First Annual UNISON Yorkshire & Humberside Black History Month Awards.
What is your role in the branch?
Hello, I’m Tom Kistell and I’m the Environmental Officer, also known as the Green Rep. My role is to be the Committee member responsible for everything to do with environmental sustainability, hearing what people have to say about it, matching up members with training and networking opportunities, and leading on UNISON’s efforts locally to help Sheffield Hallam become a more sustainable organisation.
How and why did you become involved in UNISON?
I’ve been involved with the union for more than half my life by this point! I first joined when I was still at school, while I was working in a sports centre run by my local council. One of the longstanding UNISON stewards there spoke about the need for all workers to be trade union members, even “young pups”, and his words stuck with me. I joined in each place where I worked after that and, by the time I came to Sheffield Hallam, I wanted to contribute more as an activist. I’ve been a steward, a workplace contact, and now an officer here.
What issues do you feel trade unions should be focusing on?
Obviously, I’m going to say climate action because it’s a theme that relates to everything else. I can’t say enough about that in a few words here, but I’m always happy to talk about it with anyone who’s interested. Other headline issues for me are work intensification, staff wellbeing, real-terms pay cuts, issues faced by parents and carers, and the barriers that people from poorer backgrounds encounter at work. We need to recruit more of our colleagues as members, too. If there are UNISON members in every team, then we’re in a much better position to push for positive change in the University and beyond.
Saturday 7th October Latin America Day School
0945hrs to 1615hrs Quaker Meeting House, St James Street S1. Hosted by Sheffield Trades Council, Sheffield Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Chile Solidarity Network, Jubilee Movement Sheffield, Alborada, Sheffield Left.
“Economic and ecological crises are bearing down with greatest intensity on workers and poor people in Latin America and other regions of the global South, made much worse by reckless exploitation of their natural resources and living labour by capitalist corporations based in Britain and other rich countries. The struggles in Britain against austerity, union-busting, climate destruction, profiteering corporations, racism & fascism and much else are indissolubly connected to struggles against these same evils in Latin America. We have much to learn from the often much more advanced experiences of workers and youth in Latin America. Solidarity, and seeing ourselves as part of the world, makes us stronger.”
Saturday 7th October Rally for our Bus Services
Organised by Better Buses South
Campaign stall in Sheffield: Wednesday 4th October, 11.30 – 1pm (top of the Moor)
Saturday 7th October Protest re Government’s anti-Boycott Bill
12 noon outside Sheffield Town Hall. National Day of Action by Right to Boycott Coalition.
The government has tabled an anti-boycott bill with the aim of preventing public authorities, like local councils, local government pension funds, unions or universities, from making ethical choices about spending or investment.
The government’s main target is campaigns in support of Palestinian rights but those pushing for action against deforestation, environmental pollution, and the exploitation of children and workers could also be affected.
This toxic bill will erode local democracy, restrict freedom of expression, and undermine campaigns for social and climate justice.
Saturday 21st October “Socialist republic of South Yorkshire -Resisting Thatcherism in the 1980’s
1pm-5pm Broomhall Centre, Broomspring Lane S10 2FD.
Sheffield Transformed is hosting a free workshop to explore how left-wing activists and politicians in 1980s Sheffield attempted to resist the dominance of Thatcherism and implement their own political ideas.
During the 1980s, the term ‘Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire’ was coined to describe the region’s left-wing political culture. With contributions from historians and local campaigners, this workshop will examine the left-wing, trade union, feminist, and anti-racist activism that made up the Socialist Republic. We’ll discuss what we can learn from this pivotal period in political history and how we can apply it to our present situation.
Saturday 21st October Stand Up to Racism National Organising Conference.
