Now -read the book!

Here is a link to my memoirs which, if you are a glutton for punishment, you can purchase online at
Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

UNISON members organising to transform our trade union

Some friends have asked me, knowing that I am subject to obviously unjustified disciplinary action by my own trade union in retaliation for my having made a legitimate complaint to the Certification Officer concerning proven malpractice in a recent internal UNISON election, whether my decision to stand down from our National Executive Council shows that “the bastards have got to me.”

I can assure you that this is not the case. I can also assure all readers that I do know a bit about the relevant law.

I chose when to become a Branch Secretary and shall now (for the third time) choose when not to be. I joined our National Executive at a time of my choosing and shall now leave at a time of my choosing (and shall support Sean Fox of the Haringey branch to stand in my place because he is far and away the best candidate).

I remain completely committed to the transformation of UNISON into the trade union which we wanted it to be when we voted it into existence in 1992 – and to that end am pleased to publish the following information received today from Glen Williams on behalf of the new UNISONaction Broad Left;

UNISONaction broad left Meetings have taken place across the UK and it is very clear that there is a growing determination amongst our activists to raise the profile and activity of our union. 

UNISONaction operate a total transparency policy and so please find below the details of the lead coordinators for the UNISON Regions who are getting organised with further regional details to follow. If you want to find out what is happening in your Region and where UNISONaction is up to please email the Regional Lead identified below. If your Region is not represented yet please feel free to email Glen Williams (see below). 
Yorks and Humberside Region – Ade Kennett and Vicky Perrin -
West Midlands - Dave Augers -
East Midlands –Gary Freeman -
South East – Paul Couchman -  07834468135
South West – Berny Parkes -
North West - Glen Williams -
Greater London - Hugo Pierre and John Mcloughlin-
Northern Region  - Paul Gilroy - –
Scotland  - Mark Ferguson and Carol Ball -;
Cymru/Wales – Mark Evans -

I encourage all UNISON members to engage in organising to make our trade union into what it could (and ought to) be. Lay UNISON activists need to stand up for lay control of our trade union.

The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) - an apology

There are some funny people in the labour movement.

But not all are amusing.

One weird bunch who were in favour of voting alongside UKIP in June’s referendum (and are now celebrating the victory of reaction and demanding action) have had some influence in UNISON’s Greater London Regional Office in recent years. No lay activists openly associate with this organisation but it appears that some paid employees of our trade union share its rather odd views.

These, generally anonymous infiltrators into our movement believe that it is “a decade of intense migration with approaching a million from the new European Union states coming to look for work in Britain” rather than a decade of Government failing to invest in our public services that “has had a debilitating effect on schools, housing and medical services.” This faulty analysis would embarrass a student of GCSE politics (never mind a student of Marx), but is commonplace amongst people who describe themselves as “Communist” (!)

It is not therefore a surprise, given their inability to comprehend the world around them that these so-called Marxists conclude that since “mass migration provides a potentially limitless reserve army of the unemployed to undermine workers’ organisation, pay and conditions built up over centuries by the working class here” it is therefore important that “our resistance to this begins with the fight to leave the EU.” It is shameful that anonymous labour movement functionaries who try to associate their politics with Fidel Castro, a true hero of our class, should peddle such nationalist and racist nonsense.

This blog has from time to time made observations about the (and honestly this is not a joke name) Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) which is now little more than an apolitical freemasonry of the labour movement bureaucracy (with a sideline in reactionary British nationalism).

Of course there are risks in making enemies...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Certification Officer orders rerun of General Secretary election

Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Blogger) will be glad to get back to the niche concerns which normally catch the attention of your blogger.

It is interesting to read of a trade union in which an attempt was made to ban paid officials from standing for the position of General Secretary.

And worth noting that the Certification Officer can exercise their power to order a rerun of an election (as they have in a recent case involving UNITE, albeit in that case the Union conceded the breach of their rules).

Monday, November 28, 2016

Where next in Weimar Little England?

When, two days ago, I wrote for the first time from “Weimar Little England” I did not realise that I was being anachronistic because we had already opened hostilities with the Poles. The random deportations of European migrants for allegedly sleeping rough joins the recent mass deportation to Jamaica to reveal to us the society in which we have been living for some time.

The official racism which legitimates, but never satisfies, right-wing populism is as happy scapegoating white “foreigners” as black (perhaps nearly as happy?) Bigotry is simple and straightforward (and all too common). For socialists trying to work out how to respond to these darkening days these are, however, confusing times.

