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Friday, 31 July 2009

The right to live with dignity

I am coming out on the side of the right to live with dignity which means that when all else stops working and medical advances or interventions will clearly not work then the individual suffering the pain and indignity should be allowed to chose to go with dignity and helped with this. This will of course be a very difficult decision to make and there must be exceptionally strong safeguards to ensure that the system is not abused or the person choosing to go isn't put under pressure to do so. But we must get over this obsession with making people suffer for years when there is clearly no hope for them and allow them and those close to them the right to be assisted without criminalising them.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The debate about organic food

There is a lot been said about whether organic food is more beneficial. The BBC in their wisdom had a story about this today on the breakfast news (which is more about who throws who a ball at cricket rather than real news..) anyway I think that they have got the issues wrong (again) organic food cannot grow without exposure to the atmosphere and it certainly can't avoid acid rain. So these neo liberals who dedicate their lives to growing organic beards (not so much the women of course) have got the wrong end of the stick. The debate should be about mass production and the ethics of growing food that we then throw away to ensure that prices remain high. We should be focusing more on that and using fair methods in how we treat the animals that end up on our plate. The BBC should be talking about how imperative it is to support methods of food production that give the animals we eat a bit of a better life be it short? But then they always get things wrong. I blame the United Left myself!!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Changes start again

The majority of us know and expect the cycle of reductions in public sector services to start soon and Lambeth shows no signs of wanting to keep out of that madness. I am attending a meeting today with members in areas that will be affected by a reorganisation that the Council calls 'Excellent Cash Management' project. The fancy title was given by some Chief Officer who wants to make a name for himself and simply means that the movement of people around will start again. This project affects some 70 staff and at its core is the 'centralisation' of parts of the Finance services around collecting revenue something that was already in place in the late 80's that was then decentralised, moved around and about and now its been centralised again. This could of course be OK but it involves changing some members job descriptions and there could even be some job loses. We will of course be fighting any proposal that could mean making any of our members redundant and we have a good record in the central areas of avoiding this but the fact remains that this is the start or the return of that mad cycle of reorganisation after reorganisation that Lambeth seemed to have been obsessed with in the past. We will do more to get ready for the fight!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Byron and the Parthenon Marbles

Watched a programme on channel 4 last night on the life of Byron (I don't use titles) which was more about Rupert Everet showing off than anything else. Of course Byron who was well liked in South Europe ended up supporting the war of independence in Greece which was at the time (1820) under occupation by the Ottomans. He also had a fight with Elgin who exploited the opportunity that the Greeks as a nation were in huge trouble and stole parts of the Parthenon Marbles something that would today be regarded as direct theft. What remains amazing is the fact that the brigadier trolley types of the British Museum continue to refuse to return what belongs to the Greek nation. I would like to see Greece refusing to hand over the Olympic flame in July 2012 ( which has to come from Olympia in Southern Greece) unless the museum returns the Marbles! I shall be organising that campaign with others soon.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Olympics 3 Years from today... time to return the Parthenon Marbles

The Olympics will be starting 3 years from today and London will be celebrating the start of what would be a great event. I was born and spend most of my life in London and therefore feel particularly proud and excited that I might be able to be so close to such a fantastic gathering of people from all over the world. I am just hoping that I may be able to get into the opening ceremony this time as I was unable to do so in Athens in 2004 even though I tried. The Olympic spirit can teach us all so much and it will unite the world for a few weeks and has also forced the government into regenerating a part of the capital that was so neglected before. What a wonderful opportunity also for the stuck up plonkers in the British museum to return back the Parhtenon Marbles to the country that gave us all the Olympics?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Support the Vestas Workers

Congratulations to the RMT for supporting the workers at Vestas who have occupied their factory and refuse to leave until the government steps in and helps them like they did when the bankers messed up the banking system. Why shouldn't other workers be given the same level of support? The answer is because the government (and yes I know I am a Labour party member) did not want to let their city mates down. Sign the petition and get your branch to do something to help out.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The real work...

