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Thursday, 30 April 2009

Who helps the Helpers and who supports the Protectors?

I haven't been able to do much on here for the last two days as I have been feeling a bit unwell. Still feeling sad about the loss of fellow Branch Secretary Malcolm who was such a nice guy and a committed trade union activists. His death has made me think again about how difficult this job is (Branch Secretary) and how difficult it is to get support when you are feeling the stress and continuous pressure. I am always told that the buck stops with me in the Branch and that it is my responsibility to do everything and be all things to all men (and women of course..) Who helps those who help others and where is the support for those of us fighting constant battles and having to deal with constantly changing priorities which bring huge amounts of pressure? Who cares for those of us who have given up careers to serve those we represent? The answer is there is nothing and no one, we only have each other for support and to try and reduce the level of stress. This can't be right? The union structures offer nothing and the employer doesn't want to know!
Nick Venedi

Monday, 27 April 2009

Malcolm Campbell

I was sad to hear of the sudden death of a friend and fellow Branch Secretary Malcolm. He will be missed by all of us. Malcolm was a real fighter and a great communicator loved by many. I always joked with him about the fact that as a Croydon resident and charge payer he was costing me too much, well you were worth it mate. May you rest in peace.

The Parthenon Marbles





Forty five young students and five teachers from a Secondary School in Cephalonia will be protesting outside the British Museum on Sunday 3rd May at 15:30. The students will be protesting for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. If anyone would like to be present to support this protest and hold banners, please contact me on here and I will provide you with more details. Furthermore, postcards, similar to the leaflets that were given out last year will be distributed outside the British Museum during that afternoon.



The Parthenon Marbles belong to the Parthenon and whilst the people of Greece are grateful to the BM for looking after them for so many years they would like them returned.

The Equality Bill and the pay gap

Good to know that the Equality Bill will make organisations produce and publish figures showing the pay differences between men and women at the work place. This will not resolve the problem on its own but will be a first step towards achieving equality. Time to move on and remove the old prejudices and stop allowing commercial companies hide behind the protection of anonymity.
There have been reports and studies published previously demonstrating that the gap between the sexes is unacceptable and that Britain ranks 26th position in the world on this with countries like the Philippines and Russia being at the top and doing much better. This can't be right and it doesn't make economic sense workers should be rewarded for the what they do and their value recognised irrespective of gender or race.
Forcing companies and public sector organisations to release meaningful figures will allow for TU's to work towards achieving the change. And Unison is of course now leading on this. More should also be done to ensure that the gap between Black and White is also narrowed. But well done to the Labour government for pushing this through we all know that the Tories would not have allowed this!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Vote in the NEC Elections! Your vote counts!

We must all ensure that we exercise the right to vote in the NEC elections and vote for people who we know have done a good job before, have something new to contribute or think are representative of our interests and aspirations.

I am deliberately asking people to consider voting for individuals rather than political slates (whatever that means..) I ask the following questions when I use my vote:

1. Is the candidate representative enough in the constituency where they are standing and does she or he bring with them knowledge, potential, charisma and the ability to say what I think and feel.

2. Is the candidate able to demonstrate that despite the fact the she or he has no previous experience is able to do the job and is none dogmatic in their approach.

So please make sure that the vote you have is used and make Dave Prentis happy! Please ring Unison Direct if you have not received the paperwork! Your vote counts!

My top favorite so far is of course Jon Rogers .

UNISON DIRECT 0845 355 0845 call them today if you haven't received a ballot paper!!

Welfare of animals

There has been some debate lately about controlling dangerous dogs and of course there have been some incidents where aggressive dogs have attacked adults and children. This is not acceptable at all. So whilst I agree that we all need to be protected from aggressive animals I would insist that it is the owners of these animals that should have the responsibility to ensure that their dogs are well looked after and they do not suffer in the hands of irresponsible people. A licence system should be introduced with checks and animal welfare charities should be given more powers to take dogs away from those who consider animals to be objects to play with. Animals can't talk and they are very much a part of our families they must be protected! They are inhabitants of this planet and they should not be abused. We should also boycott any supermarket that continuous to allow the sale of animals that come from intensive farming. If I have to eat a chicken (not often but it has been known) I want to know that she had a good short life and wasn't treated like a machine! If we all go for free range the price will eventually come down. We have a responsibility to protect those who can't defend themselves.

