524.

■■If you have concerns at work or are interested in getting involved with Community at the NSPCC then email nspcc@community-tu.org.

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news

BlindCraft rescue package sought

“THE UNION is very, very important. Without the union there would be no negotiations, things would just be implemented.” Steve Gallin talks about his role as union rep with a quiet passion that is the result of many years of dedication and commitment to his colleagues. “I take my role very seriously, even turning down a promotion from the company because I’d have had to give up my job as union rep. It took them by surprise,” says the Exeter-based Community branch secretary. This dedication saw Steve win the first union rep award organised by South West TUC. Steve works at PLUSS, a social enterprise that supports disabled people and also directly employs hundreds of them in its own commercial enterprises. Last year, just before Christmas, around a fifth of the 500-strong workforce was made redundant. Steve is proud that the union managed to save “quite a few” people’s jobs. Steve is one of many Community reps, who are all too often the unsung heroes and heroines in their workplaces. ■■If you are interested in becoming a rep at your workplace then contact the Member Service Centre on 0800 389 6332 or email servicecentre@community-tu.org .

COMMUNITY MEMBERS met Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government Enterprise Minister, at the end of July to discuss the imminent closure of BlindCraft and press the case for a support package similar to that which saved Aberdeen Glencraft. Aberdeen Glencraft closed in 2008 but reopened in April 2009 following a rescue package put together by the Scottish Government and the oil firm Production Services Network (PSN). BlindCraft branch secretary Fraser Queen said: “I and my members will never give up on the campaign for sheltered employment opportunities for the disabled people of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. 218 years of history should not be consigned to the scrapheap.” STUART PENNYKID

Rep of the year award for Steve

Community members demonstrate outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh

ALL ABOARD FOR ALEX’S RAIL CAMPAIGN BLIND SECTION member Alex Scott has a history of campaigning for better transport for disabled people in Scotland. He was heavily involved in a drive to get concessionary travel for disabled people. But he has not stopped there. Alex is working on a new campaign – Better Rail Services – aimed at getting the Scottish government to reopen closed routes and stations.

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“Rail transport is all about linking communities together, that’s why Community is involved. It’s good for jobs and the environment too,” he said. “That’s why I’m urging Community members across Scotland and the rest of the UK to lobby their MSPs and MPs to bring our rail system into the 21st century.” Alex is also a strong supporter of the HS2 project to create a high-speed rail

network linking London to the north. He wants HS2 extended into Scotland much sooner than currently planned. Community is also backing the HS2 campaign because the union believes it is the kind of major infrastructure project that will help to get the economy moving and reduce the north-south divide. ■■ Find out more on the Community website.


Community’s friends in Scotland’s high places COMMUNITY IS stepping up its involvement in Scottish politics and has recently increased the number of MSPs who are members of the union. The first meeting of Community’s Scottish Parliamentary Group took place in June. John Pentland, MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, was elected as the chair. he has agreed to work closely with Campaign Manager John Paul

McHugh to ensure MSPs are kept up to date on matters of concern to members in Scotland. Valuable support has already been given to our members at BlindCraft in their campaign to save the business from closure. It is intended that the group and Community will continue to look at ways of increasing the union’s influence over all aspects of the Parliament’s work in the interests of members.

Community enters Parliament (l-r: Jenny Mara MSP, Kezia Dugdale MSP, John Park MSP, Robert Mooney (NEC), Iain Gray MSP, John Pentland MSP, Pat Donnelly (NEC), Ken Macintosh MSP, Paul Talbot (Political Officer)

It’s education: but not as you remember it THE SECOND national education course at Community’s newly refurbished conference and training centre at The Grange in Earls Barton has recently been completed. “Community’s education programme is not about filling your head with boring facts and figures that you will forget about as soon as you return to the workplace,” said Roy Rickhuss, national officer with responsibility for education. “It is about providing the building blocks of confidence to gain skills in negotiations, recruitment, representing members and making the union more effective where it matters most – at the grass roots. “I urge every activist who has not been through our education programme to consider applying for this course. Not just the branch secretary, but every new lay official.

