- How to revitalise trade union branches? I have posted in the past my concerns about branch democracy and representation. I did agree to to make a report. Apologies that this has taken so long. It is from a Local Government branch prospective. Thanks to all those who have contributed. Hopefully, this contribution will further the debate.
Branch democracy and organisation
1. Lack of attendance/participation by branch committee members, in-quorum branch committee/meetings/AGM’s and unrepresentative branch committees/affiliations/motions and delegations. UNISON not pulling its weight.
2. Branch officers/conveners/stewards re-elections uncontested.
3. Lack of branch officers/conveners/stewards/safety reps/distributors.
4. Inadequate facility agreement (especially for Branch officers and health & safety)
5. Poaching by other unions (& merger of T&G and Amicus?).
6. Density and retention of members?
7. Directorate consultative and safety committees not functioning.
8. Privatisation of services (fragmentation of employers and membership)
1. UNISON Good Branch Practice guide.
2. UNISON courses on branch development
3. Branch development plan
4. National UNISON currently reviewing branch structures?
Plan - In no particular order
1. Set up a Branch Executive made up of branch officers which meets monthly. We need strategic organisation and monitoring performance against a “beefed up” branch development plan. Review casework, recruitment, retention, campaigns, steward, health & safety reps organisation, training and socials. Reports to branch committee.
2. Revise Branch development plan.
3. Consider employing (apply to region for help with funding?) a part time/full time organiser (initially a fixed term contract?). Recruitment and representation of members in non-council employers.
4. There should be written branch standing orders for all committees. This must include a prescriptive and independent complaints procedure against breach of standing orders
5. There should be a higher quorum (committee, branch and AGM), that properly reflects membership. This is "chicken or egg". If we cannot get membership involved then business cannot (and should not) go ahead.
6. All candidates for any branch posts or positions should declare membership of political parties or affiliations.
7. Branch officers take individual responsibility for support and development of particular directorate’s joint consultative forums (which should be held monthly)
8. Branch Pensions officer (MNR) is elected and makes regular agenda reports to branch committee on investment committee/LGPS/SHP.
9. Move committee meetings to 4.30pm so as not to exclude members (part time Manuel) who have to work lunchtimes. Sandwiches, tea, coffee, fruit and mineral water supplied to branch meetings. We cannot expect hard pressed activists to give up breaks/meals to attend standard meetings. The cost is not unreasonable.
10. Branch committee meetings to last for a maximum 2 hours. Vote to carry on beyond 2 hours in “exceptional” circumstances only. Meetings can be too long, too unfocused and too boring. How can we encourage anyone to attend since they are usually so awful?
11. Hold 15 minute training event (legislation update etc?) during branch committee.
12. S/O restrict time that anyone can speak on a particular issue. 5 mins (MAX - reports) is more than enough 3 mins should be usual especially motions.
13. Motions must be submitted in advance (14 days?) and properly proposed and seconded (signatures) and circulated beforehand. Emergency motions must be “genuine” emergencies.
14. Relevant motions regarding core trade union issues only (pay, conditions, pensions, health & safety) to be discussed at end of branch meeting not in the beginning. Often vital branch officer and directorate reports are rushed and not properly considered (if at all)
15. Any “Political” motions would need a petition of at least 500 signatures to be then voted upon by a ballot of branch membership with minimum 25% quorum (via ERBS). Hold “husting” meeting to inform beforehand. The Branch Executive, to act as standing orders committee if there is a dispute with a right of appeal to Regional officer?
16. Word limit on motions (300?)
17. Members not allowed to sell newsletters during meetings and are requested not to sell them outside meetings as it puts people off from attending.
18. Contested elections and nominations of any branch officers or regional/national delegates must be by secret ballet (ERBS) of whole branch.
19. Contested nominations of internal directorate positions (Chair/secretary) by secret ballot at local directorate AGM.
20. Try to set up regular (3 monthly) borough trade union meetings with elected representatives which report backs to branch committee.
