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!