Thursday, 17 December 2009

Unite strike banned by High Court

So, once again a judge has made law by interpreting the harsh anti-union laws in this country in the worst possible way for democracy and workers rights.

The High Court ruling strikes at the very heart of democracy - the numbers who may or may not have been properly balloted (and of course, one should point out that an injunction only means that the court thinks that there is a case to try, not that Unite actually did get it's ballot wrong) were tiny, and considering the high turnout, and overwhelming proportion of those voting yes, would have had naff all effect on the result.

The anti-TU laws in this country have all but crippled the unions over the last fifteen - twenty years, thanks to the Tories who passed them and the Labour government that hasn't had the balls to remember where the party came from and repeal them. The principle has always been that you ballot your members - how the hell were Unite meant to know these people were leaving, even if the members told them, they stay members until their subs stop coming in or they resign, and it's never been a problem in the past.

The laws in this country make it practically impossible to exercise the natural right to withdraw your labour in the event of an industrial dispute. If the employer fears bankruptcy, then they can get back round the table and talk. If BA is indeed losing £1.5 mill a day, then there are better ways of dealing with this than reducing staff and making the rest work dangerously long hours.

Unions don't call strikes lightly, with the costs involved and the hoops to jump through to get a ballot going we can't afford to, and even then we don't ask our members to sacrifice pay unless it's absolutely neccessary. And it does work, look at the Leeds binmen this year (nearly 12 weeks out), the Tanker drivers last year, there are success stories.

Collective bargaining essentially relies on the unions ability to organise workers to take action against an employer, which is a neccessary balance to the employers power to dismiss, lock out, or whatever. If the law in this country makes that all but impossible, then the law needs to be changed.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Why are we so vicious?

I've only been active in UNISON for just under two years, and blogging even less than that. But the one thing that has struck me is how vicious trade unionists, of whatever political persuasion can be to each other. Whether it's at conference or online, the vitriol just pours out and it surprised me. I thought I'd left flame wars behind at uni, but they are alive and well in TIGMOO as they say!
I'm uncertain why I started blogging bit if I ever get the urge to have a go at a fellow unionist on a personal level, I'll know why I stopped.

Institute of Employment Rights - Spectre of the ECJ Conference

A couple of weeks ago I attended another excellent event organised by the IER, and sponsored by the SERTUC (and therefore free and with lunch! - thank you comrades).

The conference focused on the repercussions for British TU's of a batch of judgements from the European Court of Justice, specifically, the Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg cases. I knew nothing of these cases prior to the case, although they were familiar to the (law student) comrade who went with me.

Suffice to say, the cases put, potentially, severe restrictions on the abilities of unions to take industrial action if the organisation they are fighting operates in different areas of the EU - the ECJ has effectively said that the right of a company to do business in different EU states trumps the rights of unions to take action. And, overruling the principle of English law that limits the amount of damages a union can be liable for in the event of industrial action (which was enshrined in law following the Taff Vale case, a case I know well having cut my A-Level History teeth on it) the court ruled that the Union could be held liable for the total losses of the company, which would, frankly, bankrupt most unions taking on any large organisation, witness BA's threat against BALPA in its most recent case.

So the conference was about two things: what these cases meant and how to fight it. I'm sad to say that there was a lot of long faces and Ominous Words of Warning, and not too much in the way of tactics. What there was did come from two, I believe, respected sources in the union world, John Hendy QC and Professor Keith Ewing. The proffered solutions were mostly legal, and I think my budding solicitor understood them better than I did, but there was some hope in legal challenges through the European Court of Human Rights, as well as trans-national collective bargaining.  Let us hope our leaderships rise to the challenge, if not, a motion or two to NDC might force them to (assuming they aren't too busy trying to figure out if they have to be re-elected or not).

The other issue highlighted by the last two cases is the matter of collective agreements. The ECJ essentially ruled that the Posted Workers Directive allows an employer to import labour, and pay them less and make them work under worse terms and conditions, and Unions can do nothing about it, unless there is a collective agreement that is universally applicable.

