Saturday, October 30, 2010

Uniting against the cuts in Lambeth

There are some good pictures of this afternoon's demonstration in Brixton on the urban75 blog (http://www.urban75.org/blog/lambeth-save-our-services-march-demo-and-rally/).

As well as a couple of fine shots of the Lambeth UNISON Banner, there are good pictures of Ellen, who addressed the rally on behalf of the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group and of the UNITE speaker who spoke about the attacks on the NHS.

Today's demonstration was a positive step forward and one which poses all the more clearly the importance of building united action against cuts in the borough.

Lambeth Save Our Services, which meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at 7pm at the Vida Walsh Centre was initiated by the local authority trade union branches in response to the Council announcing hundreds of job losses in May (http://lambethunison.blogspot.com/2010/06/opposition-to-public-service-cuts-in.html). It immediately attracted support from the UCU Branch at Lambeth College and the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group and now has the backing of the Tenants Council.

Lambeth SOS has two important strengths. It is a campaign against all cuts, whoever makes them, and it has a bias towards organising action. The campaign needs to continue to grow - it has the potential now to do so. Of course it goes without saying that these are early days and the campaign has a long way to go and much to do.

Other initiatives have also emerged.

Local supporters of the Right to Work Campaign (which appears to have no local organisational existence independently of the Socialist Workers Party) organised a well attended meeting (at which I spoke alongside Kate Hoey) in early September under the name of "Lambeth United Against Cuts" (http://www.lambethunited.org/about-us.html). This was an excellent meeting.

Following the September meeting the organisers had denied any intention to establish an organisation separate from Lambeth Save Our Services (SOS). They now aspire to "bring us closer to a broad delegate based anti-cuts campaign run by no single group or union, which allows participates to continue their own campaigning work." (A project requiring its own website).

This is a worthy aspiration and almost certainly most likely to be achieved if their authors turn up at the twice monthly SOS meetings which have been arranged, will take place and will organise resistance to cuts in Lambeth (at which their welcome contribution will be most helpful).

Meanwhile the officers of Lambeth Trades Council (which has not itself met as a full Trades Council since June) have kept their distance from the SOS campaign created by their most active affiliates. The Trades Council officers organised an "open" meeting which was markedly less well-attended than the "Lambeth United Against the Cuts" meeting and have initiated discussions with Streatham MP Chukka Umanna to develop a "broad based" campaign. These are positive initiatives in and of themselves.

The Trades Council could and should be central to opposition to the ConDem cuts in Lambeth just as Trades Councils in (for example) Barnet and Camden are. Almost certainly the crucial next step is for the Trades Council to meet so that delegates elected to represent Lambeth workers can discuss and agree how we move forward.

Separately the leadership of the Labour Group (http://www.lambethlabour.com/) put proposals to the Council trade unions for a "Lambeth Campaign for Fair Services" which are unlikely to make much headway since it's tough to campaign against cuts whilst making them.

However, it is important that Labour Party members and Councillors remain welcome in anti-cuts campaigning activity - whilst those of us who work for them may have disagreements with the Council as our employer we need unity against the ConDem Coalition who are, without doubt, our real enemy.

The discussion about how Labour Councillors - and Labour Councils - should respond to these cuts is only beginning and an active engagement by Labour Party members in anti-cuts campaigns will be as important as the openness of anti-cuts campaigners to such engagement if we are usefully to have this important discussion.

The people of Lambeth should no doubt be grateful that so many different approaches to how to respond to the ConDems are on offer in the borough!

As the cuts bite deeper we'll find that it is those prepared to act, to campaign and to fight who will be to the fore as working class people resist the attempt to put the clock back two generations and to eliminate our welfare state.

In Lambeth, those are the people who marched through Brixton this afternoon.

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Off to a good start

Over 200 people marched through Brixton this afternoon behind the banner of Lambeth UNISON, organised by Lambeth Save Our Services, the joint union-community anti-cuts coalition which last week won the support of Lambeth's influential Tenants' Council.



Before the march speakers from UNISON, UNITE and the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group were joined by the Right to Work Campaign and student activists.



Following the good humoured and lively march, the marchers were addressed by former Council Leader Ted Knight and left Labour Councillor Kingsley Abrams.



The message of the march was one of opposition to the ConDems and to all public spending cuts. All in all, a good start to local campaigning.



We have much further to go.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Read all about it!

UNISON's detailed analysis of the Government Spending Review is available from the UNISON website: http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/Spending%20Review%202010%20-%20further%20analysis%20-%2025.10.2010.pdf



Half term homework!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The fightback is now

UNISON has published a handy summary of today's spending review available online (http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/2010SpendingReviewAnalysis1.pdf).



The 3,000 strong march from Lincoln's Inn to Whitehall this evening has shown both what can be done by local union branches working through a campaigning Trades Council and the potential that exists for the union movement to mobilise opposition to the ConDems.



The continuing presence of protesters has somewhat depleted attendance at the meeting called by the Labour Representation Committee - but the trade union speakers are rightly calling for a unified fightback.



Apparently, Bob Crow says, the TUC demo on 26 March is not yet confirmed as the Royal Parks are worried that we might trample the daffodils, whereas the Government are just trampling on our communities...

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Unity against Croydon Council

I was pleased to be part of a good crowd outside Croydon Town Hall this evening protesting at the plans of that Tory Council to worsen the conditions of its entire workforce.

Croydon's experience could shape that in many London boroughs. It is strategically important that UNISON activists everywhere support the Croydon branch.

The Order of Lenin is due to the Lambeth comrade who ensured we could take our banner - where it stood proudly alongside the banners of Croydon UNISON, NUT and Trades Council as well as SERTUC.

It was good to see the Regional Secretary of SERTUC there as well as a leading comrade from PCS (not to mention a member of the TUC General Council - even if he was a local!). I was pleased that, by my presence as a UNISON NEC member, I was also signifying support - however there is more to do for our Union.

UNISON needs to raise our game when it comes to supporting activities across branches since we currently punch far below our weight. (It was good that branches had been encouraged to support the protest at last Thursday's Regional Council and that - perhaps in recognition of the fact that many branches had been discouraged from attending the Regional Council, leaving it inquorate - an email reminder had been sent round this morning. However, for the future we need to do more, faster and better at Regional level).

Our active members in Croydon this evening showed us all what to do as a protest organised by the UNISON branch drew support from across the movement. This sort of energy is being shown in many boroughs and needs to be encouraged.