21. Consider nominal expenses allowance for stewards who regular (not always) attend directorate steward committees, branch committee, branch meetings, training e.g. £5 per month. Would help low paid stewards. Activists are reluctant to claim expenses. No one has to claim if they do not feel they have incurred the full expense.
22. Data base of representatives and mandatory training and development programme.
23. Branch secretary (with regional officer?) carries out regular 1-1’s of branch officers regarding case work. Conveners with local reps?
24. Publicity officer makes regular report on branch newsletter. Set up blog and branch web site. Set up email distribution lists of all members.
25. Renegotiate facility agreement.
26. Twice yearly branch social events (minimum target)
27. Annual recruiting day. Monthly recruiting activities led by branch secretary.
28. Set health & safety events (WMD and EH&SW)
29. AGM has key note non-divisive speaker
30. AGM has Lunch provided and UNISON affiliates (Thompson’s, Unity, Britannia etc) are invited/encouraged to attend
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Also in photo is candidate Abdus Shukur (3rd left) and (4th left) Councillor AM Ohid Ahmed (GMB). You can click on the picture to make it bigger.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Dan McCurry and Abdus Shukur were the only other candidates that I remember seeing. There are, I think, 3 more selection meetings. Bow West meets 7pm tonight at St Paul’s, Stephens Road, E3.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I was able to work with the students to take a digital photo, create a blogspot account and make our first post (with a picture and link). Early days yet! This is only probably a demo blog. The “Young Mums Bite Back” (the name of their first post) I met today are very sharp. Check out their blog Don’t hush “DISCUSS”. I think that they will actually end up showing me a thing or two (or three) about blogging pdq.
"The Camel, The Needle, The Rich Man And The Kingdom Of Private Equity"
By Terry Paul
“The Labour Party’s deputy leadership election has transformed itself from being an internal, navel-gazing exercise, to casting light on the rather closed world of private equity”
As the light of public scrutiny starts to shine on the world of private equity, I am sure that many of you are watching closely, and wondering what exactly is going on behind the scenes. The pro and cons of the private equity debate itself have been hashed out many times already, but the circumstances in which it is being framed are particularly interesting.
You might not have been aware that in May last year, Gwyn Prosser, the Labour MP for Dover, tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) condemning on the actions of Permira over its actions towards a major local employer, the AA. But, as you’ve probably guessed, this EDM didn’t set the world alight.
So what turned a rather specialist section of the finance industry into front page news? The GMB trade union launched its campaign against Permira last year outside the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham—Permira managing partner Damon Buffini’s place of worship—with a placard bearing the New Testament quote from Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” To emphasise the point, they brought along an actual, live camel (although this backfired when Animal Defenders International criticised the union for "exploiting the poor animal").
The subsequent media campaign has so far culminated in Damon Buffini appearing on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and the GMB trade union picketing the February private equity conference Super Return 2007 in Frankfurt. But, in the jargon, what was the "tipping point" which transformed the situation?
The Labour Party’s deputy leadership election has transformed itself from being an internal, navel-gazing exercise, to casting light on the rather closed world of private equity. The GMB is asking the candidates to set out their positions in their individual election platforms; quite an interesting situation, since the trade unions are large financial backers of the Labour party. For those of you not immersed in the bureaucracy of Labour party leadership elections, the process is likely to continue well into the summer; therefore, the intense scrutiny on private equity is also likely to remain until then—and possibly beyond, since policy commitments on private equity reform might well be promised by an eventual winner.
It is easy to lambast private equity firms, and there are many people—including MPs—who I suspect were blissfully unaware that private equity even existed. In the recent press, there are consistent daily calls for reform of current financial arrangements and greater transparency. The sector needs to be mindful that a new administration under Brown might be forced by internal Labour Party pressure to consider increased regulation and alteration of the current private equity regime. Indeed, just this week the Treasury Select Committee announced that it intends to undertake new inquiries into private equity funds.
