The Unite North East, Yorkshire and Humberside (NEY&H) region opened its third community support centre on February 11, in Farsley, Leeds.
And while the first two were in conjunction with the National Union of Mineworkers the bright new premises will be shared with the local Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Jamie Hanley.
This will also mean Unite can “reconnect Labour with the concerns of our members and the working class more generally,” said Unite regional political officer, Mark Fieldhouse.
The centre will be open on Wednesdays and Thursdays (10am – 3pm) offering professional individual and community support particularly around welfare problems.
These are rising fast as the government closes it eyes to wealthy tax dodgers while stepping up its cruel use of benefit sanctions. In response, Farsley will introduce ‘benefit buddying’ that will offer peer-to-peer support for vulnerable people facing benefit claim difficulties.
Successful initiatives at the Barnsley and Durham community centres will be replicated at Farsley with courses in reading and writing, CV and job applications, computer classes, public speaking, graphic design and social media. So in addition to helping people improve their chances of finding work the centre will give users the skills for campaigning activities alongside Unite workplace members.
Four Unite Community members – Andy Hiles, Callum Stanland, Caroline Isle and Gerry Lavery – have volunteered to staff the centre. Professional welfare rights’ training is being undertaken.
“I live locally and feel I can help deliver an advice service to people while also campaigning on issues we will be dealing with here such as the bedroom tax and debt,” explained Gerry Lavery, a retired university lecturer who expressed his pleasure at hearing Jamie Hanley speaking so passionately about trade unionism.
Force for good
“As I set off for my first day at work I was told by my dad to ‘join the union.’ I have been a member of TGWU/Unite ever since and chaired my workplace branch at Morrish solicitors.
“Trade unions are a force for good. I am delighted to be working closely with Unite,” said Jamie. He is standing for the second time in the Pudsey constituency against the sitting Tory MP Stuart Andrew whose 1,659 majority clearly makes him vulnerable if labour movement activists get heavily involved in campaigning for Jamie.
“I want trade unionists involvement and we will have trade union campaign days as part of my election campaign,” said Jamie.
“The Tories have lots of money for what is the most important election in a generation. Make no mistake if they win then Cameron will complete Margaret Thatcher’s job by massively undermining the ability of working people to be represented at work,” he added.
Dick Banks, chair of the NEY&H regional industrial sector committee, said, “I am delighted to see this eye-catching centre being opened in such a prominent location. The successes at Barnsley and Durham can be replicated in Farsley especially if one of our members was the local MP after the general election.”
To contact the centre: Farsley Unite Community Support Centre, 90-92 Old Road, Farsley, Leeds LS28 5BN, 0113 257 5221