Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Can you smell 1979?

Well in 1979, a newly-elected Tory Government inundated us with propaganda about how young people, particularly young miners, had become disinterested and apolitical. Within two years the young miners responded with the miners' strike of 1981 and then the 1984 strike.

This time we are told that only older people are interested in politics and that half of voters under 25 didn't even vote in the last general election. They too are 'apolitical'.

Well young people (like everyone else) are interested in their own future. They've seen only too clearly whose interests Cameron and Clegg and their ilk represent.

The press deluge us with lies and propaganda. Gordon Brown has eliminated 'boom and bust', the Irish Government has promoted the boom of the 'Celtic Tiger'. Where are these prophecies now? In the dustbin with Magaret Thatcher's 'I will bring unity where there is disunity' of 1979.

The majority of young people at University and in Colleges are the sons and daughters of ordinary people, but they too are now being told that they have to pay for what the bankers have done.

All trade union branches should be inviting students to a branch meeting and trade union activists should visit University demonstrations and 'sit-ins'. We should show mutual support.

Now, more than ever, the "right of recall" should be at the top of our agenda.

If Phil Woolas can be removed from his MP's position by an unelected judge, why can't Nick Clegg be removed by the electorate he lied to? If Nick Clegg wants to remain in Parliament after the next election he will have to either join the Tory Party and get a safe Tory seat or go into the House of Lords. There will be no hiding place for him in his current seat. What started with the expenses scandal has moved onto MP's lying in their election pledges and onto students discussing the nature of democracy. It doesn't take long.

We who are socialists and trade unionists should be at the forefront of the democracy debate. At the centre of this debate should be the accountability of elected officials and how money is spent. Sons of the millionaire bankers, like Cameron and Clegg, won't want that debate but we need to ensure that the lights shine brightly on the skeletons in the cupboards of those who purport to represent us. The students have shown us what every ordinary persons' response should be to the lying politicians who represent the interests of the rich.

'It did not take me long, after arriving in England, to find out that people were paid in inverse proportion to their usefulness!' Oscar Wilde.

Monday, 8 November 2010

BBC Strike

The BBC strike over pensions provoked much interest. How interesting to see some of Britain's well-paid television millionaires, who earn this living from ordinary people, sticking 'two-fingers' up at the ordinary workers who help provide them with their wealth. Terry Wogan, Graham Norton, Chris Evans, Zoe Ball, Chris Moyles - 'the voices of the people'. Meanwhile 97% of NUJ (the National Union of Journalist)members adhered to the strike following a resounding Yes vote.Thousands of NUJ members supported their union, including the majority of top names on television - Jeremy Paxman, Kirsty Wark, Fiona Bruce, Huw Edwards, Alan Davis etc.

As the attacks on working people open up, the question of who is your friend, and who isn't, will come to the fore. Your friends are those who support you when you're under attack. Those who, like Terry Wogan, mouth platitudes about helping people, whilst adding to their own millions of pounds and crossing picket lines, seek to laugh at working people when they find themselves under attack. All workers need to understand the basic concept - never cross a picket line.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A miner's tale

Luis Urzua, one of the rescued Chilean miners, was asked what his experience had been like and how the miners had survived. He said 'Keeping the men unified was due to majority decision making. You have to believe in democracy. Every single decision taken in the mine was voted on. There were 33 men, so 16 plus one was the majority. That was how we made every decision.' For the working classes democracy is always the answer. No secret decisions, no autocracy and no dictatorships. Free discussion of everything, a democratic decision and then carry it out.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The miners united will never be defeated

What an inspirational event the rescue was. How the media must have hated showing ordinary working people in their true light. This was a living example of how people organise for the common good.

Next week's Comprehensive Spending Review will be an example of the exact opposite, as the Toffs and millionaires set about attacking working people in defence of their rich frienda. Ably assisted by their fellow public school boy and bankers' friend, Nick Clegg.

Whether you're in a mine in Chile, an old people's home in Suffolk or on a picket line in France, the working classes are your only friend. So let's celebrate the rescued miners of Chile (and Bolivia!) but remember the 2,600 miners who died in China last year. This system cares little for our people. We have to look after ourselves. Inspiration is no substitute for organisation. We face the future with confidence because we know that together we are unbeatable.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Thank you


We live in interesting times. Can I begin by thanking all those who campaigned for me in the election? It was both an honour and a privilege to have the support of such fine people.

I won't name individuals because I don't think that would be egalitarian or in the spirit of a collective campaign. But those who did campaign for me were people I am proud to be associated with.

I also thank those who voted for me. The turnout was 14%. That was the problem. To win we had to increase the turnout. It was too near the general election. Things will change enormously over the forthcoming period and the union will need to be transformed to face the challenge.

It will be interesting to see how many ''leaders'' leave the movement over the next 12 months and how they are replaced by those who want to fight.

We have no choice but to fight and re-learn the lessons of old.

The Tories haven't changed and neither has the struggle. Some comfortable Labour MP's and trade union officials may think that the class struggle is over but those reared on the playing fields of Eton are returning to try and put us in our place.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the election campaign. It was uplifting to meet so many committed activists, who are a credit to the union. I have been invigorated by visiting branches who are doing such good work.

My faith and confidence in socialist ideas has been strengthened during the campaign. Our members are the 'lifeblood' of this union. Our aim should be to represent members not control them. The gratitude and warmth of someone you represent is worth ten times as much as material gain or political intrigues.

Once again thanks for your support. To quote the immortal Shelley;

'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.'

Or to quote the Man from North Gawber;

'I learnt my socialism on the end of a shovel'.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Friday, 14 May 2010

Campaign leaflet

If you want copies of this leaflet please email:

Paul Holmes Leaflet

Paul Holmes campaign lauch in The Big Smoke

5 videos of the campaign launch.

Thanks to Paul at Fourman Films

Sunday, 9 May 2010

What now for the public sector?

As the dust settles on the General Election, the "horse-trading" begins. Are the politicians, who are seeking to negotiate coalition governments, talking about improving public services, creating real jobs and protecting pensions? Or are they talking about what cuts are coming and their own political careers? I think most people know the answer to those questions.