Therefore, the industry must emerge fully from the ‘shadows’ and into the daylight of public scrutiny, parliamentary investigations and so on. A better-informed general public, media, members of parliament and trade unions will make for better, more constructive feedback for the private equity industry.
It is an industry which plays a vital role in the UK economy and greatly contributes to London’s reputation as a global financial services centre; its task now is to ensure that this contribution is recognised.
Terry Paul can be contacted on +44 (0)20 7665 9533 or click here to email.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Why are such people in responsible positions so thick? Whatever happened to my wise and gentle Iranian friend “Freddie” (Henry Price Building, Leeds University, 1981)
It is estimated that occupational pension schemes and small savers "own" more than 50% of stock in the world's major companies.
Assets of pension funds are at risk if fund boards and their investment panels are given poor advice by investment professionals. Assets are also at risk if funds are invested in badly-managed companies - for example, those which are exposed to risk by failing to comply with legislation, or whose activities result in bad publicity and damage to their brands.
Capital stewardship is aimed at engaging with companies in which our members have shares to ensure they are innovative, well-managed and not taking undue risks with our retirement savings.
In the recent period, the TUC's capital stewardship work has included scrutiny of executive remuneration packages at GlaxoSmithKline, Corus, HSBC and BskyB. The TUC sent voting alerts to its Member Trustee Network advising trustees of its opposition to particular board remuneration proposals.
Through their ownership of company shares in the UK and overseas, UNISON members are effectively joint employers, along with other pension scheme contributors and small investors, of workers in the private sector both here and abroad.
Capital stewardship also aims to ensure that pension funds do not sit idly by when companies engage in activities to which members have expressed their opposition, such as poor environmental standards, bad labour relations, excessive executive pay and poor social responsibility.
UNISON's Capital Stewardship Programme aims to ensure that our members' interests are actively pursued through representation on fund boards and investment panels and by engagement with the companies which our members "own" or lend money to".
If you are interested in this issue check out Tom’s “Capital and Labour” blog. One of the first things we need to do is make ourselves more “representative” of UNISON members. Volunteers welcome! If you are in UNISON and in a “funded” pension scheme, contact your branch secretary/regional office to see if you could become a member nominated representative (or trustee). UNISON is putting together training courses and there is a new web site.
Also Check out the excellent book “The New Capitalists” at Amazon.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
It seems only yesterday that I blogged here about support for the Central Foundation School strike next week and mentioned that we needed to do more than petitioning and lobbying.
Well, last week, Barnet UNISON circulated the latest information about the dispute between Fremantle, the outfit who run care homes in that borough, and UNISON and the GMB, representing the staff. This “not for profit” “third sector” provider is about to sack any staff who won’t accept cuts in pay and conditions (note the Fremantle "Head of Development" above left, clearly expressing what she thinks of Barnet UNISON).
The unions are balloting for strike action. The strike action would have commenced but for a legal challenge from the employer under the anti-union laws. Keep checking the Barnet UNISON blog to be kept up to date with this important dispute.
Blogging is useful only insofar as it helps us to undertake worthwhile activity for our unions and our beliefs.
I sometimes post stories about political disagreements and disputes within the union and labour movement (and these are not unimportant) – but it is most important not to lose our focus as socialists and trade unionists.
Our enemies are not each other (not even those who themselves seem to lose sight of this). Our enemies are bad employers who attack our members’ conditions and politicians who would allow these scoundrels to run all our public services. I hope everyone reading this blog – and every trade unionist blogger – will publicise this important dispute and take some action to support the Fremantle workers.
