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Published by Unions TwentyOne

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Published by: Unions TwentyOne on Aug 24, 2010
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08/24/2010

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Unions 21 is once more open for business. The 2005conference season gives us a great opportunity to relaunch. Inholding fringe meetings, putting together this newsletter andannouncing all sorts of new initiatives, we will show the tradeunion world of our determination to provide the place for freeminds to meet.We all know that trade unions in Britain face enormouschallenges. All the research tells us the same story.With under 30% in unions, membership of unionsis flat, despite rising numbers at work and amoderately benign government attitude to us. Fartoo few private sector workers are in unions andeven public service unions are recruiting moremembers but falling in density.We need to talk. Trade unions mustdiscuss how to make progressopenly, learning from each otherwhat works and what does not.Unions 21 is not a delegateorganisation. We do not discussmatters and decide things bymajority votes. We persuade,stimulate and share with each othercommon experiences.We are the open space where everyone of us is free to learn and speak as their brains and hearts dictate,rather than dutifully follow on everyoccasion the familiar disciplines of our own union’s decisionmaking processes.For some, openness is a threat – but for trade unions, only opendiscussion of our problems can point the way towards tradeunion progress.We must discuss the effectiveness of trade union mergers,the urgent need for a new narrative on social Europeand the union link with thegovernment. On top of those big issues, there area thousand professionalissues in improving themanagement of unions thatmust be addressed. Our doorsare open –all are welcome– come on in.
New Look Unions 21
Unions 21 Acting Director
 
Unions 21 has a new ActingDirector. Matthew Ball has takenon the role with support fromthe Tobacco Workers’ Alliance.Matt is based at Community’sSwinton House headquarters, 324Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X8DD. T: 020 7239 1224. F: 0207278 8378. E: info@unions21.org.uk. To complement the changeof Director, Unions 21 ExecutiveCommittee also has a new Chair(John Lloyd – Community),Vice-Chair (Sue Ferns – Prospect),and Treasurer (Adrian Askew– Connect).
Unions 21 will organise all sorts of differentmeetings after the conference season isover. And being a convivial bunch, we willhave working breakfasts together, luncheswith a decent speaker and the occasionalelegant dinner that will be a memorablenight out for lay activists and full time tradeunion officials alike.Even more important than our cateringarrangements will be our serious intentionto get out of London and make our tradeunion discussions and seminars have reallife beyond the metropolitan centre. We arealready talking to friends in Scotland, andwill publish elements of our programme,particularly for 2006 in the English regions,Wales and Northern Ireland, beforeChristmas. Our open space approach willbe open to lay activists as well as officials,and we all know that for unions to thriveonce more, we must take ideas from everywalk of trade union life and every part of Britain.Once again, if trade union friendsanywhere have an idea that they think needs developing in meetings, then docontact us and we will try to lay it on.
New worlds to conquer
ForeFront is published by Unions 21 in association with Unity Trust Bank 
 
www.unity.uk.com
 
Fore
Front 
issue Number 2
August - November 05
Unity Trust Bank sponsored the Midlands TUC awards. Pictured here: Mark Wilton, of the Bank presents an award to Mr Jones, an USDAW rep for Salveston. Story page 2.
 
 Two years ago the TUC described the Information andConsultation Directive as “potentially the most significantpiece of employment legislation ever to be introduced inthe UK”. It joined a range of other respected commentatorsin highlighting the scope the Directive provides to ensurethat employees and their trade union representativesare informed and consulted on a systematic basis - thusbuilding on the practices of the best employers but alsodirectly challenging the laggards - and on a wider rangeof issues than the core agenda items of pay, rations andredundancy. The 10% membership trigger for thesearrangements was seen as an important tool to establishrecognition in new bargaining units and also to extendunion influence among smaller organisations. Today however, it is easy to form the impression thatmuch of the initial enthusiasm has drained away. Thereis no parade of union success stories, nor even a digestof disputes with employers over implementation of theInformation and Consultation Regulations.Is this because unions are quietly getting on with it, eitherwith the co-operation of employers or at least an absenceof overt opposition? Or is it because there is now a differentassessment of the opportunities and challenges? To be fair, even from the earliest stages it was recognisedthat the Directive would impose new demands onnegotiating and organising resources and skills and that,lurking in the background, were potential threats of derecognition in some areas. The reality may well be that there is a variety of views andexperiences and, in our opinion, it is timely to take stock of whether the regulations really do provide new pathwaysto recognition. To this end, we will be holding a half-dayseminar in central London on 20 September. Speakers willinclude Employment Minister Gerry Sutcliffe; ProfessorKeith Sisson of ACAS; Sarah Veale, TUC Head of Equality andEmployment Rights; and David Yeandle of the EngineeringEmployers’ Federation. Union perspectives will include TonyBurke of Amicus and Paul Noon of Prospect.For further details and to book a place, please contactUnions 21 Director Matt Ball at info@unions21.org.uk.
 The Midlands TUC heldits second annual awardsceremony at the Holiday Innat Leicester in May – and wereproud to have Unity Trust Bank as the awards sponsor. Thisyear’s awards were widenedto include new categoriescovering Equalities, Organisingand Health and Safety, whilethe awards for Learning wereagain a big draw for the 100plus audience.A special equality award wentto the anti fascist campaigngroup Norscarf – the NorthStaffordshire Campaignagainst Racism and Fascism– which has a long and proudhistory of campaigning againstthe British National Party andthe National Front.Presenting the awards forunion learning representativeswas Mark Wilton, Unity’sdevelopment manager for theMidlands, who underlined theimportance of Unity workingwith affiliates at a regionallevel.In 2004, the TUC appointedRoger McKenzie asregional secretary for theMidlands. Speaking at theceremony, he said, “Theseawards demonstrate theexcellent work that learningrepresentatives, shopstewards, health and safetyrepresentatives and full timeofficials continually deliveron behalf of Midland tradeunionists”.
Information and Consultation:
Where Next?
Unity sponsorsMidlands TUC awards
TUC Fringe Meeting
Lunchtime, Tuesday 13th September, Brighton Centre
Full Employment – but why don’t we grow?
Why has union membership remained stagnant whenhistorically full employment has been an ingredient for tradeunion growth? What are trade unions’ prospects for growth?Can union mergers help recruit new members? Is the“organising” agenda the solution? These questions and more will be debated.Speakers will include Robert Taylor and Paul Mackney(NATFHE General Secretary).
Labour Party Fringe Meeting
Lunchtime, Wednesday 28th September, Metropole Hotel
Unions: Labour’s Critical Friends?
After widespread acknowledgement of unions’ roles insecuring a third term for Labour how can unions and Labourbuild a progressive consensus in the workplace? Is the unionlink to Labour the only way to secure the trade union agenda?Does the way we designed the Warwick Agreement have along term future?
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alan Johnson
 will speak at this meeting and further details will be available at TUC Congress.Come and join the discussion. The Metropole Hotel is inside the security cordon – aconference pass will be required.
 
