Unite the Union
Wednesday, 8 March 2017
We are pleased to report that, in 2017, the following trade unions are affiliates of the Reading Trades Union Council:
National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers
National Union of Teachers
Transport Salaried Staffs' Association
Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
Unite the Union
Unite the Union
University and College Union
|The RTUC banner heads the|
Women's Day march through Buttermarket
Reading Trades Union Council played a leading role in organising and partaking in International Women's Day - 2017's event being possibly the most popular ever staged in the town.
|The length of the march as it passed through Broad Street|
The leading light in the arrangements was RTUC's vice president, Nada Al Sanjari, who organised a strong field of speakers, a band and plotted the route.
Starting at the Spanish Civil War Monument in Forbury Gardens, a procession of around 200 people - women, children and men - paraded down Broad Street, up Friar Street, and assembled outside the Town Hall on the edge of Market Place. Following music by The Retreat Singers - a Reading band founded many years ago on Women's Day - Nada introduced the speakers.
|Jan Bastable (Unite/RTUC)|
addresses the rally
From the RTUC, Jan Bastable spoke, also representing Unite the Union in her role as regional vice secretary and women's committee vice secretary. Jan noted that women make up more than half the members of trade union and urged as many people as possible to join trade unions to help defend rights at work and social services and the NHS in the local community. She promoted the activities of the Reading Trades Union Council and welcomed trade unionists to attend its meetings and to affiliate their branches to the RTUC.
|Ray Parkes addresses the rally|
Another RTUC speaker was Ray Parkes, a member of Unite Community and an activist in Reading's labour movement for 50 years. Ray commended the organisation of and attendance at the 2017 International Women's Day march, calling it the largest such event in Reading's history. Ray spoke of the strong women who have influenced his political development, from his family to such historical figures as Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin - the founder of International Women's Day. He thanked Nada for her enthusiasm and successful organising abilities and hoped the event would become an annual fixture in Reading's calendar.
|Nada Al Sanjani|
addresses the rally
To wind up the event, Nada spoke, giving a very personal account of her move from Iraq to the United Kingdom and the impact which British foregn policy in the Middle East has had on the local populations, especially women - splitting families, creating refugees and exiles, and of course killing vast numbers of people. Nada thanked all the speakers and the attendees and looked forward to an even larger scale gathering in a years time.
|Nada winds up Reading's 2017|
International Women's Day march
Monday, 6 March 2017
|Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party|
On 4 March 2017, Reading Trades Union Council joined 250,000 other protesters in London, marching to defend the NHS. Nada Al-Sanjari, Vice-President of the RTUC, had organised the production of a banner and several trades council delegates took a hand in parading it from Tavistock Square to Parliament Square. Jan Bastable and Cllr Sarah Hacker, Unite delegates to the RTUC, marched with their trade union while John Partington, Correspondence Secretary, flew a flag for the TSSA.
|John McDonnell MP|
Labour Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
|Len McCluskey, General Secretary of unite the Union|
On the conclusion of the march, a host of speakers rewarded the gathered crowd with words of solidarity and inspirational calls for continued pressure on the Government to properly fund the NHS and halt the creeping privatisation of our health service. Among the speakers were Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the Unite union, John McDonnell MP, the Labour Party’s shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party. All three speakers, leaders of the industrial and political wings of the labour movement, pledged support to NHS workers in their struggle for an improved health service, including backing strike action if the Government again placed unfair restraint on heath workers’ pay.
|Cllr Sarah Hacker and Jan Bastable of Unite and RTUC|
Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, visits Reading, 6 March 2017
|Reading trade unionists with Len McCluskey,|
General Secretary of Unite the Union
The Reading Trades Union Council was out in force to greet Len McCluskey during his visit to Novotel Reading to address trade unionists during his campaign for re-election as General Secretary of the Unite union. Len spoke for half an hour before fielding questions from the audience, members of Unite and non-members alike.
|Sue Stevens, Unite branch chair from Reading Buses,|
introduces Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite
Jan Bastable, Cllr Sarah Hacker, Keith Jerrome, Ray Parkes and John Partington were among RTUC delegates at the event.