11am to 4pm Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BB
Neville Lawrence father of Stephen is confirmed to speak – book your place now tinyurl.com/SUTR23c
Last week, along with hundreds of other delegates from across the UK, I attended UNISON’s National Delegate Convention, the democratic decision making body at the heart of our union. Many important motions were discussed and I will provide a full report to members soon.UNISON democracy and electionsBeing active in the union means involving ourselves in these democratic processes, and we are always looking for more stewards and officers. If you think you or a colleague might be suited to a particular role, please get in contact with the branch. Vacancies and contact details for current activists can be found here: ContactsNext month, our new National Executive Council meet to take forward the resolutions made at conference. Understanding the structure of our union can be daunting, even for those of us who have been activists for some time. If you want to read more about the democratic decison making bodies that run your union, see here:
Following the imposition of the pay award for 2023/24, and the continued dispute over the previous year’s award, members might have received emails from UNISON National HQ and seen messages on social media regarding ballots for strike action at some HE UNISON branches. Our branch is not included in this ballot. As a committee we were disappointed not to be included in the list of HE branches being balloted, and we know, both from personal conversations and the responses to last years questionnaire, that many of our members will feel the same way.We know that this round of balloting is unlikely to be the last. We also know that the number of ballots, online and postal, can be confusing for many members. Alongside this there are communications from national, regional and branch levels of the union which can overwhelm many. We are exploring ways to differentiate our local messaging from the national and regional, as suggested by members at our AGM, and hopefully provide a clearer, more focused line of communications for members.
The last 12 months or so have presented new challenges for the Students Union (SU). A move away from the NJC last year (which had previously formed the basis for pay increases) coupled with the pressures of a rising cost of living has meant that UNISON have been more involved than ever in negotiating fair pay increases for staff – but there’s still a long way to go. With pay negotiations for the 22/23 financial year finally being agreed in February of this year, negotiations around an increase for 23/24 are ongoing.As part of this period of change, SU UNISON reps Maddie and John, along with branch secretary Dan Bye now have monthly meetings with the Executive Team. Alongside this, a recent survey of our members within the SU has provided us with great insight into where we should focus our efforts, ensuring that members’ voices are heard. We have seen great progress in many areas, with staff on temporary contracts being offered permanent contracts, cleaning staff being offered real living wage, a review of staff salary and pay grades. Along with the executive team, we are now looking into the possible implementation of a 4 day working week in the Students’ Union, which would be a radical and positive change to our ways of working. As a Students’ Union, staff salary is tied closely with a block grant administered by the university, so if you want to help our fellow members at the SU, the best thing you can do is make sure you find out more about our services, and shout about our successes where you can. One of the biggest challenges the SU faces is visibility within the university, and every little helps!
As members are no doubt aware, UCU continue their industrial action through a marking and assessment boycott. Our UCU colleagues here at Sheffield Hallam have sent the following message:“UCU members at SHU are taking part in the national UCU marking and assessment boycott, which involves cessation of all summative assessment activity. The main impact is that marks may not be provided to the requested deadlines. UCU members recognise the difficulties this may cause for professional services staff and would like to apologise and to clarify that, since it is a dispute between UCU and employers, senior managers should deal with the problems without pressuring professional services staff.” “SHU management have made a local decision to deduct 100% pay from UCU members participating in the boycott, which members believe is punitive and has effectively put an end to the rest of their work during the boycott period, thereby exacerbating the impact on students and colleagues. To reduce this impact, it would be much appreciated if staff involved in assessment administration could reply to requests from UCU members to clarify when marks are no longer required; UCU members will then be able to return to their other duties.” The following guidance has also been circulated by UNISON’s national office: “UNISON respects the rights of other trade unions to take industrial action and wishes to support them where it can do so. We urge members to consider supporting legal protests organised by other trade unions that take place outside your contracted hours of work. However, UNISON members are advised to continue working their normal duties and responsibilities and must refrain from joining the industrial action taken by other unions unless it has been authorised by UNISON. This is because it may otherwise be viewed as unofficial industrial action endorsed by the union or some form of misconduct by the individual(s) concerned. UNISON members should carry out any reasonable management instruction given to them in accordance with their contract of employment, which could include duties they do not normally carry out on a day-to-day basis, but which are within their capabilities and commensurate with their grade. Members should bear in mind that any refusal to carry out a reasonable management instruction could potentially give the employer a strong argument that misconduct has occurred. In accordance with s.237 of TULRCA 1992, our members in the circumstances described above are likely to lose protection from dismissal if they refuse to cross a picket line and/or choose to join in the industrial action of other unions.” “Members who are unsure whether or not they need to carry out duties they have been asked to undertake should contact their UNISON rep, branch or region for further advice and support. Members are reminded that due to the current legislation only those employees who have been involved in a legal ballot where we met the 50% turnout threshold with a majority yes vote are allowed to take industrial action.”
