Welcome

UNISON is Britain's biggest and brightest trade union with a membership of over 1.3 million. Yorkshire & Humberside region alone has over 145,000 members. Our members are people working in the public services, for private contractors providing public services and in the essential utilities. They include frontline staff and managers working full or part time in local authorities, the NHS, the police service, colleges and schools, the electricity, gas and water industries, transport and the voluntary sector.

Remembering Eric

spacerEric Roberts tribute

"Eric Roberts was our President, but more importantly he was a loyal and true friend to so many of us" Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary. Read the tribute here...

Latest News

Regional Education Programme 2017 published (22/11/16)

Welcome to the 2017 Regional Education Programme. Once again we have endeavoured to offer courses to suit everyone, as Lifelong Learning is still high on our agenda. We have courses tailored to the needs of activists and members alike and there are a number of new courses designed to further develop the skills of our activists. Working with our partners such as the WEA and Northern College we have increased our learning offer and increased the range of courses and learning opportunities available.

You can find the 2017 Education Programme here....

Ed Prog cover 2017In addition to our Regional Education Team, our Organisers will be working with branches, among the other organising duties they undertake, to develop Lifelong learning and ensure activists are trained to the highest up-to-date standards.

The programme is designed to increase the access to the most up to date training UNISON can offer both for new and developing existing activists. UNISON needs to increase its activist base, and attract better equipped and motivated activists. The courses provided are directly aimed at building confidence and developing skills abilities. We are sure that both you and UNISON will benefit from the experience. It is never too late to learn.

Branch development is vital in recruiting and organising and retaining members.
We are constantly striving to increase membership and provide a better service. Increasing membership and developing new activists from all sectors of the union will make us stronger and more representative of our members.

It is now 7 years since the Regional Council increased the charges to branches for training courses and I am pleased to be able to report that the charges should remain unchanged for 2017. The only exception being the Branch Officer training weekend as the increased cost of hotel accommodation has made it inevitable that we will need to raise the charges slightly.

Unfortunately, due to Tory Government cuts there have been significant reductions in general further education funding and TUC funding has also been drastically cut. As a result of effective lobbying by the TUC, the previous Coalition government’s intention to remove fee remission was postponed to August 2016 thus enabling the region to keep charges to branches unchanged.

But sadly it may be necessary to review the charges moving into 2018 but we will work hard to keep any increase to a minimum.

No one should be out of pocket attending UNISON courses. Branches and the Region will continue to contribute to ensure this, and access is freely available to as many members / activist as possible. Any additional travel costs or carer costs can be claimed from your branch, but you do need to speak to your branch and get their agreement in advance (details of help can be found within this programme).

We also offer for clarity a separate members only training programme detailing some of the courses/workshops UNISON offers for non activist members. You can obtain a copy of this from your branch education co-ordinator or Branch Secretary. You can always find it on our web site www.unison-yorks.org.uk/education.html.

Working together with other Trade unionists to achieve common goals is at the fundamental core of our organisation and we offer many opportunities for development.

So please access and enjoy our learning offer and don’t be afraid to comment on things that went well or not so well as we are always striving to improve your learning experience and all feedback is carefully considered and used to improve our delivery.

You can find the 2017 Education Programme here....

Wendy Nichols
Regional Convenor

 

Defending our EU members (10/11/16)

‘Listening to our members, it was clear what a rich contribution they make to our public services and, indeed, to our union’

UNISON members who are EU citizens gathered to share their experiences since June’s referendum on membership of the European Union, and share their concerns about what happens next, at a seminar in the UNISON Centre last month.

Members “are deeply concerned about the xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiment that fuelled the Vote Leave campaign and has continued to grow since,” said UNISON head of strategic organising Greg Thomson.

The EU members’ seminar brought union members and activists from across the range of public services together in London. They hailed from France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Bosnia, which took the first steps to joining the EU at September’s summit in Slovakia.

Their discussions will help inform the union’s work to defend its EU members’ right to remain in the UK, while opposing the tide of racial abuse that has arisen since the referendum.

