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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The end...

Sparky says good bye...



Yesterday was my last day in the wonderful world of Lambeth Unison. I leave behind sisters, brothers and a plethora of good friends. People who stood with me outside Olive Morris House every morning for 12 weeks in 1992 (didn't help my skin that!) 12 weeks opposing the unjust treatment of payroll workers from bloody January to April!


I also leave behind those many members and friends who did not lose their nerve and worked with me for 4 years between 1997 to July 2001 to bring the Benefits division back into public ownership. People who believed in me and the Unison team and agreed with our methods and tactics. That was a tough 4 years of continuous struggle with very little to no support from anyone outside. The bond I developed with people there will never be broken. I am so proud of the 200 members in that area who never doubted our ability to succeed, and the battle did not end there, we then had to implement the harmonisation plan bringing those who had gone on private sector terms back to public ownership and onto APT&C terms and conditions of service. A project taking a whole year.


I have spend the last 3 weeks walking around the main buildings where I worked talking to friends about the reasons for my leaving. I did this because they deserved a personal explanation and I have promised them all to keep in touch. I was touched by the warmth and affection shown to me by people. I know I don't deserve it but I am truly grateful. I am hoping to see most of those I have known for 20 years on the 30th of April when I will be returning back for a day.


There are so many people I wish to thank but when I started writing the list I realised that it will take for ever to mention their names so apologies if I don't mention your name.


I will thank Jon of the Rogers first of all for being my 3rd brother (I have 2 other 'natural' brothers) Jon and I have had an 'interesting' relationship. We balanced each other out and I think the Branch benefited from our cooperation mainly because we were so different in our approach. I can't think of anything bad to say about Jon and that is because there isn't anything bad to say. The man lives breathes and eats Trade Unionism and he is genuine about the struggle. He could perhaps get a bit tougher sometimes but then if he did he wouldn't be who he is. I know the Branch will unite behind his leadership and help him now that I am gone because he will need the support.


The other significant activist that I worked with for so many years is the capable Convenor of the centre Chester Danvers a real street wise genuine Trade Union activist who cares for members. I am so proud that I forced Chester 14 years ago to become a Shop Steward and then force him to stand for the position of Convenor. He is a capable successor. Who says that forcing people to do things never works?


And of course there is Khi, Jackie, Katrina, Juliet, Anne, Nazim, Robert, Nicola, Denise, Gladys, Florence, Joanna, Claire, Shida and many others who made the 22 year struggle be worth the while. And of course there is Hassina (called Hacienda by me) who has become a good friend in the last year. She is far too good looking to be working in local government I think and she could easily be a Byonce look alike! She has been funny and entertaining and I love her because although we never agree with anything we always have fun! I also admire the fact that despite the fact that she has gone through a lot of hardship in her life she always smiles and laughs, a bit like me. She needs to promise me that she will help and support Jon and I know she will.


I also wish to thank some people on the other side if you like. The Director of Finance and Resources for example, Mike Suarez, who has been a fantastic Director and has always played it fair. I hope Lambeth does a lot more to make sure he sticks around! David Ashmore Head of Benefits has also been constructive. It was good to work with people who understood that we were all part of the solution rather than the problem and that is the key to good industrial relations. Also (rather controversially) say a thanks to Nana Amoa Buahin who I got on well on a personal level I think her assertiveness was often misinterpreted as being arrogance. I did not see that in her. I also liked Linda Perks and found her more of a fascination than a problem. Maybe I see things differently? And of course John Gray isn't boring so there! lol.


Well enough said. Good bye Lambeth Unison!


































Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Darling does well




Didn't watch the debate last night as I was busy doing my hair but friends who did report that Darling did relatively well. They say that he could have done something to sort out the dreadful colour coordination between eyebrow and hair but in terms of dealing with the real issues around the economy he presented a reasonable argument whereas the other two raced against each other to make statements that could impress the electorate which is an easy task when you know you won't be in power. They might as well have said that income tax would go down to 5% knowing that they wouldn't have to implement it!


The lesson is simple, there is no alternative to Labour but Darling must sort out the eyebrow versus hair problem! Otherwise Satchy and Pystachy could throw their handbags at him!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Getting there...