I know that there would be great value in a united response to the resurgent forces of reaction and the far right (and I am inclined to be present outside the Supreme Court on Monday even if it is true that Farage has called off his attempt to be Mussolini).

However. I am confronted by some questions, of which these are three;
How can we unite with those who campaigned (whether they are comfortable to acknowledge it or not) alongside the populist and far right in favour of a vote to leave the European Union which, by the time it was cast, was a vote against immigration?
How do we engage, as anti-racists and anti-imperialists, with those whose first response to the death this weekend of Fidel Castro was to echo ill-informed criticisms rather than acknowledge achievements?
How do we work with those cowards and careerists are misleading the “Momentum” organisation having engaged in a blatantly racist witch-hunt of their own Vice-Chair as part of a craven capitulation to Zionism (never mind the Labour right-wing to whom they gave ground)?

I do not know the answer to these questions, but I do know that we will not succeed on the basis of simply ignoring these divisions. As urgent as is the task of uniting against our adversaries an even more urgent task is to understand what we face and to respond on the basis of principles.

We must start from a position of socialist internationalism, of unyielding support for equality and opposition to racism and imperialism. These principles we cannot compromise if we are to be useful in dealing with the rising tide of racism and reaction nationally and globally.

I shall keep thinking about what this means in practice.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thoughts on Castro from Weimar Little England

Yesterday, whilst I was mostly thinking parochially, the rest of the world was marking the passing of Fidel Castro.

It is no surprise that the Western media would generally focus on denigrating a great revolutionary, nor that they would focus upon the minority of Cubans living in exile, many of whom appear to prefer Trump to Castro.

What is also not surprising, but perhaps more disappointing, is the response of many who consider themselves to be part of “the left”, at least here in the UK.

Even on the day that we learned of Castro’s death, many people had to qualify any comment by remembering the things that they (from their sofa in Islington) disagreed with Castro about.

I suppose I have been shedding illusions in “Trotskyism” ever since the fall of the wall, but petty sniping at the track record of Socialist Cuba at this time forces me to conclude that I am no part of that “left”.

That is not to say that I, or anyone, should be starry-eyed about Castro, or any leader. The last thing the left needs, as should be increasingly obvious, is fan-clubs.

However, politics is very often about choosing sides – and if we are going to defeat the forces of reaction who are now rampant in Europe and the United States we have to be as clear and straightforward as our opponents.

It is a strength which the socialist left has inherited from liberalism that we are critical and questioning – but it can be a terrible weakness when we put these valuable traits to the fore at all times, when sometimes we need to be firm in support of our side.

Yesterday, elements of the Western left exhibited also the Euro-centrism which very much gets in the way of “thinking globally” whilst “acting locally”.

Criticism of historic errors by Cuba in dealing with the rights of LGBT people should be part of a balanced and comprehensive assessment of the Cuban revolution, as should commentary upon authoritarian tendencies common to post-revolutionary regimes.

It is however, risible, for UK leftists to put such criticism front and centre of brief responses to the death of a great revolutionary leader, whilst seemingly ignoring the role of our own country in exporting official homophobia to the Caribbean (where surely other islands closer to “our” influence have more questions to answer?)

Those who consider themselves socialists, but who are so very wise that their understanding of the dangers of “campism” means that they qualify and nuance every word when asked to choose between two sides demonstrate the weakness which is likely to lead to our defeat by the coming rightwing tide.

That they also allow their great wisdom to obscure a truly global assessment of a revolutionary leader who gave so much to Africa and the Caribbean suggests that elements of the European “left” will contribute their share of responsibility for what our continent (and its transatlantic diaspora) may once more be about to unleash upon humanity.

I don’t want to contribute in any way to dividing the opponents of the rampaging resurgent right, but I don’t think we can build unity on shifting sands.

I don’t know what to do – but I am at least thinking about this without false certainty.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A message from "Weimar Little England"

I spent some time yesterday arguing with two old friends who will not I hope be offended if I say we disagreed because I felt they were in denial about aspects of the current political situation whereas they felt that I (and a like-minded comrade) were exaggerating.

Regular readers of this blog may not be sure they agree, but I used to be someone who was particularly prone to measured and cautious expressions of opinion as I tried to persuade interlocutors. I genuinely was not given to exaggeration – before this year I would sarcastically have dismissed someone saying that democracy is at serious and immediate risk in the advanced capitalist nations (albeit it had been massively weakened by the growing power of corporations against states).