I was involved with a debate this evening with a number of friends outside the branch who have a number of opinions on how things should be done. My message to them was simple and easy. The real work at branch level dealing with members on front line is to have a strong structure that allows democratic debate and promotes progression of new and existing activists to a level where they are able to deal with bread and butter issues like representing members at disciplinary hearings, sickness panels, reorganisations and a plethora of other things that take up the majority of our time. Having debates about whether Marks or Spencer had the right theory in the 18th century is interesting, fascinating and sometimes not that boring but to keep going on about that is a bit out of date. The simple fact is 98% of the membership will support a leadership that delivers major aims and objectives and aspirations that are shared by the vast majority of the membership So whilst I will defend the right of anyone (excluding far right idiots) to say what they want to say I have in the past made it clear that the real work of those involved in protecting members interest is around the negotiating table and other panels where representation is needed. Its easy to attack those in 'leadership positions' but a bit meaningless when those aspiring to have that task assigned to them are not able to do the day to day work that is needed.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The problem with the left

I said it before and will say it again that the problem with the far left is that the display of utter disunity and constant in fighting is the most apparent and obvious characteristic that they are known for.
I am not a very 'satisfied customer' when it come to New Labour and its policies but when I briefly looked at what the alternative is and what is on offer I was amazed to encounter the 50 or so different groups that declare themselves to be on the far left and whilst the idea of mass rebellion appeals to me the fact that it will be mathematically impossible for any of the groups (and they are virtually tiny) to ever form a government I do not believe that they will ever be in a position to attract enough people to fill a caravan never mind wining anything or forming a government. So my original argument which is to stay within the Labour party and fight for reforms still stands and I will invite them all to seriously consider joining the Labour party (if they will have them which I think they should) and help bring in changes. They often confuse Peter Mandelson Laborites with real grass root Labour supporters who believe that the Labour party was created by the Trade Union movement for working people in this country. Keep the Tories out and get real!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Levithan is hungry...

I was explaining in some detail to my Branch committee this morning that we seem to be heading back to the old days when the Levithan (Lambeth Council) moved from one reorganisation to the next. We had service plans, the corporate plan, the Reg Race report, the post Appelby inquiry changes, MTFS 1,2 and 3, privatisations and a number of other local changes including the dreadful destabilisation of Housing which led to the setting up of the ALMO (otherwise called Lambeth Living). Then there were the budget driven cuts imposed because the Levithan got its financial planning wrong. Well we appear to be returning back to them bad old days.
We have of course seen it all before but what will make the new cuts even worst is the possible hatred factor that will be injected into the process by White Hall and by a nasty Tory government determined to punish public sector workers who have, in general terms, seen some improvements under the Labour government. So lets all be clear about the fact that irrespective of whether we win Lambeth and return a Labour administration (and we will do that!) central government under the Tories will come to us with a vengeance and we must be ready locally and nationally to fight the war with them and of course to do that we need to achieve the unity we showed when we fought and won campaigns such as the return to public ownership of the Benefits Division in 2001. We must and we will be ready!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Keeping the balance... and turning Glenn Kelly into a hero

There has been quite a lot said about the disciplinary of the four Socialist party workers by the national union. Jon of the Rogers and John of the Gray plus a number of others have reported on this. My own opinion (and that of other free thinkers) is that the issue for which the 4 (sounds like the gang of 4 and Chinese Hegemony syndrome) did not commit a big crime worthy of us spending so much time on. I am a Trade Union activist who believes in collective responsibility and I do not accept that individuals within a progressive and constructive movement have the right to always go out and do their own thing and that they should all follow a line once it has been agreed nationally but I can't see (unless someone explains this better to me) why the national union is making such a big thing out of this? Are they actually secret Glenn Kelly supporters who are slowly building his profile up by making him into a big hero?? Looks like that from where I am standing??
At the end of the day we are a democratic union with the best structures and we should all remember that we have procedures that have been agreed over the years to debate and agree policy and once we do that then the line must be followed. Small groups within the union with their own agendas have the right to hold their views but when it comes to collective decisions made by conference the line has been drawn and we must all follow that line So a balance between the right to have democratic rights to debate and the obligation to follow an agreed line must be struck. But I can't on this occasion see why we are all been made to take notice of this incident when in my opinion it isn't that much of an issue? Can the NEC not tell them off instead of hiring venues in central London at great cost to discipline them?

