Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Defend the Link’s model response to the Collins Review
Monday, October 28, 2013
Solidarity with Higher Education members - join the picket lines on Thursday!
All UNISON activists who can do so should support their nearest Higher Education picket line on Thursday!
This is the statement;
Linda Holden, HE SGE
Sarah Pickett, HE SGE
Tomasa Bullen, NEC
Molly Cooper, HE SGE
Max Watson, NEC
Matt Raine, HE SGE
Andy Beech, HE SGE
Sandy Nicoll, HE SGE
Carole Hanson, Brighton Uni
Ivan Bonsell, Brighton Uni
Domenico Hill, Bristol Uni
Linda Myers, Manchester Met Uni
Sue Howarth, Manchester Met Uni
Rosina Morrison, Manchester Met. Uni
Andy Cunningham, Manchester Met Uni
Lucinda Wakefield, Sheffield Hallam Uni"
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Grangemouth and the limits of industrial power
Workers cannot resist such tactics by strike action, but only by occupation on the model of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders forty years ago. Given the legal shackles now borne by our trade unions it is difficult to envisage official support for such action in the absence of a strong, militant and independently organised rank and file.
Without this, our union organisation in even the strongest and best organised workplace is always vulnerable to capital's ultimate sanction of closure.
Which is why, as well as industrial organisation, our workers movement needs political representation. Ultimately we should be fighting for a society in which ownership of the means of production is with the community as a whole (rather than some rich bloke on a yacht miles away).
Friday, October 25, 2013
CLP motion on the union link
This CLP confirms that having been created to represent working people in Parliament by the trade unions, together with cooperative societies and socialist clubs and societies we have concerns regarding the current Collins Review process.
We believe that Labour's continuing relationship with trade unionists through their affiliation to the Labour Party continues to represent the values and aspirations of ordinary people.
We recognise that trade unions are collective organisations, and as such understand that this relationship is based on the basis of collective affiliation.
We note the review that Ray Collins is having of the Party's relationship with the trade unions as outlined above.
However, we also note that the media interest in this matter is being whipped up
by newspapers hostile to our aspirations which have never had sympathy with the basis of our Labour movement.
This CLP affirms that the relationship between the trade unions and the Party has been and remains central to the role of the Party in representing the interests of working people.
We therefore support:
- the collective affiliation of trade unions to the Party;
- collective decision making by trade unionists within the Party;
- representation for, and involvement of, trade unions at every level of the Party.
We therefore campaign for this throughout the Party and trade unions and call on
all Labour movement activists to make submissions to the Collins review in
accordance with the above principles.
We oppose any and all suggestions that would weaken or undermine the
relationship between the Party and the trade unions based upon collective
affiliation. We call upon the NEC to ensure that any proposals for change take
Solidarity and Human Rights
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Defending the Link - we need UNITE
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Immigration is not the problem
Or, as we used to finish chanting all those years ago; "Bullshit! Come off it! The Enemy is profit!"
Monday, October 21, 2013
Oh Lords !
Unfortunately, the same Committee concludes that no constitutional issues arise from Part Three of the Bill. After all that Part (on "Trade Union Adminstration") just tramples all over the right to freedom of association.
Stop Hinkley C - Nuclear Power No Thanks!
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
All out for Halloween in Higher Education
It'll be appropriate
Friday, October 11, 2013
Hold Capita to account
On the day the Royal Mail was stolen from tens of millions of us in order to be sold cheaply to hundreds of thousands with cash to spare, Capita demonstrate - by shifting hundreds of Barnet jobs around the country - that the private sector will always put shareholder value above public service.
Today's Guardian editorial's description of our "self-hating" public sector is more than apt. For the generation that I have worked in public service (mostly representing public servants as a union rep) I have watched the continuing denigration of the public service ethos by politicians of all parties - and by many of the senior managers appointed to do their bidding.
The Barnet Alliance for Public Services are to be applauded for petitioning Capita's Chief Executive. If these money-grubbing privateers want to deliver our public services we should aim to hold them to account just as we would elected Councillors.
As a child of two public servants brought up to believe that the value of what we do with our lives could never be valued in money I think it's long past time that we asserted the truth - that the profit motive is a squalid and sordid little thing and the private companies which leech profits from taxpayers are an infestation which we will one day exterminate.
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Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Join the Dots... Defend the Link to resist privatisation
This means both that the Government is allowing taxpayers to subsidise the privatisation, and that many small shareholders will make a quick killing and move on. Across the Home Counties, holidays, fine wine and home improvements will be financed by windfall profits from a briefly held shareholding in something we all owned.