|Ray Parkes (left) and John Partington (right) of RTUC|
with Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union
Thursday, 2 February 2017
On Thursday, 2 February 2017, members of the Reading Trades Union Council (including its Vice-President and Communications & Correspondence Secretary) joined Labour Party members, peace activists, students and those of a tolerant disposition young and old at the ‘Reading anti-Trump’s #MuslimBan solidarity gathering‘ outside Reading Town Hall. Beginning at 5.30pm, a crowd of around 200 people assembled – including a large number of children – holding homemade banners of protest against the American President, Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order, signed on 28 January, which banned travel to the USA from seven majority-Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia).
|Nada addresses the diverse gathering of anti-racists|
The organisers of the event, Nada and Wendy, were incensed by Trump’s action and felt the need to respond to his bigotry with a peaceful show of protest open to all like-minded people. As Nada explains, ‘It was organised in two days. I addressed the crowd and spoke about the need to be vigilant about who is to blame for the underfunding of the NHS and local schools. We need to protect each other and to demonstrate that we won’t allow people to be scapegoated or demonised for problems that they did not cause. We came out in solidarity with those who were made refugees through destructive wars.
‘We committed to defend anyone who feels under threat from the prejudice that is dominating the headlines. We are united as a community in valuing every person in our community. I was inspired by the turnout and people’s commitment to stand up for those targeted for their difference. I learnt many things but the key message was clearly that there’s a strong will to get involved and be active, and continue the resistance against racism and prejudice and invasions’.
Among the banners on display were ones reading ‘Stop Racist Wars Now’, ‘More in Common + United’ and ‘I am Malala’.
|Reading Trades Union Council's Vice President and Secretary|
Speeches at the event can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/andy.croy/videos/10154147442756218/ and here: https://www.facebook.com/hattonn/videos/10101143138300717/.
***Stop Press*** Following Reading’s successful anti-Trump rally, US District Judge James Robart in Seattle stayed the Executive Order on 3 February pending a Federal Review. For the time being, Trump’s racist Order has been reversed – but pressure needs to continue to prevent its reinstatement as well as the further enactment of his illiberal and anti-democratic policies.
Fraternal Observer at Oxford & District Trades Union Council’s AGM
Also on 2 February, John Partington, RTUC Secretary, hurried from the anti-Trump demonstration to attend the Oxford & District Trades Union Council’s AGM as an invited guest, returning the tribute paid when Pól Ó Ceallaigh, Chair of the O&DTUC, attended RTUC’s AGM in December.
Key issues discussed were Oxfordshire County Council’s proposal to create a unified county authority, absorbing Oxford City Council and the other district councils in the county. Debate over the political consequences of such a move was had, with the proposal being contrasted with the alternative of a series of unitary authorities being established. There is currently no proposal for the status quo to be maintained – though that seemed favoured by the majority of attendees. Anything else would erode Labour’s strength in Oxford City, which is surrounded by a sea of Tory Blue throughout much the rest of the county. The delegates also looked forward to key events in the diary, including ‘Labour’s Industrial Strategy’ conference, Oxford (11 February), ‘Stand up to racism’ rally, Oxford (16 February), ‘Hands off our NHS!’, London (4 March), Levellers’ Day, Burford (20 May) and the Trades Councils’ Conference, Sunderland (10-11 June).
The election of officers was completed in an orderly manner, with Pól Ó Ceallaigh as President, Sue Tibbles as Secretary and Richard Kelsall as Treasurer, among others; these officers were also elected as a slate to the corresponding roles in the Oxfordshire County Association of Trades Union Councils.
Monday, 16 January 2017
Report of Reading Trades Union Council’s event:
Help Save the NHS
Chair: Nada Al-Sanjari (Vice President, RTUC)
|Chair and Speakers for RTUC's 'Help Save the NHS' event|
Date/Time: 16 January 2017, 19.00-21.00
Venue: Reading International Solidarity Centre, London Street, Reading
Speakers: Merry Cross (DPAC); Kevin Jackson (Unison); Kevin Brandstatter (GMB)
|RTUC's 'Help Save the NHS' event|
With about thirty persons in attendance, Nada Al-Sanjari, Reading Trades Union Council Vice President and chair for the evening, introduced the speakers: Merry Cross representing Disabled People Against Cuts; Kevin Jackson representing the health workers’ union Unison; and Kevin Brandstatter representing the health workers’ union GMB.