Well getting near the end now. My days with the land of Lambeth are coming to an end. I leave behind a fantastic and vibrant branch full of life with friends and people that I am connected with, but looking forward to a new life as well and new adventures, new projects and new challenges for for me it is the start of something new. Will miss everyone who has worked with me but will also keep in touch with the vast majority of those I share values with. The branch is as strong as its members and the members must be encouraged to get more involved and be better informed and kept away from 'political speculators' and those who want to embark on unrealistic adventures on 'no where avenue' servicing the needs of minor no hope political groups. I know the Executive will unite behind Jon who is a genuine Trade Unionist fighting constantly to protect the interest of the members. He needs support.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Rescue plan?

Looks like the Germans and the French have got what they wanted with the IMF absorbing a one third share of the 'rescue package' and Europe taking on the other two thirds. The interesting thing about the 'rescue plan' is that none of the funds will be used unless the Hellenic state is unable to raise loans on the international money markets. I have emailed my auntie and told her not to go out buying that new microwave she wanted for a month, not yet! The idea is that a package in the background will allow the international markets to give out low interest loans and not worry that these won't be paid. Greece will, in theory, be able to do what needs to be done with some confidence and call on the 'rescue plan' if it becomes necessary? It was obvious that the French (as usual) paid a major part in supporting their close ally (Greece) there are, however, others in the waiting with Portugal, Ireland and Spain calling for support soon. Countries not in the euro zone are not affected but that don't mean they are not in the shit! So Britain, for example, is not implicated although has a similar problem. Greek press happy with French support. I am assuming that British tourists will have a fantastic time in the Aegean this summer but not too sure what will happen to our German friends. No more allowance for putting them sun towels on sun beds every morning at 5.00 a.m. and claiming the bed all bloody day! (sorry Martin - my German friend- but Merkell has annoyed me!!) Love Germans as you know! x

Friday, 26 March 2010

Hellenic rescue? Just don't mention the war...

Looks like the Germans have finally agreed but to a plan to 'rescue' the Hellenes which combine an intervention from the IMF and the EU. Involving the IMF was something opposed by most of the nations in the euro zone. The French who are traditional allies to the Greeks appear to have given in.
The Greek press, rightly or wrongly, is critical of the Germans who, after all, destroyed most medium size countries during the second world war (especially Greece) paid no reparations afterwards and then received massive support through the Marshal plan (which included money paid by the 4 million USA Greek American tax payers) The deputy PM of Greece (who doesn't look like suffering from the effects of the recession) has been asking why it is that the Germans have not returned the gold reserves removed by the occupation forces. Whatever the arguments are one thing remains clear and that is that the workers of that country and soon the other 3 if not more, will have to pay the price.
Is Euro Federalism working??

Thursday, 25 March 2010

PIGS in trouble...

The Western media are calling them PIGS and they are in trouble. PIGS stands for Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. These are the first countries to be in trouble with their economies. Greece is the first to be pushing the bucket with 12% of its GDP being in the negative, interesting the British equivalent is 8% so no huge difference in real terms. The other countries, Spain and Portugal plus Ireland are just about to follow the Greek example. The Greek TUC called two general strikes protesting against the austerity measures imposed by the new Labour type of Socialist PASOK the strike was very popular and it meant I had trouble with my flight back (couldn't they have waited a day or two.. bloody unions!)
The interesting thing to me is that the 3 of the 4 countries in trouble Spain, Greece and Portugal, had very similar historical developments with military dictatorship periods coinciding. Greece got rid of the junta in 1974, Portugal in 1975 and Spain 1976 with the death of Franco. They were then pushed to join the EEC with Greece becoming the 10th member as early as 1982 Spain and Portugal followed after a few years. Then we had the introduction of the Euro and now its all going wrong. But many would say that the reality is not that things are going wrong its just that the system isn't right, that is the Greek theory anyway. I am hoping that the Germans and the French who have expressed their support will do more to rescue the situation. More should also be done to introduce the PAYE system in Greece which is currently not there!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

London Regional Committee

I will be attending what could be my last regional committee meeting today as I am leaving Lambeth. I shall remain a Unison member even after my departure but not sure whether I shall retain my role on this body.
The regional committee meets in between Regional Councils and is almost always interesting. There are usually some good debates and discussions.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Politics...