The notion that private companies are somehow more "efficient" has always been no more than ideology (barely) concealing the naked self-interest of capitalists keen for an opportunity to turn a profit.
Since the Government are as determined to reprivatise the East Coast Main Line as they are to flog off Royal Mail on the cheap it's clear, joining the dots between these two stories, that this ideology, and those interests, continue to dominate.
The CWU have opposed the privatisation of Royal Mail (http://www.cwu.org/support-the-campaign.html) and the rail unions keep up the fight to return our rail network to public ownership (http://www.tssa.org.uk/en/whats-new/news/index.cfm/voters-oppose-east-cost-sell-of) - but these trade union campaigns need a coherent, organised political voice.
That's why the single most important political issue confronting all those of us who want to resist and reverse privatisation is to defend and enhance the collective relationship between the trade unions and the Labour Party (http://defendthelink.wordpress.com/).
The trade union movement needs a political voice. That voice should speak clearly in the interests of working people - and should make clear that the era of privatisation is at an end.
Labour needs to make the contrary case in defence of public services delivered for the public good - but to do that then, where the Party holds office it needs to stem the tide of privatisation right now.
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Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Higher Education UNISON ballot result
The margin of the "yes" vote (54.4%) may not be overwhelming but it is decisive, and the Service Group Executive (SGE) will now decide on further action next week taking into account the results of ballots of members of other unions, notably UCU whose ballot closes on Thursday (http://www.ucu.org.uk/6760).
The Higher Education (HE) SGE has, in recent years, shown brave and determined leadership which has set a positive example to the wider union.
Monday, October 07, 2013
Barnet Not Fair?
In a generation of struggles against this pernicious smash and grab raid on public services there have been few more inspiring chapters than the many written in years of battles fought by the workers, community (and bloggers) of the London Borough of Barnet.
Absent an effective national campaign to prevent privatisation (which will need a lot more from the Labour leadership than merely reshuffling Blairites into well-deserved, and doubtless well-remunerated, oblivion) the Barnet comrades were always, eventually, going to find themselves where they now are - with Capita threatening hundreds of redundancies as they shuffle local government jobs round the country.
Barnet UNISON can be proud, however, not only of their exemplary resistance but also of its results. The Union is still in there, representing members. Also, Tory Barnet have set the precedent of publishing the details of their contract with Capita (http://www.barnet.gov.uk/downloads/940431/customer_and_support_group_csg_formerly_nscso_contract).
Since the private sector can generally evade the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act to conceal their looting of the public pursue under the disreputable cloak of "commercial confidentiality" it is a critical victory to have compelled the publication of this contract.
If we are to turn the tide of this latter-day Thatcherism (which for a long time had engulfed the Labour Party and threatened to swamp the union movement) then we all need to follow Barnet UNISON with as much determination as we wish to prevent our employers from following Barnet Council.
For a start, let's ask every Labour Council to be at least as transparent as Barnet's uber-Tories. Let's have a clear commitment that every contract for the provision of local government services by a private company should always be a public document.
And that's just for a start.
The Directors and shareholders of companies like Capita must be subject to at least the same scrutiny as are Councillors and senior managers of local authorities.
We have to make this happen. The hundreds of Barnet workers facing sacking as private capital continues to pillage public services deserve at least this.
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World Day for Decent Work
However much our every day work may be full of the immediate, local - even parochial - concerns of particular trade union members or groups of members, it's always good to be reminded that we are part of a global movement which aspires to organise all workers everywhere.
Whether it's a fire in an unregulated textile factory in Bangladesh or the shocking death toll of migrant labourers in Qatar, the world provides regular reminders of the need for our trade union movement and its campaigns.
We do need to campaign to put pressure on Governments, international bodies and major corporations to combat the life-threatening exploitation of many of our sister and brother workers around the world.
From the perspective of the oldest trade union movement in the world (here in the UK), however, the current Government provide a clear lesson in just how temporary and contingent can be gains from legislation and regulation.
With tribunal fees choking off individual employment rights and the mischievous lobbying bill throwing a spanner into the heart of what's left of the right to strike, while the Government proposes work without pay for the unemployed, our international solidarity work is likely to become much more of a two way street.
The most important thing to do to make every day a day for decent work is to build up trade union membership and organisation, the foundations of a decent society.
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Thursday, October 03, 2013
Institutional Racism at Work - lost research from the last century
(The report is not, as far as I am aware, available online, although the internet discloses its existence - http://eureka.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/4290/.)
