Summary of HLC meeting 8th December 2011

Unite HLC held its regular meeting on the 8th of December 2011. The meeting was deliberately held immediately before the Unite West London Area Activists Committee meeting so that interested parties could share information and views.

Report from ETF Brussels on 30th November 2011

Bruce reported back from the European Transport Workers' Federation meeting 8 days ago. The main item discussed was the liberalisation of ground handling in Europe. Currently European (though not UK) airports are normally limited to using a maximum of two ground handling companies, as excessive competition results in unprofitable business and reduced service levels, as well as inferior terms and condidions for workers. Pressure from airlines has resulted in this ruling being eased so that up to 3 ground handling companies can be employed. The ETF opposes this change, as it is likely to pressure companies to give inferior contracts to workers. Union opposition in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands has been particularly fierce, with German unions managing to get the support of the Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Bruce and Paco met with MEP Mary Honeyball to ask for support from the EU Labour group.

National Officer retirement

Unite's National Secretary for Civil Aviation, Brendan Gold is to retire next week. His replacement is not yet known.

Legal representation

Peter raised concerns over the level of communication between union members and solicitors in industrial cases such as dismissals. He felt that members should be able to expect union solicitors would keep in touch regularly, rather than have to wait for several weeks for information in the run up to employment tribunals, He also felt that union members should be able to get a second opinion from another TU solicitor if turned down for support, rather than have to go to no-win, no-fee solicitors. Action Point - Invite solicitors to next HLC. Jim said that if members were unhappy with a decision not to accept a case that they could contact the Regional Secretary for a ruling.

Thank you to Mark Ive

The HLC was informed that Mark Ive would no longer be active in the HLC as he no longer works for his employer at the airport. Mark had been a regular attendee at the HLC and the group appreciated his contributions over the past years.

Air Passenger Duty

Jas raised concerns over the increase in APD, which BA have cited as responsible for reducing planned recruitment from 800 staff to 400. BA attendees expressed scepticism over the claim and had not been informed that BA ever intended to recruit 800 new staff. New contracts mean that flight crew may be on salaries as little as £11,000 a year and it was not easy to recruit for these wages.However, both Paul and Liam felt that APD was having a negative impact on Civil Aviation. It was suggested that Unite be more active in the campaign to have APD scrapped on reduced to a level similar to Heathrow's competitors. APD is giving a competitive advantage to other hub airports and may be damaging the UK economy. Action Point - The RISC to discuss methods to challenge APD, including peitions and publicity over the levels of APD that passngers are paying on their tickets. National Secretary to be asked to liase with airlines if appropriate following RISC.

Report from November meeting of ITF

Paco reported from the meeting of the International Transport Workers' Federation in London last month. One topic that was of particular interest to the HLC was a preliminary report that is currently being compiled in Sweden on manual handling injuries in aviation. A two and a half year research project by the Swedish National Safety Officer involving a team of seven people is identifying the muscular/skeletal damage to workers from movements involved in baggage handling. The report is due for completion in June 2012 and should be published in early summer 2012.

November 30th Public Sector Strike - Next Steps

Jim informed us that a quarter of a million Unite members were involved in the recent action. Between 25,000 and 50,000 activists attended the London march and 8,000 were in Brighton among many local events. Turnout for the ballot was slightly disappointing at around 30%, but percentages voting for action were high at around 70% to 80%. Unite recomended public sectror units (such as hospitals) twinning with private sector units to avoid the "divide and rule" tactics being used by the Tories. Public sector pensions are not gold plated and a nurse's reward for 40 years service is about about a tenth of that enjoyed by cabinet ministers such as Francis Maude who is slashing them. Various activist groups need to join together as part of a Regional Activist Network. Danny recomended a BBC program Storyville for anyone who does not understand how the money markets are wrecking our economies as they increase their wealth and drive the rest of us into poverty. Re: the low level of disruption at Heathrow on November 30th, it was reported that low passenger figures were a major contributor, with some 747s having as few as 25 passengers.

Area Activists Committee

Minutes of the AAC will be published separately. The main topic was November 30th and Next Steps. Those who visited picket lines reported good turnouts and high spirits. High numbers of new activists were getting involved, including many women and young people. More actions are expected in January and February unless the government makes a dramatic u-turn in its policies. Despite high levels of public support for the strike (around 70%) it is important to get the message out to the members and public that coalition cuts are so wide ranging that everyone will suffer. David Cameron's actions and lobby of the EU are purely to protect the city.

Activists will also be asked to publicise the London Mayoral campaign next year.