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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Levithan. Time for change?

Well it seems that it isn't just the Tory boys that are planning major changes. The high and mighty of the Levithan, otherwise known as Lambeth Council, are getting restless with preparations about what to change and who to 'send on permanent holidays' and we are not talking here about change of clothes. There is a 'power struggle' going on and a lot of speculation as to whether x or y will be staying for breakfast after the municipal elections in May. Who survives will depend on which party wins the election but also who manages to push the other one out. I sometimes wish I wasn't restricted and I could state what I know but to mention the 'whispers' I know to be true in the 'corridors of power' would be unfair to those involved. Lets just say that the water is boiling or that some people are to be send to the tower soon, or am I just imagining it all? ...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Vote for change?

I am in a politically restricted post so I am not allowed (apparently) to advice anyone how to vote what I can do however is look at what different parties do and offer.

Today's national news is about the Tory 'activists' conference in Brighton, home of Jon of the Rogers (Bet he isn't happy seeing so many of them sniffing around...) Cameron, the man born with something in his mouth and member of the Eaton Mad Trolly brigade is saying that the Tories can win the next election because they offer change. Change from Eaton boys running the bloody country?? This is true but he forgets that what he is proposing could be seen as change for the worst or change of the Magie Vampire type in the late 80s changes that saw the destruction of communities based on discredited monetarist policies and sell every asset the state has. The change he is also advocating is for immediate cuts in the public sector so yes Cameron man you offer change but what kind of change? Not that I am telling anyone how to vote!!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Confusion about the rules

Unison was of course conceived in the early 90s and since then a number of rules and regulations have been agreed and implemented at national level. These rules were debated extensively by national conference. So we have the principles of proportionality and fair representation, which includes ring fencing seats for low paid women, imported in the national rule book.
We then have the same principles transferred into the regional rule book and of course this means that regional AGM elections are conducted within that framework of rules.
What shocks and amazes me is that a 'progressive' trades union with such good Equality driven rules has failed totally to make local branches adopt the same rules. So you have for example a situation where a branch can have the majority of male branch officers which is in direct contrast to national and regional principles and rules This is of course not right at all! I am not saying that a branch should have identical rules and local variations need to be taken into account but we must have a mechanism where branches are told they have a certain time to bring their local rule book in line with national. I can't see how anyone can argue with this otherwise we will continue to have local parts of unison being at variance with national and regional and this cannot be right or good for our Equalities agenda!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Single man

This is of course not about me as I am not a single man, not right now, its about the film single man with Colin Firth and Nick something who was in All about the boy with Hugh I can't keep my nickers on, Grant. Went to see it last night with friends at Clapham Picture House which is of course situated within our Borough (Lambeth) a fantastic venue especially now that it has been refurbished. The film was quite good but it lacked that cutting edge I thought, it was sometimes too long and as Hacienda might say there wasn't enough bonking in it. But an interesting story never the less and a must if you are into films and if you are not too busy attending United Leftover meetings (only joking..)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

David Osler and Dave Prentis

Not that it makes a huge difference to me whether David Osler says so or not but here is a quote from David Osler's blog saying something similar to what I have said before '... The reality, of course, is that neither Bannister nor Holmes will win, and that Prentis will be returned for another term. In that sense, any divisions on the left are neither here nor there, although clearly a single agreed candidate would have been preferable to a multiplicity. ' Good that other people are looking at realities now and of course I can agree that Dave Prentis will be winning the election.
My branch has not voted on the subject yet and there is no formal position on this but a branch meeting has been arranged for the 25th March where members will be able to express their opinions. All the candidates have been invited. I am not too sure that we should be diverting energy and effort into this matter as there are far more important things going on right now and the big cuts are just around the corner...

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Who helps the helpers?

