27 Jan 2008

February is LGBT History Month

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. See the LGBT History website for further details. See the calender for events in your area.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Remember, reflect and react to create a better future.

There have been a number of events throughout the country. For details of these events and to light your own candle in remembrance of the victims and the survivivors visit the Holocaust Memorial Day

Pink News
reported on how the nation remembered today.

For further details about the persecution of gay men by the Nazis read

Link to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USMMM)
I leave you to reflect on the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892–1984) abut the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of group by group of people......
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

In Veglia

I have just moderated a comment on a post last year concerning a student being investigated by police for alleged homophobic abuse that he posted on facebook. The comment led me to the following website In Veglia which I have read with interest and found moving particularly today as I remember many victims of the holocaust, some of who were gay. The plan is that on the 4th April 2008, many Christians will meet in many cities of Italy in vigils of prayer to remember the victims of homophobia and smash the walls of silence and embarassment. The date has been chosen because it is 40 years to the day of the assassination of Martin Luther King and are acting on his belief that any kind of injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Also in April 2007, Matteo a young man from Torrino committed suicide at the age of 16 due to homophobic bullying and discrimination.

14 Jan 2008

Lest We Forget

UNISON recently produced the following article about Black Members Conference which was held 11 - 13 January 2008 in Glasgow.

Until black history is taught in UK schools, there will be no appreciation of the contribution black people have made to making Britain ‘great’, UNISON declared at the weekend. Delegates at the union’s national black members’ conference in Glasgow called for black history – in particular, the history of the transatlantic slave trade and the part played by enslaved people in their own emancipation – to be included in the curriculum and taught at all levels, from primary school through to further education. No matter what our skin colour, it is vital to understand the past if we are to stamp out racism and forge a successful multicultural society based on mutual respect, conference agreed. The transatlantic slave trade and moves to combat its legacy of racism dominated the agenda, and also featured in a panel debate. “It is a legacy that none of us can be proud of,” UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said as he addressed delegates on the opening day of conference. “It is a legacy and a history that taints us today.” Mr Prentis hailed the government’s adoption of 23 August as a national day of remembrance of the slave trade and its abolition as a “great achievement for our union”.UNISON’s call for a national slavery memorial day was a key part of last year’s Breaking the Chains campaign.“We must never let people forget that the same racism that allowed slavery to exist is the same racism that people still face,” Mr Prentis said. He promised the union would not rest until the struggle for equality was won, and that in the run-up to this year’s local government elections, UNISON would once more lead the fight to “kick the BNP and other racists back in the gutter where they belong”. And he urged more black members to put themselves forward to lead and shape the union, “making sure that the union fits you, rather than you fitting the union”. Having more black representatives would help the union reach out to the next generation of black activists and stay relevant, truly giving black members a voice, Mr Prentis said, adding: “It is solidarity that binds us together and it is solidarity that will drive us forward. ”Conference also heard from the National Union of Students’ Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, who explained how, with help from UNISON, the NUS black students’ campaign was tackling racism and injustice on UK campuses, making “a real and powerful difference to the lives of young black people”. Other guest speakers included former political prisoner Khiang Maung Maung from the Burma Campaign and UNISON president Norma Stephenson, who said UNISON was working to put equality at the heart of everything it does.Ms Stephenson said that as chair of the Labour Party’s women race and equality committee, she was able to ensure the union’s agenda featured highly in party policy talks, and she pledged UNISON would throw its weight behind strengthening current laws. “We must continue to campaign to get the provisions of the Race Relations Act extended to the private and voluntary sectors, to protect black workers from appalling rates of pay and unjust disciplinary action, and to get the legislation properly enforced to make the public sector fully compliant,” she said. Issues debated included tackling the causes of gang, gun and knife culture, discrimination against migrant workers, the need to stop scapegoating Muslims, and reform of police ‘stop and search’ procedures.

More on UNISON's Black Members

11 Jan 2008

UNISON's 2008 Equal Pay Campaign

UNISON has launched its campaign to close the gender pay gap by lodging a record 33,000 equal pay claims against public sector employers. Two thirds of UNISON members are women, and the battle for equal pay has been ongoing for a number of years. Significant pay increases for thousands of low-paid women workers have been achieved but there is still a lot more to be achieved. "Equal pay is not just the wish of the trade unions," said UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis. "It is the law of the land. Yet, 30 years on, the Equal Pay Act is still seen by many employers as a take-it-or-leave-it bit of legislation. This cannot be allowed to continue. It must be implemented robustly across the UK." Funding particularly in local government, remainscritical to achieving equal and fair pay. This issue was discussed in an article in The Guardian recently and also the issue of no win no fee lawyers which poses a challenge to collective negotiations. "As a direct result of UNISON’s campaigning through the Labour Party, last September the government released £500 million to 46 local authorities to fund equal pay," Dave Prentis said. "But more is needed. In addition, the government must change the law, to cut the time it takes for legal action. At the moment, it takes years, is costly and, in the meantime, women remain underpaid.”

The pay gap between men and women is around 17%, according to official figures. This means that women are losing out on a staggering £4,000 a year, based on an average salary of £23,600.

A major problem

UNISON prepares for pay campaign

UNISON will unite and bring its whole strength to bear over the next few months against what general secretary Dave Prentis called "the most unjust pay policy I've ever seen". That was the message given at the pay summit where members met to discuss the government's attempt to limit public-sector pay over the next three years to just 2%. Inflation has been more than 4% for the past year, making 2% rises a pay cut in real terms. Pay rises in the private sector are running at around 3.5%-4%. Discussions took place on how to build and organise a campaign for the reward and pay rises public-service workers deserve, both across the 1.3-million strong union and across the six-million strong public service workforce, working with other unions in the various public-service sectors. The government says its pay policy, announced in last autumn's comprehensive spending review, is about tackling inflation but incomes experts pointed out that that public-sector pay isn't counted in the inflation index: and public-service pay rises don't increase inflation - repeating a message from leading economists, quoted in a Financial Times report headlined "Inflation driven by potatoes" - inflation is about the cost of what people buy, not what public-service providers earn.

In two weeks time, MPs are to vote on a 2.8% pay rise. Gordon Brown has urged them to accept 1.9% but MPs will get a free vote. The vote is based on recommendations from the Senior Salaries Pay Board. But 2.8% or even 1.9% on an annual salary of £60, 675 is still a big pay increase by my calculations - a lot more substantial than what a lot of our members are earning. This could be the last ime that MPs do get the chanc to vote on their pay increase though as a review is to be carried out to examine the use of objective criteria to establish MPs pay.