Particularly if you’ve only just started to get involved and want to get to know more about Community and how we work. “We find people learn best when they are not under pressure and where they feel comfortable, valued and supported. That is how we deliver our education programme. There are no exams to pass and a minimum of paperwork. “The course is accredited, so by taking part, members should also have a qualification at the end of the week. The teaching methods are a mixture of lectures, presentations, guest speakers, team work and role-play exercises. From student feedback we can see members find it is both enjoyable and confidence-building.” ■■Contact your branch secretary or campaign manager to find out more.

Roy Rickhuss: ‘Community’s education programme is not about filling your head with boring facts and figures. It’s about providing the building blocks of confidence to gain skills and making the union more effective’

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conference

Going for growth DELEGATES FROM across Community gathered in Southport from 7–9 June at the union’s delegate conference. They came to debate the policy and organising priorities for the union for the next two years, to hear from speakers like TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and Community MP Tom Blenkinsop and to share their experiences at work and in their communities. Community President Keith Jordan introduced the theme of conference: Going for Growth. “Each of us gathered here in Southport has a role to play to build our branches, recruit and organise new members,” he said. “You are the person that can make the difference.” The President went on to encourage delegates to get involved at conference too, saying: “Whether you are an old hand or a first-time delegate, come to the rostrum, join the debates. Remember, you are among friends and we should all support each other.” Keith’s appeal was clearly heeded as there were many first-time speakers. Debates were wide-ranging, from digital TV to dementia care, betting shops to bankers and employment rights to the environment. Introducing the conference report, General Secretary Michael Leahy reflected on the past few years for the union. “We gather here in Southport after a difficult time for Community, for the labour movement and for working people across the UK. As the banks collapsed, the impact on consumers and industry soon followed. We entered the eye of an economic storm the likes of which, had not been seen for generations.” The General Secretary described the impact on the union, including 5,000 jobs lost in the steel industry and pay freezes imposed on many members. But he also talked about the successes that the union had achieved despite the challenging circumstances. “Through all this, we showed the union movement that we would not abandon our members when they need us most. It was

8 Community  Autumn 2011

99 General Secretary Michael Leahy: ‘There is more to be done’

99 Helen Elliott joins the supported employment debate

‘We showed the union movement that we would not abandon our members when they need us most’

Community that led the campaign to Save our Steel on Teesside – locally, nationally and even internationally. It was the solidarity and strength of Community members that won back the bonus and stopped Tata Corus closing the British Steel pension scheme. “In the betting industry, we got the Labour government to bring together all stakeholders and faced the employers across the table for the first time. The safety code that Community negotiated with the employers is starting to have an impact with a 46 per cent decrease in the number of betting shop robberies in London – that’s 200 fewer victims. “But there is still more to be done,”


concluded the General Secretary. National Operations Officer Terry Pye outlined what the union needed to do to continue winning for members. Launching the Going for Growth strategy, Terry told the conference how new support structures had been put in place to help branches grow their membership and deliver for members. He went on to talk about how every delegate and member could play a vital role in recruiting and organising new and existing members and spreading the message about the union’s campaigns. A number of the motions put forward by branches made suggestions for future campaigns. Initiatives to organise around the living wage, drives for national bargaining across companies and targeted approaches to recruiting and organising young members were all endorsed unanimously by delegates. There were also debates involving invited speakers. Eric Lee from Trade Union Friends of Israel and Hugh Lanning from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign joined a lively debate on the Middle East peace process, where strong views were expressed on all sides by the guests and delegates. Another extended debate focused on the environment and industrial policy and was informed by guest speakers Tim Morris from Tata Steel, Gareth Stace from the Engineering Employers’ Federation and Rob Johnston from the International Metalworkers’ Federation. Emma Yorke from the Shaw Trust and Robert Fairbairn representing the British Association of Supported Employment stimulated a wide-ranging discussion on the future of supported workplaces – an issue close to the hearts of most of our members in the National League of the Blind and Disabled. Things got more political when shadow treasury secretary Angela Eagle MP joined Richard Angell from the think tank Progress and Peter Kyle, acting CEO of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, to discuss “What is the Alternative?” in the final extended debate of the week. Jyrki Raina brought fraternal greetings from the International Metalworkers Federation and Mike Bradley, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions, along with TUC General Secretary

