Posts Tagged ‘Unions’

Strike vote turnouts

January 12, 2011

So Boris Johnson wants to annoy the trade unions by calling for a change in the law so that they can only go on strike when at least 50% of members take part in the ballot. Friend/enemy David Cameron has signalled sympathy for this view.

I suppose I might also agree with the position as logical and reasonable as long as the Government additionally legislates to make sure that MPs and councillors cannot take their seats unless at least 50% of their electorates participated in the poll.


Tolpuddle 2010

July 28, 2010

This story reminded me that I had not yet written anything about Tolpuddle 2010.

Well, the weather was surprisingly great, the showers remained (mostly) hot and the mood was remarkably upbeat despite the onset of a right-wing Government. My summary of the weekend is Two Jako Thumbs Up.

There was, of course, plenty of political lunacy on display. If I had my way, the festival organisers would put more effort into promoting the event to ordinary trade union members, which would hopefully ‘moderate’ the political mood somewhat.

It’s important that this event is accessible to trade unionists who aren’t necessarily the hardcore activists. Instead of holding a political festival which essentially preaches to the converted it would be great if Tolpuddle could instil a sense of political awareness and commitment to TIGMOO in trade unionists who were not previously politicised.

One amusing speech was given by some gimp from the NUS who complained that the term NEET (describing 16-21 year olds not in employment, education or training) was somehow discriminatory and oppressive. It was ridiculous.

The NASUWT was inspired to hand out free kites at its stall. Nice idea, but it got a bit dangerous when they started flying into the electricity pylons.

Billy Bragg – musically solid, as usual. It was amusing to see Comrade Bragg (who made the mistake of backing the Lib Dems at the recent general election!) argue from the stage with people in the crowd who disagreed with his support for the alternative vote.

Are there any festivals other than Tolpuddle where the performers get heckled by people shouting out their views on proportional representation?

You will get me, I’m part of the union?

March 30, 2010

There are legitimate criticisms to be made of trade union leaders who enjoy generous expenses accounts, but this story in the Daily Mail is pretty smeartastic:

BA union boss and a Bangkok go-go bar: Two-day stopover paid for by Unite included visit to seedy joint

Read it and I think you’ll agree with me that the title promises so much and yet the report fails to deliver.

Whilst walking around in the vicinity of his Bangkok hotel Derek Simpson was recognised by a British tourist. Said tourist shouts out Derek Simpson’s name. Desperate for a drink and undoubtedly a tad perturbed by a stranger calling out his name, Simpson heads straight into the nearest bar.

Tourist bloke, bizarrely, follows Simpson into this bar so that he can keep staring at him. Simpson’s discomfit is increased through the realisation that he has entered into a morally dubious establishment. He therefore makes a swift exist.

Looking at the Daily Mail’s picture of tourist bloke, I can’t say I blame Simpson. And the whole ‘walking into a dodgy bar’ scenario by mistake – well, we’ve all been there haven’t we?

Gutter journalism is still gutter journalism, even when set in an exotic location. The right-wing press despise trade unions and will concoct pathetic smears on their leaders to try to undermine public support for workers’ representatives.

Tories revert to union bashing

March 17, 2010

David Cameron used all his questions in PMQs today on the BA-Unite dispute. He wanted Brown to join him in calling on all British Airways workers to cross the picket lines and undermine the strike.

Tory blogger Iain Dale was unsurprisingly impressed by Cameron’s performance. He, along with the right-wing press, clearly enjoys attacking Labour’s links with trade unions.

Dale has a moronic post complaining about “Derek Simpson’s global ambitions“. Dale thought that the US Teamsters union wouldn’t want to support the striking BA workers, but a Teamsters’ statement expressed solidarity with “our brothers and sisters at Unite”.

He also thinks its “bonkers” for trade union leaders to want to integrate workers’ organisations across the world. Well, it’s the logic of globalisation and it makes perfect sense to me.  

