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!