This report, commissioned by a consortium of London Borough Councils in the late 90s, did however, in spite of its title, provide a methodologically solid foundation for some stark conclusions about racism in the workplace. Fourteen years on this research has not, as far as I know been either challenged or repeated. Indeed it has all but sunk from sight.
Since I was personally involved in the agitation which eventually led a number of London employers to commission this report, I could recount its origins and history at far greater length than would hold the attention of all but the most determined reader of this blog. And I fear that may well turn out to be what I now do...
In a nutshell, from at least 1993 several London local government UNISON Branches were particularly struck by the evident over representation of black workers among those facing formal disciplinary action from employers.
In one way or another, UNISON branches raised this concern with various London Boroughs. From personal experience I can recall that the employers' initial response (of denial) rapidly shifted when they carried out their own analyses.
I recall, for example, broad assent from one employer at the time to the observation (based upon their own monitoring data) that, in one Department, black workers were, in the mid 90s, twice as likely to be disciplined, and three times as likely to be dismissed, as their white colleagues.
Since these were employers with a high profile (and generally sincere) commitment to equality of opportunity, they agreed with us that something had to be done - but what?
One understandable (but misconceived) response was to review the files dealing with particular disciplinary cases. Since these were cases conducted under negotiated disciplinary procedures under which workers had (and generally made use of) the right to union representation, this laborious exercise (of which I have personal knowledge in one particular case) predictably failed to reveal any systematic pattern of greater injustice among cases that got as far as a disciplinary hearing.
It was because this "surface-level" analysis of data thrown up by personnel (or as we might now say "people management") procedures failed to account for the evident racial disparity in outcomes that a number of UNISON activists across Greater London pressed, as the 90s wore on, for the employers to commission research that looked a little deeper.
This led to the commissioning of the research which (eventually) led to the publication of the report. From the point of view of the concerns which had led to our campaigning for the research to be undertaken in the first place, there were two key findings.
The first was that managers acknowledged (in structured confidential interviews) that the ethnicity of an employee was a key determinant of whether or not they took formal disciplinary action. At least once asked to reflect upon their actions, managers were accepting that their actions were discriminatory!
The second finding (based upon something called a repertory grid technique - http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repertory_grid) was that white managers demonstrated a systematic tendency to rate white subordinates as better performing than black subordinates (whereas black managers demonstrated no such tendency). The nature of the research technique was that managers were not necessarily conscious of this discriminatory tendency, but revealed it in answer to the questions which they were asked.
Taken together, these findings tell a compelling story about the obstacles to creating islands of equality of opportunity in a society in which the deep structural roots of racism, embedded in the actually existing social relations of production, express themselves both consciously and subconsciously in the conduct of social actors (in this case, the predominantly white managers in a number of London Borough Councils in the late 1990s).
Obviously this could be read as a cautionary tale about the limits of reformism and the need for a revolutionary transformation of society if we are to destroy the persistent racism which is the enduring (and perpetually reproduced) legacy of the key role of African slavery in the genesis of Western capitalism.
However, whilst waiting (and/or preparing) for that revolution there remains much that can be done to fight for what Manning Marable once referred to as "non-reformist reforms".
In many ways, the problem of institutional racism in the workplace was only highlighted in the 90s because of victories won in the previous decade in gaining access to those same workplaces for black workers.
At the beginning of the 80s, Lambeth (with an estimated black population of 40% - remembering that no ethnic origin question was asked in the 81 census) had a workforce which was 90% white. Within ten years, vigorous application of equal opportunity recruitment practices had shifted that percentage to 50%. (Older readers will remember Lambeth and other boroughs being denounced at the time as the "loony left").
In the generation since we managed to open some of our workplaces up to greater diversity we have failed to make the same progress to achieve both equity and equality in those workplaces.
However, the research published by GLEA all those years ago continues to point out things that could be done, right here, right now to advance equality given that we know that (still predominantly white) managers, left to their own devices may end up discriminating.
Managers can be trained and challenged to analyse and confront their own prejudices.
Managerial decisions can be rendered transparent and subject to scrutiny.
Human Resources staff can be given the support to champion equality and challenge discrimination.
Union representatives can be empowered and encouraged to confront racism.
Employers can support and resource the self-organisation of black workers within trade unions.
The long lost research report, buried because of the discomfort to which its sound findings give rise, remains a tool which we can use to fight for these limited, achievable and worthwhile goals.
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