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Monday, 31 January 2011

Egypt and a new Union

The TUC has received a press release from the independent trade union organisation CTUWS, whose website has been blocked by the Egyptian government as part of the repression of dissent in Egypt, annopuncing the formation of a new, independent trade union movement.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Increase to limits on awards

An interesting change in the world of Employment Law and practice for 2011 will come from The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2010 (SI 2010/2926) This will increase the limits for some employment tribunal awards payable under employment legislation. The current maximum for unfair dismissal compensatory award is £65,300 this will rise to £68,400. The maximum amount of a week's pay for working out a statutory redundancy payment for unfair dismissal goes up from £380 to £400. These changes will only apply to cases that arise after the 1 February 2011. More specific information about this can be viewed under any of the government links.

TUC joint response to cuts

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis chaired a special meeting of the TUC where the affiliated unions agreed to step up their united response to the government's cuts agenda.Mr Prentis declared: "I am proud to report that we agreed a join strategy to bring all unions together to fight cuts to jobs, pensions and public services."The unions agreed to defend their members against the series of attacks they are facing - including pay freezes, job cuts, privatisation and attacks on pensions - including if necessary to look at taking national and co-ordinated industrial action. And in the run up to the TUC demonstration in London on 26 March, Mr Prentis vowed that: "All unions will work with campaigning and community organisations to push our alternative agenda."Mr Prentis also spoke on public sector pensions, noting that workers would have "no choice" but to take action if their pensions were threatened. However, he explained that the government had agreed to talks on this issue and will not impose changes in March's budget. "This is an important step forward," he said.He called on members of the public, trade unions, and all those who use public services to make sure that "the 26 March demo is a huge show of strength which will show the government that we do not accept the cuts agenda."

Egypt a country in transition

One would imagine that any dictator following the removal of Chaushesku in Romania some 20 years ago would have learnt that the people will rise and rebel when pushed too far. So one would think that Hosni Mubarak would get the message and do everyone a favor by volunteering to leave instead he chose to dismiss 'his government' and replace them with another version of 'his government'.

Now despite the fact that I am no expert on Egyptian affairs one thing I know for sure is that the will of the people is supreme and when the people take up arms on their own streets then the message is loud and clear.

It is estimated that more than 60% of Egypt's population is under the age of 25 these young people are coming into a world where there are no prospects, vast unemployment and poverty. The Mubarak regime has been in place for 30 years and has done very little to deal with these endemic problems so the people want a change and the dictator should do the right thing and leave.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Lambeth Unison diaries

Joan Twelves became the Leader following the fall of Dick Serbji who succeeded Linda Bellos. Linda, as I said before, brought in some swift changes during her time in power but she was quickly challenged and replaced, something that happens to even the most capable of Leaders, so I suppose the hassle comes with the job.

Dick Serabjis reign was short and I did not get to know him that well as I had just become Convenor for the centre and too busy dealing with the dismantling of DMS.

Joan Twelves was perhaps the most socialist of all the Leaders of Lambeth Council (not mentioning Ted Knight who was there before my time) Gregg Tucker was appointed Chair of central services so most of my dealings had to do with him. Joan Twelves decided to bring in a consultant (an ex Labour MP) Reg Race to 'rationalise' the centre, we therefore had the famous 'Reg Race' report the affect of which was the reduction of some 200 jobs in the centre so we started the battle to save jobs and services and managed to get an agreement which ensured that every displaced person had the right to alternative job offers plus 3 appeals. I thought this was a major concession, it meant that no one who wanted to stay in employment was thrown out. I think this marked my style for years to come which was based on fighting to win a battle but also being realistic with what outcome we could deliver.

international Development Matters - Issue 94 December/January 2011

IDM - Monthly newsletter reporting international development matters and issues affecting trade unionists around the world. Articles for inclusion in International Development Matters should be sent to

Fighting for the Safety of African Journalists

Journalists and other media workers in Africa are frequently attacked and killed simply for doing their jobs of seeking the truth. Thanks to trade unions' efforts, on the eve of the AU Summit taking place in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia on 30 – 31 January 2011, the African Union is close to introducing policies to protect these workers. Success will ultimately benefit both journalists and African citizens in general, as only a truly independent media can hold governments to account.

Flexible working

The right to ask your employer for flexible working will be extended to parents of children under the age of 18 on 6 April 2011. It currently applies to parents of children under the age of 17, or 18 if the child is disabled.

The Government is also intending to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and will start consultation on these proposals in January 2011. T process will end and will be reviewed by December 2011.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Changes to maternity leave provisions

In April 2011 there will be two changes to maternity and paternity leave provisions.
Fathers of children with an expected week of birth beginning on or after 3 April 2011 will be allowed up to 26 weeks' additional paternity leave if the mother returns to work before using her full entitlement to statutory maternity leave.

On the same date, the rates for statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase from £124.88 to £128.73 per week.

Unison response to Lambeth Council cuts

This is the Executive Summary of a detailed report sent today by UNISON to Labour Councillors in Lambeth, responding to their proposals for the Council budget, which threaten 600 jobs and deep cuts to vital local services;· UNISON opposes all cuts in public services and does not support a balanced budget at the expense of public services;· UNISON recognises that Lambeth’s Labour Group has agreed to set a balanced budget;· The budget will include “reserves” which, in accordance with official guidance, are intended to “cushion the impact of emergencies”;· The higher the level of reserves which the Council budgets for, the deeper the cuts it needs to plan in order to balance the budget;· Lambeth has increased its unallocated reserves considerably over the past four years (by £19.5 Million, more than 200%);· Lambeth’s unallocated reserves are the fourth highest of any London Borough and £15 Million more than the average London Borough;· If Lambeth planned to reduce its reserves to the London average in 2011/12 it could – for example - avoid all of the cuts which will “reduce” and “stop” services according to the officers’ report;· UNISON believes that the Coalition Government attack upon public services is precisely the sort of “emergency” which should lead to the Council spending money from its reserves;UNISON calls upon the Labour Group to rethink its budget proposals and have a dialogue with the workforce and the community about the appropriate level of unallocated reserves in the Council budget.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Abolition of the default retirement age

Until now an employer could make an employee leave the service using the default retirement age procedure. That meant that a member of staff could be forced to go after reaching a certain age.

But that is now changing and one of the biggest legal changes employers will have to deal with in 2011 is the abolition of the default retirement age (DRA). The DRA will not, however, be completely abolished until 1 October 2011. In addition transitional arrangements will come into force from 6 April 2011.

There will be a six-month transitional period when employers will be unable to issue new notifications of retirement.

The default retirement age will be completely removed on 1 October and employers will be prohibited from retiring employees by means of the default retirement age from this date.

The affect of this change will be that those who wish to remain in employment for a longer period can do so without fear of being forced out the door. The concern with this change comes from fears that jobs will not be freed by older workers for those who have just entered the job market but the change is also seen as a positive move to deal with discriminatory practices at work against older workers.

Save the NHS

Next Monday 31 January, MPs will vote on the Health and Social Care Bill which threatens the very fabric of our NHS. Despite mounting opposition and the fears expressed loudly by staff, unions and health commentators, the government is determined to press ahead.
Make no mistake, these changes are driven by ideology not by a desire to make life better for patients. The real winners will be the private health companies who stand ready to move in and take over NHS services.
It takes just two minutes to make a difference
This Bill will make our NHS profit-centred rather than patient-centred. Contact your MP and ask them to reject the Tory-led plans that will bring about the dismantling of the NHS as we know it.
If you receive a response from your MP please let us know what they said by emailing
To find out more about the Health Bill and UNISON’s campaign against it:

Skills for Sustainable Growth

Briefing on the Government's skills strategy

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Action on Elder Abuse plea for donations

Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) works to protect, and prevent the abuse of, vulnerable older adults. We were the first charity to address these problems and are the only charity in the UK and in Ireland working exclusively on the issue today. Consequently, when you provide support to us, or make a donation, you can be sure that it will be used exclusively on issues relating to elder abuse and nothing else. Our work is fundamental to challenging elder abuse in the UK and we constantly need financial support to continue our activities. Although we are as effective as many of the bigger charities, we receive only a fraction of their income. Help us continue to make a difference. There are a variety of options for making donations to us. Use text on your mobile phone, the Just Giving logo, or click on the 'Support us' link to find out more.

NEC Elections Paul Holmes

Nomination for the Local Government Service Group -
General Seat

Name: Paul Holmes
Branch Code: 13325
RMS Number: 1787781

I am seeking nomination from your branch for the NEC for the Local Government Service Group (General Seat). I am currently the NEC member for this seat which I first won in 2007 and won again in 2009 (with a 450% increase in my majority). As an NEC member I have a proud record of continuously campaigning for the policies on which I was elected.

My Experience
I have been a member of the union for 37 years, a steward for 36 years and Branch Secretary of Kirklees UNISON for 21 years (I am also a former member of the NALGO NEC). I am currently a member of the NJC for Local Government and the Local Government Service Group Executive. I am proud to be a socialist and a trade unionist.

I regularly contact local government branches in dispute to see if I can be of assistance. I have visited over 40 branches this year. One of the proudest moments of my life was to be involved in the Leeds Refuse Workers' Strike. The members' problems are the same wherever I go. So are the solutions - leadership, organisation, solidarity, resources, hard work and planning. Local Government branches felt isolated about Single Status and they feel the same about cuts. The main purpose of an NEC member is to give leadership. That is what I try to do. An NEC member should also listen.

The Future
No-one doubted the Coalition Governments' desire to cut, but no-one should doubt that it is a weak government. Our future is in our hands. The debate over student fees has shown that young people are not apathetic - they have been lied to as we all have. Together the unions, sympathetic councils, community groups and service users can come together and win.
There is no doubt that further attacks will come. Bankers are greedily looking at the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). We will need the full force of the union to defend the LPGS. All the forthcoming battles can be won - but to win them we have to return to our roots. Union organisation, recruitment and planning are vital. We have to re-introduce basic trade union principles to our movement.

I ask your branch to support my nomination for the NEC Local Government Service Group General Seat. If your branch do nominate me you should complete the nomination form and return it to UNISON HQ. I hope that your branch does support my nomination. I have kept my campaign promises. I have spoken at many UNISON branches across Britain since becoming an NEC member and have always had a good reception among the members. I will continue to help to fight to build this union. We have to build - we have no choice. The enemies of the labour movement did not go away and they have returned with a vengeance. United we can beat them.

Yours Faithfully

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The big TUC march to save jobs and services 26 March 2011

The TUC is looking for activists who would want to help out on the big day of the march to save jobs and services. Please apply if you can make it using the link below, we have to make this work!

We need 1 steward for every 50 people attending the march!

Monday, 24 January 2011

NHS changes slammed

Plans to re-organise the NHS and cuts to primary care trust budgets were described as 'the Government's most dangerous policy yet' by the TUC last month.
The TUC said that there would be cuts and privatisation by stealth as private companies increasingly run parts of the NHS. At a time when health spending is being cut in real terms, these so-called reforms would likely cost between £2 and £3 billion.
Read the full story @

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Tunisian unions call for new government

The Tunisian trade union movement – the UGTT – has called for the interim government that they briefly joined but then pulled out of to be replaced by a government untainted by the former regime.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The New Apprenticeship Agenda: The Union Role [Conference]

Apprenticeships are a major skills priority for the Government- they are also a key priority for unions. Join us to hear about the successes that unions have achieved so far in supporting apprentices and hear about how the apprenticeship agenda will develop in the coming years.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Public sector pensions defended

Claims that the public sector pensions deficit has more than doubled to £100 billion in the past three years were dismissed by the TUC last month.
It described the report by independent pensions consultant John Ralfe as 'a maverick take on the local government scheme,' adding that figures for scheme deficits could easily be presented as 'big scary numbers'. Commitments that stretched for decades were being presented 'as if they all had to paid tomorrow'.
A National Audit Office report published earlier in December destroyed the Government's case for savage cuts to public service pensions, the TUC said. The NAO research showed that pension costs were under control, and questioned whether provision was sufficient to recruit and retain staff.
TUC reaction to Ralfe report @

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Shoppers pay more tax than banks

VAT and corporation tax changes in 2011 will mean that banks could soon be paying a lower tax rate than consumers, basic rate taxpayers and small businesses, the TUC said ahead of the increase in VAT to 20 per cent.
With banks able to get away with paying as little as 19 per cent corporation tax in 2011 - thanks to their exploitation of numerous loopholes, plus a cut in the headline rate this April - high street shoppers will end up paying more tax on their purchases.
Read the full story @

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The King's Speech

I Went to see the film The King's Speech at Clapham picture house tonight. The film was cleverly made with some splendid sound affects and it tells the story of King George the 6th who tries to overcome his speech disability with the help of a therapist played by Geoffrey Rush who, I thought, was the best actor out of them all.

Disappointed with Helena Bonham Carter's part so I am crossing her off my Christmas list and don't bother writing in asking me to reconsider my decision. I thought she probably 'over acted' and did not portray the character of Queen mum ( who I did not know at all) as accurately as she could have.

Colin Firth, on the other hand, was superb as he always is. No point telling you the story as you can easily go to your local library (before the Tories close them all down) and find out what its all about. So ignoring the class issues involved with the plot the film was interesting and you should all go and see it before the cultural revolution starts (well the UL revised version..!)

Lambeth opposing the cuts

I am glad to see that the reaction from Labour Councillors in Lambeth has given rise to some form of resistance and of course glad that there is a mood to fight the LibCon cuts or is it Con Libs. I would like to see Leader Steve Reed, Jackie Meldrum and others from the administration take a more decisive position and reject the draconian measures imposed on us. I know that Unsion will be fighting with them, this is an excellent opportunity for Trade Unions and the Labour administration to merge their efforts and resist the unfair attack on jobs and services.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Lambeth United Rally against the cuts 3.2.2011

Lambeth United Rally against the ConDem Cuts – Thursday 3 February 2011, 7 pm arrival & coffee – 7:30 pm – Coin St Neighbourhood Centre, Stamford St SE1.The rally, which will have speakers and presentations from Lambeth SOS and Lambeth Right to Work – is to show the anti-cuts work happening in Lambeth and build for the TUC national demonstration on 26 March 2011 - the rally speakers are –John McDonnell MP (Labour Party) LRC ChairJohn Millington Morning Star journalistCllr Kingsley Abrams Lambeth Labour CouncillorTom Taylor PCS London & South East Regional SecretaryJon Rogers Lambeth UNISON Branch SecretaryCallum Williamson Communist StudentsMaria Exall (CWU) TUC LGBT Committee ChairLee Jasper Black Activists Rising Against the CutsAnita Wright Charter for WomenBarry Camfield Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade UnionsAnton Johnson Lambeth Trade Union CouncilEllen Lebethe Lambeth Pensioners Action GroupSteve Hack Lambeth Defend Council Housing

Lambeth Council cuts

Public service trade union, UNISON, has condemned threats to 600 jobs and vital public services in the London Borough of Lambeth.“These 600 job losses over the coming year – one in six of the Council workforce – come on top of hundreds of job losses already made and in the pipeline,” said UNISON Branch Secretary, Jon Rogers.“UNISON will resist these cuts, because they do not just hit our members’ jobs but also vital local services.”UNISON predicts that services at risk of cuts and closures when the Council publishes its proposals will include Adventure Playgrounds and Youth Centres, with significant job cuts being proposed in Children’s Social Care. The Union also understands that the Council is planning to end the School Crossing Patrol Service with the loss of all the jobs and to dismiss all the Park Rangers.“These cuts hit services which are vital to our young people who are the future of the borough,” said Mr Rogers. “The Coalition Government in Westminster have a lot to answer for in imposing these massive cuts on the people of Lambeth.”UNISON is calling upon Lambeth’s Labour Council not to make these cuts, and is urging local people to support a lobby of Lambeth’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 7 February. --Posted By Blogger to Lambeth UNISON News on 1/18/2011 04:24:00 PM

Is this the right time for SOG organisation to take the next move?

I raised the subject of SOGs and specifically the BWG within Unison and the uneasy relationship most of us active within those structures have had with several bits of the union so I welcome the decision by many activists who have committed themselves to getting involved with examining the concept and looking at ideas to improve the movement and for us to move forward. There are several meetings taking place in London over the next 2 weeks and I will be reporting back on progress. Its all about integrating different community groups and bringing them together to enable us to become more responsive and more productive, more representative and more united. There are many questions that need to be answered.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Is the 'Hard Left' capable of working with SOG activists?

Today I am asking the question of whether those who come from the 'hard left' can understand and indeed work with activists from Self Organised Groups. Unison has, of course, a vibrant and well developed SOG structure that has enabled progressive change and this has been mostly constructive and beneficial to members. But it is a sad fact also t that leaders of SOGs and mainly BWG have been treated quite badly by the hard left.

There is of course the question of what we mean when we refer to the 'hard left' so for the benefit of those reading this 'hard left' refers to small groups on the left that consider themselves to be independent formations or parties and of course there are many versions of these. I have personally, for example, worked with SWP activists in my own branch and have found them to be progressive, adaptable and helpful in most instances, no one can ever doubt their dedication to helping and supporting members. But there are smaller groups that have their own independent agendas and ideologies that prevent them from understanding the reasons for having Self Organised Groups as they believe that all struggle relates to class, in other words they may reject the notion that race, for example, is a significant factor affecting inequality and oppression. I think this may be a temporary thing and that they may finally understand the reasons for having to work with SOG's when they reach a higher state of development.

So you have two opposing groups. On the one hand there are those of us (many in the London region) who are active within the SOG union structures and then there are those on the left who simply contain us. They are not sure why we are here but they can see that we are growing larger in numbers and have therefore adapted and have 'made' themselves work with us. But of course this is very noticeable in many cases and the scramble to get people on election tickets to make it look like they are inclusive does not do justice to the cause. So more must be done to ensure that the two sides work better with each other. Those of us who come from SOG's would probably have to do more to get our people to see the left with less suspicion and the left (mostly hard left) has to get their act together to ensure that SOG's trust them more.

I am pleased that there is a movement within the London region for SOGs and mainly Black Activists to get together next week to look at the real problem and see how we can change things. I am personally against forming separate organisations and in favor of forcing existing outfits that we are very much part of to deal with the issues we have and if the hard left wants to work with us then they should start examining their own methods and way of approach. It is simply not good enough to be contained or for organisations like the United Left (not necessarily hard left) to be wanting to talk to us whenever there is an election coming up. I shall be very vocal on this and make my views known at the meeting next week. I see the meeting as the starting point for something much bigger where all community groups with a link to Black activism unite and put their energy towards achieving real change.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Cameron warned on cuts

Massive cuts are 'dangerous and divisive', the TUC warned the Prime Minister as a union delegation met him for talks at Number 10 in the run up to Christmas.
With the UK in the grip of a bleak midwinter, Brendan Barber told David Cameron that 2011 threatened to be 'even bleaker' for millions of families and their communities as the spending cuts hit hard on jobs and services.
More on this story @

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Lambeth Unison, the diaries

The Lambeth Unison diaries, a real time account of events from 1988...

I realised by the start of 1990 that if I wanted to achieve change and help those around me I had to walk the talk and agreed, as I mentioned before, to accept a nomination for the position of Convenor for DMS so not only did I not stick to my promise to concentrate on my career and keep a low profile for a while but I moved on to take on more responsibility. This is of course a major trait in my personality the inability, in other words, to remain neutral and not get involved when I think something is wrong. So I became Convenor for DMS at the age of 29 and was thrown at the deep end but with a lot of support from members of my own shop and activists from the BWG.

