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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

London in snow

First snow in November for many years....

Pensions crisis

I am reproducing Dave Prentis statement found on the Unison website on the erosion in value of pensions.

'This week, news emerged that the value of public sector workers' pensions has dropped by up to 25%. This is due in part to the government's decision to use the CPI rather than the RPI to calculate pension increases.This means the cost of providing public sector pensions has already fallen and workers are losing out when they retire. Further attempts to cut pensions for social workers, teaching assistants and nurses would be unjustified.It's time the government turned its attention instead to the private sector, where two thirds of companies do not pay a penny towards their workers' pensions – leaving taxpayers with a multi billion pound means-tested benefits bill. '

Monday, 29 November 2010

Students and the Lib Democrats

The students are right to take to the streets and demonstrate their opposition to the draconian measures imposed by the government and the massive increase in tuition fees, they should do this is a peaceful way and the numbers that turned up shows that it can be done. It is not fair or right that the Libs should have so much to do this this policy. In addition Nick Clegg lied and no one should forget that. The best way to deal with the Libs is at the ballot box at the next election. No one should ever vote for the party that cannot be trusted.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sri Lankan garment workers struggle

TUC supporting Sri Lankan garment workers to win better pay and conditions While Nike CEO Mark Parker is deciding what to do with his £8 million compensation package for 2010, the TUC is supporting sportswear workers in Sri Lanka to organise and win an annual wage of around £700 at minimum and better working conditions. At current wage levels, it could take Sri Lankan sportswear workers over 14,000 years to earn what Mark Parker made in 1 year. There's no disputing that this isn't playing fair. Sportswear brands sourcing from Sri Lanka include Nike, Adidas, Speedo, Puma and Reebok, and amidst violations of human and trade union rights, their profits continue to grow. It's time for these big brands to raise the bar on workers' rights and ensure workers manufacturing their products are paid a living wage.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Sodexo hospital workers strike

Is it time to regulate television programmes? X Factor 2010

We have the monopolies commission which looks into monopolistic practices, their job is to ensure (in theory) that no one individual or company exercises total control over our economy, this is of course connected with the world of commerce and how we relate to that.

But there is very little regulation when it comes to how the media and television try to control our minds. Now I don't want to start sounding like Mary Whitehouse (indeed I never want to look like her!) but there is something to be said about not allowing one individual to exercise so much power and control over what is shown on prime time television. The argument against having any regulation is that you will then have the state having more power over us and you will stifle freedom of expression, but on the other hand the current situation means that a company can manipulate certain programmes, like the X Factor, for their own benefit.

I am, on balance, against introducing measures to control this part of our lives but I would like to see people like Simon Cowel and any others who produce such manipulating programmes be made to pay 90% tax on all that they produce that way they will be doing it because they love it and not because they are self obsessed and want to make more money. In the mean time I am doing a u turn and will be voting for Wagner to win tonight (apologies to Matt and Rebbecca)

Was Mao misunderstood?

I was having a debate at the usual pub somewhere in Clapham village with a few friends last night like you do when you had a hard week and you are glad that the weekend has arrived and Lord Young has resigned and moved back to legoland.

One of them, who is as charming as Robert Mugabe and looks like Anne Widdecombe (on a good day) insisted that Mao was a piss artist and that he was simply self obsessed, in other words an unlikely leader who happened to be in the right place at the right time and slipped through the net, then another friend produced evidence based on what a member of the gang of 4.5 had said which would prove that Mao liked to have a drink or six. The ridiculous thing about the debate is that no one remembers any of the detail of what was said this morning it is however true that Mao's cultural revolution was a nasty attempt to control the minds of people who have a right to exercise their right to free thinking. He was a dictator and a nasty piece of work like all other dictators.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Lord Young and legoland

I seemed to have offended a certain 'reader' of this splendid blog who has taken the trouble to write complaining about my 'age discriminatory' entry a few days ago. Unfortunately this person has chosen to post a comment without leaving his name and as my policy on anonymous comments is not to publish them (unless they are positive or constructive) I shall not be allowing the publication. This individual however makes some interesting points but, like any Tory I ever met, misses the point. Saying that I would however state that Lord Young's age had no relevance to my criticism of his view of the world we (we and not him) live in, in fact I am sure that citizens of legoland would not have been offended? I don't see how he thinks we never had it so good? Perhaps that could be the case on the planet Zannusi? Happy to allow the comment if you identify yourself mate.

Industrial action and strikes

I was one of those branch Secretaries/activists who was always sceptical about the value of strike action and was always careful not to encourage continuous balloting of members for matters that did not merit walk outs because I saw strike action as a last resort. Members these days are not willing to lose pay unless they are satisfied that there is no other alternative.

I was involved with several pay disputes between 1990 and 2004 when national action was called for by the union and it was those events that proved to be more successful than any of the others. There were of course other local disputes in Lambeth, for example, where we were less successful. So I would say that we, as a union, should utilise the mood of the country right now and ensure that the 26 of March is followed by more industrial action.

We must be careful, on the other hand, not be mislead by 'leaders' who will have us think that they have the strategy right and ready like the London Weighting dispute an adventure that was abandoned by 'leaders' who failed to deliver on the promise that the arrival of Ken Livingstone (the Socialist Messiah) would have produced the goods (in other words a total miscululation). That adventure plan was filed in some draw somewhere in London to be forgotten. We need to be careful and scrutinise every detail that these 'leaders' come up with, we need intelligent, deliverable strategies that can be supported by the 95% of members most of whom cannot attend town hall meetings to vote on these matters. Lets have responsible leadership and sustainable strategies.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bishops, weddings and facebook

I have dealt with cases in the past where members I was representing got into trouble because of what they said on face book. One case, many years ago, involved a member of staff who also had her line manager listed as a friend on face book. She was annoyed with him so she posted some nasty comments on her page which he of course got to see. You can guess how the story ends.

