Trade Unions are exempt from registering with the Fincancial Services Authority as claims handlers and do not have to give key facts

index.html search site
/union-failure.html
/unison-lawyers.html
/union-charges-lawyers.html
/lookatourlaundry.html
/accounts-TGWU.html
/startyourownunion.html
/hustings.html (/hustings1.html)
/contract-to-members.html
/old-rules-TGW.html
/draft-rules-Unite.html
/annual-report-TGW.html
/ConsumerActionGroup
/advertise.html
/wishlist.html Other sites:
employeeownership.org.uk - work should be...
jfo.org.uk - work is...
register an interest in services.
 
page sections
  1. The traditional UK trade union response to decline
  2. Failed strategies - Recruitment and Partnership
  3. T&G Organising ideals
  4. T&G Organising practice and structure
  5. Moving Forward – Building on success in the New Union
  6. Reasons for quoting this

Organising out of decline –
The rebuilding of the UK and Ireland
shop stewards movement

Sharon Grahm – underlining and reasons for quoting this added

The T&G does not send an annual report to members any more than it sends them accounts, holds proper local elections or has a clear contract with them. Even their bank is dodgy. This essay of theirs for Union Ideas Network includes a few Gerald Ratner style quotes about services to members being out of fashion (#1) and their relationship with employers (#2), but is otherwise the same as what they write on their web site and as near as anything to an annual report. They have a financial report here and accounts are free to download at the Certification Office. Because of the recent merged name they are under "defunct unions"

Objective

The principle objective of this chapter is to examine how one Union in the UK, the T&G, developed and adopted a "Strategy for Growth” in an attempt to prevent irreversible industrial and political decline. The T&G “Strategy for Growth” has two main areas: organising and re-organising workers to build industrial power and merger with unions to extend industrial influence.

For the purposes of this chapter it is the organising strategy that is key and will be exclusively addressed. Understanding the ideals and application of T&G organising is critical to understanding what T&G General Secretary Tony Woodley adopted when looking to reinvigorate and re-focus on the challenge of re-building the Union. In order to do this the chapter will be split into six specific sections:

Section 1: Decline and Traditional Response

The arguments for UK trade union decline have been well versed. However, it is only recently that some Unions have looked at their own response to a changed environment and how this may have been the most critical of all factors influencing the dramatic decline of UK trade union membership, industrial power and political influence.

It is acknowledged globally that the rise of monetarism and liberal free market ideology - embodied in the UK by the rise of Margaret Thatcher – has had a negative impact on the position of trade unions within the industrial and political process and within society more broadly. It is acknowledged that such ideology has sought to regulate the operation of trade unions through restrictive labour legislation. It is acknowledged that the active encouragement of the individualisation of society witnessed through aggressive privatisation, profound change to the welfare state and moves to encourage house ownership has changed the context within which trade unions operate. It is also acknowledged that relative de-industrialisation and moves towards a service based “knowledge economy” have stripped unions of a large base of traditional union territory. However, when all is said and done unions have to look to themselves for answers. What did we do when faced with this challenge? How did we respond?

It can be clearly argued that the trade union response for over twenty years was simply inadequate. Membership levels plummeted, bargaining power reduced and there was no clear strategy developed. Instead we blamed our environment for not letting us function in the way we had before. We blamed workers for their perceived selfishness - referring to the young simply as “Thatchers children”. At its most basic we hoped for something better without ever really believing it would happen – we followed what we perceived to be the change inherent in society rather than trying to change it.

UK trade unions did change but the changes made arguably assisted decline, restricted collective aspiration and inevitably reduced trade union influence more widely. The central point of a lot of what was done focused on stopping – ineffectively – the reduction in membership income, without ever fully realising what it was that workers wanted a trade union to do. We believed that workers wanted unions to act as protectors of the individual rather than facilitators of the collective. This simply did not work. Many unions – including the T&G – adopted measures perceived as allowing us to reach out to the individual worker – insurance policy membership. We started to prioritise a number of tools which ran counter to the theory of trade unions as collective agents: The winning and publicising of legal compensation for individual workers; concentration on achieving success in individual grievance and disciplinary matters; the setting up of insurance and holiday schemes. In addition - and perhaps centrally - we began to increasingly view recruiting the employer as a key tool in achieving growth and sustaining the future of trade unionism.