There are a couple of upcoming opportunities to become more involved in climate action at work, something we know from our end of year survey many members are concerned about.Contacts) if you are plan on, or already are, volunteering as a Climate Champion. You can find the form to express your interest in this role and to attend a preliminary meeting of the network this Wednesday (21st) on the staff intranet: Climate Champions eventThe second opportunity is an invitation to meet and organise around climate action with trade unionists from across South Yorkshire. Organised by Sheffield Trades Council ‘Buildling a Workforce for the Climate Emergency: Putting workers first in the fight against climate change’ will take place on Saturday 15th July, 10am-4pm at the Quaker Meeting House, 10 Saint James St, Sheffield, S1 2EW and will consist of a series of workshops to discuss how we get climate jobs in:The first of these is Sheffield Hallam’s Climate Champion Network. As part of our branches drive to organise around environmental issues we are encouraging members to step forward for these Climate Champion roles. While we, along with many members we have spoken to, have reservations about these roles (the additional pressure they put on members, the effectiveness of action mediated through the University’s own structures, and so on) we believe that critical engagement with the network will allow us to effectively identify key areas for action. Through the understanding we gain from our members engagement we will be able to uncover the organisational problems that are the key obstacles to effective climate action. UNISON will provide support for members stepping up to jon the network through our own climate organsing group. Please contact our Environment Officer Tom Kistell (
- renewable energy
- education and training – skilling up a workforce for the climate emergency
We encourage all members to join us to discuss what climate change really means for workers and how rising energy prices, inflation, falling wages and the climate crisis are not only connected but being driven by the same system.STUC Climate WorkshopsThe event is free, please book your place here:
Finally, Shell’s boss recently took home a £9.7million pay packet – while public service workers have to take industrial action to secure fair pay. It doesn’t have to be this way: windfall taxes in other countries have raised far more for the public purse, and kept bills far lower.Windfall tax petitionSign UNISON’s petition now and tell the Chancellor to make oil and gas giants – not ordinary households – pay the price:
“After a well deserved payrise, the trust are trying to claw back the money with a blanket 5% cost increase on parking, catering and childcare to all its staff. We at UNISON call on the trust to reverse this cynical move! Care about the carers that make this NHS trust work!”Sheffield Teaching Hospital petition“This was a cynical move, released on a bank holiday weekend to hide the obvious uncosted price hike, hits the lowest paid trust employees the hardest. Support your hard working NHS staff! Don’t give with one hand and take back with the other!” Sign the petition here:
UNISON runs regular free courses for its members. If you are interested and wish to book a place, contact Rose on email@example.comOnline courses:
- Unconscious Bias on 19 June at 10am – 11.30am via zoom
- Deaf Awareness & BSL on 20 June at 10am – 1pm via zoom
- Self-Harm Awareness on 3 July at 12pm – 2pm via Teams
- Makaton: Baby & Young Children Signing on 7 July at 10am – 11.30am via zoom
- Managing Challenging Behaviour on 12 July at 2pm – 5pm via zoom
In-Person courses (Leed office):
- Dyslexia Understood on 30 June at 10am – 4pm
- Presentation Skills on 10 July at 10am – 4pm
To apply for the in-person courses above, please contact your branch for approval. Alternatively contact firstname.lastname@example.org who will forward your request to your branch.Courses Jun-Jul 23That’s all for now. As ever, if you have any concerns, questions or ideas you’d like to put into action, get in contact with your local rep or officer: ContactsFurther details of all courses can be found here: