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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lambeth Unison

Busy today so just a quick entry on here. Lots happened this week what with Jon being off with a nasty flu ,not that he was allowed to rest as we had to constantly email him which reminds me of what a 7 day a week the job of Branch Secretary is! There must be a way where we can just switch off? Never forget when I was on Nissi beach in September and a call from an angry member came on which made me spend 20 minutes explaining the issues around her appeal.
Anyway Capita cases dominated the week for me plus a number of others including the ongoing and unfair case around Munu a Lambeth Activists who was unjustly suspended 2 years ago. A high level meeting with the Chief Executive and the Deputy leader on Wednesday revealed that things will be getting heavy nect year! Nothing new there! Also met with a number of other Lambeth Activists on Friday afternoon. Just hoping that next week things will be calmer. And of course hoping that Andrew Murrey wins the tennis match today Federor is getting too arrogant!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Frivolous comments...

Now I know for a fact that whoever decides to unleash themselves on blogosphere should also expect some negative come back, a bit of criticism, a lot of cynicism and some nasty comments. So I have been getting my fair share of nasty comments. So I have decided to publish all nasty comments as long as those who device them identify themselves but I won't put on the blog ultra idiotic and personal remarks against myself or others I know unless the person cooking these identifies who they are. So that's the editorial policy!
Anyway thanks to the thousands of readers who don't read this blog. Your feedback is always welcomed.
There is some confusion about what I am saying. One nasty comment from a person who does not wish to supply his name (so his contribution to literature will not be published) accused me of several things including talking in code and giving out messages to others who are working with me?? I know who this person is (pretty sure) but I have no idea what the bugger he is own about. The blog is done by me almost on a daily basis because I consider it to be fun I keep thoughts online and its like a diary. If anyone does not wish to read my immense contribution to modern English literature then they should read something else?
My point about the left is the there are too many versions of the left and as a consequence the final product, a completely disunited left, means that those on the 'other side' thrive. The left spends more time fighting each other and it is my opinion that much smaller groups damage the wider movement on the left? So a merger of the left might help and continuing division and agitation by some minor groups who think the revolution will start next Friday afternoon serves as an unwelcome destruction? My messages (always stated on here) has been join the Labour party or keep the SWP and the SP as the two organised alternatives. NUPE COSHE and NALGO had to merge in the 90s because it was unworkable to have so many organisations doing the same thing. Learn from that? Whatever happened to the United we stand? Well we are not very united are we?

Friday, 29 January 2010

Ultra Left activity

It is inevitable that when there is an economic crisis smaller (tiny actually) little groups with insignificant number of members cease the opportunity to go out and recruit new members we therefore get the 'lets have a banana' syndrome which means that those involved with these groups start campaigning which is based on identifying what it is that angry people want to hear and tell them that. They go wrong of course when it comes to delivering what they promise mainly because what they say they can deliver won't happen. They believe that everyone is ready to reject every attempt to resolve any problem and want to start a revolution. I think most of them would like us to live under Enver Hodga conditions in Albania. Thankfully the vast majority of workers are not naive and they soon realise that the road down the ultra left adventure avenue is simply an attempt by these 'groups' to fulfil their own banana type fantasies. And for the avoidance of any doubt I am excluding from this criticism the well established Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party who are, to be fair to them, recognised and well organised forces on the left (not that I am linked to them in any way...)
And of course you have your little other entities attacking these two forces on the left, indeed that appears to be top on their priority rather than the class struggle! So how do you deal with these fantasists? I don't think there is a major problem as they are small in number and they are harmless on the ground but it is a fact that they move in when they see a gap and try to take up resources etc and whilst I do not accept that anyone in any union should embark on a witch hunt those of us aware of what is going on need to keep an eye out and inform the members and tell them the truth so fight them democratically and expose them .

Thursday, 28 January 2010

London Unison Regional Council

I knew everyone would forget about the Regional Council AGM which is scheduled to take place next week and move on to something more exciting like the GS elections... shame as the regional Council AGM and the elections there should interest us all but the left of the left have moved on it would seem?
In the meantime we are getting some activity from micro groups like PR (can't remember what it stands for..) and other smaller ones like AWL making claims that there is a major rebellion in the air because one of their lot has won some election somewhere which is of course interesting news but they are also turning against other groups and attacking them instead of concentrating on building up what they have got. There was some incomprehensible entry on the AWL site the other day about some interim agreement and some expulsions? And severe criticism against the Socialist Party and the SWP who are at least better known and more organised why concentrate on attacking them for gods sake?? Continue the division comrades it helps no one though!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The trouble with the left...