I was beginning to notice of course at the time that the branch was more or less divided into 3 'camps' if I can call them that. The hard core left wing who wanted continuous 'movement', those who were supporting the existing NALGO officer core and those of us on the Self Organised Group side. I found tremendous support from the BWG within the branch but I also thought that the Branch Secretary at the time, Mike Waller, who had been there for many years was doing the best he could do. He was also helped by Tony Jules who was from the BWG and was the first Black Assistant Branch Secretary, the BWG Convenor, Ralph Rahim was also quite influential. And as I mentioned elsewhere in the diaries I found the continuous arguments at Convenors committee which were held every Wednesday at Heatherington Road to be disturbing. There was a lot of in fighting. This does not mean that the majority of us in the branch were not doing good work supporting members, but I could see that we could do better if we were more united, this of course never changed...


Its that time of year again (well every two years to be precise) with nominations for Unison NEC positions being invited. There are many people standing and there is too much information to put on here so I have inserted relevant links here referring to a more detailed analysis. I am trying to keep the balance here so I won't make too many comments as to who I think should be supported but I will of course be hoping that Jon Rogers is re elected and Marsha Jane Thomas gets in as well. Here are the links with requests for nominations:

Friday, 14 January 2011

Lambeth Unison RM Section

I attended the Lambeth Unison RM section AGM on the 12th of January a day before the main AGM. I used to address the RM's as Branch Secretary for many years as their guest so it was interesting to be there as a new member and it was good to see people I have known for many years. Lambeth Unison should be proud of the long tradition of RM's activity. I also accepted a nomination from the floor and was elected to the position of Secretary I am hoping to be able to do as much as I can to help and support this vibrant part of Lambeth Unison. Te AGM agreed that the link between us and the branch should be stronger and more visible.

Great Labour party victory in Oldham

Delighted of course that Debbie Abrahams won the by election in Oldham East with an increased majority. The number of votes received by Labour were higher than what we got in 1997 when we achieved a landslide. The only thing that didn't make sense was why the Lib Democrat vote did not collapse? Instead they came second whereas the Tories were wiped out. So great news for Labour but interesting as to why the expected devastation of the Lib Democrats did not materialise?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Tunisia: TUC protests at repression of union unemployment protests

The TUC has joined international trade union protests against the violent repression of demonstrations which have wracked Tunisia since a young unemployed Tunisian man set himself on fire on 17 December and a second youth committed suicide in the town of Sidi Bouzid. The demonstrators, including the TUC's sister organisation the Union Generale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), are protesting about huge, especially youth, unemployment, and regional inequalities.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

TUC March

Preparations are continuing apace for the TUC's national demonstration against government cuts, which aims to be the biggest trade union mobilisation in a generation.
As part of the build up to the 26 March event, the TUC, NUS and UCU are holding a rally to highlight the impact of the cuts on young people, especially the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowances and the increase in university tuition fees. This will take place in Manchester on 29 January.
Continuing the theme of building a coalition against the cuts, a conference is being held at Congress House on 8 February with the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action. This will look at the impact of spending cuts and public service reform on civil society organisations and the communities they serve.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

TUC Tribunal warning

As the government plans to launch a major review of employment tribunals, the TUC has warned that any reforms to the system could stop employees who have been wronged at work from seeking justice and give rogue employers the green light to break the law.
While employer groups have been lobbying for ministers to make fundamental changes, the TUC says that rather than complaining about the cost of cases, employers should improve practices and ensure they stay within the law.
Full story available @

Monday, 10 January 2011

The big march

Some may think it is too early to start planning the TUC march for jobs and services but the success of this event is crucial if we are to make an impact on government policy, so firm, specific and intelligent preparations need to be made from now.
There are those who say that one million protesters marching on the streets of London will not make the coalition government change their course and that a similar gathering did not persuade Tony Blair to change his plans on the war but I disagree with this. Tony Blair had a firm majority in the commons this lot do not!
The Con the Libs coalition are not as united as they may appear to look and there is evidence that the Tories are worried about how the Lib part of the amalgamation may collapse so more pressure from angry voters could shift the balance. Nervous Lib Democrats could easily turn against their own leadership and create a situation where the the country goes to the ballot box. No one I know actively voted for a coalition between the Tories and the Libs that is just not true and at the very worst some people may have felt comfortable with a Labour Lib version but not what we have today. The Libs can't help have a Tory in disguise as their leader!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Cyprus. Is a solution possible?

There is a small chance that a break through could come soon as the two Prime Ministers from the parent states, G Papandreou of Greece and T Erdogan of Turkey have just had a meeting to discuss a way forward. In addition a visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel next Tuesday could be used as a reason to re start the process of negotiation again.