99 Delegates listen to the General Secretary

tt Lew Schaffer,

Scunthorpe, calls for better social care

99 President Keith Jordan: ’You

are the person that can make a difference’

Every delegate and member could play a vital role in recruiting and organising new and existing members

99 Vice President Sue Mather

stresses the importance of organising in the voluntary and community sector

Brendan Barber, addressed the conference on behalf of the wider UK trade union movement. Feedback from delegates at the end of conference was overwhelmingly positive and many said that they would recommend other friends and colleagues in the union to take the opportunity to become a delegate at the next conference in two years. Overall, people left ready to go back to their workplaces and ‘go for growth’ to ensure that Community will always remain a strong and independent union. ■■To find out the decisions of conference and the resolutions that were passed, please visit our website.

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Union learning I HAVE been a union learning representative (ULR) with Community for three years at Vaillant Group, a leading gas boiler maker. The initial workplace training that the company provided was OK, but only prepares you for some of the skills you need in-house and did not result in a recognised qualification. As a ULR, my first priority was to provide skills for life for colleagues on-site. After extensive negotiations, 47 colleagues enrolled and achieved a level 2 qualification in either numeracy or literacy, which gave them a positive attitude towards further learning. Unfortunately, things then went a little flat due to the training provider pulling out. The help that I then needed to continue with learning on-site came from my union, Community, and from UnionLearn. What I needed to do was re-focus and find a new mind-set. We negotiated with management and, with help from Communitas, we were able to introduce a new training provider – Learning Zone – and offer NVQs in warehousing and storage in the spares and stores department, helping my colleagues to gain a qualification that recognised their everyday skills. We also provided some IT training (the European Computer Driving Licence) and some basic computing skills, which the company paid for. We now have a great learning provider and are offering ILM

‘I always look for the next opportunity’ Carl Anthony reflects on his role as a Community Union learning rep Carl and his colleagues

(Institute of Leadership and Management) qualifications for team leaders and business improvement techniques qualifications. These programmes run alongside a company project to form an academy providing training in world recognised quality systems such as Six Sigma (Yellow Belt). Our partnership has put part of this qualification into an apprenticeship framework and has enabled five existing staff to take up the apprenticeship offer as technicians. I am always looking for the next project and opportunity. I have had back-up from my project worker Colin Daws (Communitas) and UnionLearn and it is great that we have established a good working relationship with the company. If I have any advice for potential ULRs, which is a great and rewarding role, it is to seek out learning and training that is useful to both the employer and the employee.

NEW INVESTMENT IN LEARNING

THE JIMMY Brandon Learning Centre, based in Community’s Motherwell office, has recently undergone a much-welcomed refurbishment and has also benefited from a significant investment in new IT equipment. Funding from Community has allowed Communitas to purchase a number of new PCs, printers and scanners for the centre – all of which are equipped with the most up-to-date software. The Jimmy Brandon Learning Centre offers a variety of IT courses from beginners to ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) – all of which are 100% free to Community union members. The centre also has ILA Scotland and LearnDirect Scotland accreditation which allows

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The centre’s computers in use

members of the local community of Lanarkshire to undergo training within the centre at a very competitive cost. Region 1 campaign manager John-Paul McHugh welcomed the refurbishment: “The refurbishment of the Jimmy Brandon Learning Centre will allow Community members in Lanarkshire to have access to the most up-to-date computers and will allow Communitas and Community to continue to offer excellent training opportunities to Community members.”

■■ For more information on the courses available, contact the Jimmy Brandon Learning Centre on 01698 304 575 or jblc@communitas.org.uk.