More revelations from the press about how MP's allow themselves to be put in a position where they could be influenced by lobbyists for money. There is nothing wrong, of course, with interest and pressure groups lobbying a politician but it is absolutely wrong for an elected representative to solicit (allegedly) money for asking a question that could help some company. Things are definitely getting world in the world of politics and the politicians in question are not doing much to help remove that suspicion. There needs to be a radical re think of how the current system works. Perhaps its time to get thinking of creative ways of changing things? I am sure there are many consultants around who wouldn't mind recommending some alternatives. Colonel Qaddafi? (joking of course..)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Pictures..




A Lambeth Unison branch committee meeting a few years ago...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Juliet Blake...

Me and Juliet in front of Larnaca Town Hall considering a possible take over of the Larnaca municipality after a few bottles of wine...


Juliet Blake, our branch administrator, has worked with me for the last 17 years. She is loyal, a friend, a sister and a great communicator but most of all she has been there for me, Jon and the whole branch. The most outstanding virtue Juliet has comes from being able to adopt and work with change. Everyone loves her but me more than anybody else. She is a great asset for the branch and I will always be grateful to her for being so patient. She started off working for us but ended up being an essential part of a close knit family.

The Lambeth team...




A picture of the Lambeth Unison delegation attending conference a few years ago in Brighton. Part of the good memories. Jackie Lewis, (international celebrity) Katrina Hoogendam, Roulla Xyrizos, Caroline Clark, myself and Jon of the Rogers...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The decision to leave




I am leaving the towers...



I waited until the Lambeth Branch Committee, which was held today, to explain the reasons for my decision to leave Lambeth. The committee had the right to know. I have also written to a number of friends in the branch and I promised that I will be visiting their offices and buildings in the next few days to talk to them in person.




I would like to thank the Branch committee for their good wishes and will repeat that my decision to leave was a very difficult one.




I would also like to pay a special thanks to the many members who stood with me over the years and especially those who followed my advice in the campaign between December 1997 to July 2001 and achieved the return of the Benefits Division back to the public sector where it belongs. A big thanks also to all who worked with me and those who stood with me on the picket line for 12 weeks during the payroll strike in the early 90s. There are many more people who deserve a mention and I promise that I will be visiting everyone over the next two weeks to talk to them face to face. A great thanks to all for messages of support I feel very humble, blessed and honored to have been able to work with and for such a fantastic group of people. I will be leaving behind me friends, brothers and sisters and I promise to keep in touch!




Stay strong and remain united!








Notting Hill Trust strike action

Yesterday was the first day of strike action by our members in the Notting Hill Trust. Reports show that the action was well supported. The employer there is taking similar action to what BA is trying to do in an attempt to reduce members terms and conditions of service including the abolition for some of the right to have flexi time. There are more detailed reports on the Unison web site and a few other blogs.

http://grayee.blogspot.com/2010/03/notting-hill-housing-strike.html

http://jonrogers1963.blogspot.com/2010/03/support-striking-unison-members-at.html

Monday, 15 March 2010

The 22 year itch...

I arrived in Lambeth on the 1st of April 1988 and have decided to leave to do something different. I left university in 1982 and had 3 jobs with the civil service before I came to Lambeth. I promised myself that I would change jobs every 3 years when I graduated so I failed miserably with that objective. I will say more once I am sure of my departure, but there are no major scandals to report so no more 'comments' (I won't publish them if they are not constructive) As I said many times before Lambeth Unison is the best branch in the whole world with huge potential and a collection of brilliant individuals who are sometimes misunderstood. Let 1,000 flowers blossom, as Chairman Bigus Digus and Incontinentia once said!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Greek General strike

Just returned back from a short break in Greece. Was in Athens on Thursday where the Trade Unions called a general strike protesting against the drastic cuts imposed by the new socialist government of PASOK. Athens was a battlefield at some stage with more or less everything closed down. The mainstream demonstration and marches both in Athens and Thessaloniki (province of Macedonia and second largest city) were peaceful but there were some major outbreaks of heavy stuff, there always is.