They took this definition to mean registered with a central body and applied to all employees working in a particular sector. Which, in the UK, means none, as even things like the NJC agreements don't apply to everyone (as Comrade Leary can tell us), and aren't "registered" as we have no body able to do this. So, should we try and fight such things, we are essentially screwed from the get go. It was pointed out that no action was taken against the Lyndsey dispute unions, although no one was clear as to why.

John Hendy did round off the conference with a lecture on why no UK union is going to challenge the rulings anytime soon, which is firstly because injunctions are so bloody easy to obtain in this country - the claimant just has to establish that there is a case to try (which, as he said "any employer cannot fail to do"), not that they are likely to win. The challenging of this can take 18 months, by which time the dispute is as dead as a proverbial dodo, so the employer wins by default.

Secondly, the duty to disclose has become more onerous in these cases. Normally, a union will be expected to disclose information pertinent to the dispute, but now the employers are going after reams and reams of information to establish "proportionately". The example given on how this would work would be a meeting of, say, UNISON's industrial action committee to authorise a strike. If a member of this committee so much as suggested that a lesser action, such as work to rule, was a possibility, then an employer could use this to show that a lesser form of action was possible and therefore the strike was disproportionate. Employers have even been demanding hand written notes that members of a committee made during such discussions.

The final point was the unlimited damages problem. Even a union as large as UNISON or Unite, with substantial budgets and reserves, could face bankruptcy in such a dispute.

Christ, now I've written it down it sounds even more depressing.

I'll have to write about something cheerful soon!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

South West Regional Committee

On Monday, I attended the above committee, which, like most committees in UNISON, does exactly what it says on the tin. It was my third time attending and it was, actually, one of the more interesting.
My experience of UNISON to date, or certainly the lay democratic structures, is that there tends to be very little real debate, just people making a series of points, often along the same lines (or if you are an NEC member "Supporting with qualifications") in support of a particular motion. SWRC isn't like that, there was genuine debate (a not inconsiderable amount of it around proposed changes to the Regional Rules and Constitution, colour me surprised) and also around the service group strucutres and various goings on.
One of the biggest items was a section that started as a discussion about Regional Objectives and expanded into a not inconsiderable report on the Three Companies project.
Jon Rogers has blogged about this, as have others, but it would appear that we are having some success in the westcountry. Our Regional Secretary highlighted one particular branch which had tripled the number of members in (if memory serves) an Aramark venture, using the techniques and tactics the project espouses, gaining us something like 100 members in the process. Now this can only be a good thing, whichever side of the debate on the SEIU you are on.
There were acknowledgements of concern, with the Secretary describing UNISON taking advice from a US union as "controversial", and one of the Regional Convenors referring to the controversy over SEIU's tactics, and the internet furore surrounding them. She reported that this had been discussed at a recent meeting of all the regional convenors, and that it was being looked into. I shall not, however be holding my breath for anything to come of it though - bearing in mind we are talking about a union which, if my memory of NDC serves me well, is having it's new HQ building constructed by one of the companies involved in the blacklisting scandal....however should the General Secretary announce that we are having nothing to do with SEIU in the future I shall, of course, be both surprised and pleased.
Having been through a branch assessment shortly after taking up the Branch Secretary role, I am intrigued to see that the process has been radically overhauled for the new year. Now, we have to do it before the Branch AGM, and only the first part is dealt with by the Branch Sec and the Regional Organiser. A new, second part, is then taken to the branch committee and objectives set, with named officers responsible for leading on them. My opinions on the matter are divided, whilst I think it may be a very useful tool for guiding the branch towards better organising, higher recruitment etc, I think the extended involvement of the branch committee may be an unwelcome intrusion into their independance for some. I'd be interested to hear from anyone with opinions on this matter, especially anyone who remembers the debates at conference that must have happened for this policy to start.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Competency Based Pay and morning sickness

Seeing as I'm now listed on tigmoo I thought I'd best post something!

One of the bugbears in Plymouth at the moment is the linking of appraisals to progression through the local government salary scales. We are currently negotiating on this, and tricky it is proving . From the employers side of things there is "an equality issue" with automatic progression based on length of service, not sure how much of an issue that actually is but it could be a runner.