There is no doubt that the bankers are demanding that the public services are cut. They will also be looking to raid public sector pension schemes and public sector terms and conditions. We have seen in Greece what the bankers want. Next will be Spain and Portugal. These people are ruthless. They care not for public services - they don't use them! They hypocritically criticise public sector workers for striking and shutting services for a day, whilst they (the bankers) demand that the very same services are closed permanently because we "can't afford them".

Has anyone noticed the newly, part-nationalised banks acting with a social conscience? The Royal Bank of Scotland is 84% publicly-owned and yet paid 100 of its investment bankers a bonus of £1,000,000 each and 16,800 of its investment bankers got an annual bonus of £77,000 each.

Don't expect fairness from these people. They think only of their own pockets. Or, as in the words of the leading Goldman Sachs banker of the 1950's and 1960's, Syd Weinberg, the policy of the bank is "long-term greedy".

Unison and other public sector unions can only do one thing - get organised. Get organised in the workplace and in politics. It is only through organisation that we will succeed. It is an old adage but it is true. Unity really is strength. The bankers, employers and many politicians hate the trade unions because they fear the unions being organised. Their friends in the press try to "soften up" public opinion by publicly attacking the working condition of working people - whether it is cabin staff at British Airways, public sector pensions, etc. We saw in the general election where the sympathy of the majority of the press lay. The same people who own the banks, own the press.

So, as politicians return to their "smoke-filled" rooms to discuss in secret what we have supposedly voted for, I have a clear message for our members. I know people don't want to look forward because of what is coming, but we have to. We have been here before. We don't want to return to the pre-Second World War conditions that our forefathers and foremothers lived in. We demand the right to live in dignity, with decent education, working conditions and retirement conditions. We don't want those who have these conditions (i.e. bankers, employers etc) telling us that we can't have them. So we need to organise. We have no option. An individual can do little on their own. All workers instinctively understand this. Let's get organised across the public sector by co-ordinating all public sector trade unions.

It is indeed ironic that politicians, having spent weeks trying to get us to vote for them , are now busy discussing how best to cut our living conditions!

If cuts have to be made - make them in not replacing Trident, PFI schemes, politicians' expenses, etc. We, the trade union members of Britain, don't want our living standards and public services cutting. We intend to organise to make sure they aren't.

Paul Holmes
Unison General Secretary election.

Future meeting I am speaking at:-

1. Thursday 13th May 2010 - 7:00pm - ULU, Room 3A, London - Rally
2. Saturday 15th May 2010 - 12:30pm - ULU, London - Unison United Left AGM - Speech
3. Thursday 20th May 2010 - half an hour after the end of the South East Regional Council meeting - ULU, London - Rally
4. Monday 17th May 2010 - Wigan, North West (venue and time to be confirmed) - Hustings

(ULU = University of London Union)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010








Local Government











Local Government




Sunday, 11 April 2010

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The end of the nomination period


Number of nominations required to be on the ballot paper - 25

Numbers of nominations already received - 58

Target number of nominations - 50

Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Number of nominations required to be on the ballot paper - 25

Numbers of nominations already received - 55

Target number of nominations - 50

'Don't follow leaders - watch your parking meters'

Saturday, 27 March 2010


Number of nominations required to be on the ballot paper - 25

Numbers of nominations already received - 45

Target number of nominations - 50

'Organised labour is the hope of the world'

Friday, 26 March 2010


Number of nominations required to be on the ballot paper - 25

Numbers of nominations already received - 41

Target number of nominations - 50

'The purpose of all art is to inspire, what more can you do for someone than to inspire them?'

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Number of nominations required to be on the ballot paper - 25

Numbers of nominations already received - 33

Target number of nominations - 50

Onwards and upwards.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

How's the campaign going?

Number of nominations required to be on the ballot paper - 25

Numbers of nominations already received - 30

Target number of nominations - 50

Thanks for all your support.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Paul Holmes statement on misuse of UNISON Disciplinary procedures

Recently four more activists have been suspended for varying periods (Glenn Kelly, Suzanne Muna, Onay Kasab and Brian Debus).

What a tragedy.
Yet more activists who've given years of their lives to represent members. There is now a list of activists who have been suspended beyond their retirement date!
It's got to stop.

Of course we need disciplinary processes. We need to take action against those members guilty of fraud (even though those members guilty of fraud usually resign from UNISON before their disciplinary date - their reason for being in the union, making money, having disappeared).

There are also fascists and racists who should be disciplined, but political differences should be decided in open debate. The current atmosphere is stifling the union.

Some activists have told me, as I go round, that they are more frightened of the union than of their own Employer!
This cannot be allowed to continue. There is a place for everyone in the union who puts the interests of the union first.

There is a long tradition of the union being affiliated to the Labour Party, but there is also a long tradition of people being in other political parties. Not being in the Labour Party is not a crime. Putting forward views at odds with the leadership of the union is not a crime.

Once you create an atmosphere of deciding political debate not by open discussion, but by disciplinary action, it is a 'slippery slope'.

History shows that without the facility for open debate, labour movement organisations cannot survive.

We need new activists and new energy. That will come from tolerance, debate, inspiration, leadership and organisation. Not from fear and caution. Our natural wish for unity cannot be translated into stopping debate.

All debates should be in the open. Whilst few (other than those present) know the details of a disciplinary case, many know who are being charged, what they are being charged with and what views they support.

As a candidate in the General Secretary election (and a union steward for 36 years), I stand "four-square" behind the disciplining of thieves and fascists. I also stand "four-square" behind the "right to dissent". Throughout history, it is dissenters who have taken society forward.

Don't forget the history of those who are being disciplined. They are often people who have shown commitment, care and conviction. These people care about the union.
These people have families - they suffer too. For many people the union is not a game or an interest or a job - it is a lifetime conviction.
I give this pledge. If elected General Secretary I will fully support the review of all disciplinary cases using the democratic bodies of the union, to look at each and every disciplinary case.
Meetings and conferences are for debate - disciplinary hearings are to deal with bullying, racism, fascism and fraud.