“Listening to our members, it was clear what a rich contribution they make to our public services and, indeed, to our union,” said Mr Thomson.

In turn, they have a clear expectation that their union “should take a lead in rejecting that anti-migrant rhetoric and show that the real threat to our public services comes from the government’s austerity measures,” he added.

“The positivity and the fighting spirit emanating from their discussions will be pivotal in shaping the direction and success of the campaign, as it goes into the regions and branches.”

UNISON has commissioned a booklet from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, outlining members’ legal rights and set up an EU members’ helpline available every Tuesday on 0800 0 857 857. You can download it here...

There is also a dedicated Facebook group for UNISON members who are EU citizens to talk to each other at facebook.com/groups/UNISONEUMembers/. This is a closed group, and members will need to ask to join it.

Mr Thomson urged members who are EU citizens to establish a permanent right to remain by applying to the Home Office.

 

School cleaners strike over wage cuts (10/10/16)

(From The Guardian online 09/10/16 - full story here)

Three primary school cleaners in the West Yorkshire village of Kinsley are entering the sixth week of a strike over claims their wages and conditions have been cut since a private company took over the contract.

Like thousands of school support staff around the country, Lesley Leake, Marice Hall and Karen McGee found that when their school was turned into an academy last year the cleaning was outsourced to a private firm.

Kinsley Three

The women, who between them have more than 28 years’ experience cleaning Kinsley primary school in the former coalmining village, said that once the contract switched from Wakefield council to C&D Cleaning in April, they had their wages cut from £7.85 an hour to £7.20, the minimum wage.

Leake, who has two adult children and a second job, said their pensions, sick pay and holiday entitlement had also been hit.

“The first month when we got our payslips we just thought it could be a few teething problems but the second month it was the same, and it just went on and on.”

The women said that as they struggled to make ends meet they tried to raise the issues with C&D Cleaning but were “fobbed off”.

“They didn’t want to know. Sometimes they would just put the phone down as we were talking,” said Leake. “It was pretty devastating because we’d always been happy and we all depended on the money to make ends meet, pay the mortgage and bills.”

In the end the three, who all come from former mining families, got in touch with their union, Unison, but regional officer Robin Symonds said C&D Cleaning, based in nearby Barnsley, was reluctant to discuss the women’s cases.

In one email seen by the Guardian, the company’s head of human resources, Nick Thorpe, replied to Unison: “We do not recognise you or your organisation and subsequently we will not be entering into any form of dialogue with you in relation to our employees.”

In another, he added: “I understand … the impact for you as an organisation when members realise that we are no longer living in the 1980s and they question the actual value of union membership when you have no say, power or influence over their employer.”

The three women, believing they had no other option, decided to go on strike, staging their first picket outside the school at the beginning of September.

“It was as bit scary at first because none of us have ever done anything like this but we didn’t know what else we could do,” said Leake, who lives with her husband, a former miner turned caretaker, in Kinsley. “It wasn’t just the money we were losing, it was the stress that was affecting us and our families as well.

“I would go home crying because it just felt we were being treated so unfairly and I didn’t know how I was going to pay the mortgage or the bills.”

Experts say that tens of billions of pounds’ worth of contracts are outsourced each year and trade unions warn that too often this process results in worse wages and conditions for the workers involved.

Last week workers who provide mental health support for vulnerable people in nearby Bradford went on strike over what they said were unfair imposed changes to their working hours. And last month the Guardian reported on the case of teaching assistants in Durham who were fighting dramatic changes to their contracts.

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, said that for years public services “had been on sale to the lowest bidder”.

“When a service gets taken over by a private company, employees often lose out in the race to the bottom, ending up on lower pay, zero-hours contracts and working longer days.”

Unison is taking the three women’s case to an employment tribunal, claiming the company may have broken rules meant to ensure workers’ terms and conditions are maintained when contracts change hands.

C&D Cleaning refused to comment on the case when contacted by the Guardian, referring queries to Crooks Commercial Solicitors in Wakefield. Nick Wilson from Crooks said the firm would not be commenting on the case while an employment tribunal was under way.