People were protesting against the decision to impose pay cuts across the board and reduce public spending. Prime Minister Papandreou looked exhausted when one of the television channels managed to send a programme out. He had been on a tour of the USA and France trying to enlist 'support' the French, (traditional friends of modern Greece) as always committed their support. Sarkozi went on tv to pledge to do everything he could to help and so did Obama in the USA.


The amazing thing for me was to witness the difference in approach on the streets of Athens. The majority of demonstrators were in their 20s and there was a significant number of people from other countries who came to march with the Greek workers. One fellow demonstrator from Holland asked me how it was done in Britain and when I explained that we would organise petitions and then leaflet he looked very puzzled. I do not agree with the violence and hostility shown towards the police by a small number of demonstrators at all but I was impressed with the turn out. I am hoping that countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland who are more or less in a similar position, can find a more peaceful way out of this economic crisis.


Ah yes and just to reply to some comments I received whilst I was away asking whether the rumour that I am leaving the beautiful world of Lambeth Unison is true. The answer is yes. I will expand on this when it is appropriate for me to do so.





Monday, 8 March 2010

Lambeth Unison

Good entry yesterday from Jon of the Rogers on Lambeth Unison. The Branch is one of the best in the country with a strong activist base. We are diverse and vibrant and, according to many, active and always on the radar. Even John of the Gray describes Lambeth Unison as his 'third most favorite'. Long live Lambeth Unison then!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Greeks

Well I am the self appointed expert in Hellenic affairs within Unison. The thousands of you who don't read this blog have asked me to comment on the state of the Greek economy. I could do the typical Hellenic thing and blame everyone else for the state of the economy but there are two versions regarding the reasons and both are as equally apealing>
First of all the Greeks don't like tax (does anyone?) and since there is no PAYE system in place the state relies on tax returns which are filled in every year. That in itself is still a chaotic process. The estimate is that around 38% of GDP is lost through uncollected revenue. There is also the problem of spending a considerable amount of the budget on 'defence' this is of course based on the 'perceived'' threat from neighbours which (in my opinion) is greatly exaturated and has been used over the last 50 years to justify high spending on buying arms from the USA (responsible mainly for many of Hellas post war problems) and France. So the reality is that a lot of other areas are neglected such as welfare. Spending on education is good but more can be done.
The other version of what has gone wrong is associated with the 'fact' that the Germans took the gold bullion reserves when they invaded the country in 1941 and never returned it. The current Minister of the Interior, Theodoros Pangalos, has gone on record saying that if that was returned then there would be no economic crisis. My question is why did thye wait until now to remember that?? I personally blame the last Tory administration of Costas Karamalis. The solution is of course for a radical re think of how capitalist Europe operates and its about time that some true socialist methods were introduced! But no one can blame the Greek people for the mess the capitalist keep creating. I understand that Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy are following the same path. This is a crisis created by an idiotic system that needs radical re think!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

What is the right balance.

As I stated in response to one of the comments I received last night I am not fully aware of the detail of why elected officers in Bromley have been physically removed from Unison offices. If that is true then that could be seen as an over reaction.

I have spoken before about the need to keep the balance between activists exercising their democratic right to have 'different' ideas and the importance of adhering to national rules and procedures that have, after all, been decided democratically by conference which has, as far as I am concerned supreme authority.

I am all for allowing 1000 flowers to bloom but then understand the need to have those flowers grow in the right place, at the right time. On a personal level I know fellow Branch Secretary Glen Kelly and I wouldn't think he could have done anything so drastic to merit this action but I don't have the precise detail. This action, however, proves what I have been saying and fearing before that the national union will not tolerate what they see as deviations and there should be no question as to how Linda Perks, regional Secretary is determined to deal with 'concerns' I am still saying this is an over reaction....