 Autumn Conference Events
Roger McKenzie
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We reported in the first issue of Forefront, on a programmeof regional workshops being run as part of an IPA / Unions21 project on “moving partnership on”.In April, five regional workshops were held in Cardiff,Birmingham, London, Darlington and Glasgow, attended byalmost 200 people from over 100 different organisations.Unions 21 were invited by the prestigious think-tank Compassto provide the trade union session during their post-electionconference at the TUC on June 18 this year. For us, it was awelcome opportunity to think out loud on how unions canbuild the progressive consensus in the workplace. We put upour usually rich variety of speakers. Mary Bousted, generalsecretary of the teachers and lecturers union ATL was directand to the point, emphasising to our audience that a publicsector partnership with the government in education was notto be dismissed simply because the unions only achieved 70%of what they wanted from the negotiations.John Healey MP and Treasury Minister also drew on hisexperience in the unions to gently remind us all that organisingand recruitment were a priority, and that even though unionslast year signed 179 new agreements, the membershiprecruited within those agreements was not extensive.David Coats from the Work Foundation spoke of the need toget a narrative related to work into the new government’spriorities – that the new world of work was different fromthe traditional redoubts of the unions, and that we shouldpay close attention to the success of those unions who weregrowing because they were closely associated with theirmembers everyday workplace concerns.John Lloyd chaired the well-attended meeting, and over adozen thoughtful questions made the meeting overrun – butin true Unions 21 style, no-one minded.
Employers and trade unions are facing up to some criticalissues about managing change in the future organisation of work and the development of employment opportunity.Strong and independent unions in the workplace make jointworking at a senior level more effective. For trade unions, joint working creates an opportunity to become moreinvolved at an earlier opportunity and on a broader range of subject matter. The principles of partnership, joint working and joint decisionmaking need to be built upon a vision of “good work” thatrecognise more than just profit, but also the satisfaction of employees as engaged individuals.An acid test of such arrangements is how senior managersand representatives deal with restructuring and pay. Can newrelationships be sustained even when discussing difficultissues or do the parties “revert to type”?A shared vision in which the issues of cost andcompetitiveness are understood by the trade unions, andemployers recognise that the creation of high qualitywork requires high quality employment must become thehallmark in organisations where employers and trade unionsare committed in principle, through joint working and jointdecision making to partnership.Joint working and joint decision-making are iterativeprocesses, but key tools in bringing the principles of partnership to life. There is a continuing need to refocuspartnership working from the level of senior trade union and
Setting our Compass once again
Moving Partnership On
 The main findings are as follows:
Our thanks go to ACAS, GMB, TUC, UK Work Organisation Network and Unity Trust Bank forpublicising our activities and to all the presenters,facilitators and participants that took part in our events.For more information about the project includingfeedback from the consultation day and workshopsplease visit: www.ipa-involve.com
management colleagues towards the front line – finding localsolutions to local problems.Changing employee relations at a senior level and challengingthe prevailing culture of the workplace are complementarybut not automatic and it may not follow that strong seniorlevel arrangements reflect effective employee engagement.Partnership champions provide a further important ingredientin providing both the face of new ways of working and theregular contact and motivation staff and managers require inmaintaining momentum.Clear measurement indicators that are shared and ownedby everyone in the business (including the employees) arevital to sustaining a strong commitment to the principles of partnership and joint working.
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