Greek community. Reply to comments

A quick response to some of the comments from two readers
Nick Venedi

Friday, 24 April 2009

Greek community in London

A special thanks to John Gray who did a report on his blog (there today) regarding the Greek community and the Bambos Charalambou event last night. As I reported on my site recently I have moved issues to do with organising the London Greek community on to a new blog (with Eleftheria Arv and Elena) as we all thought (based on comments we received) that mixing everything together would create some confusion and the title employment law wasn't very representative of Greeks in London!
Anyway congratulations and thanks to John for taking the time to remember us. Genuinely appreciate the effort.
The Greek community in London numbers around 300,000 the majority of the population (politically active with a lot of opinions) live in the north of London and according to research done by LGR (and I am extensively involved with LGR) there are 8 boroughs where there is a large presence. Enflield and Haringey followed by Camden Islington and Hackney (and some in Southwark) have a large Hellenic population. The community has not been very well organised in the past and the only political organisation (excluding lobby for Cyprus) is the Cypriot Federation which was created in the 50s. The Federation has done a lot of work towards highlighting the Cyprus problem but has not been very energetic or strategic with issues and problems that are faced by second and third generation Brits of Greek origin born and living here. That is what we are now trying to change and that task is looking very enormous. But there is support for this and the work has started, I have already had discussions with P Drousiotis and other Leaders explaining the task ahead. I would add that I estimate that the vast majority of Brits of Greek origin are traditional 'loyal' Labour party voters and would say 80% vote for Labour. But more needs to be done to promote the interests and aspirations of the second and third generation and that is the present challenge! Will post Eleftherias link when she is happy with the final product! Thanks to John Gray again!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

St George for England!?

Happy England day for those who chose to celebrate it and please think again to those who come up with arguments against having such an event.
Richard the Lion Heart (rumour has it he was a member of the SDP) introduced the concept and the English flag (red cross white background) in the 12th century. Shakespeare was born on the 23rd of April ( I know about the issues around whether he existed )
There is nothing wrong with having a specific day where England as a country is remembered. We have St Patricks day for Ireland St Andrews day for Scotland and St David for Wales so why not have a day for England? I was born in England ( although I wasn't brought up here ) and consider this country to be my home. My family celebrate the 25th of March which is the Hellenic national day (coincides with Santa Maria day)
I am in agreement that what needs to be explored is whether the link between a religious day and a national day is acceptable in a multi cultured multi religious and atheist modern state but putting a day aside to say this is a day to remember where we are and have a day off is not a bad idea. We need to relax a bit more about these issues and aim for equality amongst the other nations within the U.K (don't shoot me all at once!) And what a disgrace that the BBC news has not even mentioned the day! They mentioned Katie Price and Peter Andre joking in LA but didn't think that mentioning England day is important? St George was after all a Roman soldier who protested about the treatment of Christians in Syria by the Romans so he was, in a way, taking industrial action something which we should sympathise with?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

NEC Elections and negative comments

Well it hasn't been that bad so far but a few errors have been made in my opinion.
First the UL needs to reply to comments about why they did not put up more women and Black candidates and second targeting specific individuals on a personal basis (not by the UL) is not nice, right or acceptable unless it happens to be based on fact.
The UL needs to answer the question re women and Black candidates.
Those choosing to target and make personal criticisms of Marsha Jane should consider the impact this would have on their own credibility. I have worked with Marsha (and indeed I wrote a thesis with her a few years ago on the Labour movement) and I know her to be a hard working fighter who is trying her best to help and support members in a male dominated TU movement. Why are these 'critics' not attacking any of the other women candidates on the UL ticket? What is so different about Marsha? Is she really such a big threat or is it because she is young? We should also not forget that we need to be encouraging young members to become more active and must not be intimidated by younger women who want to make a difference? So tone it done guys and focus on real time criticism?
Plus I want to see more about what both sides want to be doing to stop the Tories from winning the next election? That is the real threat! And Jon Rogers would do better by reducing the size of his contributions on his blog as most of us would only read 2 or 3 paras at a time (busy and all that?)
Nosotros Estamos Preparados