I remember it was last year that I placed an entry on here asking whether the union had any mechanism through which activists involved with doing a lot of 'heavy' case work can get help and support. There was a help line a few years ago that people could call and talk to someone but that idea soon died. HRH John from Barnet then started a self help group where senior activists in London could meet and share their stories, experience and basically help each other but I have not been able to attend those meetings.
The reason I am bringing this subject back is because I have recently been involved with supporting a number of members who have been affected severely by the treatment they received at work. One of the cases has specifically affected me and has concerned me. I won't go into the detail of the case for obvious reasons but I find myself in the same position I have found myself before. In other words the affect this case has had on me (listening to the horrendous story and having to absorb the problem and offer support) means that I am personally affected yet there is no where for me to go for support and of course the wise guys amongst us would say I should be able to handle this given the senior position I hold in the branch and I will most probably be able to do this for the 100th time in my 22 years of doing this job, my question, however, is how do others with less experience and not so much exposure get support? And the unacceptable answer is there isn't any help or support. So the next question is what do we do about that? We have limited resources in the branch and haven't got any trained counsellors to help and since we don't trust the employer we seem to be stuck with a situation that would be totally unacceptable elsewhere? The other question must be whether the national union has a duty of care towards those of us who have been actively involved with supporting members on the ground? I think they should and it should be their responsibility to ensure that activists are supported.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Colin Firth wins BAFTA

Colin Firth at the BAFTA's

Great night at the BAFTA awards ceremony with my favorite Colin Firth wining the best actor award for his role in the film 'single man' directed by the equally good and different Tom Ford. Vanessa Redgrave also gave a strange 'performance 'when she accepted the fellowship of the academy. It was strange how this ex republican lady bowed to Prince William, who is now the President of the Academy, when accepting the award and the honour. Vanessa is of course known for her rebellious nature. Prince William also did well by looking very normal and humble and for trying to stop Vanessa from humbling herself too much. Wasn't too impressed with her long winded speech but then she was clearly in shock!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A warning to the government

A petition organised by the TUC telling the government not to take risks with the economic recovery. Its worth signing it. More economists have now come out stating publicly that interfering with public services and imposing cuts will take us back into a deeper and longer lasting recession. Three major LSE graduate economists are also saying this so it must be right. Here is the link which you need to copy and paste.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The obvious economists stating the obvious...

I was happy to hear that a number of mainstream economists have signed a paper stating the obvious (some from the LSE so they must be right..) They are more or less telling the government or perhaps a future one that this is not the right time to cut public spending and to do so will take us back to recession avenue only this time it will be a longer lasting and more catastrophic one and whilst it will not affect bankers on huge bonuses or Prince this and Duke the other it will more or less devastate the rest of us. So I am hoping that those in power listen to the 'professionals' and take on board the points they make. And of course I understand that what they are saying is to delay the cuts rather than abandon them but the delay will give activists more time to organise the response.

Good luck by the way to the women's conference which is held this weekend Good luck also to Unite with the strike action against British Airways.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Normandy landing...

Well it feels like that. It feels like large number of troops are gathering on the shores of real time land ready to invade only this time the attack is on public services.
Every large employer seems to be racing towards finding yet another 'creative idea' on how to cut spending, so you have half baked ideas like total place, easy Council and John Lewis type of organisations being prepared by expensive consultants who will no doubt wish to spend more time and money developing these ideas.
So the one thing that is apparent is that the preparations to attack our terms and conditions of service plus many of our jobs is under way only this time it won't be as clear as MTFS 1, 2, and 3 were 5 to 7 years ago. These cuts will be imposed from central government and Rate capping type of proposals will mean that local employers will have very little choice other than comply with the instruction. We therefore have to be ready for this and stage one of our response must be to put more effort in ensuring that the 2,000 staff we have in Lambeth who are not in TU membership join as soon as possible. Our efforts must be intensified and I am pleased that we have a new team of activists who are ready to embrace this important project and integrate other strands associated with recruitment into the Branch wide Recruitment Plan.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Unison and disciplinaries

I note with concern that several activists around the country have been disciplined by Unison over matters to do with what others would consider to be minor mistakes. I am all for discipline and believe strongly that a large organisation like Unison cannot function without having rules and discipline but the issues for which activists are dealt with should be more serious than the ones we have witnessed in the last few years. A balance needs to be kept between the need to accept decisions and rules agreed by national conference and freedom of speech? There seems to be double arrogance with this. On the one hand few activists seem to want to take the union on and disregard the 'rules' by doing their own thing and on the other the national union seems to want to crash any form of opposition and use their might to show who the boss is?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Total place is total bananas!