Many of our Employers must be laughing at an organisation that attacks some of their most difficult and effective opponents - let's unite within the union, but not use that desire for unity to attack people who don't agree with us.

Don't fear talent - utilise it.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mick Ryan - Why I am supporting Paul Holmes for General Secretary

I am the Assistant Branch Secretary (Service Conditions) for Kirklees UNISON. I am the Service Conditions Officer for the branch and lead on all service conditions negotiations.
I am a manual worker. For 35 years I have been a roadworker ('holedigger' and 'tarmaccer') . I was, in the 1970's, a member of AUEW at an engineering firm in Huddersfield and helped recruit 100 members and achieve the first 37 week in the Huddersfield area during the national dispute over the reduction in the working week. For 15 years, in the 80's and 90's, I was a GMB steward at British Gas, involved in numerous disputes over attack on conditions and privatisation, including a one-month strike.

For 15 years I have now been a member of Kirklees UNISON, where there are nearly 5,000 manual workers in the branch (male and female).

I have not known Paul for long, about 10 years. But I think I am a good judge of character. He is driven by a sense of fairness and honesty. He is a Labour Party member. So am I. We don't differ on the political fund. It should be used for pushing the case for better, in-house, public services provided by , well-paid, well-pensioned, UNISON members. The trouble with the union at the moment is that, most UNISON members feel the union has become a 'drip-feed' to a dying Labour Party, only for the Labour Party to then cut our throats by putting public services out to the private sector (in the name of partnership or PFI), salary freezes and pension cuts. What I mean by low pay is anybody who is paid under £350 per week. I don't think the union understands how disappointed UNISON members are with the Labour Party. We should have a vote to open up the Political Fund to other political parties who could then work to push UNISON'S aims i.e. provide in-house services.

The Kirklees UNISON Branch is quite well run. We have 11,000 members and employ 13 staff . We have a really active retired members section of 1,500. We have a summer trip and a pantomime trip. We run table tennis and bowls. We have 240 stewards and the equivalent to 7 full-time off convenors. We have 70 plus safety reps. Paul has been Branch Secretary for 21 years and has helped bring together white-collar, blue-collar and craft workers. One criticism of Paul by the members, is sometimes that he goes on about blue-collar workers. Which sometimes winds up some members. If you look at our membership white-collar workers are in the majority. So you should try to lift up the lowest paid to push up everybody else. Paul led the way on equal pay. I can remember standing outside council buildings in the rain with Paul for five days, 10 hours a day, trying to persuade UNISON members not to sign the Council's equal pay offer which turned out to be four or five times less than the amount the branch achieved by threatening court action. Paul's record in working to achieve progress for UNISON members is second to none. In the pensions' dispute Paul led our branch to help lay members have a chance to salvage the final salary pension we all still enjoy. This is what the union needs. Someone who cares for the members, not someone who sees the members as a business. At our AGM the other day we invited all the candidates to hustings, which is the most democratic way to elect someone to every post. Sadly, this is not the case in some other branches. We all know that the person who has the most exposure is in the 'driving seat!'. I have no doubt Paul will get the number of nominations to be on the ballot paper for the General Secretary's job. Then the people who count will have their say. The members. It is our union, it's not a political party and we should have the opportunity to select the best person for the job. That's called democracy. I know Paul, if elected, would let the national conferences debate pensions, wages, single status and equal pay. If we can have open, honest debate, we can take the union forward. If not we will continue to let members down. They join the union to be part of a collective. We can all fight alone. If we do, some we will win and some we will lose, but if we fight together as a union, or as a group of unions, we will win together. Paul is the person to drag us up, not pull us down. Vote for Paul Holmes - If you get a chance!

Friday, 12 March 2010

UNISON united left witch hunts

Below is a press release from UNISON United left.

"dawn raids" on union branches.

Unison United Left, the rank and file organisation for members of the UK's largest public sector union today spoke out against the seizure of union branch offices by union staff.

Full time officials from Unison's London Regional Office led teams of staff into branch offices in Bromley and Woolwich in South East London taking control away from locally elected officials.
The Tenant Services authority branch was also placed under regional control.

This action followed the imposition of disciplinary sanctions on four Unison activists, including the Secretaries of the Bromley, Tenant Services and Greenwich branches.

"Evidence in a recent tribunal case shows that the Regional Secretary had wanted these activists suspended two years ago," said a United Left spokesperson, "now the Region is taking control of these branches in a blatant attempt to put in a local leadership who will do as they are told.

" John McDonnell UNISON MP who has consistently spoken up in support of UNISON activists, was outraged at this latest attack and said:

"This is a disgraceful attack on unison members and contrary to union democracy - members should choose their own representatives. It is also an appalling waste of the time and energy of Unison staff and activists at a time when our members face unprecedented job cuts"

Not content with wasting thousands of pounds of UNISON members money witch hunting activists over the last 3 years, UNISON staff are now openly flouting UNISON's own rules

UNISON united left encourages members and activists to voice their opposition to Dave Prentis General Secretary and Linda Perks Regional Secretary.

Paul Holmes candidate for UNISON General Secretary said "This is totally unacceptable. I have raised the issue, as an NEC member for Local Government, as a matter of urgency with the Head of Local Government, Ms H.Wakefield. I can't see how there can be a connection between suspensions relating to incidents over 2 years ago and any need to have raids and to put functioning branches into special measures."

Note to editors.

1. Unison United Left is the rank and file organisation for members of UNISON.

2. Unison United Left believes that UNISON full time officers have breached:
Rule B.2.2 which states that UNISON is a "member-led" Union in which decisions taken by members will be carried out.

Rule B.2.5 which promotes the rights of members to participate in decision-making.

