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!

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