Croydon also had a more musical approach to protest than I am used to (although anyone familiar with my singing will realise that I don't join in as my singing voice could be used as an offensive weapon against those attacking our public services...)

We need - urgently - a national and Regional strategy to support our active members in branches like Croydon who are prepared to campaign.

In the mean time we need to cross the boundaries of our boroughs and our branches in order to show solidarity.

I should also add that this evening was a great tribute to the memory of my dear friend, Malcolm Campbell (http://www.remembermalcolmcampbell.blogspot.com/) since it showed how his former branch have moved on to face new challenges following his untimely demise just eighteen months ago.

It has recently been suggested to me that we need more of a memorial to Malcolm but, on reflection I think his memorial is all around.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/lao_tzu.html)

Tonight, Malcolm, my brother, my friend, they did indeed do it themselves.

Tonight I was as proud of my brother Malcolm as I know he would have been proud of his former branch.

Tomorrow the fight goes on. And as long as it goes on and as long as we march forward into that fight, Malcolm's memory marches with us.

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Bosses back their own Government shock

A gaggle of plutocrats and parasites have had someone put pen to paper for them and written to the Torygraph to express support for the ConDem's planned spending cuts (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/spending-review/8069947/Spending-Review-2010-cut-now-or-pay-later-say-business-leaders.html).

Yes these are the leading lights of the same private sector which got us in to this mess in the first place - and one of the few groups of letter writers imaginable who may actually have a higher average net worth than the Cabinet of millionaires itself. They and their children won't be suffering when Osborne follows Cable's advice to make "savage cuts".

To the extent that the "business leaders" have an economic argument in their letter (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/8069609/Osbornes-cuts-will-strengthen-Britains-economy-by-allowing-the-private-sector-to-generate-more-jobs.html) it is this;

"The private sector should be more than capable of generating additional jobs to replace those lost in the public sector, and the redeployment of people to more productive activities will improve economic performance, so generating more employment opportunities."

This argument fails on many levels. Ask Connaught workers if public spending cuts increase private sector employment opportunities!

This is no more than a rehash of the 1970s "crowding out" thesis, which was tested to destruction in the 1980s (and destroyed many jobs and communities in the process).

Having only recently returned to the sixth form where I first studied economics thirty years ago I can recollect this argument when it was still new and could go on about it at greter length.

However Aditya Chakrabortty gave a good summary in the Grauniad a fortnight ago (http://m.guardian.co.uk/?id=102202&story=http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/05/george-osborne-margaret-thatcher) so you can just read that.

The only question I would ask is this. Do these "business leaders" believe their own arguments because they are ignorant of economic history or is this reheated Thatcherism no more than a populist cover story for an attempt to shrink the public sector in an attempt to increase profitability at the expense of the living standards of working people?

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Defending the NHS after the legal challenge...

UNISON’s legal challenge to the NHS White Paper may not have succeeded. However our campaign in defence of public services goes on.

Legal challenges are a legitimate and necessary tactic. Justice Mitting may have ruled that the court could not place a legal demand on the government to consult the public, patients or staff over plans contained in its NHS white paper. However, he said that it was perfectly proper for UNISON to seek a judicial review, and that the union had raised an important principle that was in the constitutional interest.

More to the point, any tactic which helps to focus attention on the detail of aspects of the ConDems assault upon our public services has validity. There must be a danger that the suggestion that the health budget is being “protected” will distract attention from the truly appalling proposals in the White Paper as we mobilise against the draconian cuts which will hit many other parts of the public sector from Wednesday onwards.

The challenge for UNISON now is to break out of our service group silos and unify our campaigning around our one priority – the defence of public services, including the NHS. If we can mobilise an excellent attendance at a training Conference for health branches then we can mobilise around campaigning activity locally, Regionally and nationally. Those who want to unite UNISON in Greater London should get along to the Regional Council on 7 December – and should overcome political differences which weren’t an affordable luxury even before the General Election.

At a local level UNISON branches need to be linking up, with all other union branches and local community organisations in order to resist cuts – the TUC “Stronger Unions blog” has some thoughtful online advice. Dave Prentis also recommends that we link up with the Citizens Organisation. We need to pull out all the stops to engage UNISON members beyond our largest Service Group, otherwise we’ll fail to focus sufficiently widely on the full range of attacks upon the Welfare State.

The challenges we now face make the differences within the Union, which can seem so important to those involved, appear as trivial as they probably always were.

Unity is strength.

Lobby Croydon Council on Monday 18 October

Croydon UNISON is calling on as many members as possible to Lobby the above meeting where questions are to be asked in respect of the Employment Based Cost Review proposals (Croydon Council's plans to attack the conditions of service of their staff inspired by the troublemaking schemes of the national local government employers).

The branch rightly feel that it is extremely important that the Councillors know of the depth of feeling amongst staff in relation to how the proposals will affect them. This is the opportunity for Croydon employees to show how you feel about your Terms and Conditions of Employment. The branch are calling for the biggest possible turnout and urge members to attend if possible. They will be bringing the Branch Banner and other unions will be in attendance.

Other groups who have concerns about the impact of cuts in the Community will be supporting a demonstration at the same time.

Lobbyists will be gathering outside the Town Hall Steps, Katherine Street at 5.30 pm, in time to lobby Councillors before they begin the Meeting at 6.30 pm.

This assault upon UNISON members in Croydon is of relevance to all UNISON members and I hope that as many members in neighbouring boroughs, hospitals and colleges as can get along to Katherine Street at 5.30pm tomorrow will do so. Labour Councils need to be pledging that they won't join in any attacks upon the conditions of service of staff!

Croydon residents can also download a letter from the branch to send to their local Councillor.

I hope to see you there!

Personal report of the October 2010 UNISON NEC meeting

Here, all in one place, is my personal report to London branches from the last UNISON NEC which does bear some significant similarities with posts on this blog reporting from the meeting...

This is a personal report of the October 2010 meeting of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) intended for members and branches in the Greater London Region. An official report of the meeting is available online at http://www.unison.co.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=6374.

I am always happy to respond to questions about reports, or to attend meetings of branches or Branch Committees (subject to notice and availability). You can contact me at j.rogers@unison.co.uk or on 07957505571.