But coming back to the reason for this story I honestly don't know why Willsden has to have a Bishop? If Willsden has a Bishop then why doesn't Streatham or Clapham have one? Whatever.

Anyway the Bishop got into trouble because he forgot that what you put on face book will be read by many others so he decided to tell all that Will and Kate won't make it beyond the Olympics after the next one. Now I don't care if someone is a Republican or not and of course many are. It just isn't nice to go and tell the world that two people who look like are in love won't be making it? The Bishop should mind his own business and he should start doing a blog instead of posting stuff on face book (that's what I did when I deactivated my facebananabook) In the meantime I don't know which union represents Bishops but he needs some urgent advice to get out of this one?

Student fees and the Libs

Angry students marched on the streets of central London yesterday to protest against the governments decision to impose changes in the fee system which are completely unfair, unworkable and a disgrace. I won't deal with the small number of incidents where people behaved in an unacceptable way towards the police. Those who went on the march to provoke and cause damage are a small minority and they have nothing to do with the strong majority of students who are simply not going to sit around and accept the destructive approach this government has chosen to go down. I don't know anyone in my own circle of friends and contacts who does not agree that the students are right to protest.

I am also amazed how mainstream Lib Democrats are allowing the power hungry small group who are in control of their party push them down the point of no return. The Libs have now lost any credibility and they have shown themselves to be the party that makes promises that they never keep. Nick Clegg should resign and join the Tory party he will be more comfortable amongst them and Simon H should get off the fence and object to what is going on. I know the electorate will punish those responsible at the next election in the meantime the fight and the resistance will continue.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Portugese day of action

Portuguese trade unions have organised a day of action to protest against the austerity measures being and the government's 2011 budget plan to cut wages for civil servants by 5 percent and freeze pensions.

Portugal is following Greece, Spain, France and Ireland in the fight against cuts with a major protest march also been planed here in London on the 26 of March. It is ironic that a crisis created by the incompetence of the banking system is being paid by the same people who had to bail the banks out.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

World Aids day 1 December 2010

Each year, we mark World AIDS Day on December 1st. World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remember those we have lost to the pandemic and to battle against this deadly killer. The World Health Organization announced recently that HIV/AIDS is the number one cause of disease and death among women ages 18-49 worldwide. AIDS has already taken the lives of 25 million people and 33 million more are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS around the world today.And yet, as infection rates rise, the public's level of awareness of their very real risk for contracting HIV wanes. We have a funding crisis for HIV/AIDS worldwide. Even the current budgeted relief programs come nowhere close to meeting the need we have to get those who require treatment into care. And stigma continues to prove as deadly as the disease itself, keeping people from getting tested and treated for HIV/AIDS. Those of us involved with the Trades Union movement need to do more to promote awareness and fight for more resources

Monday, 22 November 2010

X Factor

Well what can I say. The inevitable happened again and the talentless Wagner has been kept in the house.

There is now a real fear that he will win because of the confrontation Cheryl Cole had with him on Saturday night. He will now get another sector of the vote and win those who will see him as the underdog. The British public do not like to see the underdog been kicked and Cheryl's PR advisers were totally incompetent in advising her to have that conflict with him. Perhaps I should also support him and give in...

Jon Rogers and the NEC

We will soon be faced with having to decide who to nominate to represent us on the NEC here in London. I will be supporting and hopefully campaigning for Jon of the Rogers to be returned.

Now I know I was criticised before for supporting Dave Prentis and others for different positions but I always vote with my head. I worked with Jon for many years and we were very close associates for at least 10 years. We did not always agree on how to manage our branch but we had a clear understanding of where the division of labour was. I know how Jon works and he is a brilliant representative for London. He is absolutely dedicated to the job and loves his involvement with the NEC. I also know that there are those on the top of Unison who secretly welcome his critical role within the NEC although they will never admit to it publicly.

In conclusion I would say that a vote for Jon and a nomination will be the right thing to do. I am hoping that more branches nominate him this time than before. A vote for Jon is a vote for real democracy.

Save the tiger

The tiger could be extinct by 2022 if action isn't taken

World leaders and wildlife campaigners have met in Russia to consider practical ways for raising the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to bring the tiger back from the brink of extinction.

The summit had delegates from 13 nations where tigers live in the wild and it was chaired by Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, in his home city St Petersburg.

The four-day summit is good news albeit a bit late given that the extinction of the tiger would represent "a historic, cultural, spiritual, and environmental catastrophe" and if action isn't taken now it could be late.

Charities and conservation groups warn that the species could be wiped out by 2022, the next Chinese year of the tiger, because of deforestation and illegal poaching.

Over the past century, the number of wild tigers has tumbled from 100,000 to just 3,200 today. At least three sub-species have already gone extinct and others could soon follow. This isn't acceptable and more should be done to allow these proud animals to live in the wild.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

X Factor and Wagner

Well the saga continues and the anti establishment movement aimed at discrediting the show and Simon Cowels monopoly on reality programmes seems to be getting stronger with people being persuaded to vote in favour of Wagner who can't sing, can't dance and looks like a bag of chips left on a Wall after a November monsoon.