Rule G.3.1 which confirms the rights of members to attend branch meetings

Rule G.4.1.2 which gives members the right to elect the officers of our branches

3. For more information email

4.Paul Holmes is standing for UNISON General secretary more information can be found at

Saturday, 6 March 2010


The campaign's going well. Branch meetings have started and the reactions have been fantastic. This week I've spoken in London, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Bolton. Next week I'm speaking in Norwich, Winchester, Leeds and Guildford. Looking forward to seeing as many people as possible.
It is a real honour to go around meeting branch activists and ordinary members. It is also humbling to see the work that is being done on my behalf in the campaign. But it's not personal - it's about changing the union, not the personalities. One thing you learn going around Britain is that the problems the members have are all the same. The accents change but the problems don't. This campaign will make a difference.
Paul Holmes

'They never told me when I was young,
that the world of the workers would be such fun.
That the world of the workers was wild!'

Extract from a song by 3 Johns (1982)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Paul Holmes - Hitting the Campaign trail

A quick update.

On Tuesday night I spoke at a meeting organised in Newcastle, I was really pleased to meet members from the many branches that attended, particularly as it was reported to the meeting that the Newcastle city branch had agreed not to have a hustings meeting but instead just to invite Dave Prentis to speak to the Branch Annual General Meeting, so I was pleased that members in Newcastle had the chance to hear an alternative candidate

On Wednesday night I then spoke at the UNISON United left London meeting again this was really good to connect with people on the ground that are delivering branch nominations and get some feedback on how well the campaigning is going.

Nominations have been confirmed from across the service groups, from higher education branches, Health branches, Local Government and Police as well as a decent spread across the regions from as far north as Scotland and all the way down to the south east.

Today I will be at hustings in my own Branch Kirklees and also in Bolton with many other branches nominating and holding hustings this week.

It is fantastic to see the campaign having such a good start - lets use this momentum to reach out and engage even more branches and activists in the campaign - we all need to make our voices heard.

Monday, 1 March 2010


This interview with Dave Semple can be found here.

Q: Being active in Kirklees, you must have a lot of experience in dealing with the fascists and racists of the BNP. Are there any lessons which you think could be successfully translated from Kirklees to UNISON nationally, to reduce the support their support amongst the working people UNISON represents?

PH: It is not enough just saying that the BNP are bad, even though they are. You have to provide an alternative. In Kirklees we have fought the BNP in many ways. We have attacked poverty, poor conditions and inequalities in the workplace. We have been unflinching in our attacks on racism and fascism. We have sponsored multi-cultural events and adults/children’s football and rugby league teams. The sponsorship has not just said UNISON – teams shirts have said ‘Kick racism into touch’ and ‘Show racism the red card’.

The branch has campaigned in local elections. The number of BNP Councillors in Kirklees has been reduced from 4 to 1. We haven’t abandoned any areas to the BNP. We are publicly seen as pro-union, anti-BNP and pro-worker. UNISON can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. We have to be taking out our message. We sponsor the local carnival in Huddersfield and the Mela.

Q: Speaking of your activity in Kirklees, the local branch has a union density higher than 80% in its local government division. In an era of declining union density and when many workers think of unions as an anachronism, what tactics did you use to beat the trend?

PH: We went back to organisation. The branch is active on many fronts. We have achieved good terms and conditions for our members. We have 250 plus stewards. We encourage equality. The union runs sports teams. It takes 600 members and their families to the pantomime. It takes 200 members to Flamingoland. We organise a discount scheme involving over 60 shops. We have discounts at theatres and plays. We make the union relevant and inclusive. The branch is a “broad church”. Anyone who wants to help the branch and is pro-union is welcome.

Very few people are anti-union. There may be the odd non-member who used to be a union member somewhere else and had a bad experience. But, by and large, a lot of employees need little to convincing about the need for a union – they just need to know that there is one and that it works. Victories bring recruitment . Once people see the union’s relevance and successes, they will flock to it.

Q: Do you think that on the issues you point to as key for recruitment – cuts, pensions, terms and conditions, pay, stress etc – victories can be scored nationally, even in the teeth of opposition of a Tory government as determined as Thatcher’s, using all the powers of the State? How?

PH: Everything returns to organisation. The power of argument has to be backed by the support of the members. The real debates don’t take place with the employers, they take place with the members. This year, in local government, the national union submitted a document pages long in support of our pay claim and the employers rejected it by email! The 0% offer this year was easily predicable after accepting last year’s rubbish 1% offer. Weakness invites aggression. UNISON can achieve victories but only by engaging with their members.

Kirklees Council has been Tory for the majority of the last 5 years. The big change I notice in many of the activists now, as opposed to 20 years ago, is that some activists are frightened and others are tired and wanting inspiration. One of the reasons for this is poor leadership. Another is the attacks on activists. Don’t be afraid of someone who disagree with you – they might be right! All the best ideas that I have come across are as a result of debate. Once you stop debate, you stifle enthusiasm. We believe in the collective because it is stronger, but also because we ‘pool’ the best ideas.

Q: You advocate the devolution of resources to local branches – money, full time officials and printing, to name the examples you give. What about decision making, with regard to working locally with pro-union support groups like some of the minor political parties on campaigns that benefit UNISON members?

PH: The union’s local policies should be decided at a local level, taking into account national policies decided at conference. UNISON branches should retain their own autonomy and work with whom they feel comfortable. It is not just other groups – often UNISON branches have little or no contact with each other. The union is too hierarchal. It should be lay member led.

Full-time employees of the union should provide professional advice. Full-time officials start with wanting to help. But they tend to get onto a ‘treadmill’ of routine. I saw in the Leeds bin strike how supportive many full-time officials were and what a lift that victory gave them. We shouldn’t be afraid of groups. As long as we understand the purpose of the group, and have joint aims, we should work with them. Often they have the knowledge and the contacts; often we have the finance and the resources. Together we can make a formidable opponent.

The question should be – does the joint work benefit our members. Devolution has meant that some of the old political certainties don’t now exist UNISON’s relationship with the Labour Party is even more complex. If other political parties support our aims and objectives in a campaign, we should try and work with them. Ideas shouldn’t frighten anyone. As Bob Dylan said “good artists borrow, great artists steal”.