This is a personal report. It is not an official document nor is it intended to be a comprehensive report of everything which was discussed. The most important discussions, about defending public services, the National Health Service and public sector pay are reflected in a lot of content on the UNISON website, to which you should refer to for further information.

NEC meeting timetable

The NEC had not met between National Delegate Conference and early October. I had indicated before the meeting that I intended to raise my concerns about this, and I understand that I was certainly not the only member concerned about this long delay between meetings.

This meant that the full NEC had no say in UNISON's decision to vote for major constitutional changes at the TUC. It also meant that the NEC were mere spectators in a major reorganisation of our senior management structures. Most importantly, our NEC had failed to meet in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency Budget and the most important challenge UNISON has ever faced.

I am therefore pleased to report that the President, Angela Lynes, indicated that the future timetable for NEC meetings would be reviewed. I will report back on this in the future.

Organising report

As ever the meeting commenced with a report on recruitment and organisation. It was reported that we are growing at an annualised rate of 1.63% which means that - given a turnover in excess of 10% we are recruiting 12% of our membership each year. One in four of new applicants now join online, which means that the internet is now second only to national strike action in boosting our recruitment.
The Three Companies Project (about which the NEC is to receive a full report) has raised density on the ten contracts upon which it has focused from 21 to 55%. For privatised contracts these are impressive figures.

Public Sector Pay

Discussion on pay at the October NEC took place in the context of the decision, the previous day, of UNISON's National Joint Council to support a claim for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of "at least" £250 a year from 1 April 2011.

This claim, on behalf of workers in the largest single bargaining group in the economy, who last saw a pay rise on 1 April 2009 reflects the view, also prevalent at the NEC, that our members are not (yet) in a mood to fight over pay as they worry where the redundancy axe may fall.

The General Secretary made a more considered and far sighted contribution to this discussion when he observed that pay restraint always breaks down, but not normally in the first year.

Whilst this does not seem at all like the first year of pay restraint for local government workers, it probably is true that we need to focus on the medium term to pursue the objective of a fair pay increase.

I hope that at future NEC meetings we shall be considering pay alongside the defence of public services. The Government do not compartmentalise these issues and are as happy to cut the real terms pay of low paid workers as they are to savage the services received by our communities.

Under this item the NEC also considered the recent "leak" that the School Support Staff Negotiating Body may never now sit. The relevant sector Committee within the Local Government Service Group has called for a consultative ballot to consider national industrial action if the Government do proceed to abolish the SSSNB. Certainly the Government's approach of abolishing first and consulting later deserves a robust response. National industrial action by school support staff is an ambitious goal - but this is probably the only time when a national trade dispute around which such action could lawfully be organised will ever exist.

Equal Pay

The section of the NEC meetings at which we receive reports on Equal Pay remain confidential because of the volume of litigation involving the Union.

I can safely mention that UNISON will be complaining about the treatment of the Union in the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme.

Defence of public services

The major item for discussion at this NEC, led off by our General Secretary but also involving most of the other senior officers in the room in one way or another, was around a report entitled "Defending Public Services." Dave Prentis made clear that this should be viewed as THE priority for our Union over the coming months, and should provide the focus and direction for all the activities of every part of our Union. Probably because this was the first NEC meeting since Conference (and therefore also the first since the Emergency Budget) the combined length of the officer introductions to this 11 page report exceeded an hour, although as the report's author rightly pointed out; "UNISON must be judged by our actions in this period not the length and extent of our analysis." The report itself usefully summarised the attacks upon us from the Coalition Government and the response to date from UNISON and the wider trade union movement. Rather than repeat that here I will append the document to my report to London UNISON Branches. The key point from this debate was that our defence of public services must be the central principle around which we organise all our trade union activity, building towards the TUC demonstration in March (and various elections in May) on the basis of local anti-cuts activity. See the attached report for more information.

General Secretary’s Report

By the time we got to the agenda item for the General Secretary's Report we had already covered a lot of ground, but Dave asked the Head of Health to report on our response to the NHS White Paper. We were told that UNISON's legal challenge to the White Paper (over the inadequacy of consultation) had sent "an almighty shudder through the Department for Health."
However, the best that this legal challenge can achieve will be delay and so we also need a campaign which must go beyond being a campaign "in" the NHS (though it must be the greatest of those there has ever been) to be a campaign "for" the NHS. Once consortia of General Practitioners, expensively if not ably assisted by private consultants, start purchasing healthcare provision on the market, the "renationalisation" of the health service would probably require withdrawal from the European Union and abrogation of international treaty obligations. The White Paper goes far further than any previous attempt to open up healthcare to private profit and would replace the National Health Service (in England) with a national healthcare market "free at the point of use" but increasingly prone to the development of two-tier provision as providers try to turn a profit. For UNISON this is a great challenge to us to see to it that all our Service Groups and all our branches (even all our NEC members) are fully engaged in a struggle, which is in all our interests, to preserve the single greatest achievement of our movement.

At the tail end of the General Secretary's Report (which is an opportunity to ask about anything at all) I asked some questions prompted by information from some London Borough branches. I asked about the perceived tardiness of legal advice to branches facing significant challenges. I was advised that this was the first our General Secretary had heard of such a problem and that further details would elicit a further response. I will pursue this. I also advocated our writing to members resident in the area of any local authority attacking our members, urging them to lobby Councillors against such attacks. I was advised that we do use this tactic but that its expense means that we employ it sparingly. I concur with the views of the London Branch Secretary who felt that we should look at how to moderate the cost to the national union of this sensible tactic - by, for example, branch funds paying the postage and branch activists stuffing the envelopes.
NUC

Towards the end of a long NEC meeting we got on to the NUC (NUC = New Union Centre, the somewhat delayed building rising on the site of the former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital which will be our new HQ). We were presented with recommendations from the Finance Committee that, rather than sell the freehold of Mabledon Place once we have vacated it, we should lease the site to a developer on a long lease in return for a cut of the rent which the leaseholder will receive from the tenant when the building has been refurbished. My concern - which was met sufficiently that I voted for the recommendation - was that we should regularly consider selling the remaining freehold interest in the site. I was persuaded that we would have the flexibility to do this at any time when it was financially advantageous - and was swayed by the fact that the £13 Million we will get up front for the lease will pay off the loan we took out to build the "NUC". Other NEC members raised the sound point that we could face problems if the leaseholder rented out a site which we still owned (as freeholder) to a tenant whose business was at odds with our aims and values. Branches may wish to consider a Conference motion instructing the NEC to dispose of the freehold as soon as is consistent with the duties of our trustees (who appeared not to have been kept completely in the loop). It makes sense to sell a leasehold interest in the property right now, but a trade union should probably not aim to hold its reserves in freehold property in the long term. We don't always do well when we do things beyond our basic functions as a trade union.