I think that 2016 has shown all of us that we were wrong. I know I was. I did not foresee that a combination of bigotry and stupidity would lead to a vote to leave the European Union, nor that a similarly toxic mix across the Atlantic would bring to power a dangerous demagogue. I fear I will not be surprised now if Austria elects a fascist President, nor even if France falls.

It is not at all an overreaction to the events of this year to foresee nuclear war in Europe, nor to consider the likelihood that real tyranny will triumph in the USA. I quite understand that it is more comfortable to deny this, to insist that things are not really so bad and that former friends who backed Brexit cannot be responsible for the consequence of the racism and bigotry of their co-thinkers on that question.

It is understandable but it is wrong. It is that bad – and those who choose the wrong side on vital questions at a dangerous time cannot escape responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

As we were having that argument a wise person was asking pertinent questions; “You know films set in the 1930s when everyone is pottering on as normal and you want to shout at the screen? Well, how would you know if you were in one?”

The answer has to be that you wouldn’t, but that if you even think you might be you have to be consistent and brave in standing up, in every part of your life, for what you believe in. I never knew my maternal grandfather (who died of TB in the 50s) but I know he was a mild mannered man – yet in the late 30s he concluded an argument with a visiting German Nazi by pouring a bucket of water over him.

The vermin of UKIP and the American “alt-right” won’t play by any rules in arguing against the beliefs of all democrats and trying to undermine all in which we believe. Our only rule in response has to be that we won’t surrender to them. There is no legitimacy in the referendum result any more than there is legitimacy in the election of “President” Trump.

And then today we woke to the loss of Castro.

It is as if events conspire to remind us that the chapter opened by the October revolution is now definitively closed. There is no global alternative to capitalism.

Capital no longer needs to fend off a threat from a combative working class with social welfare, civil liberty and democratic rights.

We must hope that the passing of the great revolutionary does not destabilise Cuba. That one island can stand for more than half a century against US imperialism will always be an inspiration to those who believe in progress whatever happens next, but it will be a further setback if the Cuban revolution is defeated.

Socialist Cuba has given so much to the world, and in particular to the peoples of Africa and the Caribbean (who have often borne the brunt of global capitalism). We must continue to be inspired by this example and draw courage from the example of the Cuban people, as from the example of all previous revolutions.

As socialists we must remember our responsibility both to our class and to the future of humanity. It may well be that the choice between “socialism and barbarism” is being made around us in a way we would not support, but this question is not settled. We have the power to change the world.

If we know that we are indeed characters in a film set in “Weimar Little England” we have to stand up now, and every day, to resist bigotry and prejudice, to defend those under attack and to protect the values of democracy and socialism.

We may not win but at least we must fight.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Farewell Eric

I can’t quite believe the content of an email which I have just received from our General Secretary at just after 5pm this afternoon;

“Dear All,
It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the sudden and tragic death of our friend and president, Eric Roberts.
Eric passed away earlier this afternoon having been diagnosed with cancer earlier this week.  The news has come as a great shock to us all, but at this sad time our thoughts and our love are with his family.

I am updating this post on 25 November to include this link to the UNISON website where you can read and post tributes to Eric.

Eric was not a close friend. Indeed he and I often found ourselves on opposing sides of arguments within our trade union. I would not do the injustice to his memory of failing to note this.

Eric was, however, a great trade unionist with a passionate commitment to our movement and its cause. 

I saw this at its very best a couple of years ago when Eric gave a funny, caring and passionate farewell to another trade unionist for whom I also had rather more respect than affection, and of whom I said, as I shall say now of Eric, that he was literally irreplaceable.

Ave atque vale.

UNISON and the Certification Officer - a welcome ruling back in 1997?

As far as I can recollect, no one has ever asked me to blog about the history of hearings in front of the Certification Officer involving UNISON.

But I knew you wanted me to anyway.

So as I get time I’ll remind you of some aspects of the past of our trade union which are all too easily forgotten.

One of the earliest cases involving UNISON was one in which our trade union (or at least its leadership) seemed almost to welcome intervention in its affairs. Nineteen years ago, the Certification Officer ruled that a donation of £100 made by a UNISON branch to an appeal in support of the Socialist Worker newspaper had breached the Union’s political fund rules.

Although by the time the complaint came to be considered the contested donation had been repaid, and therefore there was no need for any enforcement order, the Certification Officer did not simply make a declaration that the political fund rules had been breached but also came to an agreement with UNISON that this declaration would be publicised by the trade union. And so it was.