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Why isn't Lambeth working sometimes? Banana files 2

You could say this incident is of minor importance and the example I am going to give isn't of any real consequence to the rest of the world but the example of my raspberry is one that can illustrate why the Levithan doesn't work sometimes...
I asked my employer for a blackberry 2 years ago as I knew they were going to stop allowing the diversion of emails from work to home. This is essential to me as I need to answer inquiries after hours and over the weekend and sometimes when on holiday. It took a year and half for approval and then a few months for someone to set some system up so that it functioned. The system worked fairly well for a few months but then it suddenly stopped and I wasn't getting any emails coming through. When I made enquiries (took them 2 weeks to look into it) we discovered that someone somewhere decided that I didn't have a proper cost centre to charge my mobile phone bill to. It was stopped then it was restarted when a member in IT spotted my name and told them who I was and they then reconnected me. I have now been told that 4 months after having this 'helpful' device the organisation is switching provider (from T Mobile to Orange) so that I now have to go through another procedure to ensure that I get the service back.
The point I am making here is that we have a large organisation here not having a clear strategy and not knowing where its right and left hands are. This is surely no way to run a large body that is supposed to be providing a service to a deprived area? And I am deliberately using this non controversial example to illustrate how the Levithan works or doesn't work. I won't even bother to mention that it takes HR an average of 7 months to set up a job evaluation appeal when its own procedure states it should be a matter of weeks?? Get your act together I say!!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The pandemic

I don't need to tell anyone that flu pandemics have been around since the time begun and they will not be going away until the end of animal life its just that historically events around deaths arising from what the medical profession calls flu have been reported differently by historians. So this new flu is another form of a virus. The real hope is that it can be controlled by the vaccine that is currently being developed. There will be people who get very mild symptoms who simply deal with the infections and never even notice it and tragically those who develop complications or even die but as far as the relationship between us and the employer side is concerned there is a lot to be said about the recommendation of CIPD which is to extend self certification of absence due to illness from one to 2 weeks. That surely makes sense if doctors don't want you to be seating in the reception area waiting to be seen or the government doesn't want people going to work and spreading the virus around? I hope this simple step is understood by the 'Department of confusion and contradictions' which is after all the major ministry of the government??

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Our relationship with animals...

It was on the news this morning and it made me rather sad to see young animals kept in captivity for 3 months then killed so that Americans and Europeans can have veal on their plates. This surely isn't right and the conditions under which these animals are kept on mainland Europe is unacceptable. I know that we are not going to be sufficiently developed in this century to realise that we have an obligation to be 'nicer' to other animals but those of us who are less selfish should seriously examine our attitude towards animals and either become vegetarians or insist in not buying any meat that is produced under factory conditions. A happy chicken that has been allowed to run around a farm produces better eggs and always tastes better anyway!!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

British troops

Where is the enemy?

The reality is the majority of British troops (or any army anywhere in the world) is made up largely of young people who sometimes don't have much choice other than to join the army for socio economic reasons. We send 18 and early 20's young men and women to fight wars that they know very little about and they sacrifice their young life's so any criticism against the British or any other army should be restricted to the politicians that get us into messy situations and not the young people who go and get killed. And unfortunately until the united left takes over the world and there is no need for war or conflicts there will be an army and wars will continue to happen.

The greatest issue therefore with the British and NATO involvement in Afghanistan is one of scale. Britain is desperate to show that it still has an imperialist role to play in the world when we clearly can't afford to do that and chasing after the Americans dirty underpants is not a good reason for getting involved in adventures that will yield no fruit. Britain is as important or influential militarily as Spain, France or Turkey and none of those countries insist on putting so many soldiers on foreign battle fields. So the government here should do us all a favor and come to terms with reality? There is no empire to defend any more....

Friday, 10 July 2009

The state of our Union and the Life of Brian syndrome...

I note with interest what Jon of the Rogers and John of the Gray have both written on their blogs. Jon Rogers complains about the treatment by NEC members of Glen Kelly and John Gray comes back to criticise Jon and accuse him of hypocrisy and of course they are both right and equally wrong.