Staffing Committee report – appointment of Assistant General Secretaries

I supported an attempt by North West Region NEC member Roger Bannister to move reference back of the report of the Staffing Committee. Roger was addressing the manner of the announcement to NEC members of the decision to recruit additional Assistant General Secretaries (AGSs). Roger queried both the need for additional posts at this level and the decision to proceed with such an important decision without a discussion at the full NEC.

President Angela Lynes ruled that we could not "refer back" a report of the Staffing Committee because of its Rule Book autonomy from the NEC (which may be debatable) but permitted a vote on whether or not to receive the report (a proposition eventually agreed by a convincing majority).

The debate saw a spirited defence of the decision from Dave Prentis and a reasoned intervention from lead North West Region NEC member Bernie Gallagher who highlighted the fact that attempts to debate the election of officials at Conference are ruled out of order for fear that they could breach the contracts of staff, yet here we were happily appointing new staff without even considering the option of electing to the newly created posts.

I asked about the fact that Dave's original letter on this topic had said that "As part of a restructuring process, the new posts will be ringfenced to existing staff and members and advertised internally..." I pointed out that I had had correspondence with the Chair of Staffing querying the wisdom of this approach.

Dave Prentis told the NEC that since his letter in August the Union had thought again and that the posts were now being advertised openly.

Although I would personally support the election of these senior officials, if they are to be appointed at least we now know that anyone can apply and that the appointment panel can choose from the widest pool of talent.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How do we fight the cuts?

Having had an earlier post on this subject not so much savaged by a dead sheep as somewhat criticised by a seriously unwell little lamb (http://grayee.blogspot.com/2010/10/ultra-lefts-cunning-plan-to-smash.html) I think it worth returning to the important question of how we need to fight cuts in public services.

The key is local activism, mobilising and learning from workers on the ground and from our communities who are the users of our services.

Trade union branches must be central to this campaigning - and have a vital role to build up our own membership and organisation through this struggle - yet we must avoid trying to dominate the alliances we must make.

We need to approach community campaigners with solidarity and humility. UNISON in London needs to learn from the errors made by the office in its approach to London Citizens for example.

We need however to approach politicians with caution and relate to them on our terms and not theirs.

This applies both to Labour Councillors (and MPs) (including those union activists whose first loyalty is to their Labour Party positions rather than our members) who may want us to fight ConDem cuts whilst swallowing those proposed by Labour politicians, and to revolutionaries who have already worked out for us what we should be doing. Workers need, IMHO, guidance from neither source. I have confidence in ordinary members of our Union far more than in any politicians.

(For those of us with Labour employers it goes without saying that this caution about politicians also applies - with bells on! - to Opposition Councillors!)

The essence of resisting cuts is - as the SERTUC Regional Secretary said to the embarrasingly inquorate UNISON Greater London Regional Council earlier today - the sort of campaigning that saved jobs in Lambeth's One O'Clock Clubs this summer. We need campaigns which unite workers and service users and pile effective pressure on decision-makers.

I look forward to guidance from the Union at Regional level which will educate our activists at local level about how we could be doing even better.

In the mean time we'll just keep fighting.

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Londoners - support the Firefighters!

London's firefighters have voted to strike (http://www.fbu.org.uk/newspress/pressrelease/2010/10_14.php).



A 79% yes vote on a 79% turnout is an emphatic mandate to respond appropriately to the provocation of madcap reactionary employers using the threat of mass sackings to try to force through detrimental changes to working arrangements.



Longer serving Lambeth Council trade unionists know the leadership of LFEPA's HR function well - they should know better than to pick a fight with the FBU! UNISON and GMB members are also set to ballot.



All London trade unionists should back our firefighters who are well placed - if we do enough to back them - to win a vital defensive victory and set a precedent of benefit to all workers.

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Bucking our ideas up?

The unfortunately inquorate meeting of UNISON's Greater London Regional Council is now hearing an important presentation about the work of Show Racism the Red Card (http://www.srtrc.org/).



The inspiring and positive contributions from both Megan Dobney and Jeremy Corbyn, about which I have just blogged, have however got me thinking about whether our Region is really as fit as it could be for the purpose of coordinating our defence of public services.



Since Geoff Martin stood down as Regional Convenor the only quorate meetings of our Regional Council have been the Annual General Meetings. Cross service group co-ordination is done not in large and representative meetings but in a small Committee the proceedings of which are not shared with our members.



The office mobilises brilliantly for the annual health training day, and to get delegates along to the AGM, but an internal focus will not suffice to mobilise our 130,000+ members on the streets.



Regular readers Sid and Doris Marxist-Leninist will be familiar with my occasional role as a "critical friend" to the UNISON machine in Greater London, but righjt now, the single priority set by our NEC seems so much more important than internal political squabbles.



I hope that this view can now prevail and that UNISON in Greater London can achieve our potential now that we need to more than ever.

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The need for collective action

Jeremy Corbyn, MP is reporting to the inquorate UNISON Regional Council that the growing membership of trade unions and the Labour Party shows a recognition of the need for collective action in the face of the attacks from the ConDems.



The Coalition have successfully shifted debate from a crisis caused by bankers to a crisis of state welfare. The Welfare State is under attack across Europe.



I'm pleased to hear Jeremy focusing on the housing benefit cuts, and making the case for higher education as a public good rather than an individual investment. We certainly need to make the case against these attacks as strongly as we make the case against direct cuts in jobs and services.



Jeremy has called for support for the TUC lobby on the 19th, the Camden Trades Council demonstration on the 20th and the RMT/FBU demonstration.



Jeremy also wants us all to make sure that our MPs are in Parliament on Friday 22 October to support John McDonnell's Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill - we certainly need to remove some of the obstacles to lawful industrial action so that we are better able to resist attacks such as those in Croydon and elsewhere.



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Collapse the Coalition!

Megan Dobney of SERTUC is addressing the sadly inquorate meeting of UNISON's Greater London Regional Council and setting out how we must go about trying to bring down the Coalition Government.