Q. As we’ve seen in recent strikes such as against FirstBus and British Airways, the anti-union laws of the Thatcher era are holding back workers, and you call for their repeal. Early Day Motions have gathered over a hundred signatures and, even under a Labour government, we’re no closer to a change. How do we get from where we are to the passage of a Trade Union Freedom Bill?

PH: It is to the disgrace of the Labour government that most of Thatcher’s anti-union legislation is still in place. Many in the leadership of our movement joined it during the disputes of the dockers, miners, steel workers, print workers etc. and yet they now sit in ivory towers. This Government has had thirteen wasted years. It has viewed the trade unions as a protagonist, rather than a friend. Much of the antipathy towards the Labour Party is caused by the government’s lack of support for trade union freedom. I was in a pub the other day when someone I ‘half- knew’ asked me a question about an employer changing his partner’s conditions without her consent. When I told him it was legal, he said “what we need is a Labour Government!” How right he was.

Thatcher showed a loyalty to her class, which has been missing from the Labour Government over the last 13 years. But the unions, themselves, must share much of the blame. They have the votes in the Labour Party, but they haven’t used them. Whether you agree with the union being affiliated to the Labour Party, or not, the unions could have made the Labour Party introduce a Trade Union Freedom Bill if they had wanted to. But they didn’t want to. Once you start rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful, you start losing touch with working people. In times of economic crisis you can either be on the side of the rich or on the side of the poor – but not both.

Q: While on the topic of Labour, the Union-Party relationship in the aftermath of New Labour is a key issue. In your campaign material, you say that UNISON is ‘a trade union, not a political party’ – what do you mean by this? Would this stance involve a change of approach to bodies like Labour Conference or TULO? How?

PH: To understand the trade unions, you need to understand that they are not a political party. They are a collective who organise at work. The majority of activists do not start off being politically active – they become active because of an injustice at work. Some UNISON activists make the mistake of confusing a trade union with a political party. Someone’s political affiliations are their own affair and they should not suffer in the union because of them. The reason that the trade unions set up the Labour Party was to give trade unionists a political voice. Our members have voluntarily joined a trade union to combine to gain improvements in their lives. The relationship between trade union leaders and their members should be one of ‘how can improvements for our members be achieved.’ We shouldn’t let obstacles, including political ones, stand in our way.

As a Labour Party member of 30 years I have always worked with people in other political parties and am proud to have done so. I don’t expect them to forget about the party they are a member of. But I do expect them to be able to organise in the union and to have open debate. Too many of our leaders fear political groups. Why? If I am considering how to vote on an issue, I imagine standing in front of 100 Kirklees UNISON members (bin workers, homecarers, gardeners etc). What would my arguments be? Am I giving leadership? What questions would the members ask? That keeps you sane and voting the right way.

Workers instinctively like unity and, once a debate takes place, expect unity in action. The internal workings of many unions are complex and not always immediately understandble to outsiders. It can be a big mistake to misunderstand how a union works and assume their workings to be ‘conservative’. Unions have histories, as do workers. Unions have to be respected and understood. When UNISON was first formed, many frictions came from all of us not understanding each other’s histories and ways of working. All I’m trying to say is that, at the end of the day, as a trade union we are a combination of people whose instinct is to work together, even though we may feel that we have political differences. As a socialist, I have encountered many Tories in the union who have supported the union and are good union members. This may seem to some activists to be impossible but it is true. Not everyone draws the same political conclusions at the same time. It is a mistake to dismiss others because they don’t have the same political convictions. A good organiser realises that everyone has something to offer.

Q. Specifically, how will you stop Labour’s leadership ignoring any agreements they make with UNISON and the other unions, as they have done with key elements of the Warwick Agreement?

PH: Very easily. By holding them to account. We still have the votes and the power – we just don’t use them. Members, whether they think we should be affiliated to the Labour Party or not, should be under no illusion. Neither Blair or Cameron wants the trade unions to affiliate to the Labour Party. They both fear that affiliation, for different reasons ( or perhaps the same!) . They think the Labour Party is a ’sleeping tiger’ ( some outside the Labour Party might argue that it is a ‘dead pussycat!). Whether it is sleeping or dead, the unions have to show the relevance of the Labour Party or it will end. We can’t continue as we are. Those in our union who continuously bow down to the Labour Party, because it is in government, have done none of our members any favours. Some in the leadership of our movement either don’t understand this or are incapable of organising. Our forefathers and foremothers didn’t set up the trade unions or the Labour Party because they had a lot of time on their hands. In fact, the reverse was true. One of the reasons they did it was because they had no time on their hands – they were at work seven days a week! They wanted this to change.

A change has to take place. The old values have to re -emerge. Comradeship, tolerance, understanding, organisation and working together in unity. I re-iterate that you have to show which side you are on. If you don’t support workers’ struggles you oppose them. If you don’t fight for workers’ rights, you oppose them. If the Labour Party leaders don’t adhere to agreements we reach with them, we should organise to remove them. We are not a political party, but neither are we a charity. Democracy is about accountability. We should hold all of our representatives accountable for all of their actions.

Q. If you’re elected General Secretary, you want a big debate on continued UNISON affiliation to the Labour Party, and an all-members ballot. How would you vote and why?

PH: I am a supporter of affiliation to the Labour Party. When UNISON was formed in 1993 I was in favour of one political fund. As far back as 1983 I was campaigning for NALGO to affiliate to the Labour Party. Other brothers and sisters in the trade union do not share this view. They are perfectly entitled not to share it. Let’s be clear – the reason that we have political funds at all is the 1927 Political Fund Act, which followed the defeat of the 1926 General Strike, when the Tory Government tried to dilute the trade union’s right to political representation . Political Funds shouldn’t exist. The trade union should be free to finance whatever political activities they want. I would argue that they should finance the Labour Party. But what is missing is the debate. Most of us know that if we actually have a relationship with the Labour Party it should be a vigorous and open one – but it isn’t. If UNISON took up all the delegates’ seats it was entitled to in the Constituency Labour Parties, it would dominate many of them. Councillors and MPs would have to listen to us and debate policy openly.