|Merry Cross of Disabled People Against Cuts|
Merry spoke first, declaring that the Conservatives are ripping up society, social care and the NHS. She talked about physical and mental impairment being a diverse range of characteristics which people live with. Disability – or disablement – is the oppression people suffer due to their impairment. All people in society need to take on some key facts: while around ten percent of the population are disabled, impairment can happen overnight, instantly and is unplanned – leading to immediate disablement. Discrimination against the impaired, therefore, should be everyone’s concern. ‘Today it’s me; tomorrow it could be you!’ Merry pointed out. DPAC has been disappointed with solidarity from other groups hitherto, including trade unions.
Merry next turned her attention to current specific issues. The threatened closure of the hydrotherapy pool at the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) would mean that, without hydrotherapy, so many more people would require hospital care. [RTUC had invited Merry to bring along a petition to save the hydrotherapy pool and a number of new supporters signed up during the course of the evening.]
More generally, Merry asserted that austerity affects women and the disabled most. Department for Work and Pensions assessments (Work Capability Assessments, Disability Living Allowance assessments, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit medical assessments, Veterans UK assessments) are being used to throw people off benefits; some have died, some suffer malnutrition. Assessments can result in the removal of a disabled person’s car – before their appeals is heard. This increased lack of mobility leads to isolation, depression – and visits to the GP, putting more pressure on the NHS.
Social care has been reduced so that no night assistance is received by many people in need. People who require assistance going to the toilet are made to wear incontinence pads – though they are not incontinent! And the pads – which were once supplied on the NHS – now have to be paid for. Dignity is under attack – and the shift in caring responsibilities from professionals to family members is straining relationships.
The introduction of the Bedroom Tax has disproportionately affected disabled persons. Many have been forced to give up houses which have been specially adapted for their needs – to move into smaller properties not adapted. Again, this results in more visits to the NHS.
As Merry was not able to remain for the whole evening, the chair invited discussion and questions immediately following her talk. One audience member noted the disappearance of public telephones as particularly affecting the poor, including the disabled poor. Two related questions were: ‘What can trade unions do to assist DPAC?’ and ‘Can trade unions affiliate to DPAC?’ Merry answered that DPAC’s main need is funds, as some hearing impaired members require interpreters. In addition, trade unions can support campaigns, help hold banners and undertake leafleting. Merry saw no reason why trade unions couldn’t affiliate, though pointed out that DPAC is not a registered charity. A final question asked ‘What support do disabled people receive from the Equality Commission?’ Merry replied that the Commission has been largely emasculated and there is little they can do with their current powers.
|Kevin Jackson, Unison's Berkshire and|
Healthcare Branch Secretary
Kevin Jackson, the secretary of Unison’s Berkshire and Healthcare Branch, spoke next. He began by observing that, while he’s been active in the local NHS for ten years, he’s watched its sharp decline since 2010. Before the 2015 general election, the head of the NHS declared that the service required £30 billion. Following the election, £8 billion has been provided and £20 billion worth of savings have been demanded.
In January 2016, the government established 44 areas and requested that each draft up a Sustainability and Transformation Plan. The Reading area is covered by the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and (West) Berkshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (BOB STP) [the Full Draft of which was published in December 2016 and can be found here: http://www.oxfordshireccg.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Draft-Bucks-Oxfordshire-Berkhsire-West-STP.pdf; a summary available here: http://www.oxfordshireccg.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Draft-BOB-STP-Public-Summary.pdf].
The BOB STP proposes a ‘review’ of community hospitals (i.e., closures); a ‘review’ of the staff mix (i.e., replacing nurses with health assistance); and a ‘review’ of doctors’ surgeries (i.e., closures). £500 million is proposed to be saved by 2020. This is the destruction of the NHS. How about increasing corporation tax? How about raising income tax? Some CEOs earn more in three days than the average annual pay of their employees. The government has a slim majority – we need to expose the lies on health funding and challenge all health cuts. The BOB STP is not achievable if the NHS is to survive.
|Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National|
The final speaker was Kevin Brandstatter, National Organising Officer for the GMB union with many members working in health care. Kevin began by asserting that ‘last week was the worst for the NHS!’ The Red Cross declared a ‘humanitarian crisis’; cancer treatments were cancelled for the first time; people are dying in beds in corridors. Meanwhile, the health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is gloating from the sale of his internet business, Hotcourses, for £17 million (his 49% share) which makes money from state education. The deal will make him the richest person in the cabinet.