The Greek community in Cyprus will not accept a defacto imposition of a UDI in the north of the Republic where Turkish troops are in occupation against numerous UN resolutions and the Turkish Cypriot community have not, so far, accepted a system that removes the power and influence of Turkish mainland troops on the island. The solution will only come once the two communities stop being so suspicious of one another and of course once the US and the others stop using the island as an aircraft carrier to police their interests in the region (unfortunately Cyprus strategic position makes her a pawn in a larger military game) Chancellor Merkels visit carries some significance though next Tuesday.

Lets hope that 2011 brings a solution.

Lambeth Unison diaries

Its becoming difficult deciding what to include and what not to cover. This is because there has been so many people actively involved over a period of 22 years and I am not sure that I should be mentioning them by name. Friends I have spoken to have suggested that I need to contact them and get their permission before but this will slow the whole process down. The alternative is to simply cover the history and avoid using names as many of those involved have moved on. A compromise is that if anyone I mention has a different recollection of the events described here and contacts me then I shall edit what I have written or remove the content.

I shall be returning to the diaries next week as I have a busy weekend socialising.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Unecessary cruelty to cows?

I have temporarily removed the piece I published this morning concerning the above subject as I have received different information which questions the issues raised by the campaigners dealing with this. I have written to them to seek clarification and will decide whether the article can be published pending their response.

TUC Diploma in occupational health

Apply today for the TUC Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety online.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Jon Rogers and the NEC

We now know that a number of people are seeking nomination for the forthcoming NEC elections. One of them is Jon. Marsha Jane Thompson is also standing for the female seat in the London region.

I will be supporting and hopefully campaigning for Jon of the Rogers to be returned and I think Marsha Jane deserves a chance.

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.

East Enders gone mad

Pat Butcher on a good day

'.. I didn't do it gov..'

Now I know that the majority of lefties do not admit to watching soaps on television and would rather be out there storming the Bastille ( a pub in Convent garden..) but for those of us who occasionally bother to watch pathetic soaps like East Enders (I do some times when I finish my knitting) would find the latest storyline dished out by the pathetic producers of this opera rather distasteful.

I am all for freedom of expression and of course the statement on top of this blog confirms my commitment to this. But the BBC has come up with a story line that is too disturbing and should not, in my opinion, be shown on telly. Its about two women on the square who give birth to babies at the same time. One of the babies dies on Xmas night (East Enders is famous for miserable stories) so the other one goes up the Queen Vic and swaps the babies around so she ends up having the baby that isn't hers and leaves the one that's brown bread behind.

Around 4, 000 viewers have so far written in complaining about the story and the actress playing Rony has resigned (according to the standard) because she finds the story disturbing. There is a line the BBC should not be crossing, this is an unnecessary and disturbing story and its not like there are thousands of these incidents happening every day. What would they come up with next? Maybe Prince Philip will be abducted by Nana Mouskouri and Pat Butcher and returned to Greece instead of the Parthenon Marbles (Elgin if you are a vile BM trustee)

Sort yourself out Mr BBC or the licence fee gets it!

Unison Regional Council 2011 and unity

The Regional Council for the Greater London area is scheduled to take place on the 9 of February with the usual people standing for positions again but it will be interesting to see if this time there are any changes following the election. There is definitely a feeling of unity in the air and this could be because everyone involved realises that times are going to get hard in the public sector and there is a need to have coordinated action to defend jobs and services. This could be the year when we all start getting on with each other, lets hope so.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Get the balance right

I posted the following comment on fellow blogger Ian Bones entry regarding Vicky Eastons comments on tv this morning

''I think what Vicky Easton was saying this morning on national television, is that the vast majority of those who want to demonstrate their opposition to the savage public sector cuts would want to do so without the need to resort to violent confrontation? I don’t think this is unreasonable somehow? We must all oppose what is being proposed by do so peacefully otherwise we will lose public support and as we are taking to the streets to support the affect of cuts on the public we need to have them on our side?''

Lambeth Unison diaries, general impressions

So myself and 5 others arrived in April 1988 from the heroic battlefield that was LSPU M Thacher got her way and managed to abolish anything associated with the GLC so this was the end.

We 'landed' in Lambeth after a long struggle with bureaucracy but we were not welcomed as heros as I imagined that we would be given the role of LSPU. In fact not many people in the branch knew who we were or what we did...if anything they were suspicious of us so I guess this shaped the way we viewed things for a long time to come. It was obvious that nothing was safe and that the Leviathan (that's what I call Lambeth Council) was in constant turmoil we had to learn to live with that and knew that the GLC was dead for ever.

The brief reign of Linda Bellos was followed by a shorter rise to power by Dick Serabji who replaced Linda who I regarded as a personal friend, in 1989. Dick was then removed by Joan Twelves who was a close ally of Gregg Tucker. Joan Twelves became the Leader and Gregg Tucker (from the RMT or maybe Aslef) took over the position of Central Services Chair. He ended up being in constant battle with Chief Officers and that, in itself, created instability within the Directorate. I would assume, although I have no evidence of this, that this was the reason as to why Gregg and Joan wanted to do away with the centre!