The publication of this decision within UNISON signalled the start of a sustained attempt to marginalise – and in some cases expel – activists who were associated with the Socialist Workers Party. At the same time the Birmingham and Sheffield local government branches were taken over (into what we would now call “regional supervision” but without consultation with Regional lay structures) and there were a number of contested disciplinary cases – at least one of which found UNISON being told to reverse a decision by the Certification Officer.

That disciplinary witch hunt came to an end with the election of a new General Secretary, who took office for the first time in January 2001, although its consequences continued to be felt for some time. Over the subsequent period UNISON’s National Executive sought, through our Development and Organisation Committee, to impose greater lay scrutiny of some areas of internal controversy, with regular reporting both of branches under regional supervision and cases taken to the Certification Officer.

Funnily enough, when, some years later, the Certification Officer found that much larger sums (£2,184.41 in total) had been spent in breach of the same political fund rules as had been breached to a much lesser extent in the earlier case, the union did not volunteer to publicise the decision as they had in 1997. Indeed no subsequent Certification Officer decision has ever attracted quite the welcome of that long ago decision about £100 being sent to the Socialist Worker appeal.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The last Regional Local Government Committee...

Having told my branch that I won’t be seeking re-election as Branch Secretary in January, with a view to having a bit more of a life, I realise that tomorrow morning I will attend my last meeting of UNISON’s Regional Local Government Committee after more than twenty years.

More than nineteen years ago, I was in the pub after a meeting of the Executive of this august body when I got the phone call that told me I was about to become a father, so I think of the Regional Local Government Committee as almost family (and certainly the relatives with whom I would prefer to spend time when compared with the in-laws of the Regional Committee, at least over the past decade).

UNISON’s local government membership is by far the largest part of our trade union both nationally and regionally, and I have gained an appreciation of both the strengths and weaknesses of our organisation across London over the past two decades and more (and have probably contributed at least as much to the latter as the former).

UNISON was something of a difficult coming together of the traditions of two of our “former partner unions” in Greater London local government. In the mid 1990s we would meet as an Executive in the Conference chamber at Mabledon Place with former NUPE colleagues on one side of the room and former NALGO colleagues on the other. After a while the “NUPE” pre-meetings no longer included any paid officials...

London local government was something of a centre of opposition, on the part of former NUPE branch secretaries, to the process of branch merger. As Chair of the Regional Recruitment and Organisation Committee in 1997 I secured a three month extension of the deadline for branch mergers in the Region – and we came to agreements locally in all but three London boroughs (although not before a walk-out of former NUPE branch secretaries greeted my report to the Regional Council).

Ironically Lambeth was the one place where branch merger never really happened, because UNISON created a separate branch for the members privatised to a joint venture company early that year, taking the great bulk of the former NUPE membership away from the “merged” Lambeth branch.

The Regional officials who ensured for many years that any mention of bringing the two Lambeth branches together was hastily squashed deserve my personal thanks for saving me from the work which would then have come my way – and can no doubt congratulate themselves on having assisted the Lambeth branch to play the very particular role it has played in UNISON over the past twenty years. (I won’t name names to save blushes – and also to avoid being hauled up on any more disciplinary investigations...)

Elsewhere in London though UNISON branches developed as we had hoped they might when we voted for merger in 1992 – particularly in those boroughs where some at least of the manual workforce remained in-house.

Effective partnership working between lay leadership and officials who respected lay control also meant that we resolved the contradiction between the goal of single status and the differential London weighting payments between manual and non-manual workers. It was a shame that individuals moved on and that productive partnership came to an end.

Equally unfortunately our subsequent campaign to increase London Weighting, for which we took strike action in 2002-03 not only failed to achieve our objective but led to the employers walking out of the London-level bargaining machinery, collapsing a joint body which had survived the interregnum in national bargaining before the second world war.

We learned that the uneven organisation and militancy of our membership between London boroughs amounted to an all but insurmountable obstacle in prosecuting a London-wide dispute. The national disputes in which we have been involved over the past decade or so have been equally discouraging. Twice we have settled for reductions in pension benefits, and repeatedly we have failed to defeat pay restraint imposed upon us by the Government and employers.

In many of our London branches UNISON activists have been fighting a vigorous rearguard action for as long as many of us can remember, to protect jobs and conditions of service from repeated attacks.

Over the past ten years our attempts to support each other have generally achieved any success in spite of, rather than because of, the resources of our trade union at regional level. Perhaps the most extreme example of the unhelpfulness of the official structures of the union was the deliberate damage done to the Greenwich branch when it was unjustifiably taken into regional supervision back in 2010.