Email the Fremantle Chief Executive Carol Sawyer at email@example.com and Catalyst (who are also involved) Chief Executive Rod Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also I have emailed Barnet UNISON this proposed petition which could be submitted to the Number 10 web site http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/new
"UNISON the biggest trade union in the UK has members who are home care workers in Barnet, London who were transferred to the company “Fremantle” under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations five years ago. Fremantle have now threatened to sack these employees on 1st April 2007 unless they sign new contracts worth 35 per cent less in pay, with reduced sick pay and holiday entitlement. We ask the Prime Minister to note the distress caused to residents who live in the care homes by the potential loss of trained and known staff; and to support the campaign being waged by Barnet UNISON against this appalling attack on already low paid workers; and calls on the Government to review employment law to prevent such abuses of public service workers in the future".
Posted by John Gray at 9:10 AM 0 comments
Labels: barnet unison, Fremantle, GMB
"I have been following the recent BBC news concerning events in Zimbabwe. Why is the British Government so shy of taking firmer action?"RP
No oil in Zimbabwe.
"Outrage" Headlines about British troops being killed saving "foreigners" (i.e Black people) from torture, murder and oppression.
"Outrage" Headlines when innocent civilians are accidentally killed during any military action while trying to save them from torture, murder and oppression.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
This is only the start of a series of planned strikes designed to bring local management back to the negotiation table and stop planned compulsory job cuts.
The school is undergoing a restructure. However, it has decided not to follow LEA guidance and procedures regarding assimilation and redeployment. This means staff are facing dismissal even though new posts are substantially the same. New staff are being recruited without seeing if existing staff are able to do the job.
This action is very much as a last resort. I can vouch that the excellent local shop steward and UNISON assistant branch secretary, Jean Lane, Tower Hamlets branch and London UNISON region, have made extraordinary efforts to try and save jobs without such confrontation. However, UNISON is obviously concerned that if this School gets away with sacking people without following appropriate employment procedures, then no staff are safe in the borough.
I think that the schools action with regard to this matter, illustrates a widespread problem with non LEA schools (who can employ their own staff and follow their own employment procedures). Schools should concentrate on what they should be good at – teaching! Not try to carry out complex and difficult employment reorganisations and procedures by themselves.
Since in this case there is no alternative to strike action. Therefore we must plan to win. Pickets are being organised for all entrances from very (very) early in the morning. A Strike committee is being formed and a support group of former pupils and parents. Non CFGS Branch members are organising solidarity action. The NUT and local NASUWT are very supportive. The GMB is also balloting their members and other school UNISON staff have offered total solidarity. Local community and faith groups will be contacted. Placards, posters and leaflets have been ordered. Picket rotas and banners are being arranged. A co-ordained publicity campaign is being set up. Local Councillors and MP’s will also be lobbied for support.
A rally is being organised, probably in the afternoon of the first day of action (details to follow. We may set up a “strike blog”?)
Please send messages of support to the CFGS strike committee c/o Tower Hamlets LG UNISON Office, Ground floor, 60 Southern Grove, Bow, London, E3 4PN tel: 020 7364 0856 fax: 020 7364 5033 email: email@example.com . Also supporters are requested to contact the headmistress at:
Central Foundation Girls' School
Harley Grove Bow London E3 2AT
Fax: 020 8983 0188
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgAnd request that meaningful negotiations are started urgently to try and resolve this dispute
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Ayub Korom Ali had already been selected by National UNISON “Labour Link” to be a member of its Parliamentary Panel. Then late yesterday (Monday 19 March) following a competitive selection process he is also being nominated by Labour Link to be the Parliamentary candidate at the next general election.
The “Labour Link” Regional committee support Ayub, not only because he has been a life long trade unionist, but they also felt that he has the talent, experience and skills necessary to be an MP. He also has a passion for social justice. Ayub was brought up in Stepney and left school aged 16 to become a machinist in a clothing factory. Despite this he was still able to gain a diploma as a mature student from Ruskin College, Oxford and a MA from Brunel University. This demonstrates the opportunities that the trade union movement and the Labour Party, has given to many ordinary working people.