Joan Twelves decided to reorganise again and brought in Reg Race who then produced the Reg Race report at great expense if I may say so. This was around 1990 shortly after I became Convenor for DMS. It was a very difficult period for all of us but I managed to convince Joan Twelves, with help from Mike Waller who was then the Branch Secretary to allow those who were in a position of redundancy to have 3 redeployment opportunities and 3 appeals against any decisions to dismiss. This later on established the principle of White, Green and Pink redeployee status (denotes priority) I can safely say that no one who wanted to stay was made redundant so we did, in a way, achieve a small victory which gave me and those supporting me the confidence and energy to continue the struggle. I had an extensive network of support which came mainly from the reactivated Black Workers Group who were close allies. I started attending Convenors committee every week to witness battles and carniage which made me wonder if we were all on the the same side. I was young and new to this so a bit shocked!! I vaguely remember a skinny fella, called Jon Rogers, standing up at branch meetings advocating revolution, he was around my age and wondered what planet (at the time) he had landed from...

It became clear and obvious to me that we had to organise ourselves better and have trained shop stewards able to defend attacks from the employer but I was, at the same time, anxious to retain a balance between being anti everything and everyone and work with the employer to ensure that the interests of members were protected. I am a reformist and have always argued that change should be achieved using legal means. So the Reg Race report/reorganisation threw me at the deep end and forced me to come to terms with the realisation that I had to lead from the front so I waved goodbye to the opportunity of finishing a Cipfa qualification and I took up arms (literary speaking of course) I never believed that Lambeth was a bad employer and that everyone in top management positions was instinctively bad on the contrary I always knew that those who chose to come and work in Lambeth knew of its history and splendid past and retained within them a degree of honor and integrity. They were not the enemy but were forced into a hard position by a reactionary government, this, I think, helped me later on to persuade Chief Executives/officers to follow advice from me which in tern help us. There was inevitably the odd wanker to be found in the midst of despair and confusion but in general I felt and still do that those who work for Lambeth Council are a special breed of essentially good people who believe in public service. Even the Tories in Lambeth are a bad version of Liberals....

Action Across the Region: Saturday 15 January

The SERTUC Executive Committee is calling for your active support for street level action in every community on Saturday 15 January – organised by you!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

TU Facilities

The ACAS code of practice makes it clear that organisations should allow reasonable time of for those who are elected representatives. This is more the case in times when there are pending reorganisations and as we all know there will be many of these soon especially in the public sector.

I covered this subject before on this blog and argued against the tax payers alliance who argue that TUs get too much time off . This is a nonsense argument one that I was very much familiar with when employed in the public sector. One of the ways I dealt with arguments from management side about taking time off was to present my line manager, in my early days from 1988 to 1991 with a weekly schedule of meetings and casework it was he who pointed out after a while that it was better for someone so extensively involved with TU work to be recognised as being on TU duties. The thing here is to force the employer to see that a situation where a rep has to present a weekly schedule is unmanageable.

Standards of service

I covered this subject back in November as I was prompted to do so by a friend who is a member of different union in Harrigey. I ended up having to represent this family friend and whilst I will not go into the detail of the specific case I was appalled by the lack of support this poor member had received. He was facing disciplinary charges and was trying desperately to get help from his union but could not get anyone to sit down with him so I was drafted in. I won't go on about this in depth as I do not wish to expose (not at this stage) my mate.

But it is true that the majority of those in membership join up because they know they may need help and support at some stage during their employment, so it is bad that we, as union reps, do some times fail in our duty and more should be done to support those who take up the role of representing to enable them to do their duty correctly. It is also not true that the majority of members join because they wish to bring about change so unions should be more realistic and become more responsive to the needs of their members.

Lambeth Unison. The diaries.

I agreed to accept the nomination to become interim shop steward for the central services shop of DMS in September 1988 on the understanding that this would be a temporary role to help and support fellow members until the end of the pending reorganisation that would see the abolition of the Directorate of Management Services.

DMS was divided between those who worked for the IT department, a large section dealing with reorganisations and job evaluations and the rest of us who were providing support services. My own section, Finance, monitored and managed the finances of the Directorate but the overall responsibility for what we did rested with the powerful Director of Finance. Officers in Personnel were also part of my shop. It was a fact that most of the staff in the central services division were from Black or Ethnic minority backgrounds whereas the reverse was the case with the other two large sections.

In the meantime and in the rest of Lambeth the Levithan was struggling with many different problems and another Directorate, DHCS where Jon of the Rogers was working in was also about to be abolished. The government was getting heavy with Boroughs and our budget was rate caped which meant more money had to be found from cutting down jobs and services. Linda Bellos was having great difficulty surviving as she had to fend off challenges from within the Labour group and attacks from the community who were not happy to see the reduction in service provision. At the end Dick Serabji won the vote and became the Leader of Lambeth Council for a brief period. It became eveident that we were going to have another fight to defend jobs and services. We started having weekly meetings of the shop stewards committee and the shop had more frequent gatherings to determine policy and strategy.