A new threat to public services is emerging slowly but progressively through the total place idea. Jon of the Rogers has already done a splendid presentation of the concept and explains it quite well on his blog good that he is using simple language this time and not LSE bollonie! . The BBC website also has an entry on the pilot project in Birmigham where the Council want to save 69 million by cutting 2,000 jobs. And of course this is just the start. It will mean that other Councils around the country will follow that example. It will mean that more of us will be deleted so that there is enough money to pay more of the bonuses that the bankers need to screw the economy up next time around?
So there has never been a worst time for public services than what we are about to face. Cammeron (the man with the banana in his mouth) will be dishing out his virtual public service product soon if he wins the election and trying to turn Councils into a Tesco or Sainsubrys type of organisations. This is a good enough reason for those of us in the different strands of the left to put our differences aside and concentrate on the first stage of the fight back which is of course more systematic and sustainable recruitment. We must not, however, forget the need to retain those members that we still have otherwise Easy Union (coming shortly) will be taking over and that must never happen!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

David Cameron on the near the left??

The new 'Near left' is now emerging....

Shock horror but apparently true! Unreliable sources from United Left HQ somewhere in Mayfair have confirmed that the left of the left are worried about David Camerons shift to the left. It would appear that Tory boy, the man born with a plumb in his mouth, (or was it a banana?) has embraced his inner leftism and has declared that when, or if, he wins the next general election he will 'liberalise' public services by making public service workers buy their own jobs? He is also looking at the easy jet phenomenon and could be wondering whether virtual unions operating on similar lines to easy this and that could be the way forward. So we could get easy union coming up soon (hope he isn't reading this and gets this idea in his head!!)

This cynical move would of course look like an attempt to buy the vote of those from lower England (as opposed to middle England) but those of us with a few brain cells will immediately spot the real shortfalls in this idea. It will simply mean that those workers, for example in a Housing Benefits division in a Council, will be given a small amount of money and then made to go to the city to beg for more funding to make it work. The city will then have financial control over what decisions are made. The so called 'cooperative' will then have to make a profit by selling its services. This will involve hiring and firing fellow workers, so you could have a situation where ex shop stewards and activists become engaged in making their own fellow workers redundant!

So the Tories are at it again and they are coming back with a vengeance. They want to win the next election at all costs and they will stop at nothing. Time for the super egos on the left, the left of the left and the further to the left, to calm down and work together on a strategy to deal with this or we had it!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Unison General Secretary election

Some of us are already getting bored with this subject and of course the debate will continue. I have my own branch committee tomorrow where a decision will be taken as to who to support for the position of General Secretary. Jon of the Rogers will be presenting a good argument in favour of Paul Holmes but there are those in the branch who are sceptical. The scepticism, as far as I am concerned, comes from not thinking outside the box and simply going for the same 'old' individuals as before. Nothing against Roger Bannister or Paul Holmes but why can't we have someone new who will be making a mark for next time round?? Ah, no that will be too different. Well wasn't Obama too different? Did anyone outside his state know who he was? Ah well lets just stick to the old bloody order shall we??

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Dave Prentis and election time...

The talk amongst my fellow bloggers is about the nomination process for the position of General Secretary. Thanks to the thousands of readers who do not read my blog and for the suggestion that I should stand but I made it clear that I am busy doing my hair most weekends and my mind is on other things right now (like where to put the many valentine cards I haven't got)
But to be serious the race has now finished with 3 clear candidates emerging. Dave Prentis of course is the hot favorite, then there is Paul Homes and then the Roger of Bannister. So lets look at who really has a chance of winning and who offers what?
I will make it clear from the start that whilst I know that Dave Prentis will win the election it is obvious that this will be his last term in office so the reality of what we are facing is not about whether Dave will win but who will be put forward as a likely successor next time around. I made my position clear on this before when I said that it is because of this factor that I favored an alternative but much younger candidate who will at least mark the election territory and be known in the future so I suggested someone in their 20's preferably a female so say Marsha Jane or if not female then someone like James Caspell who although very young is learning fast and could have potential. But the left of the left to the left have insisted in putting up Paul Holmes and Rogers Bannister. This in itself will of course split their vote which will presumably delight the Dave Prentis camp. But what do these other two candidates offer? Well they both make reasonably good speeches at conference and are well known within their own areas. The question must be whether that is good enough and whether members on a national level would vote for the 'alternative' well the answer is no they won't so....