Communitas ‘Learning wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for union’ VICTORIA CARPETS in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, is a textiles manufacturer employing 300 people. Community, which represents staff there, was delighted to see 21 members presented with certificates for successfully completing their NVQ level 2 in performing manufacturing operations. Terry Pye, Community’s National Operations Officer, and Neil Glover, operations director of Victoria Carpets, presented the City & Guilds certificates in May. Terry Pye said: “This is a great personal achievement for everyone involved. It shows what can be done as a result of everyone working together. We now plan to build on this initial success by encouraging more employees to take up the opportunities on offer.” Some of the staff members have gone on to achieve further qualifications in numeracy and literacy. Community has worked tirelessly to bring the learning agenda to Victoria

Certificate presentation Carpets, and these efforts were rewarded by the signing of a learning agreement, in partnership with the employer, in August 2010. It allows staff to access training which is facilitated by Communitas and delivered by specialist training providers. The employer is also committed to working with the union to develop a business improvement techniques (BIT) programme that should enhance the prospects of staff. Victoria Carpets branch secretary Martin Trickey said: “Learning wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the union.” Adrian Southern, a ULR at Victoria Carpets said: “I welcome the learning that is going ahead at the company and see this as just the start of things to come.”

Emma Wallis, Mark Kaye and Bob Hudson of Community and Liz Thompson of LASER Credit Union at the official opening of LASER’s new premises in Rotherham town centre. Liz also came to Community’s conference in Southport to speak to delegates about the services that LASER and other credit unions can offer members

Going beyond the workplace with Laser Credit Union THE BIG banks have not done anyone any favours in recent years, apart from their greedy big bosses and shareholders, so Community is supporting the LASER Credit Union, based in Rotherham. The new partnership is part of Community’s Union Modernisation Fund project which is aimed at building relationships “beyond the workplace” that can help and support our members and their communities. Like all credit unions, LASER is a small community-based social enterprise. It operates on a not-for-profit basis and does not have a big bonus culture like the banks. Any profits made are distributed back to savers by way of a dividend. But, just as importantly,

LASER has an ethical lending policy. Interest rates are low and customers are not encouraged to borrow more than they can really afford. Customers are also given help with money management as part of LASER’s service. What a difference to the way the numerous doorstep lenders and illegal loan sharks operate! The partnership with LASER works both ways. We want LASER’s customers to know more about their rights at work. Community and LASER have developed a joint leaflet so that LASER customers can find out more information about how Community can help them. ■■ For more information please contact Emma on 07921 940268 or Mark on 07753 951428 or Liz Thompson at LASER on 01709 836500.

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• FINANCIAL SERVICES •

Introducing our friendly, accessible Independent Financial Advisors Hello members, we already receive a number of financial services enquiries from the Community Member Service Centre. In the current climate, members are more concerned than ever that they receive good quality independent financial advice they can trust. Richard Broom Managing Director

Financial Services offered to members include: Independent Financial Advice on receipt of a Personal Injury Award Financial Advice in Retirement and Redundancy situations Arranging Life Insurance and other protection Pension Advice Reviewing existing investments, e.g. Investment Bonds ISAs etc. Inheritance Tax Planning Trading or surrendering Endowment Policies Debt Counselling* Mortgage Advice

For a free no obligation discussion call 0845 463 4071 FISCALE FINANCIAL SERVICES LIMITED

www.fiscale.co.uk

• 36 Guest Lane • Silkstone • Barnsley • South Yorkshire • S75 4LF • Fax 01226 791 204 • Email richard.broom@fiscale.co.uk • Fiscale Financial Ser vices Limited is an appointed representative of Financial Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Ser vices Authority. FSA number 467979. Registered of fice: 36, Guest Lane, Silkstone, Barnsley, S75 4LF. Registered in England & Wales, company number 06218216 * Debt Counselling is regulated by The Of fice of Fair Trading, not the Financial Ser vices Authority.

SIGN UP A NEW MEMBER

They can call freephone 0800 389 6332 or visit www.community-tu.org/join


Stronger Together magazine issue 18