It is natural and inevitable (but not desirable) that in any large democratic organisation people will not agree with each other and that will of course produce a certain amount of hostility between two (or in our case within Unison 23) different versions of one theory. That will then lead to people falling out with each other and it could also lead to some people resorting in displaying their disagreement in traditional ways which could manifest itself in gestures and negative body language. The question must be whether that is acceptable and the answer is there isn't much we can do to stop people showing their feelings. Its like going to the theatre and not liking what you are watching. As far as I am concerned the United Left (and Glen isn't a member of that amalgamation of Rogerites) is as guilty of displaying hostility at public meetings as the other side. So whether on this occasion the Peoples Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front were the block that instigated the display of hostility is irrelevant. We should all accept that it happens and not make too much about an incident. On the other hand I would have nothing to write about today if this wasn't reported so there we go!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Michael Jackson

Enough has been said about the man already elsewhere so not much point adding to that. Michael Jackson was significant for 3 reasons. He was the first African American musician to have ignored the barriers and push forward and he did not accept limitations imposed by a racist society. He was a man who was never allowed to be a child and had therefore lived in a very unreal world that he may not have understood that same world build him up and wanted to bring him down. He was also a great artist and produced some very good music. He will be remembered in years to come as the man who never grew up the man who genuinely did not believe that race or background should determine where you are and where you can get to. A true hero of meritocracy.
Nick venedi

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Celebrating our strengths

Today I wanted to return back to my favorite theme and talk about what makes Lambeth Unison a unique and great Branch to be a member of and to mention one individual who has contributed to us retaining our position on the radar.
The Lambeth Branch, which includes members from employers outside the geographical area of the Borough, is rich in diversity. Activists in the Branch come from different backgrounds and have a multiple of views but we are all united in our determination to fight injustice and unfair play. It was a member of our Branch, Jackie Lewis, that led the London Unison march at Pride the weekend gone and her international profile (I think she is life long Vice President on ILGA) means that our name is known throughout the globe.
We will always have our critics and their criticism will sometimes be justified but the fact remains that we, as a Branch have the ability to come together when we need to and fight common battles. We sometimes disagree but we are also able to build and develop and protect the interests of our 2300 members.

Monday, 6 July 2009


Had a break from doing this blog as I was getting bored with the routine and as a true Gemini I quickly used the first opportunity that came up as an excuse to keep away from it. Always wondered why some people become slaves to a process that becomes a set routine?
Major theme that deserves looking into again is the way the press specifically is preparing us for a Tory government. I am afraid they may be right but then the same press wrote John Major off years ago and he came back to win the post Maggie Dracula Thatcher election. I am confident that Gordon Brown can suddenly emerge as the only one who is capable of saving us from the crisis that we are in the trick there would be to convince the electorate that he didn't have much to do with creating the problem in the first place? Maybe we can ask the united left to give him some advice?
Anyway I still say there is no alternative right now to the Labour party not for any of us and anyone doing anything to undermine Labours chances of winning should either be emailed to the tower of London or be made to read all of Jon Roger's speeches in the last 10 years! That would put anyone off? Maybe not...
Nosotros Estamos Preparados! (no not a Spanish beer)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Capitalism strikes again...

Well not that any of us had any doubts but capitalism has again shown how unsympathetic it can be to ordinary people. The system first allowed bankers (is there a w missing in that last word) to ensure that we get a financial crisis, we were then made to pay for the huge mistakes the bankers made and now British Airways is imposing a two year pay freeze to ensure that their share holders profits do not go down. Then we have Richard Branson going on about why we should all help the economy by not asking for much. Why didn't these same people put as much energy into opposing the system that removed any regulation from lending vast amounts of money to people who will now be in debt for the rest of their lives? The media (controlled by the capitalists) have made sure that the attention was swiftly moved away from what the bankers did and onto how we must all make sacrifices to manage the economic situation created by them. In the meantime we get adverts on telly telling us how benefit cheats will be prosecuted and won't get away with it? Does that include MP's??