Back to 'normal' today with the weather looking gloomy and big increase in VAT the rate goes up from 17.5% to 20% This is a regressive tax as it affects everyone, it hits those on lower incomes harder so anyone on a fixed or low income will have to cut from elsewhere to pay for this. In addition commuters have to pay an average of 6% more in London to travel to and from work and of course petrol prices keep going up every day.

Its obvious that 2011 will be a difficult year for everyone and the biggest challenge will be to coordinate and intelligent overall strategy to defend the attack on pensions and deletion of hundreds of thousands of public service jobs. More unity is needed to fight back a government determined to make us all pay for mistakes and stupid deregulated policies by their mates in the city.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Lambeth Unison, the diaries. Linda Bellos factor

Those of us who were redeployed to Lambeth in 1988 felt like we had landed on an even worst battlefield it was like being told to parachute jump near the cliffs of Dover. We had experienced instability and turmoil in the last 6 months of LSPU and we initially thought that Lambeth would be a safe haven but we were of course wrong!

It was 1988 a period following the Ted Knight era with Linda Bellos, the first openly Lesbian Black politician, taking control of the leadership of the Council. I worked with Linda before and I knew that she was a capable, principled figure who was, never the less, criticised for sometimes being harsh but the opposite was the case she was simply assertive and the establishment did not like a Black Lesbian coming to power. That was my view anyway.

So whilst the Labour group were fighting each other we were floating from one reorganisation to another. I got a job in DMS (Directorate of Management Services) that employed around 400 staff. This was a division that existed to police other Directorates, John Mawle was the Director. Other Directors did not, of course, like the idea that another division existed to keep an eye on what they did and resnted having someone in the centre telling them what to do.

It came as no surprise to me that 2 months after my arrival the division was to be abolished and we were all facing redundancy and whilst I had promised myself not to get involved with the union again my reputation preceded me and colleagues who knew where I came from (I was a rep with LSPU) urged me to take up the role and help them, so of course I did but I made it clear that my involvement would be temporary as I wanted to concentrate on developing my career, I was 28 and wanted to make sure that I got qualified as an accountant. But of course this wish of mine never came to anything and my role with the union did not end until 30 March 2010 (well it still continues but in a different way) so it was not a brief intervention at all.

I would imagine that the most striking impression I got after arriving in Lambeth was how divided people were and how left out Black members felt within the union. This was a shock to me as I specifically asked to move to Lambeth thinking that the reverse was the case and I rejected an offer to work in Islington (Andrew Berry would be happy! loll) because I thought that Lambeth would be more sorted out. But I was very wrong and soon realised that Lambeth NALGO was divided. I got involved to change that and worked closely with Tony Jules who was the first Black Assistant Branch Secretary to change that, so the challenge and the struggle had just started!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Lambeth Unison, the diaries. Arrival

It all started when I was redeployed to Lambeth from the LSPU (London Strategic Policy Unit) in 1988. The process of shifting the 200 staff to the 8 participating boroughs was rather complicated and it involved us having to go through interviews followed by written tests. I do not recall NALGO objecting to us having to go through these difficulties at the time although I know that I objected and stopped tests for a reorganisation when I became a Convenor two years later.

Myself, Kienda Hoji, who later on became one of the most legendary Chairs of the Branch, arrived sometime after April 1988. I don't think we were greeted with hostility by the NALGO branch but the reception was rather wet. Lambeth NALGO was facing a huge crisis at the time with Linda Bellos trying desperately to work with the unions and appease those in her own party who were openly hostile towards her. I knew Bellos from my work with the LSPU as she was the Chair of that body. Margaret Hodge was the Secretary. Lambeth NALGO had, at the time, more than 5000 members.

It is worth mentioning that prior to our arrival there was resistance from the HR section who did not think it was right for us to be taken in, this is despite the fact that our contracts contained clauses that made it clear that in the event of abolition we would be assimilated by one of the 9 boroughs participating in the post GLC body. So there was a lot of hostility from the HR side and not much interest shown by NALGO. The only people that were helpful were Peter Woodward and Amanda Baird who were, at the time, Convenors in Lambeth. Mike Waller, the then Branch Secretary, persuaded the Branch to work with the plan and proved to be helpful at the end. I did not know Jon of the Rogers at the time so no idea what his position was on this. The LSPU were, to start with, seen as outsiders by the Lambeth branch. This of course changed dramatically with me and Kienda standing for election to positions and rising within the union structures, but this was a struggle and we had to fight and challenge negative attitudes and perceptions.

At the end the complications with us being redeployed were resolved with Linda Bello's intervention. She instructed officers in Lambeth to get on with it (in that special Linda Bellos assertiveness that she was famous for) so we were 'allowed' to have the interviews and the tests after Linda put her foot down.

I think the incident and the events around it which took two months to resolve shaped the way I would view and see the union and those in management positions. It made myself and others who came with me, more suspicious and more determined to be involved at the front of any fight that could have affected our future. I was in my twenties at the time so the unstable period taught me a lesson. The lesson was simple, don't sit around waiting for others to determine your destiny, take control and be involved with a union that is, at the end of the day, yours