I've been ringing round various branches of UNISON trying to see how they have implemented the link to pay, and by and large it ain't pretty. Appeals procedures are going to be a key part I think, and the fact that we want to make sure that those of us on full time release still get our increments if the link is put in place - and its done properly.

In other news, mrsplymdaz is suffering somewhat from what I have come to call Morning Sickness From Hell. She is not well at all and has had to take the last two days off work, poor thing. Much as I cannot wait for the arrival of the second member of the plymdaz flying picket team, I hate seeing her suffering, especially as there is little I can actually do about it, other than offer hugs.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Now I lay me down to sleep....

I actually carried out something of an experiment in the course of getting to the conference. First Great Western, a company I'm not particularly fond of for various reasons, still run a sleeper service between Plymouth and Paddington. I'd always thought that this was a bit pointless, and probably expensive.

How wrong I was.

A single berth cost £45. Contrast this with £100ish for a room in a hotel in London, or £55-70 on the outskirts. The service was excellent, with a friendly host greating me when I got on and showing me to the cabin, and demonstrating how everything worked, as well as taking my breakkie order ("bacon roll and a pint of coffee please" - I got a bacon roll) and wake up call. I left Plymouth just shy of midnight, had a  cup of cocoa from the buffet (free) and was asleep by 12.30.

The cabin was compact, but comfortable, with a good few pillows and blankets, as well as a fair amount of space to store luggage. A sink was concealed under a lifting shelf, and there was a tv (although this only showed a handful of pre-recorded programmes). Still, sleep came easily, althoiugh there was a slightly disconcerting moment when I woke up to find my head lower than my feet due to the camber of the track!

We pulled into Paddington at about 5.30am, and I had my wakeup and breakfast at 6.20. You have to be off the train by 7am, but you get access to the 1st class lounge (free drinks and croissants, and comfy chairs) as well as the showers.

All in all, a good journey, getting me into the heart of the capital in time to have a nice breakfast, a shave, shower and then make my way across to Euston. There is a train that leaves plymouth at about 5.30am, and gets in for 8.30/9ish, but it would probably not cost much less and I'd have to rush.

I can heartily reccomend the sleeper to any union  hacks (or indeed anyone) travelling up from the westcountry, and will certainly be using it again in the future!

Tupe or not Tupe?

Well, it's been an interesting 24 hours.
I think it's fairly safe to say that my councils stock transfer is rapdily becoming a bit of a sick joke. It was originally supposed to happen last month, but was put back due to "Technical difficulties". It was then supposed to happen on Monday, and lo and behold, all the staff were in their nice new uniforms and raring to go.
Unfotunatley, as we got told yesterday, there are still some "difficulties" in finalising the documentation. Considering that this has been a project of the councils for at least two-three years, the thousands (probably hundreds of thousands or more) spent on consultants and legal advisers, not to mention the smallish team of dedicated staff directly employed by the council, they haven't got the documents right!
Now they aren't saying anymore than that at the moment, no details, but considering the amount of work that needs to be done on the stock (so much so that 16,000 properties, the land they sit on and associated land actually has a negative value!) and the fact that there will be some sizable warranties involved in the transfer, it's not beyond the possibility that someone is getting a little worried about what they are taking on....ho hum.
And of course the 500 staff due to transfer are in limbo. When the story originally broke that transfer was to be delayed, it was suggested that Novemeber was pretty much as far as the council could push it before having to reballot the tenants on whether they wanted to transfer or not. Have to wait and see what happens, although should it all go tits up, it will be the staff who moved prior to TUPE who'll be in the most trouble, as if the transfer collapses and the company folds, they have no-where to go except down the road.

