Saturday, March 31, 2007

Who do Trade Unions Represent? Part III

  1. 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.

  2. 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

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bow Belles join Bow Boys

Apologies for the sexist pun. Last night candidates Dr Rupa Huq (UNISON: Left) and Rushanara Ali (GMB Right) were also present at the Bow West branch nomination meeting. Former MP Oona King who lives in the ward also turned up to vote. The results are very interesting. Rushanara (who use to work for Oona) was the clear BME nomination. Then Rupa got the Women’s nomination and David Edgar narrowly piped John Biggs. Ayub was nominated twice however he did not “work” Bow due to time constraints. However, he made plenty of contacts that night talking to members.

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

To my United Left Comrades - Is there a conspiracy against you?

This is "off message" but I must post this urgent and important link for all my friends in UNISON United Left. Treachery is afoot!
I'm at home supposed to be painting the bannister at the moment.

You may have to try 2 or 3 times (speakers/headphones on)

Bow Boys

Ayub has already posted this picture of Candidates outside last night’s selection meeting. However, “extracting the michael” slightly. It reminds me somewhat of the famous Peter Sellers “lift gag”. Right to left John Biggs (London Assembly member GMB), Cllr Ayub Korom Ali (UNISON nominee), Cllr Alex Heslop (UNISON), Mohamed Munaf Zina Zeena, David Edgar (T&G), a local member whose name I did not catch (who said that he had been visited at his home by 31 candidates so far!) and Dr. Hasanat M. Husain MBE.

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

Ayub Korom Ali: On a Roll - Sucess at Mile End & Globe Town

The UNISON London Labour Link nominee for Bethnal Green & Bow PPC, Ayub Korom Ali, won another nomination tonight at the Mile End and Globe Town Branch selection meeting.

He also narrowly lost out (by only one vote!) a further nomination from Weavers branch.

The selection process has been dealt a upset by the unexpected and sudden withdrawal today by one of the other favourites, Anwara Ali. Anwara told me outside the Weavers meeting that as a scientist she had worked out that she would lose, so there was no point in going on for this election. She is a talented and capable candidate and everyone would wish her well in any future campaign.

Ayub and I are long time observers of Tower Hamlets politics, the selection process seems to be progressing remarkably smoothly without any "big rows" (see picture below of some of the 64 candidates and CLP officers). The atmosphere outside selection meetings has been, there I say quite "comradely". No doubt, now there will now be the most enormous "barney"! Today and tomorrow, it is Bow Wards turn to vote.

Young Mum’s Bite Back! The Future of Blogging?

Actually, to no-ones great surprise, I am not a "Mum" nor “young” (I’m young at heart, of course). However, today I had the privilege of being invited to speak to a young parents support group about “blogging”. The project is supported by Connexions London East. Judith Garfield, the manager of Eastside Community Heritage and Richard Bolt (Chair of Trustees) thought that my brief but intensive experience of blogging may be of interest to the group. My views (posts) are my own, however, blogging is actually more difficult than some people make out but not as difficult as may seem when you first log on to a blog provider (the only language providers seem to understand is “planet geek”) To quote Judith, “The project will train the young people as journalists, oral historians to tell their story and interview older parents about parenthood and what experiences they have had and the older parents had in the past, the project will also provide training in historical research and trips i.e. to Ragged School Museum, foundling museum”. It is also intended to be resource for support, advice and "fun".

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.

Stop Press: Bow School Strike Off

Two days of strike action due to start tomorrow at Central Foundation School, Bow, E3 over the threat of compulsory redundancies (see previous post) have been called off. I rang Jean Lane (pro-active local steward and branch assistant secretary) today to find out what picket line to report to tomorrow (I am on annual leave this week). Jean texted me back to say that the strike has been called off and members are pleased with the settlement. Well done everyone. Further details to follow.

Lyn Brown MP - Stratford "T Party"

This is the second constituency development meeting (aka "Tea Party") that I have attended. This time the response was overwhelming with standing room only at one point. Lyn is the Labour MP for West Ham. She invited local Ward (Labour) Councillors Richard Crawford, David Griffin and Regina Williams to attend. It took place on Saturday at the historic Old Town Hall, Stratford, London, E15. Tea, coffee and biscuits were on offer. However, the aim of the event is for residents to meet up informally with their MP and Councillors to discuss local issues and concerns. You can become quite cynical about public participation in political life, especially about domestic issues. But this type of event shows that people will turn up and give up part of a Saturday morning to talk about "bread and butter" concerns which are important to them if given the chance.