Now I said this before and will say it again, the show should not be controlled by people like Simon who has definitely reached his sell by date and should make room for others but it allows young and talented people like Matt and Rebbecca to exhibit the talent they have. Where else would they have that opportunity? So whilst I sympathise with the cappuccino anarchists from Clapham and Camden I would say that on balance people should be encouraged to vote for someone who is good at singling? Lets see whether Wagner stays in after tonight?

The Royal wedding

A fellow blogger has send me a link and asked me to insert it on my blog but I couldn't manage it. Its a link connected to a face book movement which basically supports an argument aimed at insuring that the tax payer does not pay for the wedding of William and Ms middle class. As I said I could not get the link to work so apologies for that but anyone interested in finding out can just google the subject.

I am also keen not to get involved in any debate which may look like I am against two people getting married because they are basically in love. Katie Middleton middle class seems nice enough and William has very little choice other than to become the King one day so lets not spoil it for them. I am of course a socialist and believe in equality and fairness and do not like distinctions but even in a pure democracy you have an elected president who behaves, more or less, as monarch would. You also have fierce anti establishment figures like John Preston, who end up embrassing what the institution brings and become part of it by becoming Lords. So on balance, and given the a Royal wedding will bring in the tourists and give London at least a mini boom, I am not too anti. So lets leave them alone as the chance of removing the monarchy in this country is none existent. So lets enjoy the artificially created euphoria that the event will create. My mother seems to be happy about the whole thing so it must be ok.. she also says that no one knows who the president of Greece is whereas everyone knew King Constantine 9Prince Williams God father..) she may have a point.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

26 March march

I was at regional committee also last Tuesday and John Gray is right to report that the biggest part of what we discussed was around the 26th March march. Everyone agreed that we should make sure that the day is a success.

There was also a debate around the students demonstration that took place the week before and some on the committee thought it was a big success and an example of how things should be done. My view is that the demonstration was well organised and the students are of course right to gather and protest, but nothing excuses those who destroy the message and the effort of everyone else. Violence and criminal behaviour are not an acceptable form of protest and those who engaged with those 'activities' managed to give the hostile media a reason to focus on what they did and dilute the important message the students were trying to deliver.

I don't think anyone at committee justified the actions by the few. We now need to make sure that we have at least a million on the march in March and that it is done right and correctly!

Lord Young and Lego land

It would appear that Lord Young's comments may have been taken out of context (not that young) It looks like what he meant to say is that those people who live in Lego land have never had it so good, he probably also thinks that Cinderella had something to do with the invasion of Poland before the start of the war.

I looked at the figures and the plethora of stats about our standards of living and everything you can think of from the price of travelling to the retail price index has gone up. Lord Young seems to think that we are all rolling in it because interest rates have gone down but that only applies to a small number of people with small mortgages they still have to find money to pay for the huge increases that the government have imposed and the new VAT rates which are coming in from January will see to it that most of us will be worst off than ever before. Good that he has resigned, he should perhaps move to Lego land?

Friday, 19 November 2010

X Factor

Just had lunch with friends from Lambeth, the best borough in London. I keep close touch with many friends there and indeed I occasionally go in to help with case work when am needed, I don't mind at all as Lambeth is in my blood. Glad to see they are doing well and happy to help when I can.

The subject of conversation I was having with this group of members/friends was the X Factor and the nonsense around the cappuccino anarchists attempt to destroy the credibility of the show, its now not that amusing and not funny! The majority of those I spoke to (4 women so a very representative example) think that the show gives young (and older) people the opportunity to exhibit their talents but we all agreed that removing Aiden Grimshaw last week and keeping the completely untalented Wagner in takes the biscuit and it must stop. Those protesting about the control Simon Cowell has over the 'programme' have a good point but if the show goes down it could be at the expense of those with talent like Matt and Rebbecca, so we are all hoping that this nonsense stops and Wagner is removed this weekend.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


In the very waters where Iceland's tourists marvel at whales, whalers are murdering these gigantic creatures. Whalers have killed 148 endangered fin whales and 60 minke whales this year. Whaling is cruel, unnecessary and doesn't make sense economically. Whale watching is a humane, sustainable and profitable alternative to whaling -- in fact, it generates more than $15 million a year for Iceland's coastal communities. Speak out to end this cruel practice

Can the Euro collapse?

Well lets just say things are not looking very good as far as the Euro is concerned. The Mastricht treaty which set up the adventure and started the ball rolling was simply unspecified text on a piece of paper. Not many member states have been able to meet the criteria or stick to the so called rules. Europe is simply embarrassed to admit that it was all thrown into a big cooking pot without the right ingredients and with no set recipe!

As a result some of the countries that were encouraged to be part of the Euro zone for political reasons, like Greece, have failed miserably and its people will now be paying a heavy price. The German economy is doing very well as their main trading partners are China and Russia so it could be that they do not need to put up with the problems of having to rescue the Southern states (and Ireland) out so they could either consider abandoning the Euro or change the rules to let the 4 problem states float on their own.

There are of course political consequences if the Euro project is killed and it is clear that real integration cannot take place if there isn't a common currency but is the price we are all paying right now too heavy? Is Europe ready to compete with the USA, China, Russia and India? The argument should be that we should all be more united and face this crisis together but it doesn't look like we can. A more simple solution would be for France and Germany to form a version of a union between themselves and leave the rest of Europe on their own, but I hope this doesn't happen.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

UK governments position on Cyprus

Britains's former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s comments suggesting partition of the island were not shared by MPs during a House of Commons debate yesterday.