Monday, 20 April 2009

Editorial policy

Just a note to those who keep sending me brief comments with links to blogs with negative material. I will not publish these. If you have something to say then you are welcome to make a statement and as long as it is not totally negative it will show up. But links to other sites is not acceptable on their own.
Cheers

Why the Labour party is the only choice

I was able to watch national television a few hours on Sunday morning and was unfortunate enough to witness the idiotic talk by the shadow Chancellor (Tory) on the Andrew Marr show (show? what does that mean?? Thought shows had dancers in them?) The shadow Chancellor couldn't help himself but blame all the world problems on the Labour government and the public sector workers. What shocked me is the time he spend stating categorically that public sector pensions must be reformed and changed and that would be his priority. He used words like 'the benefits received by public sector workers is indefensible' and he made it absolutely clear that any Tory government will make an attack against us as their number one priority! As though any one had any dobuts before...

So let there be no doubt as to who the enemy are. Its the Tory party in waiting and those who are helping them by creating divisions amongst the progressive forces of the Labour party. The message to comrades on the far left, or the Peoples Judean Front, or Judean Peoples Front (the disorganised left as I call them) is that at least real Labour and traditional party members are still alive and active and will fight to ensure that a new Labour government continuous to support the aspirations of working people and will produce legislation like the Minimum Wage and better maternity and paternity leave. Stop the divisions and concentrate on what the real fight is and will soon be!
There is nothing wrong with having a collective of good activists running the NEC so vote for people who you think will represent your interests irrespective of what others say they do. We know who the good activists in London are so lets vote them in! Look at my entry on the 15th April.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Christos Anesti!

Well too busy this weekend with the Orthodox Easter, spending a lot of time with family and friends. So Christos Anesti to all who celebrate it today. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

NEC Election special - Avanti Popolo!

I am going to avoid getting involved with directly supporting any fixed slate. I come from a Self Organised Group background and believe in the freedom of speech and the right to express personal views and opinions. I do not accept that it is scientifically possible, or desirable, for one specific 'ticket' to be able to produce a selection of the best candidates and a mixture of individuals from different backgrounds and opinions on the NEC will serve the broader interests.

The NEC election is a great opportunity for all members to vote and select those who we think, or know, will represent our interests better. So as I said in a previous entry I will be talking about the candidates I know and say what I think about what they have done or what they are capable of doing in my opinion.

Jon Rogers

Jon is already a member of the NEC and has worked hard to keep everyone he represents informed. He produces regular reports and updates and is always helpful to those who want information about what he does and what other NEC members do. In that respect he is truly capable, able and good at the job. His willingness to question and challenge what he sees as injustice makes him a good candidate. He is also pragmatic in his approach to problem solving and is more centre left than his opponents says he is. A good Labour party member who should, in my opinion, be reelected. He is also full of energy and enthusiasm, is kind and generous with giving up his time to help others. He needs to work on his sense of humour and renew his old jokes but that, in itself, is not a problem that should make him difficult to elect. A good all rounder and a charismatic leader one of the very few people I know who is capable of becoming an MP but does not want to! His role on the NEC makes him a natural! He must be returned and those who dislike him on the NEC will do better trying to work with him!

Marsha Jane Thompson

Newish vibrant young and willing to help. She deserves our support and should be given the chance to flourish. She has been unfairly targeted in the past and criticised but has a lot to offer. She makes up for her relative inexperience by showing undiminished enthusiasm and has lots of energy!

Louise Couling

Underestimated by those on the Ultra Left (whatever that means) she is clever and a smooth operator and commands more support than some think. She has also been involved with a number of successful campaigns and initiatives and she is more in control than others imagine her to be. She will no doubt win the NEC seat she currently holds and probably deserves to. She represents a sector of the membership that the left keeps ignoring....

Phoebe Watkins

A fantastic individual who works hard to represent members in her own branch. Her membership of the SWP could go against her but if members want to vote for capable individuals rather than party labels then she should get the support.

Conroy Lawrence

Conroy has shown determination and stamina by standing and winning the deputy Regional Convenor position twice. He should not be underestimated. Saying that I have not seen him come up with many initiatives but that could be because he hasn't been given the opportunity to do so?

Glen Kelly

Again if members were to vote on the basis of someones ability then he would win support. Glen is already a member of the NEC and he is well known.

