Hello again everyone. I hope that you are well and looking forward to the slow re-emergence from lockdown.

The Branch remains very busy and UNISON membership continues to grow, demonstrating that workers see us a safe port in a storm. The Government is intent upon making ordinary workers and citizens pay for the cost of the pandemic and trade unions are rallying to highlight the inequality in this.

Pay Claim 2021-22

UNISON and other Local Government Trade Unions lodged a 2021-22 Pay Claim of 10% to start to address the 25% of pay value which local government staff have lost in the 11 years since the Tories came to power. The employers have offered 1.5% in response and our negotiators have rejected this as unfair, especially when local government staff have been heroic key workers during the pandemic. Branches have been asked to consult with their members to see what they want the national negotiators to do now in response. Only meaningful collective action will force concessions from the employers. We need you to tell us what you want the negotiators to do now. Either accept the 1.5% which is what the inflation rate currently is, and effectively accept a continuation of your 25% pay cut or agree to UNISON arranging some collective action to force the employers to value local government staff sufficiently highly? Please tell us via unison@staffsunison.gov.uk

Easing of lockdown at the Branch Office

Unless the Government changes its pandemic guidance, the Branch Office will reopen on 21/6/21. Social distancing rules will still apply, and Branch Officers will be working a mixture of office based and home-based routines to suit the needs of members but also to provide good health and safety governance.

UNISON Special Delegate Conference 2021

I have recommended that the Branch accept the motion recommendations suggested by the West Midlands UNISON Office. The recommended motions are all worthy of Branch support as they ally very well with our own policy platform in area of human rights, social justice, and fairness.

Branch Funding Formula-Motion 72 at Special Delegate Conference

I have recommended that this motion be opposed through the mandatory direction of Branch Conference delegates. This is regrettable but necessary to express the formal view of the Branch that the current UNISON NEC funding proposals are not fit for purpose and should be revisited. There are several concerns around the proposals but in effect they need to be redrawn because they fail to offer the Staffordshire Branch any additional support. The national Union has failed to include the 60% of UNISON income spent on directly employed staff at Regional and National Offices. This is unfair and unacceptable. Most of the direct support of UNISON members is now dealt with through the Branches, not the Regions. Therefore, all additional organising time which would be created through a relatively small increase in the Organising Fund should be directly employed at Branch level so that local workplace need can be targeted, and local activists supported. The proposal is for the Regional Office to become better staffed with Branches competing for project time which stops after a short period.

The Branch has had its democratically agreed motion requesting that the funding formula be revisited rejected for no acceptable reason by the national Union, along with suggested amendments also democratically moved through the Branch Executive Committee. Appeals against these moves have been unsuccessful, thus leaving your Branch without an effective way of opposing the NEC funding motion apart from rejecting it outright through voting against. Delegates will be instructed to vote against Motion 72 in its entirety if the 20/5/21 Branch Executive Committee agrees.

£5000 donation from national UNISON to India for the provision of Oxygen for hospitals struggling to cope with soaring Covid rates there 

A generous act from the national Union.

Palestine solidarity

It was pleasing to see that the UNISON General Secretary, Christina McAnea expressed the solidarity of UNISON with the traumas faced by the Palestinian peoples at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces during the bombardment and continued occupation of Gaza.

I was also proud to attend the Wolverhampton Rally for Palestine on 15/5/21. I attended in a personal capacity because the event had been booked at short notice and not discussed at a Branch Executive Committee meeting. It was gratifying to see hundreds of people there along with the many tens of thousands who marched in support of the Palestinian people across the UK.  

Wolverhampton Trades Council Slavery Research Project

I have received a nice thank you communication in respect of the Branch donation towards the cost of a Research worker for this project exploring the historical links of Wolverhampton and Staffordshire to the Slave Trade over the past 250 years. The Research post is being advertised and it is hoped the research needed will commence in the relatively near future.

Workers Memorial Day

I attended 4 Workers Memorial Day events on behalf of the Branch on 28/4/21. The Staffordshire Branch event, the TUC event, the Wolverhampton Trade Council event and the joint East and North Staffordshire Trades Councils event. All were very moving and humbling, especially at a time of pandemic when local government, private sector, NHS, and Education staff have all contributed heroically to keeping all of us safe, fed, educated, healed, and protected. “Remember the dead but fight for the living.”

Possible merger with other Branches

Staffordshire Branch has been approached by UNISON Regional Office to consider taking over responsibility for South Staffordshire District Council UNISON Branch and Newcastle Under Lyme UNISON Branch. Both these Branches have struggled recently, and their members need a Branch to support them robustly. Staffordshire is that Branch.

Education Funding

Branch Officers are becoming increasingly concerned about continued underfunding of both State Maintained and Academy Schools. Coordinated action by all organisations concerned for the education and welfare of our children is required. I have thus written to all Heads across Staffordshire to seek their views about a coordinated action plan to try to advertise where children are suffering (and consequently our Education members) because of education underfunding by the current Government. I will report back on progress in due course.

Schools trying to opt out of the LGPS

Birmingham UNISON Branch has informed me that a Foundation School in Birmingham has been allowed to opt out of the LGPS Scheme and that other Academy Schools are actively seeking to join them. This is purely finance driven and would cause long term financial damage to our education members if allowed to become more common. The Regional Office is seeking legal advice around this situation and when I have more information, I will share it with the Branch Executive. Staffordshire UNISON will oppose this further attack on low paid education members.

County Council and Fire and Police Commissioner Elections on 6/5/21

The Conservatives retained political control of the County Council in Staffordshire and the Conservative Candidate, Ben Adams was elected as the new Staffordshire Police and Fire Commissioner.

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As always, I want all local government and private sector members to stay safe and healthy and to report any employment concerns to the Branch Office on 01785 245000 or unison@staffsunison.org.uk

We urgently need more Workplace Stewards and Contacts. We promise that you only need to do what you feel comfortable doing and if you wish to just provide and receive information without your employer being made aware this is fine as well. We will offer all the support and advice and training you require.  

Best wishes.

Mike Vaughan, Staffordshire UNISON Branch Secretary

May 2021