Anyway, I've spent today in the big smoke at a TUPE conference run by these lovely people. Was very interesting, there were some very good speakers and the opportunity to ask questions was a godsend. I've picked up some useful case law to through at HR and also some useful negotiating points. I won't got into much detail here, although the conference did note with concern that any new government is likley to try and reduce the, sometimes meagre, protection TUPE currently affords those of us unfortunate enough to be transferred out of the public sector.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The next generation of Trade Unionists

Found out today (of all the days of the year) that my wife is pregnant with our second child. Very early days yet, but we don't subscribe to any of the superstitions (we told everyone about Rayne as soon as we knew pretty much!).
I'm absolutely over the moon. Mrs Plymdaz is also, she's always wanted to be a brood mother! I must confess, having several children is starting to appeal to me, if only so I can train them and have enough to cover any picket lines I may be involved in. Considering her repeated attempts to ban me from using the words scab and blackleg around the house, I may be in for a tough time on this plan though.
Am back to work on Monday, so may actually have more material to blog about, especially as the leader of the local labour group wants to talk to me about planned tory cuts in the council, and the fact that they want to sell our bus company.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Withdrawal symptoms

After nearly a whole week without dealing with anyone's problems other than my own, I'm starting to go into withdrawal. I partially treated this (in a kind of methadone to treat heroin addiction way) by looking for health and safety hazards whilst we were out and about today. Considering it's been sometime since my training, I was quite surprised by how easy it is to find hazards if you are looking for them hard enough!
No wonder those of us with an interest in Health and Safety sometimes get a bad reputation. There is an amusing series of articles on the HSE website concerning times when the HSE has been incorrectly blamed for something being banned. From my personal experience, it's nearly always been insurance issues rather than H&S that causes things to be closed, fireworks displays, school trips and float parades at carnivals being some pertinent examples. I used to love going to a local community centre that did a cracking fireworks display every November, but the rising cost of insurance soon put paid to that.
And of course there are regular stories about union HSW Reps being overzealous. I must be honest and say that those I've met, no matter which union, have been well trained and quite capable of utilizing common sense when needed. But we all hear of stories like this from time to time, and everytime I do I sigh, and wonder why people do it.
Now if that's not a meandering post I don't know what is!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Love, Marriage, and a funny feeling of apprehension....

I got married on Saturday.
A very short way to sum up about 6 months of planning, 5 years of intent, and finally proving (to myself at least) that someone would actually want to marry me, but that's another story.
When I started writing this blog, it was originally meant to be largely a union blog in the style of this one (which I enjoy greatly and indeed blame this post for finally getting me moving), but having recently discovered that an old friend and former boss has an absolutely fantastic blog I think it's worth expanding a little bit perhaps. Plus, to be honest, a lot of the really interesting stuff I do I can't talk about anyway, as I would actually like to keep (both) my jobs....
Having worked for the same company as  TUWG did, it is interesting to see that they made people redundant and then took on temps a few months later. I left when they screwed with my job and took away all the parts that I actually got any enjoyment or fulfillment out of, a process which my experiences in the Union over the last 18 months have shown is exactly the sort of thing a Union can help deal with - the classic "sign the new contract or you're history" kind of deal - but hell, that was 4 years ago, and to be honest, I've not looked back since. I'll say this for 118118, they gave me two things: Katrina and the confidence to say "bugger this, I'm off".
Still, back to the wedding. Or more specifically, the quasi-honeymoon I'm now on. We can't afford any kind of actual holiday, so we've just got a week off work and time to ourselves (and our son). I'm under strict instructions from Domestic Gold that I am not (under pain of death) to contact (or be contacted by) work under any thing other than life or death circumstances...and even then she may still reserve the right to seriously injure me.
This is due to the fact that I have (a) a Blackberry and (b) the tendency to want to be involved and know what's going on. This is exemplified by the fact that the last time I had a week off, I actually cancelled 1 day of it to do a disciplinary hearing, and went in for a half day to do an appeal. Not to mention reading emails (via my councils remote access) and making phone calls. Suffice to say I was spending at least 2 hours a day doing union stuff - so I didn't get much of a holiday. Kat gets wound up enough when I get a call/email outside of normal working hours anyway, so during a holiday is a big no-no.
That was the first time I've ever actually taken time off from the branch secretarys role since I was elected - and to say I was niave is an understatement. It's not the sort of job you can switch off from easily, or if it is I haven't learned how to yet. But once bitten, twice shy, and with the possibility of a swift death in the offing, I have made thorough arrangements to ensure no-one needs to contact me. It didn't help that during my last holiday, the assistant branch secretary (who works in a school) was generally incommunicado as well, but he's here now and fully briefed as well, which is always helpful. With the exception of being told which way a crucial vote goes at branch committee, I shall hopefully be hearing nothing from anyone this week.
And yet, despite having absolute confidence in the branch administrator (who's been working for us over ten years) and the other lay officers, I still, despite everything, want to know what's going on. It's not that I don't trust them, it's just I don't like not being invovled, and despite moaning about never getting away from the job, I just don't like being on the sidelines.
Bit of a long post, but then I can't sleep so no surprises there!