Mandy Berger

Another interesting contestant and ex Deputy Convenor for London. She has done well at conferences before and could do well in this election. I don't think she is a member of the SWP any more? She needs to spend more time and effort convincing the UL people to understand the origins of SOG and make them work with SOG's!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

NEC Elections

I have been asked by a number of hopeful candidates to declare my support and help with their campaign. I have decided to look at everyone who is standing and give an honest opinion of what I think of them based on what I know they have done. I will be careful and will try to be as positive as I can and constructive in my criticism.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Just pictures!

My dog Sparky on the left, Helen and her friends below.








Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Sunday...


Picture on the left. Procession in Jerez on the Thursday night


Easter Sunday reminds me of the wonderful times I had with my Spanish ex and our friends in Jerez, Andalusia. This was a special time in my life but like many other things I didn't realise that at the time (younger and more foolish I expect...)

The Andulucians have a fantastic way to celebrate major events and Semana Santa (Holy week) is a very special time which brings family and close friends together. It is a time for forgiveness, reflection and of course celebration.

Felice Semana Santa!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Felice Semana Santa - Happy Easter either this week or next week!

Easter to me signifies the change of seasons and the arrival of spring. This was probably why the ancient people had a festival around this time of year and we have continued this tradition since the arrival of Christianity.
It always, however, amazes me that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (including the Protestants) celebrate the period on different dates and it makes me wonder why we have not been able to sort that one out! Why do we have Western Good Friday today and Orthodox Good Friday next week? Why not the same day? If my father is to be believed this is done because flights from London to Athens or London to Moscow (another centre of Orthodoxy) are cheaper a week later! This is, unfortunately for my father not correct. It is more to do with whichever calendar we all use. But even that don't make sense as the Greek Orthodox church (not the Russian) celebrates every other event, including Christmas, on the same day as the West. My point here is that if we can move dates (like we do with Unison AGM's) to suit everyone why can't we do the same for Easter? It will make life easier for all of us and it will mean that I won't have two entries in my calendar! I shall be writing to the Patriarch of Constantinople to ask him this question (but won't hold my breath for a reply)
Happy Easter to everyone who is taking time off! I hope Salisbury's is opened as I got no food for the dog!!
Nick Venedi

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Women in senior positions

I recently read an article based on a survey conducted by Grant Thornton that the UK is behind the Philippines in appointing women to senior posts. The survey lists the UK at 26th place in the world with just two thirds of firms employing women in high ranking positions. The Philippines came top with Russia second and China not far behind.
What is interesting about these stats is that the common perception, or popular notion, that it would be Europe that leads in this field is not correct and the figures show clearly that the developing world is far ahead on this. The stats also show that we need to be doing more as Trade Unionists to breach this gap of disgrace.
The broad picture, as suggested by the survey, brings some home truths to light too through personal experience. In Lambeth, for example, the employer has always had major problems dealing with this challenge and whenever a senior appointment of a woman chief officer is made it has usually been followed by their quick demise. I can name names to illustrate this but I will not to protect the officers in question. There is something wrong with a system that allows this situation and more action should be taken. I can only congratulate Unison for taking steps by introducing the concept of proportionality to deal with our own problems in this respect.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

.5% pay offer is no offer!

We all know by now that the body representing the employer has made an 'offer' of .5% for this years pay negotiations. This is of course not acceptable and it is, to say the least, provocative. The employer is obviously hoping that the current economic climate will force us to agree reductions and lower pay rises, this is at the same time as MPs are giving themselves a 2.5% increase. We must resist and fight against this provocation! On top of that we will have to fight an attack on our pensions that seems to be around the corner. Time to unite and fight?

Pictures from Vienne










































Simple entry this one. Here are some of the pictures Rene managed not to delete from his digital camera showing Vienne a town south of Lyon where we stayed last weekend.
Nick Venedi



































































































































































Sunday, 5 April 2009

YES WE CAN!!