Well to be honest there is nothing actually wrong with the left as such what is wrong is not being on the left but the different variations we have within the left, thus the left of the left or in my own branch the left of the left of the left...
Now variety is of course the spice of life and a good omelet always tastes better if its made with more than just a few eggs, so putting cheese, ham or mushrooms or indeed tomatoes in the omelet will always make it taste better.
Of course the above example is relevant and applies to your eating habits but it does not always work when you have a group of people who agree with general principles but then start diluting the power they have by having different versions of the same thing. Something like the Christian faith (am sure the Patriarch of Constantinople will excommunicate me now..) which is sub divided into so many different religious secs like Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Methodist, Evangelist, New Christians and Here today gone yesterday ones (sorry for the inappropriate joke) So we have a situation where it is virtually impossible to make any real progress because we all disagree with the method we want to use to achieve the same aims. So you get the Labour Party faithful (those on the left) fighting with those in the SWP, The SP, and the other much smaller groups like PR or AWL (apologies to the other 23 creations I just can't remember what they are called..) This of course creates a huge division and it guarantees that the real left will never achieve the changes it wants as it is so removed from reality and power it will never be able to deliver. So what's the solution? Well join the Labour party and work for change or form one alternative (it will never happen) and drop the other 26??

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Meanwhile back in Lambeth...

Its all started already. Everyone has completely forgotten that the bankers have created the mess we are in and everyone ignores the fact that the reward for screwing the economy up is extra bonuses? The talk now, and this was the the case at a high level meeting yesterday in the world of Lambeth is how to be creative and manage the fallout arising from the incompetent management of the economy. How comes a mere mortal such as myself could see back in 2007 that we were heading for a big fall since the banks were encouraging everyone to take out as much credit as they could when they knew they would never be able to pay it back? Ah there is in fact a small matter to do with the fact that the more loans they could dish out the higher their bonus would be? Would I be on a bloody disciplinary and a dismissal notice if I was to do that? Yes I would but not the bankers! No we now have to pay to get them out of the mess!
Anyway back in Lambeth the employer is coming up with what they call creative ideas to manage ourselves out the the problems created by the recession. That could mean anything from trying to get staff to work fewer days a week for less pay of course to looking at increments paid etc. This is of course at present an idea but we better be on our guard and look out for what the Levithan has up its sleeve...

Monday, 25 January 2010

Practical problems

The way Unison and I expect other trade unions are organised on the ground presents those of us on the front line with some difficulties and problems. I am using my Branch as an example to illustrate what the practical problems are.
Lambeth Unison has approximately 2300 members. Around 1900 are employed by Lambeth Council which means the majority of these people are 'serviced' by activists who are geographically based in the Borough. There are, however, 400 other members, perhaps more, who are either not in Lambeth and can be based anywhere in London. This of course presents us with a difficulty because when we have to represent one of these members the responsibility for that falls on the Branch Secretaries who are already doing a lot of case work within Lambeth (I currently have more than 35 cases as opposed to the average of 20 that a senior HR officer has..) this may not be a major issue if you simply look at the numbers but if you have to represent a member who is located miles away it means that you have to spend most of the day traveling there and back.
My major concern with this is that Branch Secs should not be dealing with huge amounts of casework and should instead be concentrating on organising and developing the branch that is of course what the rule book says we must be doing. So this is an anomaly that needs looking into and the national union should look at allocating members based on geographical proximity to branches.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

British Airways

British Airways are at it again. BA management have declared that checking in staff and baggage handlers will be given a 3 week training course in safety (instead of the rigorous 6 week standard module) to enable them to take over when cabin crew go on strike very shortly. They are therefore the first major company to openly declare war on organised trade unions. I am hoping that trade union members will refuse to accept this 'offer' of additional training and not cooperate. This is a signal that employers and the government will be attacking workers in order to save their banker friends. The media have stopped reminding us who created the crisis and they are now concentrating on ensuring that we pay the price hence the zero per cent pay offer to local government employees the other day. This is not acceptable and I don't need to say that we in the left and the left of the left must get more united??