Friday, 23 October 2009

The BNP and No Platform Policies

Well, after the best hours worth of tv to come out of Television Centre in many years, I think that could be said to have been useful. The BNP must be held up to ridicule for its attitudes, policies and outright racism, and I think the BBC was right to do so.
No platform policies do not work. It didn't work when the UK government tried to suppress Sinn Fein by barring their leaders from being heard. It doesn't work in Trade Unions when the central heirarchy tries to suppress factions and groups: they just keep coming and getting bigger. If you aren't allowed to talk about it, people instinctively want to talk about it, and censoring the BNP will just make them (a) more interesting and (b) able to play the martyr card.
From experience talking to people its quite surprising how many don't realise exactly what the BNP stand for, they just see the "no to foreigners" or "british jobs for the brits" etc and tick the box.  A lot of people didn't realise what the NSDAP stood for in the early thirties, if you look at their manifesto (such as it was), the vast majority of their policies seemed reasonable to a people suffering from economic catasrophe (ring any bells). Indeed, some of their policies would not be unpalatable to those of us on the left (nationalisation and increasing the old age pension being two of them).  If all that people get told is what appeals to them, they'll vote for what sounds good.

What we have to do is make sure that the vast majority of decent people in this country don't get conned and vote for them, in the way the German people did in 1933, because they have a facade of reasonableness...and I think we're doing well on that front. However, I think we can do better, and the various anti-fascist movements (why can there never just be one group opposing someone, its not like its the Peoples Front of Judea for crying out loud) need to change tactic. "Denying the BNP the oxygen of publicity" won't get us anywhere, we need to engage them in public debate (although the demos are still a good thing) and make sure people know how vicious they are.
It would also help if there was someone we could tell them to vote for instead. None of the main parties are particularly palatable at the moment, anyone got any suggestions?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Rain Rain go away...

...and don't come back until I'm safely in work.
I wish the weather would go on strike sometimes, so we could just default to sun. It is absolutely belting it down in Plymouth at the moment, and I'm off to the local hospital to accompany someone at an Occupational Health meeting, which should be interesting as I have no idea whereabouts the unit is on the site. I feel some zen navigation coming on.
On the subject of strikes, its interesting to see the brinkmanship the Royal Mail are using to try and get the CWU to cancel their strikes. Anyone would think they were scared of them. Theres been a lot of talk about industrial action in my branch lately, due to redundancies and to changes to terms and conditions (including the possible implementation of a dress code, which has gotten the membership wound up more than anything else so far) and I would like to think that anything we do will be as effective as the action the CWU is threatening: in other words, it will get the employers back round the table before the strike.
Thats one thing that people often forget about the Local Government Strike last year: it did get us an increase in the offer (even if it was a small one after we forced the employer to go to ACAS). Call me naive (and someone probably will) but I think that's an achievement.
Anyways, I must go and find out what time my bus to the hospital is, and try and help support the comrades fighting the privatisation of our local bus company.