Ayub currently works in Tower Hamlets (member of the UNISON local government branch) in Education as the Extended Schools advisor. He is an experienced campaigner and an elected Labour Councillor.
UNISON Labour Link would like Ayub to be nominated by as many other Labour Party branches and trade union affiliates as possible. Contact Ayub on 0208 555 8439 or Mob: 07931 575 168 Email: email@example.com or on the internet http://ayubali.blogspot.com/
Jane Downey says “as a local resident and UNISON delegate I am sure that Ayub would be an excellent choice to be our MP”.
While Education steward Fuzlul Chowdhury said “Ayub is very hard working, intelligent and experienced. He is a credit to UNISON and the Labour Party”.
Further details contact John Gray, Labour Link Officer, Tower Hamlets UNISON tel: 0795 769 6299
As a local resident and convener of Newham TULO (Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison organisation). I have been asked to write to you and ask for the Council's views on the "Living Wage for London" campaign. At a recent TULO meeting (Guest speaker Lyn Brown MP) it was decided that in partnership with the local council, MP's and community groups, we should work towards making Newham a "Living Wage" borough.
There are a number of issues. For example what hourly rates of pay are paid to directly employed Council staff and what steps are currently taken to ensure that Council contractors pay their employees a "living wage" (currently £7.05 p/h). There is also the issue over whether any guidance is given to local organisations that receive grants from (or via) the Council about pay and conditions?
copied to the usual suspects
Monday, March 19, 2007
Ayub is a very strong candidate and gave an impressive interview. He grew up in Stepney and attended Stepney Green School until age 16 when he left to become a machinist in a Tower Hamlets “sweat shop”. Despite this he was able to become a mature student and obtained a Diploma in Applied Social Studies from Ruskin College, Oxford, and an MA in Social Policy from Brunel University. He currently works in Tower Hamlets in Education as the Extended Schools advisor. He is an experienced campaigner, life long trade unionist and elected local Councillor
See further details on his blog
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Click on link to go to “youtube” to watch (put sound on – you don’t need to join) AFSCME
In particular this “put down” reputed to have been sent by SWP/disRespect National Council member Rob Hoverman.
From Socialist Unity blog 13 March 2007
“Following the earlier post about the remaining balance of £2500 of the former Socialist Alliance’s money that remains unaccounted for, I have now received a response from Rob Hoverman, former national secretary of the Socialist Alliance, and who seems to now work for Respect.
Rob responds: “the public will surely have been waiting with bated breath. Why Heather and I have been singled out for a response I do not know, and care less. You were a complete tosser the last time you flickered on to my radar and clearly nothing has changed. Now flicker off.”
(and I cannot resist saying that Rob is being really disrespectful).
Saturday, March 17, 2007
“Casino Capitalists” or “Amoral Asset-Strippers”. Private Equity: What should trade union Pension Trustees do?
There is also the issue of accountability. After decades of hard slog, British companies are finally adopting some good governance practices. We are starting to get transparency and the acceptance that companies should act in a responsible manner (there is a long way to go). However, most PE investors are utterly unaccountable and secretive.
There is also the risk to workers pensions and insurance policies. The TUC's Head of Economic and Social Affairs, Adam Lent, 'The rapid growth of hedge funds and private equity poses real dangers to the stability of the international financial system. There is a real danger that the growth of highly geared investments, coupled with a demand for high short-term returns, is unsustainable and may even be stoking up a speculative bubble.
This should not be an attack on all forms or private equity or venture capitalism. Since many new jobs and even industries in the UK have been created via these types of investments. This is also a global problem which will need a global response.
However, the question I am asking is what can those of us who are employee nominated Pension trustees or representatives (many are trade union appointed) doing to stop our money being used to sack fellow trade unionists, stop tax breaks being used to pay “grotesque” and “ridiculous” bonuses and prevent a possible financial crash?