Friday, 22 January 2010

London Unison LGBT

Another well attended and successful LGBT committee meeting last night in central London. This is perhaps one of the few bodies within London Unison where the level of activity and the quality of the output (am talking like an accountant again.. sorry..) is second to none. Sad news that Jackie Loudoun and Amanda Baird will no longer be servicing the committee as they have been moved elsewhere they will be missed.
I welcome the invitation by members for me to take on the role of Co Chair with the very capable Terry, this will be an interesting and I hope productive move but working with the splendid Deirdre Costigan and Ms Jackie Lewis will mean that the team will do its best to produce the good results achieved previously. The standard has been set high and I aim to do my best to keep it at that level. Congratulations to Deirdre Costigan for getting elected to be the co Chair of the national LGBT committee (hence the change) and of course well done to Jackie Lewis for holding a life long international title (I think its supreme lgbt Commander in Chief or something? ) further evidence that the London region can and does produce good people who can produce the work.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

London Unison

Well as they say in south west nowhereland the heat is on and the London region indeed the whole country will now start the silly season. There is of course no chance for Dave Prentis losing an election so whoever stands from the left of the left will be doing so in order to set her or his mark for a future challenge so someone in their late 20s will be the wise choice of candidate (not being ageist but..) Or just let Dave Prentis do it? Don't know. If an alternative candidate is put in the ring then the left of the left better make sure she or he is someone supported by all (well all on the left of the left?)
In the mean time I am more interested in the fact that we might be taking our eye off the London situation and forgetting that the regional Council elections are just around the corner. I am sorry to say but there is time for change in the London region and Margaret Greer will make the changes that are needed. Self Organised Groups will be supporting her and I hope others will as well.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

London Unison

There is nothing like the prospect of some election to get Unison comrades excited especially in London. What with the prospect of the London Regional Council elections on the 3 February and the possibility that there could be a quick election called for the General Secretary's position. Everyone is talking about both.
On the Regional Council elections I have made it clear that I will be supporting Margaret Greer. I have often declared that my real loyalties go to the well organised Self Organised Groups and the BWG is standing a capable candidate that will make a difference. I have said it before and will say it again that there are something like 20 to 25% of people in the region who are closely linked and come from a Self Organised Group background a force that has been ignored by many. We have often been brushed aside but I know that my electoral success before, for example, had a lot to do with this affiliation. I am supporting Margartet because she is a good organiser and will unite the region.
I remain sceptical on the wider question of the General Secretary position and whilst I believe that there must be elections as often as possible (like we have at branch level) I also know that the GS is like the President of Portugal in other words she or he deals with ceremony. So I would like to see who is being put up. If we wanted to be mad and go for the long term then someone with a lot of energy like James Caspel in Lambeth could be good if he wanted to stand. But there are others and the debate will no doubt go on for a long time unless the NEC today go for a coup and declare an election or confirm Dave Prentis in post? Confusing? Its meant to be! Apologies to some of my personal friends (like Martin in Germany) who read this blog and will have no idea what am talking about..

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

There is a lot of energy around

Simple thoughts for today. There is no doubt that the left is divided in the UK and this is the case with the left within London Unison and the wider TU movement. At the same time I see and feel that there is a lot of energy around and many new and not so new activists who are determined to make a difference and that is a very positive thing. That energy and enthusiasm needs to be cultivated and those on the left that are recent arrivals need to be given the help to get the right training and development. I will repeat what I said yesterday which is that the job of a Trade Union Leader in the real world consists of organising, developing and representing members. Any idea that new Leaders can simply rely on good speech making occasions is a huge mistake. The vast majority of what Convenors, Branch Secs and Stewards do (more than 95% of their time) is about representing members on a day to day basis. And myself and Jon have found that reality out in the last 15 years.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Organising the left and the Judean Peoples front or the Front of Judean People..