Friday, 16 October 2009


Plymouth City Council implemented Job Evaluation from the 1st October 2007. The fact that no-one got their results until Feb 2008, the ballot to accept wasn't until August 08 didn't matter, October 2007 was the date for backpay and grade changes. We got three years pay protection, so it wasn't too bad was it?
Except that it was. There were many appeals, my substantive (a word familiar to many in the union movement, but not neccessarily elsewhere) post was detrimentally affected - I didn't personally lose any money as I was only on the bottom "increment" of the pay scale (Local Government pay has several grades/scales with numerous 'spinal points' in each one), but several colleagues stood to lose a substantial amount of money.
Its ok, we said, we'll do a good appeal (and we had plenty of evidence), and we'll get back to where we should be. So several colleagues spent some time toiling on the appeal document. A year after it was submitted, we got our results back. Some factors had changed (we use the NJC scheme) but the grade was still the same. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth etc etc.
Now, if you'd believed the Council, that was it. No second bite of the cherry, as someone in authority said. But we didn't settle for that. UNISON and Unite lodged a collective grievance, GMB lodged individual ones but on essentially the same grounds. Now we were told that they wouldn't be treated as grievances, and we had all our arguments prepared for the hearings, and the tribunal paperwork had actually been submitted (and bounced back because collective grievances come under the "old" rules -d'oh) when things started moving. We were pleasantly surprised.
We were even more surprised when, this morning, letters arrived informing the affected staff that they had been upgraded. A quick phone call confirmed that, apparently, the backpay won't be an issue. Considering we were expecting a huge fight to just get the Council moving, we see this a huge victory. We are currently looking at pursuing similar claims in other areas.
Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A Branch Secretary's work.... never done. It's certainly true. No-one can ever quite quantify exactly what it is we're supposed to do, but I think I've finally found it. If it needs to be done, and we can't find  anyone else to do it, then its our job. Since I was elected in February, I've not looked back. I absolutely love this job, despite all its frustrations and don't know if I'll ever want to stop. However, I know of more than one person with a story to tell about burn out amongst branch secretaries, so I'm keen to not go the same way. I've been assured by domestic gold that she will help keep me in check - and shes done a good job so far.
It has been a steep learning curve - I imagine its the same for any branch sec -  but I've got my objectives for the year (some my own, some courtesy of UNISON's branch assessment) and am (slowly) working towards them. We're currently balloting on some amendments to local terms and conditions - not good ones - so a lot of my time lately has been devoted to that, as well as the redundancies I seem to have been consulting on almost constantly since I was elected. The Council issued an HR 1 for 200 redundancies and 100 vacant post deletions in Feb 2009, and we're no-where near that total.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

South West Regional Council

The second council in a row to finish before lunch - due to a lack of anything controversial to debate- was something of a success for my branch at least. We very nearly had a full delegation (only one seat vacant) and we were proportional - no easy feat as anyone with any experience in UNISON will know-and the Assistant Branch Secretary and myself had some very productive meetings with other activists.
The branch had submitted the maximum three motions, two of which (one on this and one on this) ruled out of order. We have been publicly assured by the Chair of The Labour Link that all of our requests in our motion on expenses were already Labour Link policy, and I believe him, so I shall look forward to seeing the results.
The third motion (which was actually admitted to the agenda) called for the Regional Convenors to sign the Peoples Charter on behalf of the region. Now, I won't go into any detail about the content of the Charter, but its a bloody good stab at getting some kind of general left wing manifesto together. Full details are here, but speaking as someone who spent a not inconsiderable amount of time studying the original Peoples Charter in his youth, it bears pointing out that 5 of the 6 demands in that documnent are now enshrined in our law.
However, the Convenor group pointed out that the Charter states the minimum wage should be "Half median earnings", which works out to roughly £6 an hour. UNISON aims for a substantially higher figure, therefore they couldn't possibly sign it as it would breach UNISON policy.
We were therefore asked to remit the motion in favour of a statement supporting "many of the aims" of the charter, and tieing it in with the Million Voices for Change campaign. Having taken some tactical advice, I decided to remit and bring the motion back "Suitably reworded" to avoid it being voted down, as it no doubt would have been if the committee had lead off with "Its policy ain't it". We shall return.
Also got a chance to plug this (bottom of the page), please try and get along if you are anywhere near Plymouth!
And a big thanks to all comrades who dispensed pearls of wisdom to me over the weekend. Now, I really need to start work on my next project, which is a national rule change proposal....