Friday, 5 March 2010

Unison reforms and change in practices

Based on the 22 years experience and exposure at senior lay officer positions within the best union in the country I would say the following reforms and changes would be of great benefit and are long over due.
1. Branches must adopt at local level same principles re proportionality and fair representation when electing officers.
2. The question of one member one vote should be imported by branches (long term aim)
3. National union should do more online and reduce costs in the centre transferring resources to branches and front line services where members need it more.
4. Find a way to reallocate budgets. Branches currently receive up to 23% of what they collect locally the rest goes to national. This must be changed and local branches should get at least 60% of what they collect.
5. Savings can be found by reducing admin costs locally and centralising admin support which would involve taking locally employed staff centrally.
6. I am aware of many branches that have been unable to manage their budgets correctly and in a prudent way. Managing budgets more effectively will improve 'service delivery' and maximise confidence. More should be done to support branches with their finances.
7. Recruitment of members must be a priority but the allocation of new members needs to be done in a more sensible way so that members from smaller employers are placed in one unified branch.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Dealing with realities..

I am hearing that smaller groups on the left will be putting up candidates in several constituencies and I know of one such person in my own area, Lambeth, which has 3 constituencies with Labour MP's and I know of one person in Vauxhall who intends to stand against Kate Hoye (very brave.. not..)
It is of course the democratic right of every citizen (or is it subject?) in this country to stand for election, but I fear that the next battle will be a dangerous one for those of us who believe in public services. It is a fact that if a Tory government is elected the public sector will face a major challenge and we will be back to constant confrontation. They have already declared that 1 in 10 jobs will be deleted and a pay freeze will be on the cards. Many on the left are now arguing that a Labour government will do the same and although this might be somewhat true the fact is the TU has more influence with them. It is time to make electing the 'right' government the priority and not divide the vote in marginal constituencies (and I am not saying that anyone standing in the 3 Lambeth constituencies will be doing this as Lambeth is solid Labour!!)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Is PR important?

I understand from totally unreliable sources that the Paul Holmes team will be using Scratchy and Pistachy PR gurus for their campaign to win the General Secretary election. I also know from equally pointless sources that Paul has promised to reduce taxation once elected in office , bring back El Dorado, make Deidre Barlow Rashid get married to a 23 year old toy boy and return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, the Greek government has, however, explained that they no longer had any money to pay for their transportation back to Athens as it was all used up and spend by the last conservative government.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Peter Mandelson

No I am not running away with him, no I just have to issue a public apology because a few months ago I had a letter in The London Student paper (still get it even after my graduation in 1821!) attacking him for being incompetent. That was of course not right. I am still not too keen on his tactics or approach but the old goat has turned the opinion polls around and has reduced the Tory lead in a matter of a few months. Labour (and I am not publicly telling anyone to take sides here as I am in a politically restricted post) is now looking like a winning party again and it is mainly because of Peter Mandelson taking charge of the PR campaign.
Peter Mandelson has taken on the media and has turned things around. This shows how the nice but a bit naive Gordon Brown, who is clearly being bullied at the Commons at PM's Question Time by David Cameron, has made the right choice in bringing Mandelson back to handle the PR.
One thing is clear in all this. Labour took immediate action to rectify the catastrophic mistakes made by the bankers and had they not we would all be down the toilet of history now. The Tories would have allowed the recession take its natural course. In other words let everyone go down apart from the old Trolleys from Bollockshire and Wankarshire! and am still staying neutral on this!
Would the anon person sending negative comments about MJ stop doing this please? Leave her alone. As I say on top of this blog I won't publish nasty comments. Try and be a bit more constructive? We live in a democracy and we dont have to agree with everyone but more importnat we don't need to be dishing out nasty comments! She is doing what she things is right!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Are the cuts around the corner?

The Tory party and the shadow Secretary for local government have announced that if they get elected there will be some 25,000 jobs removed from local government. In addition there will be a pay freeze imposed for anyone earning more than 18,000 a year and the entire structure of how it all works will be reviewed, in other words there will be more reductions than they are prepared to reveal. They will be introducing total place, total bananas and total who cares how public services work concepts so although I am not in a position to tell anyone which way to vote I would urge anyone with an interest in improving public services to think again! Think before you vote and before you act!