The trouble with the left in London and everywhere else in the world for that matter is that there is always some smaller section within a section that wants to do things in a different way. So we get a situation where there are at least 38 different versions of the Left. This is of course good news for pure democracy but it does not help those of us who aspire to change the world. This is especially the case in a country like Britain where the electoral system does not allow for smaller parties to gain any real power. So the logical thing would be for those of us on the left to unite and form a single party? And of course this is where the problem starts, in other words we will never agree that George Galloway or Jeremy Corbin or someone from the SWP will be good enough to be our leader nor will we ever agree to form one single party. We did of course form the Labour party (trade unions) and my argument has always been we should all be in there fighting for change.

But there are two levels where the left needs to win battles. The first is to organise nationally and form or be part of a single party (the Labour Party) the second is to understand that locally we must build up a trade union movement that can inspire members and attract more into membership and this can only be done by us producing new activists who can take on the hard day to day work and do the complex reorganisations and casework that affect our members. My main frustration comes when I speak to some people who simply think that wining an election and making a good speech is good enough. Your problems start once you are in there and you need to deliver. So locally and on the front line the left must understand that agitating has its place but doing the real bread and butter stuff that members need and being able to do the hard work is much more important if you are to expect people/members to follow you when you need them to take action. More recruitment and spend more time learning how to do the job because it is no good saying that you can drive a formula one car when you have never had a driving lesson! Organise locally and build a truly fighting union that takes on board what the majority of members want is the answer.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Haiti appeal

Proud to say that we were able to collect £1400 cash at the Lambeth Unison AGM last Thursday to support the Haiti disaster appeal but of course, and as always, more needs to be donated and people who wish to help can do so by getting the info on the TUC link which I attach. The UN appears to have done well by organising but ordinary people need to help more. Well done to the 200 Lambeth activists who attended the AGM and supported the collection.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Lambeth Unison Priorities for 2010

This is repeating what I said yesterday but I want to make it clear that Lambeth Unison objectives for 2010 must be to put recruiting new members on top of the list. A task force will be set up and a strategy paper needs to be drafted. We have 2,300 staff in membership but the Council has 4,500 staff so there is a huge gap that can be filled. All efforts for 2010 must be directed towards this objective and all Lambeth Activists have to work to make this happen.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Lambeth Unison AGM

Another successful Lambeth Unison AGM yesterday with 192 Lambeth activist members attending even with the adverse weather conditions we have had. The meeting did of course take a lot of preparation and these had started in September. So thanks to Juliet Blake who worked with me to ensure that it all happened on the day. I think not many people realise how much detail there is in getting a big event right but good that everything went smoothly. The chicken curry and the vegetarian dish we chose to serve also went down well.
Good that the Branch supported a motion from myself and Jon to make recruitment the priority for 2010. I am hoping that those who have been elected in post will help to ensure that the target of 500 new members in 2010 becomes and reality.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

London Unison Regional Committee

Yes the meeting is today not yesterday as I stated on Monday. I am snowed in here so no idea as to whether I will be able to make it, but will report later if I manage to get in. Tv reports appear to be saying that there are no problems so will see....

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

New Retirement Age

Ministers are busy drafting up proposals to change the retirement age and get rid of the necessity for employers to release people who are at work once they have reached the age of 65. This move comes following the realisation that the population in general live longer now which also means that the majority of people will spend a considerable amount of their life on retirement which in turn means a higher cost to the state.
The theory behind this could justify the need to look at the current scheme again but any government that simply abolishes the retirement age as it stands right now without making sure that discrimination against those over 40/50 is dealt with will simply be creating a bigger problem than the one they are trying to resolve. Front line experience tells me that the way employers see workers over the age of say 50 is far worst than any other group of individuals. So we could have a situation where if someone is made redundant at 63 they will have little to no chance of getting another job and will simply be thrown on the unemployment register. So on balance I do not agree that the approach should be to increase the retirement age. What I think will be reasonable is to state that an employer should not have the right to force someone to retire just because they are 65. Nasty employers will of course find a way to remove older workers via redundancies but the stats will show a clear link with age. Unison and the TUC must do more to ensure that we are not forced into ridiculous situations with this.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Regional committee

Another regional committee meeting tomorrow and as far as I know there are no motions on the agenda? Is this because those on the committee have lost interest or are we witnessing passive resistance? It would be good to know and have some clarification?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Hoon questioned