The petition was started by Dorothy Wright who is a founder member of FACK (Families Against Corporate Killers). The petition is being supported by Amicus and I am sure by all other unions.
Amicus Research Officer, Chris O’Leary, "every year more people are killed at work than die in wars, and that 28 April is the international commemoration day devoted to their memory. It was originally established as an international day in 1996, and has since been commemorated in thousands of activities around the world, as well as being officially recognised by a growing number of national governments. “Most workers don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents,’ says O’Leary. “They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn't that important a priority. 1600 people die each year in UK while doing their job and 20000 die from work related diseases. The country should remember them on this day, as they do in other countries and by doing so reduce this slaughter.”
See also "Hazards" WMD news and the TUC Risks (free e-newsletter for safety reps)
Friday, March 16, 2007
Left to right
Nicholas Russell (Vol), Bill Beekoo (Health), Me (LG), Joanne (GLA), Rachel Voller (Health), Louise (LG), Jeremy (MP), Helen Martin (Health) and Irene Stacey (LG)
STOP PRESS just watched TB doing “I’m not bothered” on Red Nose Day TV …Discuss…
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Certainly, it is right and proper that our branch should have a public policy opposing Islamophobia, in all its forms. However, what we need is a policy that unites all members in opposition to Islamophobia not one that deliberately divides and splits us over such an important issue.
I believe that the motion is an attack not on Islamophobia, but actually an attack on the Labour Government and the Labour Party. Therefore with regret, I spoke against the motion. Here is why (original motion in italic and my response underneath).
"1. This Conference declares its solidarity with all the Muslim peoples in Britain facing a hurricane of official and unofficial legal, political and physical attacks in a climate of Islamophobic hysteria. We recognise that these attacks are essentially racist and anti-democratic.
2. They are driven by the same political agenda as has inspired the criminal and disastrous war on terror” which has laid waste to Iraq and Afghanistan and presently threatens Iran and elsewhere.
I think that you could call some (not all) of the comments made in recent months by government ministers about multi-culturalism, unwise or even foolish at times. However, 1&2 above clearly equates these comments with real physical and verbal attacks on Muslims by real racists and real Islamophobes such as the BNP. To suggest that government ministers are the same as BNP thugs is not going to unite us, neither is the clear suggestion that all those who support the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan are war "Criminals".
3. In particular we condemn the statements made by government ministers designed to isolate, demonise and even criminalise Islamic religious practises, choice of dress and cultural expression. We affirm that such diversity in fact makes an important contribution to the overall development of our society.
Again, I would agree that in parts the government has mishandled the situation, But, I am not aware of any minister proposing that Muslims are "criminalised" (line 5) for the way some of them choose to worship or the way they dress. To suggest that the government are going to make Islamic worship and culture unlawful is simply dishonest and will of course, again, not unite us, because it is untrue and offensive.
4. We condemn terrorist atrocities such as the London bombings, which are in all circumstances indefensible. However we believe, in common with the majority of British people, that the key to tackling the threat of such atrocities is a change to the foreign policy of the government. It has subordinated this country to the aggressive foreign policy of the Bush government, in its invasion of Iraq, its threats to Iran, and its support for Israel’s aggression against Libya.
I am glad that the terrorist atrocities in London last year are condemned, however the blame for the bombs is clearly laid against the Labour government rather than the brain washed morons who actually carried out the attacks. Whatever is the reason you think is to blame, again, how is such a motion going to unite us against fighting Islamophobia? One other thought is how old is this template? Israel's aggression against Libya??? (Line 11) What on earth is that about?
5. We call on the people of Britain to:
Oppose all racist rhetoric and violence directed against Muslims
Reject legislation directed against free cultural and religious expression and any legislation seeking to abridge the civil liberties of all citizens. Support the right of Muslims, like any other people, to dress, follow their culture and worship as they please, within the limits of the present law. Support the open letter against Islamophobia and in defence of the Muslim community published recently in the Guardian. 6. Conference resolves to continue to support the work of groups that campaign against Islam phobia and attacks on civil liberties such as Unite Against Fascism and the Stop The War Coalition and to support any public activities, which are in line with UNISON policy which they call in response to these attacks (end).
