United, We Publish – Simon Dubbins Interview

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In the run up to October’s event, United, We Publish, BookMachine will be featuring a number of opinions on UNITE-focused topics such as training, pay, employment law and flexible working. Simon Dubbins is Director of International and Research for UNITE the Union in the UK. Simon has worked for the Graphical Paper and Media Union, was the Head of International for AMICUS and the Director of International & Research for UNITE. He now coordinates the European and International work of UNITE across all its sectors.

1) As one of the workshop leaders at United, We Publish – why do you think this is a good moment to raise awareness of the work of Unite within the publishing industry?

Because UNITE is the union for workers in the publishing sector and we are in the middle of a massive shift in the way that content is created and distributed. Because we organise workers in graphical, paper, media and IT sectors we know the industries and have the expertise to help people with problems at work, and we can give them an insight into where the industries are going and what skills and training they might need for the future. It is also a time of huge change in our society generally and UNITE is plugged in to those changes in all sorts of different ways.

2) Where have you seen the work of Unite be beneficial to individuals, either personally or collectively, within the publishing industry?

I have seen the work of UNITE bring huge benefits to literally hundreds of thousands of people in all sorts of different ways. We have protected their jobs and helped individuals at work, successfully lobbied governments for changes to laws, supported workers in multinational companies and fought to protect workers’ rights in very dangerous and underdeveloped countries. For the graphical and publishing sector I have seen us win huge battles to protect jobs and conditions and launch excellent training initiatives including the possibility of a new accredited training scheme in the sector.

3) You have been involved in Union work since 1997, how have you seen the relationship between Unite and the publishing sector develop over this time?

The relationship with the publishing sector and the employers used to be much better than it has been in more recent times. I have witnessed the attacks of employers in the newspaper publishing sector and the collapse of relations, then the return of relations and collective agreements in some areas after the Labour government of 1997. More recently I am pleased to say there seems to be much more engagement and a real opportunity to rebuild relations around common agendas such as new apprenticeship schemes and the need to protect the creative industries through campaigning together for copyright protections.

4) How does representing workers in the publishing industry differ from other sectors that you work with?

The publishing sector is quite specific like most sectors and tends to have a lower level of organisation and a more white collar tradition. This is different to some of the more traditional manufacturing sectors that UNITE organises but also very similar to other sectors such as IT or education or some service areas. The great thing about UNITE is that we have such a wide array of skilled officers and staff to draw on and such a wide array of experience, this means that UNITE is superbly placed to help workers in the publishing sector protect and develop their interests.

5) Without giving too much away, what might you be talking about at United, We Publish?

At UNITED, We Publish I intend to touch on some of the broader issues and give publishing workers an insight into the wider work that UNITE is involved in. Not only are we very active in the workplace and in the political area, but we also have a great deal of international work that we do. That work is really relevant for publishing workers because many of the companies in which they are employed are multinational companies and we have a massive amount of experience in working with sister unions in Europe and the wider world to build union solidarity in the companies. We also have a huge amount of solidarity work that we do with countries such as Cuba, Palestine, Colombia, South Africa, etc., and I intend to give an insight into some of those things.

– Join us  for ‘United, We Publish‘ in London on the 27th October.

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