The NHS budget has gone up one percent per year, but its costs have inflated by four percent per year. Although the NHS was promised £8 billion following the 2015 general election, £4 billion was already earmarked for deficit reduction – so will not go towards health care. The two percent increase in council tax to support social care is not enough to cover current needs. The BOB STP proposals do not address the problem of training and retaining medical staff – due to their poor wages. Instead it proposes raising productivity – i.e., staff working harder for the same money. It is also considering privatising ‘back office’ functions – thus taking public money out of the NHS. The STPs are encouraging private health insurance firms and boosting private health care providers.
Under the Tories, the NHS is set to become a rump service for the unemployed, the elderly and those in precarious employment. Trades councils need to organise opposition. On 4 March there will be a National Demonstration to Defend Our NHS [see: https://www.facebook.com/events/1771664639725061/]. Labour parties and trade unions must work together. This is a class issue. Working people need to fight back.
Following the two trade union speakers, questions and discussion were invited from the floor. One audience member mentioned that John McDonnell, when addressing Unite members earlier that day, stated that current government plans are to cut taxes by £70 billion over five years. We need to stop that and fund the NHS. The speaker also mentioned that private companies are taking over Trusts (Capita in Norfolk, eg.) and making money out of the NHS. Kevin Jackson replied that private care homes are closing due to cost – and there is no public option available to fill the gap.
Another audience member suggested councils set deficit budgets and refuse to implement cuts. He asked ‘where is the national strike over attacks on the NHS, the Trade Union Bill, etc.? Kevin Brandstatter said that, despite the British Medical Association (BMA) not being a member of the Trades Union Congress, trade unions are supporting junior doctors’ actions and other BMA initiatives. Labour councillor, Graeme Hoskin (Reading’s Lead Councillor for Health) replied that councils can’t set deficit budgets; the government would take direct control of the council and local democracy would be lost. On the Trade Union Act, Graeme stated that Reading Borough Council (RBC) will not abide by its provisions despite it being law. He also pointed out that RBC has an ethical wage agreement with Unison though funding is being squeezed and it is becoming difficult to sustain it. He asserted that the answer to the NHS crisis is ultimately political – a change in government is required to save it.
|Cllr Gaeme Hoskin, Reading Borough|
Council's Lead Councillor for Health
John Ennis, Labour councillor for Southcote Ward, publicised Reading & District Labour Party’s National Campaign Day around the NHS & Social Care on 21 January (see https://events.labour.org.uk/event/32498). [For Wokingham Constituency Labour Party’s similar initiative, see https://events.labour.org.uk/event/32352.] He agreed that Labour parties and trade unions need to work together and the local Labour Party needs to overcome elements within the party which refuse to circulate trade union information.
Other comments from the audience were: 1) the press and media in general are attempting to normalise the crisis in the NHS; 2) the USA spends c. 17% of national wealth on health services while we spend less than Germany, France and other G20 countries; 3) We need materials for activists to use to campaign for the NHS; 4) we need to publicise coaches and subsidised travel to the 4 March National Demonstration to Defend Our NHS.
Tuesday, 3 January 2017
|Billie Reynolds (fourth left), John Partington (seventh left) and James Parker|
(ninth left) of RTUC join Labour Party comrades at Reading Railway Station
On 3 January 2017, the day rail fares in Britain went up by an average of 2.3%, the Reading Trades Union Council and the Reading & District Labour Party stood shoulder to shoulder in protest.
Assembling at both the north and south entrances to Reading Railway Station, activists distributed 2000 leaflets and spoke with regular commuters, occasional rail travellers and even persons who rarely or never used the train.
The hottest topics were the year-on-year fare increases (up 27% since 2010), government subsidies for private rail firms and the extraction of profit from the railways while fare-payers and taxpayers foot the bill.
Despite the near freezing temperature, the public were willing to share their real sense of anger – and the mood of protest in the air suggests that 2017 will be a year when the government will have to rethink some of its attacks on public services and squeezes on hard-hit taxpayers and fare-payers.