Last week Jack Straw annoyed the 300,000 British Greek community when he said in an article that it was time for the UK government to “consider the formal partition of Cyprus” if the current reunification talks fail. Meaning that if the Greeks on the island did not accept a solution which would allow Turkey to have military control over the island then there wouldn't be a deal.

During yesterday’s debate David Lidington, British Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs, highlighted that the British government was against any solution that involved the division of the island, while also reiterating London’s position for the support of talks on a just and long-lasting solution of the Cyprus problem. He also commented that the current situation was not beneficial for either of the two sides and that it was Turkey’s obligation to help the conditions for a settlement in Cyprus.

The debate, initiated by Labour MP Jim Sheridan, was attended by many MPs both Labour and Conservative. The comments made by Jack Straw angered many in the community who correctly observed that he would not have suggested a partition of Northern Ireland as a solution to that problem which is almost identical. He can of course say anything he likes now that he is no longer in office but he has now lost a lot of support.

Organising for a successful 26 March

I reported my concerns yesterday to the London regional committee about the delay in us getting together a major event to demonstrate opposition to the drastic cuts imposed on us by the Con every Lib coalition government. Friends form TUs on the continent were asking me recently why it takes so long to organise opposition. I explained that it is better to plan something carefully even if it means waiting for some time rather than jump into it without much thought. A member of the regional committee yesterday reminded us that the anti cuts movement in France and Greece didn't at the end achieve much. He was of course wrong about this and even if he was partly right I wasn't sure if he was telling us that we should just sit back and do nothing? Its sometimes difficult to figure out what people mean when they make profound statements but are not clear. I think Jesus of Nazareth had that habit and he ended up having 4 guys interpret what he said (hundreds of years later) differently, or was it Brian?

Going back to the event on the 26 March I would imagine that we will have to make sure that we are all there and make sure that we have more than a million people turning up. It is important that we plan this day carefully and make sure that the government gets the message. Every branch Secretary must be made responsible for putting more effort into this than anything else before.

News of the wedding

Everyone of course would know by now, unless they have been on the planet Zanussi, that there is a big wedding coming up next year spring or summer time. I wish the two getting married the best of luck and I hope the wedding boosts the London economy which I imagine it would given that the event will attract more tourists who will then spend more money in Selfridges and Debenhams or indeed Sainsburys buying souvenirs they will never want or be able to use.

But that is how the capitalist economy works (according to the Rogerites) so the wedding, the Queens jubilee thingy and the Olympics will create a feel good factor which will allow people to spend more money on their credit cards (forgetting they have to pay it all back on huge interest rates) and therefore give David Cameron a temporary economic boost which would allow him to claim that he was the one who got us out of the recession! Scandalous!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Biscuits Gate scandal

I can report that the rumours concerning the lack or removal of biscuits from the Regional Committee today are correct. It appears that my successor, John of the Gray, who became Regional Finance Convenor after me, has introduced drastic financial measures which include the periodic withdrawal of biscuits? I confronted the Regional team following the meeting today and reminded them that during my 6 years in office we never went without biscuits!! I can distinctly remember in fact that the variety available in my times was second to none! I am given to understand that our John was pre occupied with pre wedding plans or something?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Euro zone in danger...

Looks like the dream of achieving Euro Federalism will be put back for now. The Greek economy has more or less collapsed (although the resilient Greeks are fighting back) and Ireland is now following with Portugal, Spain and Italy ready to join the 'we got it all wrong club'.

So this could be the end of the current version of monetary union. I doubt as to whether the Franco German alliance will allow this situation to continue for much longer. I said it before and I will say it again you can not have a common currency if you do not have a central bank controlling local (national) economies so the member states in the Euro will either have to give up financial sovereighty or let the Euro go down the toilet... But Europhobes beware, the Euro project has not come to an end this is just a minor set back. We can't afford to go back to pre war days, Europe needs to unite and deal with the changing world.

Standards of service

This is a subject I raised on a few occasions when I was Branch Secretary. In fact I started a system where myself, and those working close to me, guaranteed that every member who emailed an inquiry or a question would get a reply within a 24 hour period. We managed to keep to this promise even if it meant that the reply the member got was to say that we would be looking at the issue they raised and they will get a response within an x period of time. This proved to be successful.

But I know of cases now where a member would either call or try to make contact with the union office and not get a reply for weeks. Unison operates a fairly good system where someone can ring Unison Direct. UD will then email a Branch Secretary and tell them to contact the member. But this service costs money as the member has to pay for the call. I am also aware of people trying to make contact when they are facing horrendous circumstances at work but cannot get through abandoned phone lines.

There are of course many in the TU movement who insist that we are not an AA or RAC type of organisation and we should not be getting into service level agreements or issuing guarantees. I profoundly disagree with this notion and I think we must offer or at least commit ourselves to some standards of 'excellence' members deserve better attention from the activists who are elected not just to enact revolution but to also support those in need.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Periods of consultation

Terms and conditions can be changed with the employees' consent, or if this is not forthcoming, the employer has the option of dismissing the employees and re-engaging them on new contracts with new terms and conditions. If proposing to dismiss and re-engage a workforce of 20 or more employees, the employer should carry out a collective consultation either with representatives from the recognised union, or if there is no union, with employee representatives, elected through the ballot process if necessary. For a workforce of between 20 and 99 staff, the consultation period is 30 days, whereas a workforce of 100 or more requires a 90-day consultation period.