Yes, I welcomed the idea of the branch stating its solidarity with Muslims, recognising the contribution that diversity plays in our society, the call to oppose all racist rhetoric and violence against Muslims, freedom of religious and cultural expression and its call to support anti-fascist groups. But what conference (line 17) are they talking about; this motion is before a branch AGM? This motion is so badly crafted.
I accept that the proposer and many of the supporters at the meeting did genuinely believe that this template motion, was in their view, a positive attempt to "Say No to Islamophobia". But, and it’s a big But, the people who originally wrote it intended it to be solely, an attack on the Labour Party and its supporters, and libel them as racists and war criminals. If this is their view then by all means they are entitled to express such views. However, they should not "dress up" these views with motions on legitimate issues which would normally create consensus and rally the branch behind the many positive sentiments expressed in the last paragraph.
Instead we are left with the situation that many will simply dismiss the entire motion as another "Trot Trick" (not my words). Why is there never any attempt to create a consensus beforehand and move a motion which will have support of all, rather than fit in the views of a tiny, tiny minority that want to divide us? ....I think I know why.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
On Wednesday it's our branch's AGM. This is supposed to be a very important meeting, to agree the branch accounts, report back to members and hold any contested elections. Normally there is a guest speaker. Last Friday our branch Chair emailed the branch committee and said that the office had been unable to get John Cruddas MP as a speaker so he suggested that a speaker from "Stop the War" (STW) be invited. He indicated that he was consulting on this issue. I didn't see the email until Saturday and I then sent the following reply.
"I think that everyone is aware that I do not support STW (and that the branch/UNISON is unfortunately affiliated to it) However, didn't we have a STW speaker last year? I don't think that such sectarian speakers will encourage members to attend. I appreciate this is late, but what about trying to get Glyn Jenkins (UNISON pensions) to talk about the new LGPS scheme or someone from UNISON Welfare to talk about the important work that they do? John Gray
I did not get a reply but today I did receive a flyer for the AGM. The speaker this year is Linsey German "Stop the War Coalition". For further information I have copied her entry from Wikipedia (the free on-line independent Encyclopedia)
"Lindsey German is a British Trotskyist politician and member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers' Party. Joining the International Socialists in the 1970s German became a full timer for the group by 1977 and has been employed by the organisation continuously since then. She was editor of Socialist Review for twenty years until 2004.
When George Galloway was expelled by the Labour Party, German was a supporter of the move to form RESPECT The Unity Coalition, which includes the SWP and other opponents of the war in Iraq. She is Convener of the Stop the War Coalition and was the Respect candidate for Mayor of London in 2004 and for West Ham, London in the 2005 general elections coming second with 19.5% of the vote. She is the author of numerous books and articles including;
The Balkans: Nationalism and Imperialism (editor),
Sex, Class & Socialism,
Why We Need A Revolutionary Party
Socialists and Class ,
Stop the War: The story of Britain's biggest mass movement, (editor with Andrew Murray),
Theories of Patriarchy
Reflections on the Communist Manifesto".
Sunday, March 11, 2007
"I do not Believe it!" Not one of the 3 SWP/"Respect" Councillors in Newham, East London are members of Trade Unions. How on earth can an organisation which calls itself the Party of "socialism" and "trade unionism" have all their elected representatives against joining trade unions? This is not just in Newham, but also in the only other London borough that has SWP/Respect councillors, where there are only 3 out of 12 (25%) are members of trade unions. Many of these people also actually work in sectors that are well organised by recognised trade unions. This is not just a "snub" but a deliberate signal that SWP/Respect does not support and "Disrespect's" trade union's. The SWP/Respect manifesto claims that:-
"Respect believes that trade unions, democratically controlled by their members, are crucial to a democratic and just society. They are the essential bulwark against exploitation and abuse."