The elected officers of our Regional Service Group Committee have done what they can to try to assert basic norms of democratic accountability, but it has been an uphill struggle. I have watched too many good activists worn down by the endless battles with both employers on the one hand and officials on the other, and have seen previously independent branches become obedient to those who ought not to control our lay led trade union.

Thankfully there are still sufficient London borough UNISON branches under the control of assertive lay leaders who know what a trade union is for, and with the Secretaries of two such branches as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Greater London Regional Local Government Committee we can continue to hope that UNISON may yet become something of the trade union we voted for in 1992.

It has been a privilege to attend meetings of our Regional Local Government Committee on many occasions since vesting day and to have worked alongside those principled and committed individuals who have chosen to devote themselves voluntarily to the cause of our members without ambition or hope of personal gain.

Others have sometimes also been present.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Brexit means bigotry and attacks on workers' rights - Labour should oppose this

I have supported the Shadow Chancellor as a comrade for many years, but I could not disagree more with his risible claim that Labour should be more positive about “Brexit.”
Positive about the threat of deporation hanging over the head of millions of fellow workers?
Positive about the threat to our already pitiable legal rights as workers in this country?
Positive about the unleashing of reaction since the victory of the far right in the referendum?
I’m sorry but I won’t be positive about any of these things.
I won’t give up in the face of the reactionary outcome of the advisory referendum on membership of the EU any more than socialists have ever given up in the face of the election of Tory (or New Labour) Governments.
I do accept that not everyone who voted to leave the EU was a racist.
The rest were idiots (and complete idiots).
Socialists should fight for open borders, workers’ rights and the defence of minorities.
That means opposing “Brexit”.
Which is how to be on the side of our class.

UNISON and the future of our trade union movement?

It was good to catch up with old friends and colleagues today at the UNISON Centre (a.k.a. “the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road”) for a meeting of the Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC). It’s always good to catch up, and to see people I haven’t seen for a while.
I’ll blog a full report when I can find some time away from both branch work and self-inflicted labour. However, I do want to pass comment on some interesting contributions to discussion (in the context of debate about our organisation in schools) arising from the potential merger between the NUT and ATL unions.
This step towards professional unity in the most highly unionised large occupational group in the economy is arguably a belated response to the “millennium challenge” set to our movement by the TUC before the turn of the century, which did not generate the positive changes in the structure of our movement which it sought.
It is a shame that, given the current structure of our trade union movement, and the fact that (without national recognition to negotiate for non-teaching staff in schools where those staff are covered by the National Joint Council) the ATL organise teaching assistants, the move to bring together unionised teachers appears as a threat to UNISON, currently fighting for teaching assistants in Derby and Durham.
It is ironic that the position of the three support staff unions in schools (UNISON, GMB and UNITE), which is that the teaching unions ought not to try to recruit non-teaching staff in schools, is the exact opposite of our approach in the rest of local government (where, since adopting single status in 1997, we advocate vertically integrated trade unions organising all grades).
However, we are where we are. Trade unionists in our public services are organised in professional (or occupationally specific) unions (such as the teaching unions, NAPO, the FBU, the POA and some of the health unions), general unions (GMB and UNITE), an industrial union for the civil service (PCS) and – most importantly – in our strange hybrid trade union, which clearly aspires to be an industrial union in local government, health and higher education but (as some Committee members have conceded in recent discussions) is evolving in the direction of a general union.
There are very few public servants for whom there is only one obvious trade union to join (a firefighter perhaps). For most of us there are two or more trade unions who would happily take our subscriptions. Since it is much easier to recruit to a trade union someone who has already been persuaded of the benefits of trade unionism, this sets our public services up for an endless cycle of poaching of members between our unions.
In another part of our discussions today we touched upon the occasionally aggressive poaching of UNISON members by the GMB at local level – and were reminded that attempts to develop a protocol to encourage cooperation between the two unions was knocked back some years ago. The often difficult, and yet important, relationship between UNISON and GMB has been a feature of my years as a branch activist and on our NEC. The most likely future of this relationship is, regrettably, that cordial relations at national level will be accompanied by backbiting and mutual poaching locally. To change this would require leadership which neither union currently appears to possess.
Another trade union with which UNISON has had a difficult relationship during my time on the NEC in spite of the obvious potential for cooperation has been PCS. UNISON and PCS had signed an agreement to work together in 2010 but five years later PCS were complaining to the TUC about UNISON trying to encroach upon their areas of organisation. There is less direct competition for members between us and obvious possibilities for joint work between the civil service and other public services, but UNISON’s evident hostility has in the past driven PCS towards the possibility of a merger with far less industrial logic.
Overall trade union density has fallen over the past twenty years from a third to a quarter of all workers in the economy – even in the public sector almost half of workers are not trade unionists. What workers (whether or not yet in a trade union) need from our movement is a serious attempt to organise the unorganised – not a movement that is squabbling over the already organised minority.
We might look to the TUC to provide some unity- but the TUC has historically been weak in relation to individual trade unions and, as there are fewer, larger unions so this relative weakness becomes more pronounced. The best chance for our movement to make a unified attempt to organise (rather than a competitive attempt to avoid bankruptcy) would be if the leadership of UNISON could lead that unified attempt.
This was surely what we had in mind when we created a new public service union from the former partner unions (NALGO, NUPE and COHSE) back in 1993. We thought we could overcome one of the greatest rivalries in our movement (between NALGO and NUPE in local government) – although perhaps all we did was internalise it (as a struggle between democrats and control freaks).
At any event we did not think that we had finished the job of uniting public service workers on 1 July 1993 and yet we have hardly taken a step further.
Even the most enthusiastic (if anonymous) well-wisher on our union’s twentieth birthday could say nothing more positive than “steady as she goes”. This was not something to celebrate in circumstances in which we needed (as we still need) imaginative leadership committed to changing to meet the challenges of our future.
Trade union merger is not necessarily a positive step in meeting those challenges (many mergers appear purely defensive and financially driven)  -  although mergers which strengthen the organisational capacity of workers to resist employers have played and could in future play a positive role.
We may need to look closely at other means of cooperation between trade unions (such as the shared legal service between the GMB and CWU) as options for a future in which we can put such cooperation ahead of competition.
Instead of responding to the prospect of professional unity for the teaching profession by circling our wagons with “competitor” support staff unions and the recalcitrant teaching union we could then be approaching the teachers with a plan for effective cooperation between trade unions across the education sector (and all public services).
Our movement deserves a leadership which can address the challenges we face. UNISON in particular cannot continue in stasis.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The economic purpose of anti-migrant prejudice