A confident President Obama delivered an inspiring speech to a huge crowd in Prague signaling the start of what will be a great opportunity for the world to unite behind a charismatic leader, a man with vision and the ability to inspire free thinkers. This was a fantastic event and the choice to hold it in the city that was invaded in 1968 by the Soviets was a good one. We must all say Yes we can and work towards achiving the end of world poverty, international equality, the right of freedom of expression, the removal of nuclear weapons and the right of smaller nations to have an equal voice on the world stage. What a change from the days of Bush!!
Yes we can!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Happy Birthday Helen!

I promised Helen, my sister in law, that I would not post a comment about her on the blog so Happy birthday Helen. She has been a good sister in law and married my younger brother Mario when she was only 18 (he was 22) they have been together since then and have two children Andri and Zac who are of course like my children too. We are all going to the party tonight to celebrate Helen's 40th birthday so happy birthday Mrs nifi (as I call her) promise not to go on about the 40 years...

Friday, 3 April 2009

NATO

Well the London show is over and the G20 summit has come to an end with decisions about spending trillions of dis billions of money to rescue the world economy that should not have needed any rescuing if responsible governments had the brains to regulate the finance industries in the first place. But like everyone else I hope that the fantasy measures adopted yesterday will work?
The London summit or show over and President Obama is off to France to preside over the NATO meeting. NATO leaders will be meeting to discuss militarism in action and celebrating 60 years of the alliance. An alliance that did not prevent two key members in 1974, Greece and Turkey from going to war (there was no war declared but around 3,000 troops from both sides were killed ) not a very good achievement and one to be proud of? There has also been a number of other near misses since then. NATO converts would of course argue that it could have been worse had NATO not been formed but that is no comfort to the relatives of those who suffered in 1974. Turkey continuous to occupy part of Cyprus since then and NATO has not been able to 'facilitate' a solution between two 'allies', I would say that was a huge failure! Europe should organise independently of the USA and not depend on the Americans for running the continent! The UN is a viable alternative to any military alliance give them more power!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Battle of Lichtenstein!

Well it looks like the world economy will be saved after all as Lichtenstein has agreed to regulate deposits and open up! In other words a tiny state with a population of around 20,000 will save the world by regulating its banking system? I think not.
The summit, so far, appears to be a photo opportunity for world leaders with big heads who see it as a photo opportunity. What with Sarcosi and the German Chancellor having their own press conference to match that of the British and Americans. In other words the divisions that allowed us in the first place to ensure that there is no communication between major players continuous! And where were the Chinese I ask?
On a different note President Obama looked and sounded good at the joint conference giving measured responses to questions from journalist. He is an inspiration and I am thinking that this charismatic leader could, after all, have a major contribution to make. Good bye Bush! Also loved the bit where Michele Obama (the new Jacquie Kennedy?)gave the Queen a hug, the British press described this as a 'gesture against protocol' What a lot of bananas I say! The Queen is a person and is an equal to any other. Drop the snobbery British press this is 2009?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

London Unison AGM results 2009

I received the detail of the election results of the recent London AGM today and although I would have liked to keep quite about it I have been tempted to make a comment.
The figures show a significant shift in support of the current administration with Gloria, Conroy and John Gray increasing the number of votes they received from previous years. My best friend John Gray, for example, has increased his majority from 4 (in 2006 when we stood against each other) to 34. The same trend shows with the number of votes received by Gloria and Conroy. That is, of course a significant shift? I wonder why that happened?

10 Years of Minimum Wage

Today we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the Minimum Wage. A change brought in by the Labour government after years of pressure from the Trades Union movement. A major achievement and a development that would never have been realised under any Tory government and that is what we should all remember. There is a long way to go to ensure that other inequalities are dealt with and the minimum wage is increased to reflect a real living wage but the fact remains that we have, with the Labour government, moved quite a way forward. That is why activists like myself are members of the Labour party! But lets move forward and abolish the distinctions between the ages and increase the minimum level to a fair one!

Welcome President Obama

For me the G20 summit will be nothing other than a talking shop where 'world leaders' will be competing with each other to score points.

The main event is the arrival of President Obama who is an inspiration to many of us especially those who, for years, were made to think that colour was a barrier to achievement. His popularity and tremendous victory in the US is a triumph of meritocracy over old established views and ideas on race.


I hope that there will be some positive proposals made by those representing the world at the G20 but I remain sceptical and critical of a system that has failed the world so many times in the past and continuous to do so. I will be following what President Obama says and does with interest.