She's right that we have our work cut out to win the argument - first of all with our own members - that cuts are not required. The TUC back PCS in their focus upon bringing down tax avoidance and evasion. 20,000 more jobs in HMRC could raise twenty billion quid - but the ConDems would rather savage our services than collect our cash.



Megan, a Lambethan, has made the point that our defence of the One O'Clock Clubs shows how to mobilise service users and communities to fight job cuts. She has also called for support for Monday's lobby of Croydon Council, who are facing a spirited response to their attack upon the conditions of service of our workforce and for support for both the SERTUC rally and the FBU/RMT march leading to that rally.



Campaigning work can shift popular opinion - majority opposition to Royal Mail privatisation is a product of campaigning by CWU over recent years. The French experience shows how we too can mobilise.

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Fingers crossed!

Dave Prentis makes a concise and cogent case for UNISON's legal challenge to the NHS White Paper in today's Grauniad (http://m.guardian.co.uk/?id=102202&story=http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/13/case-for-the-nhs-unison-public-debate).



Let's hope the legal challenge forces the Coalition into at least consulting on the break up of the NHS in England for which they have no mandate, giving us more time to organise, educate and agitate in opposition.



I shall start by hoping against hope for a decent turnout at today's Unison Regional Council! We need to mobilise the whole of UNISON to defend the NHS.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cuts hurt (almost) everyone

UNISON's apt response to the revelation from PWC's department for stating the bleedin obvious that public spending cuts will also cost private sector jobs is most welcome (http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2012&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter).



Unless you adhere to the discredited "crowding out" thesis it's impossible to believe that rolling back the state will create space in which private entrepreneurs will innovate and make their fortunes whilst spreading wealth, happiness and Tory Party membership.



On the contrary, reductions in public spending simply reduce aggreggate demand and push economic activity downwards, not just through the direct impact on companies depending on private contracts but also through the multiplier effect arising from reduced spending by workers thrown onto the scrapheap or forced to accept reduced incomes.



We have to start explaining this basic economics, first of all to our own members.



Of course there are those who won't be worried - the spivs and chancers who run companies bidding for outsourced work will be hoping to do nicely.



Most millionaires (amongst whom can of course be counted the majority of the Cabinet) won't be that bothered either of course.



The cuts aren't an attack on the British people - they're an attack by one small but wealthy and powerful section of the British people on the rest of us.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Never trust a LibDem

The Party which stood clearly against tuition fees (http://www.libdems.org.uk/education_detail.aspx?title=Liberal_Democrats_back_plans_to_scrap_university_tuition_fees___&pPK=b5043fc9-2719-489a-9e0b-532ef2b05906) at the last General Election is now part of a Government clearly set to increase them.



This hypocrisy puts the worst of "new" (anachronistic) Labour to shame. A generation who enjoyed free tuition and a student grant are now proposing to pull the ladder up (or perhaps down!)



At least when Vince was no more than a sidekick of Deputy Dawg he was a good guy!

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What is the role of Labour Councillors facing ConDem cuts?

I was pleased to speak to the Coldharbour Ward Labour Party meeting in Brixton this evening.

We had a useful discussion covering the future management of housing in Lambeth, the pre-election agreement between the Party and the unions and about how to oppose cuts in public spending.

Labour administrations under a Tory Government may find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place - but trade unionists in local government need to recognise that in these circumstances it is our job to be the hard place.

We must organise against the Tories proposed destruction of the NHS, against their plan to price our children out of higher education and against proposals for housing benefit that will make tens of thousands homeless.

At the same time, those of us working for Labour Councils can be neither neutral not sympathetic when Labour Councillors implement Tory cuts. It is not our role to make it easy for Labour Councillors to bend the knee to a Tory Government and attack the people who put them where they are.

Whilst resistance on the model of Lambeth in the 80s, Clay Cross in the 70s or Poplar in the 20s may not immediately be on the cards we do need to start to debate what options really exist.

And Councillors who are making cuts (against the wishes and interests of their supporters) need to choose whether they are first and foremost (would-be) able administrators of the local state or primarily representative leaders of the local working class.

The latter - correct IMHO - choice entails, at a minimum, a vigorous campaign against cuts mobilising trade unionists and Labour Party members to attack the economic policies of the Coalition Government by resisting cuts which undermine the quality of our lives.

Labour Party members in Lambeth will have an opportunity to discuss this further at an all members' meeting on Saturday 20 November at the Town Hall. Party members need to work out whether local people voted for a Council which would give them a choice about which services to savage, or a Council which would stand up against savage cuts.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Bring back the July Days

This is the one-after-the-last post about last week's meeting of the UNISON NEC.



Regular readers Sid and Doris Blogger will know that I was not best pleased that we had no meeting of the UNISON NEC in July (as we have previously) and therefore had a gap from June to October.



This meant that the full NEC had no say in UNISON's decision to vote for major constitutional changes at the TUC.



It also meant that the NEC were mere spectators in a major reorganisation of our senior management structures.



Most importantly, our NEC had failed to meet in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency Budget and the most important challenge UNISON has ever faced.



Whilst the original decision to rearrange our timetable of meetings may have been taken by a good Bolshevik who favoured the discipline and effectiveness of October over the excessive enthusiasm of the July Days, I was nevertheless pleased to hear President Angela Lynes say that this decision would be reviewed for future years.



There won't be any time soon when a gap of more than three months between meetings of the UNISON NEC will be justifiable.

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A growing Union

It was reported to last week's NEC meeting that we are growing at an annualised rate of 1.63% which means that - given a turnover in excess of 10% we are recruiting 12% of our membership each year.



One in four of new applicants now join online, which means that the internet is now second only to national strike action in boosting our recruitment. (Could a strike-happy blogger feel any more vindicated??)



The Three Companies Project (about which the NEC is to receive a full report) has raised density on the ten contracts upon which it has focused from 21 to 55%. For privatised contracts these are impressive figures.



This good news needs to be set against the scale of the challenges which we face - but it does show we can build the Union to fight back even in the most challenging circumstances.

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SSSNB???

As part of the discussion on pay at last week's NEC (about which I have just blogged) the recent "leak" that the School Support Staff Negotiating Body may never now sit was touched upon.



The relevant sector Committee within the Local Government Service Group has called for a consultative ballot to consider national industrial action if the Government do proceed to abolish the SSSNB.