Friday, 12 February 2010

Gordon Brown and the cynics

No its not the name of a new group (although thinking about it it sounds rather good..)
The press are out to get Gordon Brown again this week as they are bored with the Greek economy collapsing so they have unleashed their vile attacks on the somewhat boring but genuine and sensible Gordon Brown and his wife. The new story is that Gordon Brown has used the story about the death of his 10 day old daughter to win votes. That is a nasty and pathetic approach to take and no one should abuse their power to publish any rubbish they like in the press. The Browns suffered a terrible tragedy and they should be left alone. Gordon was simply asked a question and he simply answered it. How vile that the press have jumped on the 'opportunity' there must be a limit!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Dave Prentis

I was having a conversation with a number of friends, Lambeth Unison activists, who were questioning the wisdom of us putting too much energy into the debate as to whether Dave Prentis should be supported on not by the branch. The decision of course will be made at the branch committee next Tuesday. I think it is fair to say that there is very low interest in this subject right now as most Lambeth activists are turning their attention to the cuts that are just around the corner. I argued, again, that we should have proposed a different solution to the current problem and gone for a younger and newish figure, a woman would have been preferable but if not then someone under 30 at least. One bright spark said that was ageist but I strongly disagree with that. There is little chance of Holmes wining or Roger of the Bannisters so a younger activist who would have made his or her mark in these elections would have been the right choice. Everyone would remember them next time. But of course we have to think inside the box and throw any forward planning out of the window!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Dave Prentis and the GS election

Difficult one. I have met Dave a few times and he does, in my opinion, do a reasonable job showing the general public of who we are. He is presentable and pleasant and is seen on telly more often than any of the other leaders apart from Bob of the Crows of course. So in terms of what it is that we want the GS to do for us and what it is that a GS can do with a large NEC controlling what is said and done I would imagine that he does well. I believe that power of the union should be with branches and not the centre so a strong GS is not something I want...
I know what I am saying here is heresy amongst some of my mates who love me dearly on the left of the left and not bothered about what the left of the left to the further left think. My contribution to this debate when it all started was a simple one. Dave Prentis will win the election because the majority of those who will bother to vote will do so so find a young candidate, I said, who will come in and make her/his mark so that people know who she or he is. I suggested two younger members (who are on the left of the left) but no one (shocking!) took my proposal seriously, so instead they will be supporting a few people who as far as I know are on the left of the left and one is on the left of the left but further from the left (confused? well I am..) anyway I know one of these people and have seen him make speeches at national conference and he could do with a good hair cut (sorry..) I know who Roger Bannister is as well of course. My position is simple. My branch committee will be deciding who to nominate on Tuesday but I know for a fact that the majority of people are not too interested in this. I will go with what the Branch committee decides of course but I will say what I have to say as I always do. This was an opportunity to think long term and to show a younger candidate to the nation so that their name stays with them so we have missed, once again, the opportunity. There is no doubt in my mind that Dave Prentis will win the election I would have been saying something entirely different and the debate would have been more relevant if he was not standing and there was a free for all but the reality is we are not on that planet!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The case for one member one vote

I have always been in favour of having local elections (I am talking about elections at branch level) where every member of the branch gets the chance to decide and cast their vote. There is the argument against this because of the cost but I think there is a greater cost to real democracy when we consider the risks of having officers elected by a small majority of what could be anything from 5% to 10% of the overall membership in other words those able to turn up.
If we use my own branch as an example, a very active, diverse branch, we have attendance of between 140 to 200 members at AGM's. This is a good result in comparative terms but being elected by a simple majority (like I have been on many occasions) at these annual meetings is not the right way to do it. This is a reform that needs to be looked at and a rule change needs to come from either within the branches themselves or a national policy needs to be implemented to ensure that this change takes place. I am sure that true democrats will have nothing to fear about!! How can anyone disagree that those not able to attend a meeting should get the chance to make a decision on how their union is runned? This debate must start soon! One member one vote!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Are we ready for a fight?