Did any of this stop membership decline? Build industrial power? Help win elections for progressive policy makers? No. The UK trade union movement continued to lose members, continued to lose industrial muscle and continued to witness defeats for the Labour Party at the polls. The concentration on protection for the individual reduced the effectiveness of traditional arguments for mobilisation, enabled the employer to overtly dictate and restrict bargaining structures and outcomes, and made collective delivery at political elections increasingly difficult. Employees of unions - whilst continuing to work hard - were increasingly working on individual cases and less on building self sustaining organisation of workers at the workplace, and less on developing industry wide strategies to build bargaining power for those workers. Trade union employees replaced the role of the traditional shop steward at the individual workplace with little time for anything else – in reality they became nothing more than [sic] solicitors.

This reality is what faced Tony Woodley when he was elected General Secretary in 2003. This environment provided the context for change – the context for the meaningful development of T&G Organising.

Section 2: Recruitment and Partnership

When the T&G elected Tony Woodley as General Secretary with an overwhelming mandate for change there was – and still is in some unions – a central debate over what ideals should govern any strategy. Should unions adopt the recruitment and partnership approach, or an organising and constructive dialogue approach? The recruitment and partnership approach comprises of many characteristics linked to the adoption of an individualisation of trade unionism. We individually recruit because workers want an individual service and not to be involved in any sustained collective resistance to the employer; we enter into partnership with the employer because without the employer we have no industrial base because workers will not accept taking collective action to force the employer to bargain. This theory is self perpetuating, built on incorrect assumptions and only successful if used to undermine effective trade union organisation.

Following acceptance of a changed environment many unions – to more or lesser degree – decided to adopt – and in some cases continue – an approach that relied on the employer facilitating a form of trade union presence at their operations in order to recruit trade union members and stabilise union membership. In the majority of cases there is of course a trade off in this situation. The employer invariably provides support for trade union recruitment in return for that trade union agreeing to certain imposed or self imposed restrictions. Such imposed restrictions could include a “no strike” clause in any collective agreement or limiting the number of issues to be bargained on or discussed. The self imposed restrictions could include the knowledge that the particular trade union will not fight particularly hard to improve terms and conditions for members, or not cause too many problems when the employer has “difficult” decisions to make. Worst of all this approach has been used to stop trade unions determined to win for their members from entering a workplace or monopolising company operations – sweetheart deals. The Union recruits the employer – the employer recruits the Union.

This approach has not been particularly successful in stopping membership decline. Despite a significant number of UK union’s adopting a form of this strategy over the last twenty years total trade union membership has fallen dramatically over the period and only recently stabilised at a relatively low level. In addition to failing to provide an answer to falling membership levels and income, recruitment and partnership have helped dilute the aspirations of workers and encourage increasingly confident employers to “take on” effective trade union organisation. If any strategy has at its core the idea that workers are no longer willing to act collectively to determinedly pursue better terms and conditions, then there are a number of consequences. Firstly, organisation at the workplace will invariably be weak and employer led. Secondly, the concept of development of co-ordinated industrial organisation to build worker power becomes alien and increasingly sporadic. Thirdly, the ability to mobilise workers collectively having serviced individually becomes difficult if not impossible. There are conclusions to consequences: Workers aspirations are low and easily controlled; bargaining at the workplace becomes ineffective; raising sector standards for all workers becomes almost impossible; proper political mobilisation becomes almost impossible. Arguably such conclusions lead primarily to two results, continued trade union decline and the continued decline of progressive policy making.