In post-truth politics it is the rhetoric that is the reality.

Donald Trump says he will "immediately" deport two to three million people (presumably to Mexico).

No he won't.

He can't and he knows he can't.

Just one million people would fill somewhere between seventeen and twenty thousand coaches. 

The simple logistics of transporting so many people would be the work of weeks if not months - and that is if the country to whom the deportees were being despatched cooperated enthusiastically and accepted their responsibility for every one of the (often presumably) undocumented individuals who might or might not be their citizens.

None of this is likely.

Nor does Trump really want this outcome.

The US economy depends in many ways (just as the economy of London does, for example) upon the labour of "illegal immigrants" and upon the opportunities for super-exploitation of workers for whom the ever present threat of deportation is a whip held by employers which can be cracked should those workers ever seek to pursue their own interests (collectively or individually).

Trump no more wants to expel every Latin American cleaner from the USA than our Government wishes to see the back of every African security guard in London. What they both want is that these workers should live lives of perpetual terror, never knowing if they, or their loved ones, will be one of the ‎(relatively small) number who will be picked up and deported from the country they have made their home.

These workers can then be relied upon not to unionise, nor even to demand their legal rights (to the minimum wage for example) and therefore not only to cheapen their own labour (and add to the profits of their immediate employers and/or the "end users" of their labour) but also to depress wages generally at the lower end of the labour market.

This provides not only a general economic benefit for the employers in whose interests Trump (and May) (and Farage) act, but also a material basis for the argument that it is immigrants and immigration which drives down wages. This argument can then be used to rally support for the bigotry of the far right not only amongst those whose living standards are being held down, but also (in the UK) amongst the dunderheaded Parliamentarians on the Labour right who will whine that we must "respect" or "engage with" anti-immigrant prejudice (when in fact what we need to do is confront it and defeat it).

It is easy to criticise "liberal" critiques of the Trump/Brexit right-wing as the "politics of hate" on the grounds that they fail to address the material foundations of prejudice. However, the whipping up of anti-immigrant and anti-immigration hysteria is quintessentially the "politics of hate" as an end in itself - and for thoroughly material reasons to do with the economic interests of the ruling class, every bit as much as the ideological project of the far right.

UNISON has clear policy in support of the rights of migrant workers and we need to campaign for such policies around the world.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The venue for the UNISON Certification Officer hearing 19-21 December

The following information is taken from the website of the Certification Officer.

It relates to the hearing scheduled for: 19,20 and 21 December 2016 of a number of complaints (including from myself) against UNISON.