TUC welcomes release of Aung San Suu Kyi

TUC General Secretary welcomed the release today of the leader of the Burmese opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, but warned that the Burmese dictatorship still held thousands of political prisoners, refused to allow democracy, free speech or free trade unions, and continued the systematic use of forced labour.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Animal abuse in the Ukraine

Animals in Ukraine are popular attractions in circuses and mobile zoos. Unfortunately, the living conditions for these animals often include exposure to the elements, dirty cages and abuse.And there are no laws to protect them. The Association of Animal Protection Organizations of Ukraine has started a petition to urge the Ukraine government to protect these animals. You can get involved by writing to your MP urging them to protest on your behalf to the Ukraine Embassy. Cruelty to animals is unacceptable and must be stopped.

Minister Stefanos Stefanou on J Straws comments

PARTITION of the island is not an option, and British former foreign secretary Jack Straw who suggested the notion, is in contradiction with a protocol signed by Cyprus and Britain, the Cyprus government said yesterday.
“Partition is not an option for us, “ government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said of the comment piece penned by Straw and published in The Times.
The spokesman said Straw’s positions were in conflict with a memorandum of understanding signed by Cyprus and Britain in 2008, which speaks of reunification on the basis of a bizonal, bicomunal federation, and not partition.
“If Mr. Straw is promoting partition then he should know that this means – according to the Treaty of Establishment with which the UK acquired two military bases in Cyprus – that she cannot hold on to these bases in Cyprus,” Stefanou said.
The memo's key clauses refer to the UK's obligations emanating from the 1960 treaties, including its role as a guarantor power, as well as a commitment not to support “any moves towards the partition of the island or the recognition or upgrading of any separate political entity”.
“(Partition) is not an option for the United Nations and the various international organisations as it is not for the European Union itself. There are resolutions, and decisions, both by the UN and the EU,” Stefanou said.

The Capuccino Anarchist and x factor

I know this is not a subject of great interests to fellow TU activists who would rather have a pint or 6 in the Prince of bananas pub on a Saturday night before they go out clubbing but the X factor is a fascinating show which has attracted controversy recently.

It would appear (for those of you not familiar with the format) that there is a movement from what I call Cappuccino Anarchists to discredit the 'credibility' of the show. Now I know that I have been very critical of Simon Cowel previously and those who are trying to control the minds of the young via the media but the show offers the opportunity for some who would never have been seen before to enter Shallow land and make their dream true by exhibiting what they have.

This year we have two very good talented contestants Matt and Rebbecca but we also have a total banana called Wagner who is as gifted as I am Swedish his talent on the Richter scale is 0 out of 10 yet he keeps getting voted back in. It would appear that the Cappuccino Anarchists are trying to make him win to show the establishment that the British people will not be controlled by media manipulation. Now that in itself is attractive to me I am however concerned that the process of inactive rebellion will undermine the success of Matt or Rebbecca who are, in my totally expert opinion (who said I was big headed?) the best entrants we ever had. So the Capuccino anarchist rebellion will damage the chances of these young people who are very good at what they do and that would be a shame. I know that their leader reads this blog as I got some comments from him/her so maybe they need to rethink?

The need for a bloggers association

Elizabeth Winkler, a fellow blogger from Bristol, recently suggested or asked the question as to whether bloggers need to have a union. I think that most of the bloggers who appear on the TU cyber space pages are of course already members of strong established unions but there is a clear need for those of us who express sometimes controversial views online to belong to some kind of an association as we are clearly placing ourselves on the firing line.

And I believe that we are all vulnerable for attack from those who do not agree with our views. In fact a recent incident which affected me personally has persuaded me of the need to have a collective. I recently applied for a job with a huge multinational corporation, I won't mention their name for legal reasons (at this stage anyway) I had all the qualifications that were required and my experience would have been considerably more than most others applying. The company also operates a DDA associated recruitment scheme where an applicant who meets the criteria is offered an interview. But I was not offered anything. In addition to that I know that the company in question took a look at my blog and would have without any doubt decided that thy did not need a person with a strong TU background on board. My personal situation is not that important and I am preparing a case against this anti TU company. My point is that we place ourselves on the front line and would benefit perhaps from having some forum where we can support or help each other? And there are many other examples I can think of like the legal case against John of The Gray and various attacks against Jon of the Rogers.

Here's the entry from Elizabeth

Mateo Lopez

The TUC has joined with Amnesty International in protesting about the shooting of Guatemalan trade unionist Mateo Lopez. General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Guatemalan Ambassador in the UK demanding an enquiry and protection for Mateo and his family.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Alex Epstein and the apprentice

I am still profoundly annoyed by Lord Sugars decision to remove Paloma Vivenco from the apprentice last week and I am still waiting for him to call me and explain his logic.

But I am also happy that Alex Epstein was removed this Wednesday. I fear that we have all been set up and that he was someone who was placed there to take negative criticism. On balance he did less bad ( if that's a right term?) than the week before so I am trying to figure out the logic used by our captain of industry when assessing and making decisions? On the other that could be the whole point of the show?

Student protests

Caroline Flint was right to say last night on Question time that the 50 or so students who turned to aggression during the demonstration of 50,000 protesters managed, by turning to violence, to get a hostile media turn its attention away from the real issues facing us all. An otherwise peaceful gathering of people who object to the introduction of an unfair system managed to damage and dilute the message, saying that we must not forget that the vast majority of people oppose this measure and more should be done to challenge its validity.

It is just not fair to impose such a huge burden on our young, we will make them carry debts of £70,000 and expect them to retire at 70 the way things are going. On top of that we have a deputy PM who gave guarantees before the election saying he would never agree to an increase go back on his word. What kind of an example is that to our young? Ihope the Libs pay for this at any elections coming up!