We are all waiting for the employer to issue news on how they intend to implement the cuts so no one is in any doubt as to whether there will be reductions in jobs and services and instead it is all a matter of when, how and by how much.
So the question, following from that, is what it is that can be done to deal with this imminent attack and how ready are we to get members on board and ready to resist. The only thing that is clear is that we all agree we have to fight back so the debate is about how competent we are in deciding when and where.
I have of course 22 years experience of organising action and so do other people in my branch. The one thing I am not prepared to do is to start the debate by saying why it is that we can't deliver so I will want to concentrate my effort on declaring that we can achieve our aims if we were clever on the ground and were able to understand and assess our strengths and weaknesses. Identifying where our strongholds are must be the first task and redeploying our resources where these are needed would also help. We should also be looking at coordinating any action and ensuring that whenever we act we do so within a national context because any national effort would yield more results, localised action is rarely productive.
So there will be those reading this blog thinking that I am advocating revolution or strike action. I want to make it clear that I am not doing that but talking instead about the mechanics of how that can be delivered if we were forced to be in that situation. Most important thing is for us to remain strong and united.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Reformists vs Revolutionaries...

I suppose that the rift between the left of the left within unions is very much to do with the divide between those of us who are Reformists and the others who think that the revolution is around the corner. I am a well known Reformist and I am confident that the vast majority of our members believe in achieving change within the law which of course involves campaigning to change the law at the same time. Members expect the leadership of the union to take responsible positions when deciding to take action. Examples of long strike action that I have personally been involved with, like the 12 week payroll dispute in 1993, have shown me that more effort needs to be put towards resolving problems. This does not mean that I am against strike action but I insist that whenever we go down that road we must, a) be prepared, b) be sure that the members will support us, c) ensure that the action will be effective.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Blogging interupted..

I am afraid I have that nasty cold or flu and I feel dreadful so can't be asked to say much today!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Is monogamy possible?

The thousands of of you who never read this blog will know about my constant quest and exploration on the concept of monogamy. I am specifically concerned about the fact that many men and women spend their entire lives being untrue to themselves and not utilising the one and only opportunity they will ever ever get to have fun? I don't think nature would have given men the ability to produce 50 million sperm a day every day if she wanted them to sit home and knit jumpers every night, or even worst watch coronation st?
I am definitely doing the research into this subject as the united left has failed to take this matter seriously and the initial results (based on more than 25 years research) shown that men especially will always play away whenever they can. Women (well most of all my female mates do) do this as well. So its about time we dropped the nonsense about the need to stick with one person and create bloody drama every time someone in a relationship goes out to play for Chelsea or Arsenal? Lets get real and grow up.. Nature intended us to have fun the society and the norms we created in our capitalist system has nothing to do with what nature intended. Just make sure you play safe though! (disclaimer: whilst my entry here talks about the generalities it should not be taken to mean that it is my personal intention to misbehave, not before I discuss it with my partner who never reads this anyway!)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Another defeat?

Well got to say I was disappointed yesterday at regional Council the region had the chance to elect a new team but the members decided otherwise. That is the nature of democracy. Glad to see that my predecessor, John of the Gray, has been polishing his accounting skills up and wanted to question whether 115 votes against 97 was more than two thirds? Sorry John I just had to publish that! But hey on the other hand he was out there chatting to delegates before the election and getting them to vote his way so in a way he is, I suppose, good at that! I am still happy that I only lost by 3 votes against him years ago (sour grapes of course..)
Good to see some comrades that I haven't seen for a long time there. John from Barnet, for example, lost some weight and looks fighting fit and Marsha Jane was looking her best. Jon of the Rogers made a good speech, Andrew Berry for spotting the Finance Convenors obsession with detail and questioning it.. and the LGBT team did well with Alan presenting a motion.
Anyway maybe the not so united left will learn a lesson now? Or is it the left of the left to the left? Congratulations to the winners of course....

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

London UNISON Region AGM

Well we are two days away from the Regional Council AGM and I am openly supporting Margaret Greer for the position of Regional Convenor. I have very little to say about others but I know Margaret for many years and I have seen her work hard. She is an organiser and as someone who comes from a Self Organised Group perspective her aims and objectives are both pure and good. She will also be able to work with everyone in the region and support the regional committee.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Lambeth Unison

Another late meeting with Lambeth activists tonight and we all agreed that the branch unity is our priority. We declare that there is only one branch and only one sort of membership. All members in Lambeth Unison are Lambeth activists fighting for unity, equality and fairness at work. We will not allow for divisions that are fuelled by external forces to torpedo the progress the branch has made in the last 10 years. Our unity is our strength!