The complaints concern the Union’s election for its General Secretary in 2015. The applicants allege that, during the election period, the Union breached a number of its rules and a paragraph of the General Secretary 2015 Election Procedures as well as section 49 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. This is the full hearing of the complaints following the preliminary hearing held on 6 October 2016.

The venue is:
Fleetbank House

(This is the office of the Employment Appeal Tribunal which seems sensible as the parties will know where to go for any appeal!).

The Certification Officer site states that; “hearings are held in public (unless otherwise stated) and will commence at 10:00 am. Anyone wishing to attend a hearing should telephone or email the Certification Office (020 7210 3734 / so that we may arrange for a security access pass to be produced.”

A strange temporal coincidence...

If you are looking for relentlessly positive and upbeat assessments of all aspects of trade union organisation you may be in the wrong place. This blog has been a critical voice now for more than a decade.

It is hardly a novelty for me to suggest that the tradition of lay leadership in UNISON is honoured rather more in the breach than the observance. I have been criticising officials of my own trade union for years – and have often focused on my own (Greater London) Region.

For example, in February 2010 I published the farewell messages from respected UNISON official Tom Snow to his colleagues and to activists. Tom didn’t pull his punches and I was pleased to publish his shrewd observations that (in the Regional office); “There is no esprit de corps. It is difficult to define what the Region has actually done for UNISON members in London. It is little more than an office, a large one, containing many highly committed people, all unable to escape a very tight strait jacket. When branches have found ways to organise significant numbers of new members, their activists have not been brought in to tell us how they did it. That is a waste - symptomatic of managerial hubris and gross disrespect for activists.”

A month or so later I was scathing in my criticism of officials taking our Bromley and Greenwich branches into regional supervision. This was just one example of my criticising UNISON for the conduct of internal disciplinary matters – there were others. And still others. (and more…)

I have always been aware of the possibility of complaints being made to the Certification Officer – and reviewed a number of such complaints against UNISON back in May 2008. I was not keen to join those making such complaints, but when I did I explained why here.

What I don’t quite understand is why my persistent criticism of what I have perceived to be shortcomings in our trade union over many years appears to have been tolerated in the past, it is only now that I am party to a complaint to the Certification Officer that I find myself facing an internal disciplinary investigation.

Funny old thing coincidence, eh?

Solidarity with the Durham teaching assistants

Solidarity to the Durham teaching assistants as they start today their first two day strike. This is in opposition to an attempt to drive down pay using the excuse of “equal pay” to impose cuts on a predominantly low paid female workforce.

The news is that their action is effective.

Let’s hope they don’t need to take more action to sway their pay-cutting employers, who shame the Labour Party – but if they do we can all donate to the hardship fund.

This dispute highlights the dilemma of single status in local government, both from the point of view of how it has localised pay negotiations (so that people doing similar jobs in different localities can end up earning very different rates of pay) and from the point of view of the way in which (the least threat of) equal pay litigation can turn out to have unforeseen and sometimes unwelcome consequences.

The Durham dispute, with its longer-running sister in Derby around the same issue demonstrates that a serious threat really requires a simple response – resistance.

With the very real prospect of merger between the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (who organise teaching assistants although without national recognition) and therefore of an “all grades” union emerging in schools, UNISON and the other support staff unions will have to look to our laurels in defending the interests of members in schools. Durham and Derby show the way perhaps?

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Let me tell you where to put your red poppy...

My poppy is white.

If you want a red poppy you commemorate the British war dead (but not others).

And you say that charity – rather than the state – should provide for those injured serving in “our” armed forces.

I do not recognise my presence in any first person plural which has “armed forces”.

I am not British.

If it comes to claiming “ownership” of armed forces, I am not English.

I am both a Londoner and a Brightonian.

But more than that, before (and after) that (and forever) I am a citizen or the world.

I am a worker.

The whole world is my country.

Too many have died in vain.

I oppose all war.

This is what free speech in our trade union movement looks like (it's not pretty...)

When I started this blog, a little over ten years ago, I explained why I was doing so, and said; “ I believe that this blog is entirely within UNISON Rules and I don’t intend to carry any content which attacks our Union. This is not to say that I won’t publish criticisms of policies or decisions with which I disagree (or criticisms of me if anyone wants to post them!) This is in accordance with UNISON Rule B.2.5 which commits the Union to encouraging democratic debate.”

 In more than two thousand posts over the past decade I have occasionally made good on that promise, to the pleasure of some readers. I have tried to engage in debate, often publishing critical comments (even though these are generally anonymous) and have removed or amended posts in response to criticism where I thought that warranted.