The Tories truly are reverting to crass union bashing. Once upon a time, when Dave was trying to reinvent the Tories as a nice rather than nasty party, he made friendly gestures towards trade unions. That strategy has clearly been abandoned.

Whilst people like Iain Dale will get predictably excited by Cameron’s support for strike-breakers and the ‘reds under the bed’ gibberish written about the unions in papers like the Sun, I wonder how this will play out with ‘ordinary voters’.

I accept that Labour’s links with the unions were once seen as damaging. But I haven’t seen any recent polling that measures public attitudes towards trade unions. If anyone has got any please send it my way.

Labour Stupidity.

March 15, 2010

Maybe I sneered too soon at the Lib Dims.

Today I am annoyed by:

1) The PM condemning the BA workers’ strike. It looked like he was only doing it because the Tories told him to. The Government should have maintained its public neutrality on the matter. The fact that Unite provides Labour with much-needed funds cannot be dismissed as a consideration when deciding the Government’s approach on this.

2) Labour MP Laura Moffat announcing that she is standing down. This is a painfully unfunny joke – an MP saying that she’s quitting only eight weeks before the (probable) election. I hope that she pays for all the leaflets printed with her name and photo on them. Perhaps she can find someone else called Laura Moffat with a passing resemblance who can replace her? I’ve heard that her constituency party were treating her appallingly and she couldn’t stand it anymore. What a total mess; very dispiriting.

3) Labourites organising discussion meetings. With a general election just around the corner, I can’t believe that there are members of the Labour Party who still have time to organise chit chats rather than organise canvassing or leaflet deliveries. London Young Labour is holding an event in Portcullis House in the evening of Wednesday March 31st entitled ‘How do we win the General Election?’ Here’s a clue: CANCEL THE MEETING AND TAKE EVERYBODY TO THE NEAREST MARGINAL SEAT TO KNOCK ON SOME DOORS. I am similarly annoyed with the Fabian Society for doing similar things.

Shame on the IWM.

March 9, 2010

This is the last post on Ashcroft I’ll do for a while – I promise.

However, I’m frustrated that someone at the Imperial War Museum thought it would be a PR victory to do dealings with the Tory peer who loves this country so much that he detests the idea of paying tax here.

Ashcroft has amassed the world’s largest collection of Victoria Cross medals and these are to be displayed at the IWM from November. The medal gallery is to be called the ‘Lord Ashcroft Gallery’. Fair enough, it’s nice of him to help the museum, but does his ego really necessitate having the gallery named after him?

And considering how politically controversial he is I don’t think it helps the IWM to have a ‘Lord Ashcroft Gallery’.

In further controversy, PCS members at the IWM have been on strike for the last couple of days as the union called on members to protest for a better deal on redundancy pay.

The museum sent out an email to staff asking for people to work extra shifts and thus replace their striking colleagues. Trying to undermine a legitimate strike action = lame.

Bread and Roses.

December 22, 2009

I’ve just finished watching Bread and Roses – a cracking Ken Loach film based on the Justice for Janitors campaign in Los Angeles. The exploited cleaners – many of them women, most of them immigrants, all of them trying to survive on poverty wages – get themselves organised into a trade union. After some effective attention-grabbing protests they manage to secure important concessions from their bastard bosses.

Interested in the realities behind the story, I found myself reading up on the union that the janitors joined; the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU today is a major force in the US. It has nearly two million members, was at the forefront of campaigning in support of health care reform, and its solidly leftie president Andy Stern is apparently the most frequent visitor to the White House since Obama’s inauguration.

All good stuff. I especially like the fact that Ken Loach used working cleaners and union activists who had been through the real-life struggle as characters in the film. The documentary about the making of Bread and Roses that comes with the DVD features one of these cleaners saying that she couldn’t believe anyone as thin as Loach could possibly have the energy to be a film director. She also criticises him for scratching his arse too much on set.

All in all: two Jako thumbs up.

Posties on strike – an individualistic perspective.