Good that Geoff (sour grapes) Hoon was ordered to face a constituency panel on Friday and questioned about the reasons behind his failed plot against the Prime Minster. Nothing of course will come from this semi investigation but those who have the interest of the party at heart should be warned not to rock the boat right now. Getting a Conservative government elected in May will help no one and these plots simply expose the vanity of those opportunists who put self interest before the interests of the country! I hope that Gordon Brown eventually deals with Hoon and Hewitt (not to mention the other pretender..) and puts them in their place.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Jean Charles de Menezes

I am grateful to Jon Rogers who dedicated yesterdays entry on his blog to the memory of Jean Charles an Innocent bi standard who was shot dead by the police. The memorial outside Stockwell tube station will serve as a reminder and will also be a tribute to his memory. Still in shock as to why and how the police commander who gave the order was given a knighthood? There is very little I can say to that other than a realisation that there is very little justice in this world.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Gordon Brown and conspiracies

Snow all around us.....

Happy to see that Gordon Brown has managed to fight off a silly attempt to remove him and it was genuinely a stupid effort from politicians who should know better. Nothing annoys me more than having members of a team who should adhere to principles of collective responsibility go out of their way and betray loyalties. There is of course a time when a leadership challenge could be appropriate but no one in their right mind could argue that a few months before an election this was the right time. These conspirators should be dealt with in the near future or at least they should never be allowed to be anywhere near government again. Of course, and unfortunately, this will not happen and the pretender to the Labour throne will find a way to reward them once he gets in. But hey that's the world of politics a dirty disloyal treacherous world. Leave Gordon Brown alone to win another election I say and let him do a John Major and prove everyone wrong!

In the meantime there is snow all around us again and of course major problems getting to work as it has never snowed in England and we are therefore not used to this...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Gordon Browns leadership

There are two theories running around right now within Labour party circles as to whether Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt's proposal to have a leadership election right now is instigated by 'others' who may wish to use those two to promote an opportunity for themselves or indeed they are both genuine in trying to resolve the leadership question once and for all. My money is on the first. In other words some media seeking Labour politician is using the two ex's to see how far his lack goes. As far as I am concerned this is not the right time for a challenge and Gordon Brown is, right now, the only leader the country would trust. Any new pretenders will damage the party and the country's chances of overcoming the economic crisis. I would start an inquisition after the election if I was Gordon and rid the party of such self serving opportunists!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


I had the misfortune to get in at 5.45 last night and switched the telly on somehow managed to go on to channel 5 where neighbours is shown so watched it for a total of 15 minutes. The impression I would make (if I was naive and came from the planet zanussi) is that almost everyone living in Australia or Melbourne at least is blond, Anglo Saxon, and has blue eyes and yes not many overweight people in neighbours either. The reason this idiotic programme irritates me is because it is without a doubt trying to sell an image that they think will appeal to those who don't agree with the theory of integration and diversity. They are getting away with it because the soap and its racist undertones is presented very carefully. But if what they portray is completely inaccurate then shouldn't that be challenged? And shouldn't the reason why they are presenting this 'Utopian' (in their own minds) life be examined and exposed? And most of all why is channel 5 paying for such garbage to be shown? The reality is that Australia is a successful country because of its healthy mix of new people and the split between Anglo Saxon and 'others' is an even one. This must be represented in this trashy programme if it is to be real.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Back to reality...

Most of us are returning back to work today after the Xmas break. I had a good time with family and very close friends and that to me is the essence of Xmas and the holidayperiod. New Years Eve was a great night out with my circle of friends and my partners mates. We had a good time but it took me the whole of the New Years day to recover.
Going back to work with a busy schedule and a number of major problems that need to be resolved. I think the employer will go ahead and delete the number of secondments that Unison has and this will obviously provoke a fight. The current 4.5 full time secondments we have is just about enough to enable us to deal with the work that the employer dishes out. It always amazes me that the employer who has a team of more than 110 HR staff (includes employee relations and payroll) thinks that we are over staffed with just 4.5 of us not all as experienced. This is unfair and not right. And it is no good the employer saying that in the outer Hebrides and the isle of Bollonie they only have one because the difference in volume and complexity is vastly different. So we will fight this move and we shall win.
There are also a lot of appeals to resolve and the AGM to get right which is on the 14th of January. We always have well attended AGM's and I am hoping the 2010 one will be as successful as the others. Our priority must be to recruit more members and I think the time is right to drive that new initiative.

Saturday, 2 January 2010