Certainly the Government's approach of abolishing first and consulting later deserves a robust response, whatever one's view of the original wisdom of detaching school staff from the National Joint Council.



National industrial action by school support staff is an ambitious goal - but this is probably the only time when a national trade dispute around which such action could lawfully be organised will ever exist.

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Co-ordinating jam tomorrow?

In the antepenultimate blog post of the reverse order report from last week's UNISON NEC I reach back to the discussion on pay, which for me at least had been somewhat overshadowed by the decision, the previous day, of UNISON's National Joint Council to support a claim for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of "at least" £250 a year from 1 April 2011.

This claim, on behalf of workers in the largest single bargaining group in the economy, who last saw a pay rise on 1 April 2009 reflects the view, also prevalent at the NEC, that our members are not (yet) in a mood to fight over pay as they worry where the redundancy axe may fall.

Since there is no evidence that public service workers who practice pay restraint are rewarded with job security I suppose I should be grateful that there is at least a claim, rather than no claim (as apparently mooted by at least one official of another union).

Although the claim could be seen as a canny ploy to exert some political pressure on the national local government employers to pay at least to the low paid the tiny increase offered by the Chancellor when he announced the pay freeze, it probably fails the test of effectiveness even on this basis. We could exert at least the same pressure on the basis of a claim which had some hope of motivating at least our activists.

The General Secretary made a more considered and far sighted contribution to this discussion when he observed that pay restraint always breaks down, but not normally in the first year. Whilst this does not seem at all like the first year of pay restraint for local government workers, it probably is true that we need to focus on the medium term to pursue the objective of a fair pay increase.

I expressed the view that UNISON should be aiming to co-ordinate identical pay claims (and submissions to Pay Review Bodies) for 1 April 2012. These claims/submissions need to start from UNISON's Alternative Budget (perhaps we should start calling it the Alternative Economic Strategy?) We need to make the macroeconomic as well as the social justice case for fair pay for public servants and - as Dave Prentis said to the NEC - we need to highlight to our members the amount we have already lost from the pay freeze at a time when the bankers whose conduct precipitated this systemic economic crisis are once more receiving their bonuses. We therefore need claims which restore our recent losses (which somewhat exceed £250...)

I hope that at future NEC meetings we shall be considering pay alongside the defence of public services. The Government do not compartmentalise these issues and are as happy to cut the real terms pay of low paid workers as they are to savage the services received by our communities.

We don't do ourselves any favours if we compartmentalise our response.



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Equal Pay report at the NEC

Continuing the reverse order action-replay of (poorly) edited highlights of last week's meeting of the UNISON NEC would bring me to the item on Equal Pay.



As ever and for good reasons - cannot report in detail on this item because of the various legal cases still being taken by, or otherwise involving, the Union.



It is probably safe to say that Channel 4's tendentious Dispatches programme, which recently gave air time to a number of UNISON's more intemperate critics, was not particularly popular. Of which (perhaps) more later...

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UNISON's One Priority - Defending Public Services

The major item for discussion at last week's UNISON NEC, led off by our General Secretary but also involving most of the other senior officers in the room in one way or another, was around a report entitled "Defending Public Services."



Dave Prentis made clear that this should be viewed as THE priority for our Union over the coming months, and should provide the focus and direction for all the activities of every part of our Union.



Probably because this was the first NEC meeting since Conference (and therefore also the first since the Emergency Budget) the combined length of the officer introductions to this 11 page report exceeded an hour, although as the report's author rightly pointed out; "UNISON must be judged by our actions in this period not the length and extent of our analysis."



Given the proposed review of timing for future NEC meetings (of which more below) the error of not having met in July will not, I hope, be repeated.



The report itself usefully summarised the attacks upon us from the Coalition Government and the response to date from UNISON and the wider trade union movement. Rather than repeat that here I will append the document to my report to London UNISON Branches.



The key point from this debate was that our defence of public services must be the central principle around which we organise all our trade union activity, building towards the TUC demonstration in March (and various elections in May) on the basis of local anti-cuts activity.



United on this basis we can be formidable. I hope we are.

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Save the NHS

A few days late, I shall aim to complete my reports from last Wednesday's full day meeting of UNISON's National Executive Council, which I shall blog in reverse order for no good reason whatsoever.



By the time we got to the agenda item for the General Secretary's Report we had already covered a lot of ground, but Dave asked the Head of Health to report on our response to the NHS White Paper.



We were told that UNISON's legal challenge to the White Paper (over the inadequacy of consultation) had sent "an almighty shudder through the Department for Health." The legal challenge is to be heard this Wednesday (http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c5398.extract) and we must hope it succeeds.



However, the best that this legal challenge can achieve will be delay and so we also need a campaign which must go beyond being a campaign "in" the NHS (though it must be the greatest of those there has ever been) to be a campaign "for" the NHS.



Once consortia of General Practitoners, expensively if not ably assisted by private consultants, start purchasing healthcare provision on the market, the "renationalisation" of the health service would probably require withdrawal from the European Union and abrogation of international treaty obligations.



The White Paper goes far further than any previous attempt to open up healthcare to private profit and would replace the National Health Service (in England) with a national healthcare market "free at the point of use" but increasingly prone to the development of two-tier provision as providers try to turn a profit.



For UNISON this is a great challenge to us to see to it that all our Service Groups and all our branches (even all our NEC members) are fully engaged in a struggle, which is in all our interests, to preserve the single greatest achievement of our movement.

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Hutton picks on public servants

A hat tip to fellow UNISON blogger Dave Watson for a useful summary of today's interim report attacking our pensions from Lord Hutton (http://unisondave.blogspot.com/2010/10/hutton-review.html) which saves me the bother of reading it on my day off.



Increased pension contributions are a de facto pay cut and will be a very clear indication that low paid public servants are to pay the price for the bail-out of the banks.



Coming on top of the changes to indexation which have already shaved up to 15% of the value of our income in retirement, Hutton's proposals look a lot like a declaration of war on public sector workers.



All of which reminds me that there is something that should be said to those public servants who voted Lib Dem in May.



But I shan't say it as I avoid obscenities when blogging.



Instead I shall coin a new swear word and simply say that those who voted for the Coalition parties were total Huttons.

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World Day for Decent Work

I am pondering the irony of having a day off on World Day for Decent Work (http://www.wddw.org/).



Decent work is a modest aspiration but one which cannot consistently be achieved in a society in which labour power is a commodity.