Helen Grantham, the assistant chief executive of Wakefield council, said it was “committed to protecting staff and ensuring they have fair working conditions”, adding: “We are in discussions with those involved to try and resolve the issues.”

Known locally and on social media as the Kinsley Cleaners, the women have been supported by their local MP, Jon Trickett, who has been in touch with the company and the school in an effort to find a solution.

“These women are devoted to the school and the children there. They are showing real courage and principles to do this because it is not easy but they felt they had no option,” said Trickett. He said their working lives had been turned upside down through no fault of their own.

“This is part of a much bigger problem of people living in precarious jobs with employers who don’t seem to have high regard for the staff that work for them and I think it is completely unacceptable.”

The three say they have been overwhelmed with support from the local community, which was at the heart of the 1984-85 miners’ strike. But as they enter the sixth week of their strike McGee said all they want is their old lives and jobs back.

“I have never been on strike and I did not want to go on strike. This is all new to all of us, but we had no choice and now we are 100% determined to see it through.”

(Taken from The Guardian online 09/10/16)

 

Apprentice Workshop - Reaching Your Goals: 5 December 2016

Apprentice Workshop – Reaching Your Goals
Date: 5 December 2016 at 10:30 - 16:00
Venue: Commerce House, Wade Lane, Leeds, LS2 8NJ

Course aims:

  • To introduce the benefits of identifying goals and objects in career development
  • To gain more understanding about the importance of what motivates and cultivate ideas to develop future
  • To introduce the concept of point scoring, using the JD to answer the Relevant experience and skills section with examples
  • How to prepare for an interview
  • To develop tools, strategies and skills to perform at interviews
  • To help participants feel more confident and in control during interviews

If you want to come along and learn with UNISON for free, fill in the form here...


UNISON’s biggest ever homecare legal case over minimum wage (14/09/16)

UNISON’s biggest ever homecare legal case over workers paid as little as £3.27 an hour

Seventeen home care workers employed across the London Borough of Haringey – backed by their union UNISON – are taking care company Sevacare and the council to court in a dispute involving illegal wages over the widespread non-payment of the minimum wage.

The group – all but one of whom are women – are employed on controversial zero-hours contracts and care for elderly and disabled residents across the borough. The women visit people in their own homes and in some cases provide 24-hour live-in care.

The UNISON case – the biggest the union has ever taken involving home care workers – is against Sevacare, which until July was one of the companies commissioned by the north London council to deliver care.

The case against the two organisations – and a number of care companies who took over the contract abandoned by Sevacare – is chiefly over the failure to pay staff a legal wage, as time spent travelling between people’s houses was unpaid.

This can mean, says UNISON, that on a typical day the women might be working away from home for as many as 14 hours, but could receive payment for only half of them. This can leave them earning as little as £3.85 an hour. (The national living wage – the legal minimum for workers aged 25 and over – is currently £7.20 an hour.)

Care workers who provide live-in care can earn even less, claims UNISON. This work means regularly spending an entire week – 168 consecutive hours – living in someone else’s home so they give around-the-clock care. For this the workers can get as little as £3.27 an hour – well under half the legal minimum, and this hourly rate is printed on their payslips.

The workers’ zero-hours status means most have previously been too scared to complain about their treatment, conscious that if they did, they were likely to have their hours reduced or be given no work at all, says UNISON.

One of the women involved in the UNISON case compared her live-in weeks to being in prison because during this time she is not allowed to leave the house of the person for whom she cares.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Without the dedication of these committed and caring women, and thousands of others like them across the UK, our care system would collapse.

“The government, local councils and the care companies all know that social care is in a dire state, that there’s not enough money to pay for the care that’s needed. And with everyone living longer the situation is going to get worse.

“The blame for the social care crisis must be laid at the government’s door.  Ministers must get tougher with enforcing the law so firms aren’t able to cheat their staff. More money must be put into care so that councils are not forced to tender contracts at a price they know decent care cannot be delivered. No wonder 15-minute care visits are now the norm, and there’s widespread payment of illegal wages.