If you are reading this blog and are offended, or feel that I have said something that is unjust or incorrect you are welcome to respond and I will publish your response as a comment (even if it is anonymous) as long as it is not itself unreasonably offensive or defamatory.

However, sometimes people may be upset when I publish comments which allege breaches of UNISON Rules, or suggest that anything we have done falls short of excellence. They may then pursue other remedies rather than make their criticisms in the open.

For example;
On 1 December 2015 I alleged a breach of Rules D.8 and E.3.3 and of paragraph 7 of Schedule C to the Rule Book;
On 5 December 2015 I alleged a breach of Rule B.2.2;
On 10 December 2015 I alleged a breach of Rule B.2.5;
On the following day, I alleged again a breach of Rule B.2.2;
On 14 December 2015 I alleged a breach of Rule B.2.6;
On 17 December 2015 I alleged a breach of Rule B.2.2;
On 2 February 2016 I alleged a breach of Rules B.1.4 and 2.2;
On the following day I reported an allegation of a breach of Rule B.2.6;  
On 10 February 2016 I alleged a breach of Rules B.1.4 and 2.2;
On the following day I linked to a post which could be read as alleging a breach of Rule B.1.4;
On 30 March 2016 I alleged a breach of Rule P.2.3.1;
On 23 April 2016 I alleged a breach of Rule B.2.1;
On 11 May 2016 I alleged breaches of Rules B.2.1 and 2.2;
On 18 May 2016 I alleged a breach of Rules B.1.4 and 2.2;
On 20 May 2016 I alleged a breach of Rule B.2.2;
On the same day I alleged breaches of Rule P.2.3.1 and B.2.2;
On the following day I alleged a breach of Rule P.17.1 and D.1.1.

These particular posts have been the subject of criticism – not in comments on this blog (which I would have published) but elsewhere (and I really cannot comment about where).

These criticisms were far from the least, or the least harsh, which you can find if you go back over the past ten years of posts on this blog. And yet it is these criticisms about which I am being questioned by the trade union.

It is interesting that these questions (and the decision to initiate a disciplinary investigation to which they have given rise) have arisen since UNISON became aware of my complaint to the Certification Officer, submitted on 27 April 2016 (after I was denied the opportunity to pursue issues at the April meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC)).

Given that I have spent ten years being scathing online about my criticisms of various actions (and omissions) by and on behalf of UNISON and yet it is only now, after I have had recourse to the Certification Officer, that I am being questioned about some recent (and less scathing) criticisms I really hope not ever to have to rely upon my legal right not to be subject to unjustified discipline by my trade union.

You would almost think we (UNISON) had never been here before...

Incidentally, I consider any instruction to remain silent about the abuse of UNISON’s disciplinary rules in these circumstances to contravene Rule B.2.2.

If anyone would like a copy of the UNISON Rule Book it is available online.

Some inconsequential information

At a meeting of UNISON activists in London last week I shared with colleagues my decision not to seek an eighth term on UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) in the next round of elections.

I was pleased to learn that my friend and comrade, Sean Fox, the experienced and committed Secretary of our campaigning Haringey Branch, Vice-Chair of the Regional Local Government Committee and London representative on the National Joint Council (NJC) Committee will seek nominations for the seat I have held since 2003. Sean is an excellent candidate, deserving of the support of all those who want an effective and democratic trade union.

Should I see out my current term of office I will have served fourteen years on the NEC (and twenty one on the Regional Committee). It seems wrong to hog all that entertainment to myself indefinitely! Having won seven consecutive elections to the NEC in the Greater London Region (benefitting no doubt from the principled stance of complete neutrality adopted by the office in every election) I don’t think it is unreasonable for me to seek to have a little more time to enjoy life beyond a UNISON meeting.

I started this blog to report back as an NEC member but regular readers (Sid and Doris Blogger) should not fear that I will fall silent. There are things which I have been told not talk about (and so, of course I will) and things about which I myself have said I won't blog about yet (but soon). Those misusing our trade union can rest assured that they shall not escape comment and attention.

Defend our libraries!

Good luck to all those marching to defend our libraries today.

I won’t be amongst the lively Lambeth contingent as I am not in London, but am confident of strong support locally and nationally for this timely and important demonstration.

The Tory assault on our library services is not letting up – and we need to take our opposition to this assault forward in unity.

UNISON’s Barnet branch, whose library members are striking today, deserve particular credit for driving ahead with the plan for this demonstration.