Next one should be in Forest Gate (North) on 28 April 2007 (which is also Workers Memorial Day)

Private Equity Fights Back

In response to my “Casino Capitalists” or “Amoral Asset-Strippers”. Private Equity: What should trade union Pension Trustees do? - Terry has sent me a copy of an article he wrote on this issue. Cicero Policy Briefer Issue 10, March 2007

"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

Pre-emptive strike against Iranian Nuclear Facilities?

This is the sort of person who is the "leader" of the country currently detaining 15 British Sailors and Royal marines. "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described the Holocaust as "a myth" Israel "must be wiped out from the map of the world." CNN. It seems that the present Iranian leadership, by carrying out such provocative action, are doing their very best to encourage a pre-emptive strike against their Nuclear facilities. I am not normally a fan of conspiracy theories but you could almost think that these people are in the pay of Israel or America? If they don’t release the Brit sailors/marines soon (or God forbid harm then) then the Neo Cons will enjoy “Christmas Come Early”.

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)

Photo of Iranian missile (top right)

The New Capitalists?

Belated picture of the latest meeting of the UNISON "Capital Stewardship" working group in London last week. The volunteers are all member nominated representatives on Local government pension schemes. We are trying to set up a forum within UNISON on such issues. I’ve taken this extract (below) from the UNISON website on CS.

"What is capital stewardship?

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

Support Fremantle workers!

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 and Catalyst (who are also involved) Chief Executive Rod Cahill at
Also I have emailed Barnet UNISON this proposed petition which could be submitted to the Number 10 web site

"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
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"I have been following the recent BBC news concerning events in Zimbabwe. Why is the British Government so shy of taking firmer action?"RP

The other night I received this email from a friend who was brought up in Africa. He sent this to all his friends (I assume in a state of despair) . This is my reply.

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.

nuf said?

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Conversation with Nick Cohen: "What's Left? How the Liberals Lost their Way"

Just back from a very interesting evening with Nick at Red Lion Square. "", "The Euston Manifesto", "Engage" and "Mishcon de Reya" hosted "a conversation with Nick Cohen". Author of "one of the most discussed current affairs books of the new year" (Guardian) Cohen tells the story of how parts of the Liberal-Left of the 20th Century ended up supporting the far Right of the 21st in the shape of Islamic extremism. Interviewing Nick was Anthony Julius, lawyer and academic, founding member of both Engage and The Euston Manifesto, and author of TS Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form.

Nick (middle) was an absolutely brilliant speaker, even though I do not agree with all (but that is not the point) of his views. I must write up my review of his book (which was the topic of my first ever post).

In the meanwhile I must post this quote again from Nick (my favourite) "George Galloway, was a bombastic Scottish Labour MP who combined blood-curdling rhetoric with a whining sentimentality, like many a thug before him".

By co-incidence the above picture of Tom, Nick and I was taken by James Purnell MP, Minster of State for Pension reform (a subject close to my heart). I must get a better camera.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

STRIKE! School staff all out to stop compulsory redundancies

94% of UNISON members in the flagship voluntary aided, Central Foundation Girls School, Bow, East London, voted in a secret postal ballot to carry out strike action next week to stop compulsory redundancies. On Wednesday (28 March) and Thursday (29 March) school administration staff will go on strike to save members jobs.

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: . Also supporters are requested to contact the headmistress at:

Central Foundation Girls' School
Harley Grove Bow London E3 2AT
Fax: 020 8983 0188

Email: welcome@central.towerhamlets.sch.ukAnd request that meaningful negotiations are started urgently to try and resolve this dispute

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From East End Sweat Shop to the House of Commons?

Press Release: Ayub Korom ALI: London UNISON Labour Link Nominee to be Bethnal Green & Bow Parliamentary Candidate
UNISON is the UK’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members. It is also the largest trade union in Tower Hamlets. “Labour Link” is the name given to the voluntary trade union political levy, paid by Labour Party supporters in UNISON. There are around 1,000 UNISON members who live in the Bethnal Green and Bow CLP, who are members of “Labour Link”. UNISON London Region “Labour Link” is affiliated to the constituency.