“Those paying the price for the government’s penny-pinching approach are the homecare workers – struggling to make ends meet on pitiful wages – and the people they care for. Their often complex medical needs simply cannot be catered for within the short time allocated by the care companies.

“Meanwhile the companies are coining it in. Last year Sevacare’s profits were over £1m, yet bosses thought it acceptable to pay its staff illegal poverty wages. Unfortunately this sorry state of affairs is not unique to Haringey. Up and down the UK, the experience of other home care workers is depressingly similar.

“That’s why UNISON is stepping up its efforts to recruit care workers so we can help them stand up to their law-breaking employers and put a stop to these despicable practices.”

 

Reserve your place on FREE Return to Learn and Women's Lives Courses

These courses are a fantastic free opportunity for UNISON members who have been away from learning for a long time. The course start this autumn so visit our Education & Training page for more details and to apply.

 

Homecare workers: Failure to honour National Minimum Wage (28/07/16)

Failure to honour the minimum wage is endemic across the care sector as many homecare workers are unpaid for the time they travel between home visits – which can be up to a fifth of their working day, says UNISON.

Homecare survey picThe union is urging the government to end the systematic underpayment that it believes is widespread in the sector, by tweaking minimum wage regulations so employers are forced to make pay calculations easier to understand.

Confusing wage slips mean workers struggle to see how they are being paid, so it’s difficult for them to challenge their employers, says UNISON.

Although homecare companies claim to be paying the minimum wage, their failure to pay travel time means that staff are often being paid well below the legal minimum*.

UNISON also wants to see HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) publish a report – commissioned by the government over a year ago – into six major care companies and potential breaches of minimum wage laws.

Most homecare employees work in isolation and rarely see colleagues so it’s difficult for them to compare their experiences. And even when companies are successfully challenged by individuals over their failure to pay for travel time, these tend to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

If caught out for failing to pay for travel time, firms seldom make amends and correct the payments across the whole of the workforce, says UNISON.

The issue of unpaid travel time was recently highlighted when UNISON backed a case against Sevacare – one of the largest homecare providers in the UK – on behalf of Judith Montgomery, from Bury in Greater Manchester.

Judith’s case resulted in an award of £3,250 for withheld travel time payments, equivalent to nearly 500 hours at the then national minimum wage rate of £6.70 per hour, when her case was brought in March 2016.

Judith regularly worked split shifts spanning 15 hours in a day, yet Sevacare did not pay her travel time between client visits. As a result she could start work at 7am and finish as late as 10.30pm (having done breakfast, tea and bed runs), but still be underpaid by up to £60 a week.

UNISON says it should not be for individual low-paid workers (often on zero- hours contracts) to stand up to each employer when the government – and HMRC in particular – should be making sure that employers are paying a legal wage.

And when firms are caught not paying the minimum wage because they don’t pay for travel time, HMRC should step in to ensure that appropriate payments are made to the rest of the staff, says UNISON.

UNISON has started a recruitment drive amongst homecare workers in the North West, Yorkshire & the Humber and the East Midlands to offer them the support of the union and bring individual workers together.

UNISON has been leading the campaign to get the government to enforce the national minimum wage in the sector. The union believes this is the only way to improve pay for all homecare workers, not just those who take cases to court.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Homecare workers support the elderly and vulnerable across the UK, yet they continue to be paid below the minimum wage. The government promised to act, but so far ministers have abjectly failed to help these low-paid workers.

“Homecare firms who only pay their staff for the face-to-face time they spend with their clients are guilty of law-breaking on a grand scale. The increasing use of 15-minute visits places untold pressure on homecare workers, yet their pay doesn’t reflect the importance of the work they do.

“Judith’s case shows just how companies can profit by denying staff payment for their travel time. The government should be doing far more to ensure these firms meet their legal obligations across the board.”

If you are a Homecare worker please fill out UNISON’s short survey so we can help you! https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/UNISONhomecare

 

UNISON proud to sponsor BARLA

UNISON Yorkshire & Humberside Region have sponsored The British Amateur Rugby League Association for many years and this relationship continues to flourish.

You can find the latest photos here...

 

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