Thursday, 11 November 2010


I am reproducing a letter printed in the Guardian by Peter Droussiotis President of the Cypriot Federation of UK.

It is imperative that all TU activists campaign for the unification and integrity of the sovereign state of Cyprus in accordance with numerous UN resolutions. The partition/division of the island will be a catastrophic end result of a long process. The two communities are capable of resolving their dispute if left on their own in a federal unified bio communal state without outside interference.

From P Droussiotis

Dear Sir,

Jack Straw, in his article No ifs or buts, Turkey must be part of the EU, makes many points several of which are valid, while others are grossly inaccurate and misleading. However, the entire premise of the piece ignores three critical reasons why Cyprus remains a barrier to Turkey’s EU accession: human rights, justice and international law. Rather than blindly repeating his claim that the EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU, Mr Straw ought to ask himself why the international community has steadfastly refused to legitimise Turkey’s military occupation of northern Cyprus and why the United Nations has repeatedly re-affirmed its condemnation of that occupation. The answers are too numerous to list here but amount to one basic fact – Turkey’s invasion and continuing military occupation are illegal and breach human rights on a scale that the EU cannot possibly bear within its ranks. As ever, the key to a solution is in the hands of the Turkish government, whose control of the puppet regime in occupied northern Cyprus is indisputable. A solution that reunites the island for the benefit of all Cypriots, and which leads to the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation army from the island, will boost Turkey’s chances of joining the EU like no other single factor. But this requires Turkey to change its bullying behaviour and give the Cypriot people a chance to live in peace, in their own free and reunited country.
Yours faithfully,

Peter Droussiotis
Federation President

Remember those who died in conflict

Remembrance day today. We remember those who died in conflict in battlefields around the world unknown soldiers and heroes. Those who gave up their lives so that the rest of us can enjoy the benefits of freedom and democracy.

Student demostrations and huge fees

I wrote about the unacceptable situation created by the government and the massive increase in tuition fees. It is not right that a 21 year old today would leave higher education with something like £70,000 debt which she/he would have to repay on top of their mortgage etc, this just isn't right and it will create a situation where we have the rich being able to afford higher education and the poor forced to avoid it.

The demonstrations by more than 30,000 students yesterday in central London clearly shows the frustration felt by those in higher education and it is understandable. It is not, however, clever to turn a peaceful demonstration into a violent insurrection by the few, this is not right and it will allow the media and others to focus attention on that rather than the real issue. It is also remarkable that the Lib Democrats are on record giving guarantees that they would never support an increase before the election and they are now the party pushing these changes forward. This sheer greet for power should be punished and I hope that the NUS will go ahead and put a candidate against every Lib Dem at the next elections in conjunction, hopefully, with the Labour party.

Equal Pay issues

This report, published jointly with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Unison and the Fawcett Society, explores the issues around equal pay.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Cruel practices and whaling

Despite international pressure, Iceland continues to kill hundreds of whales each year. These creatures have enough challenges in their lives without having to dodge harpoons. Tell Iceland that you think whaling is unacceptable.

This year, Iceland whalers have killed 148 endangered fin whales and 60 minke whales this year. The fact that such a progressive country does not realize the detriment this process could inflict on our oceans is ridiculous. Whaling is a brutal practice. Being such large animals, whales can take up to a half an hour to die. How can we let this practice continue?

Jack Straw on Cyprus

A divided island

I am currently dealing with the fall out from a statement made by ex Minister of Justice, Jack Straw who has, unfortunately, angered many in the British Greek community.

Jack Straw chose his words carefully following a visit to Britain this week by the Turkish President. But by making his 'double message' statement (something that politicians are very used to doing) he has annoyed many in both the Greek and Turkish communities.

The ex Minister gave the usual 'We want to help but never want to do anything' message which is standard practice but then went on to add that the international community might have to get used to the idea that partition of the divided island is the only solution. This is despite numerous UN resolutions making it clear that the illegal occupation of the island, a sovereign independent state, by Turkish mainland troops is not acceptable.

Jack Straw appears to be saying that given that a solution could not be found in 36 years (one that allows Turkey to have military control as the 2003 Anan plan did) the division of the island by an economically more powerful Turkish state (in other words one that could trade with Britain more successfully than little Cyprus) could be accepted.

The Greek community is up in arms and many are not happy with these irresponsible statements which can encourage the acceptance of a de facto military solution. So out of the window goes our moral standards in favor of economic benefits? The fact remains that Greece, Turkey and Britain guaranteed the 1960 Constitution of the Republic and their role in the event of the constitution being violated (as was the case in 1974 by a CIA coup) was to move in and restore the status quo which did not include the murder of 3,000 civilians and the creation of 200,000 refugees. So I have no idea where Jack Straw, a judicial genius (I think not) can be right on this one. Would he advocate the partition of Northern Ireland? The situation there being similar to the essence of the Cyprus problem? The answer is NO and he would be wrong to even suggest it. But it is ok to encourage the division of a small island because Cyprus is more and expendable! What double standards!!

The Cyprus problem is a chalenge to all of us in the West but the rule of international law must prevail and accepting the division of the Republic because the occupying power is stronger than the victim is a total disgrace! The people of Cyprus will not accept partition.