 

Section 3: T&G Organising Ideals – The workplace leader

The election of Tony Woodley as General Secretary of the T&G in 2003 led to the rejection of any form of previous “pure recruitment” and “negative partnership” strategies within the Union. We decided that in order for the trade union movement in the UK to be successfully rebuilt, we would need to take the lead, be bold and effectively resource a new strategy. Tony Woodley as General Secretary and the Executive Officers of the Union - in conjunction with the elected lay Executive - developed the “Strategy for Growth” which had organising workers collectively at the front and centre of its objectives – we adopted the T&G organising strategy. The T&G organising strategy has three main elements each of which are a building block to achieve the key objectives of the rebuilding strategy; to increase trade union membership, build collective power to improve terms and conditions, and re-establish an active base for political mobilisation.

The first and most straight-forward – and perhaps most crucial – element regarded as critical to any future success is the re-building of the shop steward movement. Successful progressive trade unions in the UK traditionally had at their heart a committed base of workplace leaders who were representatives of workers – taken collectively they made the shop steward movement. Effective and successful workplace organisation in the UK remains built on the role of shop stewards as collective agents. In a well organised workplace they are the Union - they deal with grievance and representational matters – not employees of the Union; they identify worker issues and collectivise workers around them to get results – not employees of the Union; they often table the union claim and negotiate locally with the employer – not employees of the Union. We decided that if we were to succeed in creating a growing, fighting back Union winning for workers, then re-establishing the role of shop stewards would be key. An industry where every worker is represented locally by a well organised and broadly self sufficient shop stewards committee, and is represented at a self led industry wide combine by representatives of their local shop steward committee, should be the holy grail of trade union organisation – the holy grail of any trade union growth strategy. [free staff and still charge a subscription? -EO]

The recruitment and partnership strategies employed on an ad-hoc basis by many UK Unions – including the T&G – in their race to embrace the individual member, overlooked and even discounted the role of effective proactive shop stewards in rebuilding the movement. The shop steward had increasingly been seen as a “contact point” rather than a workplace organiser. Arguably Unions still understood the need for a contact in the workplace they just did not value or see the role that a proper workplace representative could play in a changed society. What was the role of the shop steward in a recruitment and partnership agenda focused on the individual?

Union employees often found that many workplaces had ineffective shop steward organisation. This meant that they had to deal with workplace matters and effectively become the case worker for members. In many cases this appeared logical to union hierarchies, as according to them union members increasingly had an individual outlook and just wanted a service from the union if they were in trouble, or looking for some other fringe benefit. Therefore employees of the Union would become increasingly focused on individual member cases. This shift in work priority for union employees then became self-perpetuating. The more time they spent dealing with individual cases seeking to sustain membership levels, the less time they had to encourage active participation from leaders in the workplace. The less active workplace leaders secured a lesser number of shop stewards in place, the more individual cases to manage for the union employee.

The truth is that this approach failed. Membership continually declined and bargaining power reduced. This was the case even though we recruited in some cases one hundred thousand members per year - we lost this and more because there was no collective delivery for workers. We did not stabilise the Union as an organisation and we did not win for workers. Instinct and practical experience is backed by research as academics such as Jeremy Waddington have consistently proved that workers want unions to deal with the terms and conditions of employment and that key to workers view of the union is what the union does in the workplace. Effectively safeguarding and improving the conditions of employment and being effective in the workplace are almost impossible to deliver without effective collective organisation – neither can be delivered through an individual member response. We must acknowledge that effective, relevant trade unions are those that seek to develop a collective not individual worker response. To achieve this any union must develop collective agents – workers who are able to organise a collective worker response – they are shop stewards. No union employee with a multitude of workplaces to deal with can effectively act as the worker representative in each workplace – neither if acting as the representative can they develop the critical leadership base from which the T&G rebuilding strategy is built. For the T&G the answer is simply to identify, educate and re-empower workplace leaders, so they are equipped to take responsibility and drive forward the workers agenda – in short rebuild and extend the influence of the shop stewards movement.