Nevertheless, collective organisation in the workplace can make our working lives far more tolerable - not least by winning an adequate amount of annual leave.



Decent work will, of course, be further away for many public servants if the ConDems get their way with cuts in jobs and a pay freeze.



Normal blogging (and the remainder of my NEC report) will be resumed as soon as possible...

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Support our members - support our branches

Moving backwards through today's NEC meeting helps me to question the logic of the arrangement of the agenda which I am inverting...



At the tail end of Dave Prentis' General Secretary's Report (of which more soon)(or not so soon) I asked some questions prompted by information from some London Borough branches.



I asked about the perceived tardiness of legal advice to branches facing significant challenges. I was advised that this was the first our General Secretary had heard of such a problem and that further details would elicit a further response. I will pursue this.



I also advocated our writing to members resident in the area of any local authority attacking our members, urging them to lobby Councillors against such attacks. I was advised that we do use this tactic but that its expense means that we employ it sparingly.



I concur with the views of the London Branch Secretary who felt that we should look at how to moderate the cost to the national union of this sensible tactic - by, for example, branch funds paying the postage and branch activists stuffing the envelopes.



As you will see when I get back to the beginning of the meeting, we have a single priority as a Union, which is to confront the ConDem cuts and their consequences, building alliances in our communities. To do this our branches need prompt and effective support from Regional and National level.

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NUC at the NEC

Continuing the reverse trawl through today's NEC meeting brings me to the discussion of the NUC at the NEC (NUC = New Union Centre, the somewhat delayed building rising on the site of the former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital which will be our new HQ).



Today we were presented with recommendations from the Finance Committee that, rather than sell the freehold of Mabledon Place once we have vacated it, we should lease the site to a developer on a long lease in return for a cut of the rent which the leaseholder will receive from the tenant when the building has been refurbished.



My concern - which was met sufficiently that I voted for the recommendation - was that we should regularly consider selling the remaining freehold interest in the site. I was persuaded that we would have the flexibility to do this at any time when it was financially advantageous - and was swayed by the fact that the £13 Million we will get up front for the lease will pay off the loan we took out to build the "NUC".



Other NEC members raised the sound point that we could face problems if the leaseholder rented out a site which we still owned (as freeholder) to a tenant whose business was at odds with our aims and values.



Branches may wish to consider a Conference motion instructing the NEC to dispose of the freehold as soon as is consistent with the duties of our trustees (who appeared not to have been kept completely in the loop).



It makes sense to sell a leasehold interest in the property right now, but a trade union should probably not aim to hold its reserves in freehold property in the long term. We don't do well when we do things beyond our basic functions as a trade union (remember CareConnect Learning?)



In fact, given the way this country is going under the ConDems and the possibility of further legal restrictions on the right to strike maybe we need to think about holding our reserves beyond the reach of the UK legal system altogether?

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Five (Assistant) Heads are better than one?

For no good reason whatsoever I shall blog today's NEC meeting in reverse order and therefore begin with Roger Bannister's valiant - if doomed - attempt to move reference back of the report of the Staffing Committee (which I supported).

Roger was addressing the manner of the announcement to NEC members of the decision to recruit additional Assistant General Secretaries (AGSs) (about which I blogged when it was announced - http://jonrogers1963.blogspot.com/2010/08/four-more-voices-for-public-services.html).

Roger queried both the need for additional posts at this level and the decision to proceed with such an important decision without a discussion at the full NEC.

President Angela Lynes ruled that we could not "refer back" a report of the Staffing Committee because of its Rule Book autonomy from the NEC (which may be debatable) but permitted a vote on whether or not to receive the report (a proposition eventually agreed by a convincing majority).

The debate saw a spirited defence of the decision from Dave Prentis and a reasoned intervention from lead North West Region NEC member Bernie Gallagher who highlighted the fact that attempts to debate the election of officials at Conference are ruled out of order for fear that they could breach the contracts of staff, yet here we are happily appointing new staff without even considering the option of electing to the newly created posts.

I asked about the fact that Dave's original letter on this topic had said that "As part of a restructuring process, the new posts will be ringfenced to existing staff and members and advertised internally..." I pointed out that I had had correspondence with the Chair of Staffing querying the wisdom of this approach.

Dave Prentis told the NEC that since his letter in August the Union had thought again and that the posts were now being advertised openly. Whether or not this changes the outcome (and one need not be too much of a cynic to think that it won't) this does at least mean that the Union is behaving in a manner consistent with one of the common justifications for the appointment, rather than election, of officials (and in a manner less vulnerable to challenge).

Although I would support the election of these senior officials, if they are to be appointed at least we now know that anyone can apply and that the appointment panel can - at least in theory - choose from the widest pool of talent. I hope that those recruiting these senior officials will not play favourites or defer to anyone's presumed preferences.

So, dear reader, send those applications in now!

Here's the link for those reading this blog for career opportunities (who may be in the wrong place online) - http://guardianjobs.mobi/default.aspx?tem=ite&pa=0&gid=0&sid=0&job=79546.

Noting that we are advertising for five AGSs to fill the five posts I wonder what that means for the incumbent (http://pipl.com/directory/people/Bob/Abberley)?

Given the Presidential ruling earlier today I suppose I oughtn't even to ask but I feel almost guilty now for not having done so earlier...

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Quick off the mark

The official report of today's UNISON NEC meeting is online within minutes of the end of the meeting (http://www.unison.co.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=6374).



What hope do mere bloggers have of keeping up!



Pop back here later for the unexpurgated and blatantly partial reports expected by regular readers Sid and Doris Blogger.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Rank and file environmentalism in Greater London Unison

I have been reviewing the paperwork for next week's meeting of UNISON's Greater London Regional Council and am happy to spot a couple of progressive developments.



First, the NEC report has been relegated to the back of the Reports booklet even though it comes before many other reports on the agenda.



This is a welcome assertion, by the Regional Management Team in Greater London, of the primacy of the rank and file. My only regret is that - since I am the only one of the Region's four NEC members to have submitted a report - I am alone in being able to express my admiration.



Secondly, whilst I foolishly requested that the General Secretary's letter explaining the decision to appoint additional Assistant General Secretaries (whilst restricting the pool of applicants) should be copied to all delegates, the office has wisely decided to limit our carbon footprinted by not doing so.