Political Journey

 I thought I'd write a little bit about my politics.  I used to be a card carrying member of the Tory party, specifically the Young Conservatives back before they tried to rebrand themselves as a swearword.
I've never quite figured out how I ended up a tory, considering my working class background (my father spent many years working in Devonport Dockyard and in industry) but I did. I first became politically active around the 1997 election, taking part in the tory campaign in our school mock election, and also helping deliver leaflets.
Maybe I just have a soft spot for the underdog, I don't know. But when Labour won I was devastated, and began getting sucked in to politics. I attended my first committee meeting, and actually managed to avoid getting elected to a position (I wish I could say this habit would continue).
This continued through to Uni, and I became heavily involved with the Uni Conservative association. I met some very good friends, and when part of the group split off to form a Tory Monday Club, I stayed with the main group. And they say its the left that has problems with splitters!
But it was some time after Uni that I started to realise the Tories weren't for me. In fact, it was when I started working full time that I started to realise that, amongst other things, workers needed far more protection than they had. My early experiences were with private companies, and it was when I moved into the Local Council in 2005 that I started to really lurch to the left.
When our local managers tried to screw a bunch of us over increments and continuous service, we joined UNISON en-mass, and the problem was solved in a matter of days. That was really the turning point for me - actually seeing first hand what a union can do (UNISON has, and still has, a very high density in the part of the council I work for).
When I look back, I've always been left wing on a large number of issues - I've always believed in state ownership of public transport and utilities, and I suppose its a logical extension from there to general public ownership. I've never seen why private healthcare should have any place in this country - if the NHS was properly funded and looked after then there would be absolutely no need for anyone to go elsewhere surely?
Over the last few years, I've become more and more left wing - I think socialism is contagious - and certainly since I became active within UNISON in Feb 08 I'm now firmly entrenched in the left of the general political spectrum - although I'm not quite sure exactly where, although the Labour party manifesto of 1983 sounds like a good place to start.
I could write about my thoughts on political representation of the left, but thats a much longer post.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Committee, work and chocolate

Today is South West Regional Committee. The meeting is being held in Plymouth (in fact just up the road from my office) so I am going to toddle along there shortly. I also need to see the regional Standing Orders Committee as they ruled two of my branches motions out of order. Having sat on their side of the table before, I don't envy them their job, in the same way that there are times that I don't envy (some) managers who are making people redundant. But, in the words of the chair of the National SOC, let us hope a good, constructive, discussion will be had.
Time to make some robust arguments methinks. I may very well reference Comrade Prentis' speech to conference when arguing why our motion calling for an investigation into MPs "linked" with UNISON (ie, those with constituency development plans, a concept I don't quite understand but I'm sure someone will be able to explain to me one day) should be allowed to be discussed. If the General Secretary is allowed to talk about so called 'Labour Link' business, then so should other bodies of the union, surely? Maybe I've missed the point?
Anyways, I suppose I'd better head in. I was going to blog about work and chocolate, but I've just remembered I need to speak to my RO about something and she should be there today.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

CWU strike

At last nights Trades Council a lively young chap (and I think he's younger than me) from the local CWU spoke about how the Royal Mail are using strike busting tactics on an unprecedented scale, coupled with vicious attacks on union activists to try and beat our comrades in that union. Some rather unparliamentary language was used to describe some fellow unionists who are wilfullly breaking the CWU strike, and being bussed across the country to scab.
I personally believe that the CWU are fighting the first battle in the coming war over public sector jobs, and every trade unionist, every socialist, and every member of the working class needs to back the brothers and sisters. I'm probably preaching to the converted, but workplace collections, visits to the picket lines, and simple letters of support will go a long way when there are some offices that have taken 15 days of strike action so far.
I remember how much of a boost we got when the postie wouldn't cross our picket line during the local government strike last year, and how great it was when the local CWU visited our lines with doughnuts.
Solidarity Comrades, we're all behind you.
Oh, and PS, please don't go out in the next two weeks, some of us have ballots going as well!