Our members deserve a ballot on affiliation to the Labour Party. The question which is to be put in that ballot should be openly debated at UNISON’s National Delegate Conference. As General Secretary, I would be bound by the decision of the National Delegate Conference in any ballot. That is absolutely vital. It is the essence of democracy. Stifling debate leads to dissatisfaction and frustration – like most activists, I want a chance to have my stay and then I will abide by a decision. You become frustrated when you can’t have your say and when the decision takes place behind closed doors. The bright light of democracy needs to shine on our relationship with the Labour Party. Don’t fear debate – embrace it.

Q: What role do you see so-called “new media” like blogs and twitter playing in union activism over the coming years?

PH: The so-called ‘new media’ is a tool like any other tool. It has boundless possibilities , but as it becomes more widespread , quality issues come more to the fore. Most people I know restrict themselves, as in all walks of life, to trusted sources i.e. Jon Rogers’ blog. The ‘new media’ allows debate and should be seen as a welcome addition.

You should return to basic principles. Quality, speed, accuracy, content, relevance, honesty, humanity, integrity etc. Tools might change but the message doesn’t. In this election campaign I have tried to concentrate in my campaign on the values/ policies I support. Once you have the basic principles in place, it is beholden on you to use all aspects of the media for your campaign. But don’t forget the basics – or you will build on sand!

Q: Lastly, million dollar question; after the next General Election, in the event of Gordon Brown stepping down and an open contest for Labour leader, who would you back and why?

PH: In the last ‘near’ leadership election of the Labour Party I supported John McDonnell. I did it because the leadership of the Government had to change. Imagine the difference over the last 12 months if the Labour leadership had been attacking banks and their system as much as the public wanted them to. We would have been entering a General Election with the spotlight being on how we should control the banks and the bankers, instead we have allowed the banks to put the spotlight on the public sector and the public services. Who caused the crisis? The economic system is ‘not fit for purpose’. I do not idolise individuals (although I make an exception with Bob Dylan!) but I give a straight answer to a straight question. You can see how much confidence many Labour MPs have by who is resigning from Parliament and looking for ‘well-paid’ job alternatives. The media love debate about personalities, so whilst I would support John McDonnell in a leadership election, my real support is for ordinary, working people and who represent them best. If you keep that closest to your thoughts, you won’t go far wrong.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Monday, 22 February 2010

Mike Tucker NEC pc Why I am supporting Paul Holmes for General Secretary

I have been a member of UNISON for 32 years. I was first elected on to the Nationa lExecutive Council in 1987. This election is the most important UNISON has faced since the union was established in 1993. Paul is standing on a programme which will take our union forward. He stands for a union which would respect a diversity of opinion, which listens to its members and honestly explains the challenges we face. That Paul is a realistic alternative is demonstrated by the campaign of misinformation and distortion being conducted by supporters of the current General Secretary against him on a variety of websites. If I ever had any doubts about supporting Paul, these were dispelled by the condut of the supporters of the current administration.

To quote Paul's hero, Bob Dylan, we need a 'new morning' in UNISON and with Paul as General Secretary we will get one.

Mike Tucker (Personal capacity)
NEC Member, South East Region

Secretary, Southampton District Branch

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Single Status

2,200 Kirklees UNISON members at a branch meeting on single status in December 2008 at Huddersfield Town football ground.

I have been a Branch Secretary of Kirklees UNISON for 20 years. Of the 10,000 Kirklees Council staff affected by Single Status, 8,600 are Kirklees UNISON members. The branch has achieved:

1) Maternity Leave
Kirklees Council Conditions
6 weeks at 90% of full pay
33 weeks at 1/2 pay
Compared to: -
National Conditions
6 weeks at 90% of full pay
12 weeks at 1/2 pay
21 weeks statutory maternity pay
2) Holidays
Kirklees Council Conditions
23 days
(28 days after 5 year's service)
plus 12 1/2 days public holidays.
Total paid holiday: 35 1/2 ( 40 1/2 after 5 year's service)
All staff, irrelevant of grade, get the same holiday for the same service.
Compared to: -
National Conditions
21 days
(26 days after 5 year's service)
plus 10 days public holiday
Total paid holiday: 31 (36 after 5 year's service)
3) Part-time workers
Receive time and a half for any time worked more than half an hour either side of their contracted hours (irrespective of whether they've worked 37 hours in that week).
4) Premium payments
Any staff contracted to work 5 days per week will get, if they are asked to work at less than 6 weeks' notice, a minimum of double time (more if they earn less than £10 per hour) for working on any Saturday, Sunday , public holiday or their 6th or 7th day (even if this is not a Saturday or Sunday). The premium rate for at the above times at morethan 6 weeks' notice is time and 2/3rds.
5) Disturbance Rate
The same rate for all staff irrespective of grade or whether they are a car user.
6) Casual Working
There is a joint agreement with the council that all casual working will be be removed and replaced by staff on a minimum 10-hour contract.
7) 'In-house' Provision
Kirklees Council has had a Tory Council for most of the last 5 years. In the last 5 years millions of pounds of work has been brought 'in-house' ( including some work that has never been previously in-house). No service remains outside of the council as a result of CCT. Grounds Maintenance, Catering and Cleaning, Highways Construction, Transport Services, Building Maintenance, Parking Enforcement and the Bins are all provided in-house. Consequently Kirklees Unison has 4,000 members who are (former) manual workers.
8) Cars
No employee can be compelled to provide a car for work. All employees are paid a car user allowance rate of 61p per mile.
9) Pay frequency
All staff in Single Status on less than £35,000 per year can elect to be paid weekly or 4-weekly.
10) Stand-by/call-out
All Stand-by is at a minimum of £136 per week. Call-out is £58 for the first two hours and time and a half thereafter.
11) 'No losers'
No worker to lose a penny because of Single Status.
These terms and conditions are not perfect but show what can be achieves at a time when Council's are trying to cut terms and conditions. The branch have recently agreed to ballot all our members for strike action because of the Council's attempt to get rid of the 'no losers' clause .

