The NUBSLI committee sent five questions to each candidate on questions we felt were pertinent to our branch.
In the second of our nub posts we hear from Unite’s current General Secretary, Len McCluskey. “Under my leadership, Unite is united, working collectively to ensure our union is fit for the future”.
“We can be proud of what we have built together – Britain and Ireland’s largest, most progressive voice for ordinary men and women.Let’s build on this tremendous achievement. Let’s stand together to face head on these challenging times”.
NUBSLI drafted a rule change which was accepted by Unite in 2015 to establish a central access fund so that deaf and disabled people can access the union and all its functions. This has not been put into practice and BSL users in particular are still facing barriers in accessing support. What will you do to change this?
Firstly, let me assure the branch of my and Unite’s commitment to ensuring access for our disabled members. If anyone is having specific access difficulties then they should contact their branch secretary or officer/regional women & equalities officer, so that we can address any barriers.
Since the beginning of Unite, we have had in place procedures to ensure access to our union’s committees and conferences, and developed an access guide for all, including use of branch funds for disability access, which is currently being updated. In implementing the rule change, the Executive was very concerned to ensure that it did not have any unintended consequences on these existing good practice procedures. For this reason, the Executive Council has had two discussions to ensure the establishment of the fund is done in the best way to complement rather than take away from this good practice.
It has now been agreed how the fund will operate in conjunction with the National Disabled Members Committee, Assistant General Secretary/National Officer for Equalities, Disabled Members and the Executive Finance Officer. Together with the updated access guide, this will shortly be promoted in the union.
NUBSLI is a predominantly self-employed/freelance branch. There is currently no seat or representation on the NEC for this rapidly emerging group within the union and we have very different needs. Will you commit to establishing a new structure of support for freelancers and the creation of a new position in the NEC?
This is a vital issue. There are self-employed/freelance workers in many and increasing sectors of our union and as General Secretary I continue the fight for all our members to be treated fairly and decently at the same time as challenging unfair practices in employment status.
Moving members to a new sector because of being self-employed would cut across ways in which our self-employed members are currently represented within some sectors – among taxi drivers for example, there is a strong tradition of self-employment and they have specific representation in the Passenger sector.
In Construction and Road Transport and, eg Uber, our members experience bogus self-employment and want to remain in their industrial sectors to challenge this with others. Within the Community Youth Worker and Not for Profit sector, faith workers for example have discussed the specific needs they have due to self-employment.
There could be opportunities to develop this further in the sector, which I very much hope you would want to be part of. In terms of the Executive Council, representation is currently by sector, region and equalities – which provides a number of opportunities, and members who are in self-employment have been elected.
Most of the membership benefits are aimed at employed members. What will you do to change this?
During my time as General Secretary, Unite’s benefits and affiliated services to individual members regardless of employment status have strongly developed. We have negotiated particular benefits for specific groups of members and if you have ideas to build on this they will be very welcome. I have also ensured the establishment of Community membership for members not in work.
I agree with you that our union needs to meet the new challenges and ways of working and I have put this into practice.
Much of the technology and support available to branches is only available during the day. As a group who need to meet outside of normal working hours (or we lose our income), will you commit to changing this?
I am very concerned to learn you are not getting support you need. Most of Unite’s branches meet outside of normal working hours, and so this is something we have to deal with. Please contact your officer about any particular issues so that they can be addressed.
All Unite’s training is aimed at employed staff who can take paid time off work. This is prohibitive to freelancers who would lose their income. What will you do to meet the training needs of branches such as ours, and ensure the union runs in a more equitable way?
In addition to our core education programme, our regional education teams can and do work with branches and groups of members to meet their specific needs. Your officer can assist with this. As General Secretary I am very committed to ensuring all our reps have legal rights to paid time off for union education, including campaigning to extend this to reps who are self-employed workers in a practical way.
We are increasingly developing online education and distance learning, which can play an important part as well. I must also say that this is a time of huge financial pressure on Unite’s education programme because of the pressure on employers not to comply with rights to paid time off and of government cuts to public funds for adult education including union education. I remain strongly committed to union education and to ensuring it meets the current and developing needs of our membership.
To read more about Len, visit his campaign website.
You can hear from the other two candidates, Ian Allinson and Gerard Coyne in our other Nub posts.