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: or on the internet

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

Petition Number 10 (ii) Modernise Statutory Building Standards

Today I got an email from kate-lewisham via MyBlogLog (so far it has about 8 votes). I suppose it is too early to say whether these on-line petitions will have any lasting impact? However, we cannot just let "conservative interests" (with a small or large C) e.g road pricing, set the agenda on something which could become important in the future.

Your Message from kate-lewisham----Hi i saw you have an interest in social housing, I have started a petition which might be of some interest to you. The petition is to have the statutory standard for housing modernised so that funding can be made available to build and improve family sized homes. It would be great if you could take a look and perhaps let other people know.

Petition Number 10 - London Living Wage

I have received two requests to publicise new Number 10 petitions. The first is from Nick Wall (see below). Under the petition is a draft email that I have circulated for approval to members of Newham TULO following our last meeting. Has anyone any suggestions or they may want to send a similar email to their Council leaders on this subject? The picture is of Ken being presented a plaque by London Citizens for his efforts to make the GLA a living wage employer.

"I have started a petition on the 10 Downing Street website in support of a living wage" :
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to take steps to replace the national minimum wage with a living wage based on the level of pay and conditions that enables a full-time worker to make ends meet for themselves and their family. Official regional living wage figures should be announced such as the one given by Mayor Livingstone for London (currently £7.05 an hour). Nick Wall
Sample letter
Dear Mr Burbage

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?

John Gray
Newham TULO

copied to the usual suspects

Monday, March 19, 2007

UNISON nominates Ayub Korom ALI as Candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow CLP to fight SWP/disRespect

Today there was an interview of UNISON Parliamentary Panel members to select who UNISON Labour Link will nominate as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow. This seat is of course currently held by George Galloway.
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

New UNISON Recruiting Video and Mr Benn for Deputy Leader

On similar vein. Thanks to Mike Ion, who last night posted what I hope is a “spoof” video for the real American public services trade union AFSCME. I assume that the Tony Soprano style commentary has been added later.

Click on link to go to “youtube” to watch (put sound on – you don’t need to join) AFSCME
Also he posted the “official” Vote Mr Benn for deputy leader video, which immediately took me back 30 (odd) years.

Socialist Alliance - Where has all the money gone?

I doubt very much that I will ever post the logo of the Socialist Alliance again on my blog. However, the “public” disagreement between former comrades on the fate of the money left in the Party’s account after it collapsed in 2005 is very entertaining.

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?

Thanks to Tom at “Labour and Capital”. He seems to be the only person consistently pushing this issue. There has been a fair amount of justifiable fuss about Private Equity (also hedge funds and venture capital) investors. These investors have been accused of using tax breaks on interest payments to buy companies and saddle them with massive debts. They pay for these debts by sacking staff and attacking the terms and conditions of those they don’t sack. See the GMB campaign over the AA and the T&G over Sainsbury.

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?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Solidarity with the Zimbabwe Trade Unions

I am sure that the pictures of the violent beating that trade unionist and opposition politician, Morgan Tsvangirai, has horrified everyone who has seen it.
Labourstart have started an on-line campaign to show Solidarity with Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and campaign for human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
I have taken part but I strongly suspect that in this case "on-line" petitions will not get rid of Mugabe.
What is the answer? There appears to be a lot of hand-wringing at the moment.

Number 10 Petition on making WMD "National Day of Remembrance"

Click on Number 10 to sign the e-petition and ask the Prime Minister to declare 28 April an official day of mourning. You just have to enter your name (which is published), email & home address (which is kept confidential). Number 10 send you a confirmation email back, which you just click on a link and your name is registered. Should take less than 5 minutes.

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

"Red Flower Day" London Labour UNISON

London Region UNISON Labour Link committee support Comic Relief "Red Flower Day". Joint Chair, Louise Couling, proudly wore her badge of honour, presented by children from her local school (she is a “lollypop” lady) with UNISON GLA member Joanne McCartney and MP Jeremy Corbyn. On the way to the meeting, outside Holborn underground station, there were two Comic relief clowns (disguised as Labour Party leadership candidates - any ideas who?) who provided the comic relief "red flowers" for a suitable donation.