Monday, 15 February 2010

John McDermott - why i'm supporting Paul Holmes

My support goes to Paul Holmes who I think has all the characteristics of an excellent General Secretary, he is a trade unionist and worker through and through, believes in democracy, wants a fighting union for the members,believes in a ballot of all members on the issue of disaffiliation / affiliation to the Labour Party and is sick of UNISON attacking its own left wing activists rather than throwing out BNP members who have no place in a trade union.

I have known Paul for many years and his activities and record speaks for itself including the highest membership density of a UNISON Branch and forcing a special conference on Local Government Pensions.

Paul is a great speaker and inspires any meeting he attends. He would be a great General Secretary and would not pull his punches when it comes to attacking employers and Governments who attack our members.
I would urge all branches to nominate Paul.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Bernie Gallagher NEC pc Why I am Supporting Paul Holmes for General Secretary

The General Secretary election is about the future of the union. It is a vital election which will determine the direction of UNISON for years to come. It is important that whoever leads our union is open, honest and can be trusted.

I am of the firm belief that Paul Holmes has all the characteristics to lead UNISON. He is a visionary who doesn't 'do small'. He is an inspiration to the activists in Kirklees UNISON and I have no doubt that as General Secretary he will give confidence and hope to members and activists, inspiring them to organise and fight for better pay and conditions.

He has a proven track record of supporting workers in struggle. He is not afraid to debate at any forum where he is invited. Paul is able to accomodate a wide range of political differences without resorting to Machiavellian tactics to stifle dissent.

I am proud to support Paul for General Secretary and have every confidence that he is able to win and become the first leader of UNISON prepared to do the job on a worker's wage.

Bernadette Gallagher NEC (personal capacity).

(Of the 33 women elected to the Regional seats on the NEC in the last elections, Bernadette Gallagher polled the highest number of votes.)

Saturday, 13 February 2010

John McDonnell supports Paul Holmes for General Secretary

Labour MP John McDonnell welcomed the candidacy of leading Yorkshire trade unionist, Paul Holmes, for General Secretary of UNISON, the largest public sector trade union. "Paul epitomises the strength of our movement," said Mr McDonnell, "he the elected Secretary of a union branch where more than eighty per cent of workers are in the Union and he has a track record of fighting for workers rights." At meeting with Mr Holmes at the House of Commons, John McDonnell MP, speaking as a UNISON member, emphasised his support his for the candidacy of an ordinary UNISON member to lead the union; "Just as Mark Serwotka has shown how a rank and file civil servant has been the best leader for the civil service trade union, PCS, so I beleive that an ordinary local government worker like Paul Holmes can be the best leader for UNISON, the largest public service union." "With threats of job losses and attacks on pay and pensions throughout the public sector, UNISON needs a stronger and better leadership to meet these challenges. I know that Paul Holmes offers our UNISON members this strong leadership," said Mr McDonnell.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Marshajane Thompson Why I am supporting Paul Holmes for General Secretary

Paul has got a high profile amongst the rank and file in UNISON especially in Local Government.

Paul is also a very influential NEC member and an excellent branch secretary with a membership density of 86% - Paul led the successful call for a special conference on Local Government pensions when Prentis et al were disregarding democracy - it is thanks to Paul that members decided how we defended the LG Pension scheme. It's estimated that 40% of Local government branches backed Paul's call for this special conference.

As a candidate Paul offers a clear choice between a rank and file workerstanding to lead a fight back (on a workers wage) and an incumbent who is standing for continuity with the immediate past.

Marsha-Jane Thompson

Chair of Unison United Left

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Brian Mulvey Leeds LG Why I am supporting Paul Holmes for General Secretary

I'm supporting Paul Holmes because he is an uncomprimising fighter for the working class. There is nothing "new", gimmicky, trendy or slick about Paul. What you get is someone who stands for, and espouses, good traditional socialist and trade union values and principles. He practices what he preaches. During our recent 11 week long Refuse and Street Cleaning workers strike in Leeds to protect pay and privatisation, Paul was the first to visit our picket lines to offer support; his branch was the first to send much needed money for our hardship fund; he attented and spoke inspirationally at several mass meetings and rallies during the 3 month struggle; he lobbied nationally for greater support within UNISON; he was there at the victorious end. Even after the strike was over Paul was organising branches in Yorkshire and Durham for money to buy Xmas toys for the strikers' families, providing over £2,000 worth of new toys, something for which our members were extremely grateful. Supporting workers in struggle will always be 1st, 2nd and 3rd on Paul's agenda, no other considerations will ever come in the way of that, and that's what is needed in our General Secretary.

Brian Mulvey,
Branch Secretary,
Leeds Local Government Branch.
(in a personal capacity).

10th February 2010.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Jon Rogers NEC PC - Why I am supporting Paul Holmes for General Secretary

Jon Rogers, Unison NEC ( personal capacity) said:
"I'm supporting Paul Holmes for General Secretary because we need strong leadership as our members come under attack from the Government and the Employers. Paul's branch Kirklees Unison, with over 80% of the Council's workforce in the union, is a model of organisation for all branches to aim for. We need that level of organisation in branches across Britain in order to respond to the attacks that are undoubtably coming."

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Why stand for election?

Shades of 1979. An unpopular Labour Government, a Tory Party waiting in the wings and an economic mess. What awaits us?
The Labour Party don't think they can win the election, the Tory Party are scared to win it and the Liberals know they can't win it. Nobody is promising anything but misery. Our cuts won't be as bad as theirs. Where's the vision, where's the hope?

30 years ago there were many speakers who inspired us. Speakers who hundreds queued to see. Who would you queue to see now? And there is the rub. Because those activists who are the fundemental backbone of the union are moving into middle/old age. Who is inspiring the next group of activists? All those thousands of stewards who give their time freely to help others. Those people who the members in the workplace look to for support, advice and aid. Because it is the activists who require inspiration. Everyone has something to offer. You don't have to agree with them. You have to encourage debate, dialogue, and even disagreement. You learn from debate, not from orthodoxy and monotony. 'Don't write people off lightly, it's not the mark of a good organiser'. If we keep our heads down, who benefits; What is a union? 'An instrument of fight and the guardian of economic concessions. Every worker who joins a union understands this instinctively. The worker wants an improvement in their conditions, but also wants security in their job while fighting for those improvements. That is what recognition of the union means'.