In praise of Euro Federalism

I agree that Europe is getting some of its financial planning policies wrong but advocating the withdrawal of Britain from the EU, as seems to be the norm these days, is wrong. The idea behind a united Europe comes from the need to move away from the small state mentality that dominated the 20th century and nationalism. A United Europe offers an opportunity for us all to move towards real integration. The way to fight against some of the regressive moves coming currently from Brussels is to campaign with other partner countries for a more socialist approach. Leaving will take us back to pre 1940s Europe and we don’t want that?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Capuccino Anarchists and the X Factor

It is obvious that there is an anti Simon lobby consisting of a small number of 'Cappuccino Anarchists' as I call them, who are determined to discredit the X Factor show by getting as many people to vote for the worst ever act and by doing so keep the only man who can't sing, Wagner, in the show.

Now whilst I have some sympathy with moderate armchair type of anarchism, I think these people, who are obviously bored with life, are in danger of ensuring that this guy Wagner wins the X Factor. This will of course mean the end of the show and turn it into the C for crap Factor (in which case am entering as a singer next year!) It will be a great shame as the show allows undiscovered talent to shine and young people given the opportunity to follow their dream!

Creative thinking and the cost of higher education

First of all it is unacceptable that a modern successful society like Britain with huge wealth is making its young people start their working lives with huge debts around their necks. The average student leaving university will have to repay loans up to £70,000 after graduation. In addition a student who is today 22 would expect to work until she/he is 68 before retiring! This isn't right!

Saying all of that we do have a problem with sorting out the deficit this country has and we need to find creative ways to deal with this. I would assume that if the average student today will face a £70,000 bill for their education after doing a 3 year degree it means that they pay £23,300 a year to do this. If we could be creative and reduce the number of years a degree takes to complete from 3 to 2 years and reduce the fees then the same student will be paying £23,000 to £30,000 less to complete their studies.

In addition students here in the UK could be more creative and look at the option of studying elsewhere in Europe where the fees are much lower. A student, for example, who wishes to study in Greece or Germany would only have to pay around £15,000 (if not less) for the entire length of their degree.

And before anyone sends in comments saying that I am supporting the governments obsession with making students pay more I am making it clear that I am not. I am simply looking at the mess we are in and different ways to deal with the fallout.

Burma's sham election results

Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary and the TUC General Council's international spokesperson, called on the international community to reject the sham elections just held in Burma, at a rally in Trafalgar square on Saturday, 6 November 2010.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Matt Cardle is the main man!!


Simon Armitage on Odysseus

The island of Ithaca as it looks today...

A powerful and thought provoking documentary by Simon Armitage on BBC4 tonight just before the equally as interesting new series on 'The glory of Greece' which starts next Monday on the same channel.

The Illiad and the Odyssey are of course two vast (in terms of volume) poems that we had to learn when I was at school in Greece in the 70s and in classical Greek! The poet Homer wrote both of these about 3,000 years ago when the Greek nation was enjoying its 'golden stage'.

The Odyssey is about the King of Ithaca and his army trying to return back to the Kingdom of Ithaca following the end of the war in Troy.

Its the story about his adventure back to Ithaca which took a good 10 years and its simply the story about the conflict that we all have within us when we are younger. Its about the temptations that we face and the many challenges and whether we can at the end of a long journey settle and find our own Ithaca by winning the challenges that we constantly face. My own Odyssey was the time I served in Lambeth and my role with Lambeth Unison and my moving away and re inventing myself.

The Odyssey is also important to the Greek nation because it signifies the almost continuous struggle faced by the Hellenes, like the current one with the economic crisis, but it is also a lesson that teaches us that it is in moments of crisis and massive challenge that we fight back, organise and prevail and I can see that already with the reaction to current the economic crisis.

The 'elections' in Burma

The TUC joined the Burmese community and organisations from across the UK on Saturday to protest against the sham elections held by the military regime in Burma. The elections, which took place yesterday, are deeply flawed and risk keeping the brutal military regime in power for years to come. Pro-democracy voices have been excluded from the vote, with leader Aung San Suu Kyi still behind bars along with 2,200 other political prisoners.
Many political parties have been prevented from campaigning, and regardless of the outcome of the vote, the military is guaranteed effective control of the government under its flawed constitution. The regime has also banned foreign observers and journalists from covering the poll.
Join the Burmese community in London and a range of civil society organisations in stepping up pressure on the regime and demanding an inclusive and democratic Burma that fully respects human rights.
The Burmese dictatorship stands accused of committing widespread and systematic human rights abuses, including torture, forced displacement, sexual violence, and extra-judicial killings. With forced and child labour rampant, trade unions banned, endemic poverty and labour rights campaigners in prison, it is one of worst places in the world to be a worker.
Some in the international community are viewing the elections as a reason to relax pressure on the regime. This would be a mistake. Instead, the UK government needs to lead in pushing for tougher sanctions, a global arms embargo and supporting a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity to put real pressure on the generals. At the International Labour Organisation, the UK can also lead in pressing for a Commission of Inquiry into Freedom of Association and real action to stamp out forced and child labour.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

X Factor and Tracey Cohen

I have suspended my quest for fairness and equality throughout the world to get online and record my profound disagreement with the panel of judges on X factor who, tonight, made the big mistake of choosing to remove Tracey Cohen and keep Katie instead.

I am also rather annoyed that the British public, well the part of the public who watch the 'programme' keep voting for Wagner to stay in. He is as talented as I am Swedish in other words he can't sing and can't act, yet the public keep voting for him to stay in. This could be because the British public like to challenge the silly little judges so I have some sympathy with that as a tactic, but Tracey Cohen was the better singer and should have been kept in even though I say so myself!! Its all going pear shape, what with Sugar puff removing the gorgeous Paloma on Weds from the apprentice and the judges getting rid of Tracey tonight!! Whats the united left going to do about this??