October 22, 2009

I’ve been a bit pissed off with the mail service round my parts in recent weeks. I made an online order for £12-worth of vegan marshmallow an age ago. I finally got a note telling me that the parcel containing my marshmallow was waiting for me at the local Royal Mail Delivery Office.

However, upon my visiting the office the postal worker on duty was not able to find my marshmallow parcel. He gave me a phone number to ring. I phoned back several times over the course of the following week but no-one ever picked up. I am currently marshmallow-less and unimpressed with the service.

Perhaps I should therefore be expected to be unsympathetic to the postal workers going on strike today. The intermittent strikes that have been taking place in London for months now have severely disrupted the service.

Not at all.   

The management’s inability to establish improved relations with the CWU is surely at least as “self-defeating” for the Royal Mail as thousands of its workers choosing to take industrial action over its future. Hiring strikebreakers and refusing to negotiate with the union at Acas are not the actions of bosses eager to come to terms with workers’ concerns. Infact they seem to echo workers’ claims that the Royal Mail management is full of obstinate bullies who are determined to smash the influence of the union.

On top of all this, the CWU were handing out ‘Keep the Post Public’ frisbees at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival which provided a lot of amusement for myself and other Paintbrushers. Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier has never given me any free toys despite his very substantial pay packet (in stark contrast to the wages received by most of his workforce).

I therefore hope the union emerges as the winner in this dispute over how to modernise the Royal Mail.

US trade union activists threatened with violence

August 9, 2009

Tensions in the States over proposed health care reforms appear to be mounting. With opponents of reform holding noisy demonstrations at discussion meetings, trade union supporters of the Obama administration and its commitment to reform are similarly getting themselves organised.

According to reports on the Huffington Post, trade union offices are being swamped by hate mail (surely coordinated?) and even death threats. One trade union official received the following email (edited by the Huff Post to remove the naughty words):

You socialist f—s have the nerve to say stop the violence at the town hall meetings when they weren’t violent until you p—ies showed up because your n—– leader obama said to?????? When we have ours in Racine, Wi, I want you there. I want one of your little b—– to put his hands on this Marine. I want one of you to look or talk to me wrong. I’ll be the last thing your ignorant faux body guards will remember for a very long time. You can f—ing guarantee that.

This is madness. Heated arguments over the direction of health policy are fine, but the abundance of extremist attitudes amongst opponents of reform is deeply disturbing.

Perhaps if conservative commentators practised a bit of self-restraint and stopped scaring people into thinking that their President is a black Nazi (admittedly unlikely when they are professional controversialists) a more reasonable debate on this important topic would be possible.


July 23, 2009

Unity writes a characteristically detailed post at Liberal Conspiracy on how pseudoscience is not a valid educational choice. I agree entirely! Just because a bunch of people with eccentric views (to put it kindly) are well organised and fairly minted it does not mean that we should let them run schools.

Hopi Sen has been  interviewing Jon Cruddas. Hopi says he placed Cruddas sixth in the 2007 deputy leadership election. I put Cruddas at number one – I’ve always been a bit of a Cruddas enthusiast. JC refers to “the most interesting meeting” he has been to since becoming an MP taking place in a sports hall in his constituency. I think I was there whilst working for a political consultancy; we distributed some high-tech gadgets amongst the attendees allowing them to vote on different suggestions for Barking and Dagenham’s future. It was indeed a fun day. 

I’m not sure what exactly Cruddas is up to hanging out with James Purnell and his thoughts on the necessity of a progressive narrative sound a tad wishy-washy to me. Narrative is one thing but policies should come first! I still think the Cruddmeister is one to watch, even though he has declared that he does not want to be party leader.

And finally, Gene at Harry’s Place writes on a subject that I’ve also been thinking about recently. At Tolpuddle there was a lot of ‘Cuba Solidarity’, wholly uncritical of the Castro regime, on display. It’s disappointing, to say the least, when senior British trade unionists go over to Cuba (who’s paying for these trips?) and apparently neglect to question the lack of trade union freedom there, as well as all kinds of other human rights violations.