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

Exploiting Islamophobia?

At my Trade Union branch AGM yesterday there was a motion called "Say No to Islamophobia". At first sight, most members would think that this must be a "good thing" and automatically support it. However, when you actually look at all of it, you realise it is a classic example of non-representative political groups, trying to slip in their own sectarian ideology into a consensual issue and exploit it for their own ends. These "template" motions are unfortunately pretty common place in the trade union movement and the Labour Party

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

Labour CLP TULO training with Assembly members

On Saturday, Labour Party "Trade Union Liaison Officers" (TULO), from all over London met up at a training event with Labour Greater London Assembly members John Biggs, Valerie Shawcross and Murad Qureshi (see pic with UNISON members Louise Couling and Fazlul Chowdhury). There were speakers from London Labour Party regional office and London Labour Board. The event was organised by London TULO and there were trade union CLP officers from all parts of London present. All of whom were Labour Party members who are also trade union affiliates to individual London Constituencies. There were trade union members from Amicus, ASLEF, CWU, GMB, MU, TGWU, TSSA, UCATT, UNISON and USDAW.

It may be helpful to explain that in London, the Labour Party (usually) organises around Parliamentary Constituencies (CLP). In each CLP there should be a Trade Union Liaison Officer(CLP TULO), who is elected by the trade union affiliates to that CLP. Rather confusingly, there is also Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (national TULO) which is the national body representing Labour Party Trade Union affiliates.

After speakers, there was a Q&A, followed by workshops. One of the main aims of the event was how as trade union affiliates we were going to support the Party in the GLA elections next year and in particular defeat the BNP.

I thought the event was a huge success and very encouraging. Trade unions have been a traditional source of finance for the Party. However, its organisational potential for electoral campaigning has not been fully utilised in recent times. Future training sessions have been planned. Watch this space.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who do Trade Unions Represent? Part II

A little while ago I brought up the subject of democracy and representation in some trade union branches. There was a fairly wide range of posts on the issue and various solutions offered. I thought that I may update you on an interesting development.

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),
Frederick Engels
Theories of Patriarchy
Reflections on the Communist Manifesto".

nuf said?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SWP Councillors DisRespect Trade Unions?

"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

WMD 28 April 2007 - Safety Reps Network

UNISON London Region Health and Safety Committee has set up a successful "Safety Reps Network". Here, some members of the network at their lunchtime meeting held yesterday (7 March 2007), hold up UNISON posters advertising this years Workers Memorial Day (WMD).

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

UNISON Conference throws out Pension Strike Call

80% of "rank and file" UNISON local government delegates reject call to ballot for strike action over changes to our pension scheme.

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:
Composite A motion moved by our elected lay leadership "supporting" the current package of proposals regarding our pension, asking for negotiations to continue, then for there to be a consultative ballot of all members. This ballot would ask members if they accept the proposals or if they will support "substantial and escalating industrial action". or

Composite C motion rejecting the current package of proposals and calling for a ballot for an "escalating programme of national strike action to begin asap" and for UNISON to publically support a "yes" vote to this call for strikes.

To be blunt -A: No Strike or C: Strike.

(There were also important business regarding equalities in the LGPS which was less controversial)

I was a local government lay delegate but I was unable to express my view (and I "think", of the overwhelming vast majority of my members) at the conference since our delegation was "mandated" (see previous posts) to vote for an immediate strike ballot and the recommendation for strike action (I am contesting the validity of this).

However, I thought that the debate at times was pretty good. Both sides were able to field speakers who eloquently expressed both sides of the argument. However, it was also at times very bad tempered.
Delegates no doubt felt very passionate about this issue. However, I did think that the speakers in favour of strike action concentrated their arguments on criticising the way the campaign had been fought so far (which is a fair comment I suppose - but wrong) rather than commenting on where we are now and what are our realistic options for the future. I must also admit that when Paul Holmes of Kirklees branch, (normally a sensible speaker), told the conference that we should go on strike, because in March 28th last year, during our last "one day" strike the "Government was on its knees" ?????? that things have got out of hand. March 28th was very successful, but in no way was the Government threatened in that way and it is madness to suggest otherwise.

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.