Con Lib proposals for long term unemployed

Another half baked idea by the new 'Con the Libs into gov' coalition. The proposal, if I understand it right, is to make the 'long term unemployed' (whatever that means) work or lose their job seekers allowance. It looks like the gov would want people do things that others wouldn't want to do, so this will be a form of 'free or cheap labour'.

If the government is proposing that everyone who is currently out of work is paid minimum wage to work on community based projects (as long as voluntary) then that is something that could be looked at but they are not saying that at all. They are, I think, saying that the unemployed will be forced to do the work for nothing. This is not acceptable. The ministers in question should register with big name employment agencies and see how many real job offers they get before they start suggesting that the unemployed are unemployed because they don't want to work. Most of those who are unemployed and under 26 or over 45 will have huge problems finding work and that is the reality. Ministers should do more to address that problem rather than keep coming up with stupid ideas.

Paloma Vivanco

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Tashi Dhondup

Tashi Dhondup is languishing in a forced labor camp for his pro-Tibetan music.

Dhondup was arrested following the 2009 release of a CD containing lyrics calling for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet and lamenting that "There is no freedom in Tibet."He was denied a fair trial, because in China, police have the option of sending cases to a "re-education through labor" committee, which can send defendants to labor camps for up to three years without any judicial oversight and without the defendant having any right to hire a lawyer. All people have a human right to freedom of expression, and no one should be jailed or imprisoned without recourse to a fair trial. Tell the Chinese government to free Tashi by writing to your local MP

Friday, 5 November 2010

Cruelty to whales

In the very waters where Iceland's tourists marvel at whales, whalers are murdering these gigantic creatures. Whalers have killed 148 endangered fin whales and 60 minke whales this year. Whaling is cruel, unnecessary and doesn't make sense economically. Whale watching is a humane, sustainable and profitable alternative to whaling -- in fact, it generates more than $15 million a year for Iceland's coastal communities. Speak out to end this cruel practice!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Reinstate Paloma Vivanco!

I don't often get involved with campaigns to do with supporting those favored by the CBI but I am thoroughly annoyed that Lord 'Ego' Sugar fired the excellent Paloma Vivenco from the apprentice show last night, I think he was wrong to do this and she should be reinstated. He was simply intimidated by her confidence and great looks.

Paloma is Innocent and should be reinstated immediately I will be more than happy to do her tribunal application for unfair dismissal. Sugar was wrong and should have fired the hot air producing guy Alex who is only good at slipping through the net. Paloma should not have been fired!!

Tuition fees, the Libs and lenght of degrees

Many of us distinctly remember the sure guarantees made by Nick Clegg and other senior Liberals who made it clear that they will never support any government that proposes to increase student fees. We now know that it is a senior Lib that has come up with the idea of pushing the fees up to £9,000 a year. This means that my young niece who has just entered university at the age of 19 will carry a debt of around £60 to £70 k by the time she graduates!

I know that most of us do not trust politicians but to have an entire party make firm promises and then turn them around at the drop of a hat because they are so into tasting power is totally unacceptable. I hope that some of the people I know who did vote for the Liberals never do so again.

There are different ways to make savings in education but making students pay a huge price post graduation isn't the best way to achive this. The proposed £9,000 is too excessive and it must come down. Government should be more creative. I did my degree in a period of 3 years and I remember how much time we had off in between, so I would imagine we could do away with starting the term in October and finishing the year early June and have fewer breaks in between, so if a 3 year degree was reduced to 2 years then surely that would save money? It would save the students at least one years tuition fees and would allow universities to have new intakes? Why can't this and other governments be more creative? Reduce fees and make the length of degrees shorter!!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Totally immoral practice

I am totally outraged to hear that male baby chicks are killed at birth as they are put through a "conveyor belt to which crashes them" this is a practice employed by the egg production industry. I find this to be immoral, wrong and completely unethical. When are we going to learn that we can not treat other animals with such disrespect simply because they have no way to defend themselves!!

Vegetarian organisation Viva! said some 30 million to 40 million male chicks were killed each year by gassing or being thrown into electric mincers shortly after they hatch because they are the wrong sex to lay eggs.

A covert footage captured at two English hatcheries shows the chicks on conveyor belts, with the males being sorted from the females which go on to become laying hens.

TUC protests at attacks on Kenyan tea sector unions

The TUC has protested about attacks on trade unions in the Kenyan tea sector which have followed mass lay-offs by six multinational companies. The TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Kenyan High Commissioner in London.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Love music hate racism events

Some useful information on ways and means through which you can organise your own events under the banner of Love music hate racism movement.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Minimum wage levels

In its submission to the LPC , Low Pay Commission, the TUC argues that:
A 21p, 3.5% (bringing it to £6.14 an hour) increase would benefit nearly one million workers and help address the gender pay gap, as two in three of those benefitting would be women. Female workers, employees from ethnic minority backgrounds, those with disabilities, and younger and older workers are among the groups who will benefit the most.
GDP growth has now returned and, despite the cuts in government spending, is forecast to continue throughout 2011 and 2012, which is the period that the LPC is considering.

World AIDS day 1 December 2010

There are 33 million people with HIV/AIDS around the world, nine tenths of whom are of working age, and many more with caring responsibilities for family members with HIV/AIDS. So AIDS is a workplace issue and a union issue. This year, the International Labour Organisation adopted a Recommendation on HIV/AIDS at the workplace, and the TUC is devoting its annual World AIDS Day seminar to the issue on Wednesday 1 December. Workers with AIDS have rights that need enforcing, as the TUC is demonstrating with projects in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countries.