It is surely a positive statement of the "Greening" of London UNISON that the Regional Secretary knew that there was no need to consult me in advance about the decision not to provide delegates with the report as I had intended.



This is a welcome assertion, by the Regional Management Team, of UNISON's "Green" credentials in the spirit of which I shall now ensure that the letter circulates far and wide electonically so that it does not deplete scarce resources.



As much as this apparent conversion of senior officials in UNISON's Greater London Region to the "Green Left" is unexpected, it is hardly unwelcome.



With the sad news today about Norman Wisdom, the last echoes of Albanian Communism are now gone - libertarian Green socialism offers a viable alternative which I commend to the Regional Management Team - and the Regional Council Officers who are nominally in charge - in UNISON's Greater London Region.

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Do Not Adjust Your Set - Lambeth Labour Councillors won't visit the Twilight Zone

Tonight I travelled far into the Twilight Zone, where not all is as it seems.



I witnessed the Chief Executive of an ALMO who was visiting a resident's consultation meeting from an alternate universe.



An ALMO is an Arms Length Management Organisation and - when we lived on Planet New Labour we were meant to yearn for them as the least unpalatable device to unlock spending on Council Housing. Now we are on planet ConDem they are neither use nor ornament.



Obviously in the alternate universe from which the speaker I heard tonight had travelled there is still hope of funding targeted at ALMOs. That is not true on Earth.



In that universe ALMO's (governed by unaccountable boards restricted in what they can say to tenants and residents by their duties to "the company") are seen as more accountable than democratically elected local Councillors. That is not how they are seen on Earth.



Also in that universe, ALMOs which admit that they are making deep cuts in front line staff whilst increasing employment of "back office" staff become popular with Councillors and residents. This is not what would happen on Earth.



I can only hope that Lambeth's Labour Councillors live on Earth and not the alternate reality and that they are prepared to draw the obvious and necessary conclusions.



There is no point Councillors giving Lambeth's ALMO (Lambeth "Living") twelve months to improve if it uses the time to savage front line services so as to build up top heavy management and wasteful duplication.



The Twilight Zone was a marvellous TV show, but it's not a guide to good management of Council housing.

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CBI - Conspiring to Bully Individuals at work?

Most employers think they should be allowed to boss us about. Most managers likewise believe that their larger pay packet gives them the right to call the shots in the workplace ("management's right to manage"). There may be an entire industry devoted to promoting "employee voice" and the "added value" from consultation but at the end of the day they believe in their power.

And power corrupts.

That's why we need trade unions - because our collective strength is the only antidote to the inequality inherent in the employment contract in a capitalist economy. Without collective organisation we are isolated and vulnerable as individuals. (All the more so as unemployment rises).

That's why the CBI want to make it even harder to take strike action (with legal protection) and easier for employers to undermine strikes (http://www.cbi.org.uk/ndbs/press.nsf/0363c1f07c6ca12a8025671c00381cc7/a1b868b57283cfd7802577ae002dfe0e?OpenDocument).

I particularly love the juxtaposition of their proposals that we'd have to give fourteen days notice of a strike whilst getting only thirty days notice of mass redundancies (http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gmg/op/sAPSXvBwFRdp_ev4Q2pP53Q/view.m?id=590821&tid=120787&cat=Search).

Hands up anyone whose union could decide upon, initiate and conclude an official ballot for industrial action in the 16 day gap that would allow!

(Oh no, hang on, not "hands up" - I mean "cast your vote by post in a ballot to your home addresses...")

The only good thing about this is that it has drawn a defence of our rights from the TUC (http://www.tuc.org.uk/industrial/tuc-18582-f0.cfm) in which Brendan Barber (think mild-mannered Clark Kent without the alter-ego) says of the right to strke that it is "a fundamental right that helps deliver decent standards at work for millions each and every day."

That is spot on. As infrequently as may use the right to strike, it is the fact that we could do so that gives us the leverage to bargain with employers on issues where there is a conflict of interest between employer and employees.

No wonder the lobby group for indolent rentiers and their overpaid corporate hirelings want to tighten the legal shackles on our class. It'll make it easier for them to exploit their workers.

If they get their way we are going to have to rethink an approach of slavish compliance with laws which already breach the United Kingdom's obligations to the International Labour Organisation.

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The death knell for universalism?

Today’s announcement about the planned withdrawal of child benefit from higher rate tax payers is justified by the Chancellor on the basis that we shouldn’t tax the low paid to pay benefit to the higher paid.

But apply that logic more widely and it is a recipe to replace all universal benefits (in cash or kind) with means testing and fees. Why should we tax the low paid to fund hospital operations for those who are relatively more wealthy? Why should cleaners pay tax to fund the state education of the children of doctors and lawyers?

Why?

Because we – the working class (“by hand or by brain” as Clause IV used to say) really are “all in this together” – and not just at a time of crisis. Universal benefits funded by progressive taxation provide fairness in a manner which unifies the interests of all those who pay those taxes (“from each according to their means”) and use the services (“to each according to their needs”).

The combined impact of the plans of the Coalition Government will be – if we let them – to wipe out what is left of the Welfare State established after the Second World War.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The lessons of New Labour?

Someone called Tim Allan has emerged from well deserved obscurity to berate Ed Miliband in today's Observer (http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gmg/op/smBmnSswYJgAPSkOd_cicLg/view.m?id=590247&tid=120787&cat=Search). He's worried that young Ed may turn his back upon the "lessons of New Labour."



What are these lessons? That once the pound had crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism the Tories were set to lose in 1997? That Labour could have won as a (rightward leaning) social democratic Old Labour under John Smith? That an expensive obsession with privatisation was damaging both politically and economically? That following a right-wing Republican President on an imperialist adventure was massively unpopular and wrong?



Apparently not. Mr Allan thinks Blairism is the key to future popularity.



Mind you I'm not inclined to take too seriously a commentator who asserts that the leadership election was "decided by trade unionists who are not even Party members after instruction from their union bosses."



He's wrong on two counts.



First political levy payers are affiliated members of the Party.



Secondly we all got individual votes and I was one of many who did not give my first preference in accordance with my Union's recommendation.



If this is the best the Blairites can manage they all deserve Mr Allan's obcurity. Who is he anyway? (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tim-nice-but-dim.jpeg?wasRedirected=true)?



Now that we have real Tories to worry about the cheerleaders for the corpse of New Labour are revealed as the irrelevance they should always have been.

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