Yet none of the 3 Newham SWP/Respect Councillors are members of trade unions (you can check the "register of interests" on the Newham Website) and only 25% of other London Councillors.
How can you "organise fighting trade unionists" if nearly of your elected reps are not members of a trade union?
Bizarrely, one SWP/Respect Councillor who is NOT a trade union member, instead proudly points out that he is a holder of the "British Empire Medal" (Google BEM and check this website, which is hosted by the Vietnam Veterans Association - I kid you not). Again, you can confirm this on their register of interests declaration.
Why on earth are any serious "trade union socialists" supporting SWP/Respect?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
This quarterly meeting is open to all branch health and safety officers. It is very informal and branch officers are able to share problems and experiences with other colleagues from across the region and all UNISON service groups. If you are a London branch Health and Safety Officer and would like to attend get your branch to contact the regional office make sure you are registered as the branch H&S officer on our computer system.
Workers Memorial Day (WMD) takes place all over the world on 28 April each year. It is a day to remember those who have been killed while at work. Also, it is a campaigning day for health and safety. UNISON's slogan for WMD 2007 is: "Health and safety laws work better when they're enforced!" The TUC has a similar slogan: "Health and Safety needs not just regulations, but also enforcement".
In previous years I have helped organise wreath laying events outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall and the memorial in Three Mills Park, Newham. Trade Union members, Local MP's, London Assembly members, Mayors, Council Chief Officers and religious leaders have attended. This year WMD is on a Saturday. London Mayor Ken Livingston normally organises an event outside the Assembly Hall. So we will probably participate in this. Watch this blog.
UNISON members in photo Back - Esther Dowling (Environment Agency) Me (Tower Hamlets LG), Katrina Hoogendam (Lambeth LG), John Caulfield (Transco), Tom Blacker (Brent Health) Front - Adeline Au (Moorfield Eye hospital), Louis Ellis (Royal Free Hospital), Pam McGuffie (Greenwich LG)
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
This afternoon in Alexander Palace (aka "Ally Pally"), London there was a special conference of UNISON Local Government members. At the conference there was a choice between:
Eventually (after who knows how many speakers -for and against) there was a card vote where a clear majority of delegates voted to support the current package of proposals. I estimated it at 80:20 in favour. Paul Holmes later said he reckoned it was (2:1) 66% in favour and conceded that a card vote would have been even more against his argument since most large branches were in favour of the deal on offer.
One "sour" point (tigmoo). Despite this conference being overall positive (but expensive), I was very "concerned" at the behaviour of some of the delegates in my own London region. Please note that the vast majority of these delegates behaved in an exemplary manner. However, out of 60 odd London delegates there were about 2 or 3 who were continually abusive towards speakers who were against strike action. I apologise to other delegates from other regions who were disturbed by this behaviour. I don't just mean occasional expressions of frustration, moans or groans against the other side "speakers". There was constant and sustained (not shouting) personally abusive and demeaning remarks against nearly every single such speaker by this group. They did not even attack the "politics" of the person. Instead they were about the persons size or weight, that they were personally all corrupt, liars, stupid, thick etc etc. I repeat this not someone losing their temper, it was continual abuse and I believe deliberate abuse to intimidate delegates from speaking against the call for strikes. This is not acceptable. The vast majority of London delegates nearby were I think ashamed by this group and hopefully this incident illustrates why we need change in London region. For ..... sake we are suppose to be trade unionists who are against bullying!
I'll finish on more positive topics such as a pic of Jon Rogers (Far Left: Lambeth) with his "head in his hands" after the result of the vote (nuff said") and then long standing Kingston Branch Secretary, Alex Yap (Middle) and then (Right as in "always" not in "wing") Tower Hamlets Assistant Branch Secretary (Manual) Rita Ash.