The workers' reaction to the 0% pay offer in local government could be 'what is more important pay or job security?' But it is not as simple as that. Organisation and fighting for pay improvements, strengthens the union and actually increases job security. If you think that this is untrue, look at the low-paid, non-unionised sections of society. Have they got more job security?. British Airways cabin staff got a 90% yes vote on a 80% turnout. That's why British Airways went to the courts, because the employer had lost the propaganda war with their own workforce and the courts were their only hope.

So we have a General Secretary election in the union. A vital election. An election which will lay a marker down. Will affiliation to the Labour Party be such a big issue if the Tories win the general election? Whoever wins the general election needs a 'shot across their bows'. They need a message that unions are ready to organise. Very few public sector workers are anti-union. Some have had bad experiences in other unions or in this one. Some feel that the union is powerless or not there for them. It wouldn't take much to change that. Thousands of employees are frightened, worried and fearful. We need to give them confidence and hope. Then they will join a union in their thousands.

Where does that confidence and hope come from? From MP's on the fiddle or trade union leaders waiting to to get into the House of Lords or the City? No, leadership is 90% example. The General Secretary election is about the future of the union and our members. Let no-one be in any doubt that there is no feeling as good as the support of members. They have every right to be cynical. They see all around them the rewards of society going to parasites, while they struggle to make ends meet. Our inspiration should always be - what can we achieve for working people? If the Labour Party loses the next election - watch some Labour MP's running for jobs in the City and big businesses or with companies they have worked with whilst in government.

If we unite working people for the common good in the trade union we will acheive all those things that our policies demand - prosperity, job security, anti-racism, decent housing, trade union rights, decent pensions etc. If we don't, these policy aims will be impossible. Our leaders have to be honest, open and trusted.

'The purpose of leadership is to inspire - what more can you do for someone than to inspire them?'

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Day 4 of the campaign

Nominations open tomorrow.

"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at"

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Facebook group

Monday, 1 February 2010

Request for nomination for General Secretary

Mr P Holmes

9 Hawthorne Terrace


West Yorkshire


Dear Colleague,

Paul Holmes

Nomination for General Secretary

For a General Secretary on a worker’s wage, in touch with the branches and their members.

I am seeking your Region’s support in the forthcoming General Secretary election. I am Branch Secretary of Kirklees Unison (a branch of 10,000 plus Unison members) and a National Executive Council member. I have been a steward for 35 years. I am also a member of the Local Government Service Group Executive and the National Joint Council for Local Government. I have much experience in service conditions, organisation, representation and negotiations.

Where I stand:

1. Budget cuts - Whichever party wins the forthcoming general election – budget cuts in the public sector will lead to attacks on pay, terms and conditions and pensions. We need to know who will fight with us against those in Government and the Employer. As a UNISON Branch activist I have always stood up to employers making cuts – and as your General Secretary you could count on me to stand up for members

2. Organisation - Kirklees Unison has a union density of over 80%. There is no reason why this can’t be achieved in every branch. I have spoken in branches all over Britain. The issues everywhere are the same – cuts, pensions, terms and conditions and pay, stress etc. We need to organise the activists at the grassroots. You must inspire the activists in order to advance the cause.

3. Pensions – I led the campaign in Local Government for a special conference on pensions to ensure that our members decided how we defended the LG Pension scheme. There is no doubt that there will be further attacks on public sector pensions as the Employers/Government/Bankers seek to raid our pensions to pay for their banking crisis. We need to prepare our members for a massive campaign to defend pensions. The General Secretary campaign is an opportunity to send a "shot across the bows" of those who seek to attack our pension schemes. We need a united campaign across the public sector to defend our pension schemes As General Secretary I would work to ensure that members again take the lead in deciding how we fight to protect our pensions.

4. Resources - The resources of the union need to be devolved to the branches – money, full-time officials, printing etc. The majority of the resources need to be nearer the members.

5. Democracy – I support the election of the General Secretary. I also support the election of the Deputy General Secretary, Regional Secretaries and the Heads of the Services Groups.

6. Opinions - there are a wide spectrum of opinions in the union - this is healthy. Anyone should be free to express their opinions - unless they are sexist, racist, homophobic etc. Difference of political opinion should not lead to disciplinary action. The rules of the union should be changed to allow appeals from disciplinary hearings to an appeals panel that is elected by the National Delegate Conference.

7. Anti-Fascism - there is no place for racists/ fascists in our union, Members of far-right groups should be 'kicked out' of the union. There should be no climate of fear for any of our members.

8. Labour Party - we are a trade union not a political party. I have been a Labour Party member for 30 years (joining the party straight after Thatcher was elected). We need to change our relationship with the Labour Party to one where the union's policies are pursued in the Labour Party and not vice-versa. For too long Unison has largely been a source of finance for the Labour Party. Unison delegates should be taking Unison's policies into the Labour Party and promoting them. We should have one Political Fund. There should be a wide-ranging, unrestricted debate at Unison National Delegate Conference on the Political Fund and a member's ballot on affiliation, with a recommendation from the National Delegate Conference.

The union and its members must be placed first in the priorities of all representatives of the union. The members come first - not the union bureaucracy, not the Labour Party or the Employers. I ask for your nomination, I promise my every effort and my honesty in return.

Paul Holmes

Branch no: 13325

Membership no: 1787781

Sunday, 31 January 2010



Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Last shift at Sharlston Colliery, Wakefield 1993.

Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison
Branch Secretary
Nigel Pearce and Gary Raynor
(Sharlston NUM)

My brothers, who knew the value of sacrifice, unity and solidarity - Thatcher could not break them nor could Blair disillusion them. When asked was it difficult striking for 12 months, would reply "no it was hard not winning. 13 months would have been easy if we had won." These people truly were - the Salt of the Earth.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

I'm standing on a platform of more trains.