In practice this means building effective shop steward leadership in workplaces and companies with existing trade union agreements, and building workplace leadership in workplaces and companies where there is no union presence. The T&G organising strategy at its most basic relies on identifying effective workplace leaders – it is they who, if convinced, will most easily organise workers and build membership through collectively driven issue based organising. It is obvious to say that workers will more closely identify with and be convinced by fellow workers, particularly if those workers are respected and undertake a natural leadership role within a group of workers. Workplace leaders convinced of the argument are the seed from which any strategy must grow.

The second element of the T&G Organising Strategy is the development of workplace leaders - or shop stewards as they now are – into industry leaders. If a key objective is to defend and progress terms and conditions of employment, then any shop steward must be prepared to look beyond his/ her workplace. If we want success at the bargaining table we must broaden horizons. Companies do not operate on a site by site or even individual basis, they have a broader context, and so must we. For example, if we have a company with ten UK sites of which only two are properly organised - with leaders who can mobilise workers and fight back effectively – what long term chance of success do those two groups of workers have to achieve significant progress? They may force the employer to operate on a different basis in their individual sites; they may improve the terms and conditions of their members on those sites, but what happens when they are under attack or want to reach for something really significant to the employer? More often than not they will be played off against other non organised sites, their rising costs in comparison with other sites will be used as a way of managing aspiration and reducing bargaining influence, closure and redundancy may become a reality as they are viewed as the key cost centres.

If we recognise this reality then the automatic response is to ensure that all sites have effective workplace leaders willing to acknowledge that key issues must be resolved on a company wide basis. Further, if we are to really improve the standard of living for the workers in the company, then we must look at the whole industry. The same negative control that happens to individual organised sites which are in a minority within a company, can also happen to the individual company, well organised in a sea of non organised competitors. The T&G Organising response is to develop industry-wide co-ordination of workplace leaders, representing – if possible – all sites within all major companies. We seek to; raise standards on an industry wide basis, maximise worker and therefore bargaining power, realistically raise aspirations, and minimise employer ability to undercut any advance. This underlying assumption – success will be limited unless we take the industry – is now dictating our thinking. We instigate any organising strategy by first analysing and then taking an industry, not an individual site or company.

The third element of T&G Organising is the need to extend workplace organisation beyond the borders of country boundaries - the need to co-ordinate effective workplace leaders globally. If the logic of the argument and the lessons from the failed recruitment and partnership approach are fully accepted, we must then look to not only develop effective workplace leaders at the site, company or industry level within any particular country, but globally. As we all know, major corporations and industries are largely global operations. Referring back to the earlier example, if we fail to organise on a global industry wide basis, then workers in individual countries, where there is effective industry wide organisation, will encounter the same problems as the individual worker faces being employed in one of the two sites that are organised within the country where the other eight company sites are not. If unions that are organising fail to address this problem then all we will achieve is to pass on the organising dilemma to others, whilst at the same time offering little prospect of long term sustainable progress to those workers we ourselves have organised. We must seek to promote global workplace leader co-ordination on an industry wide basis so that we fully maximise bargaining power and attempt to prevent employer undercutting wherever possible. The uncomfortable truth is that it will be difficult to defend and improve standards long term for workers within any country or industry – particularly if it is transferable – without seeking to defend and raise standards for all workers along that particular industries global supply chain. Movable global corporations working within transient global supply chains will take advantage of any organisational weakness to suppress or replace areas of organisational strength. Even in anchor industries where it is not possible to move work, it is safe to say that if we allow organisational weakness to occur, that the bad practice developed there will be exported to areas where we have organisational strength.

The three elements of T&G Organising are all built upon one central core – the need to develop effective workplace leaders. Without effective workplace organisation – the ability to act collectively to maximise bargaining power in order to defend and raise standards – then it is impossible to operate and rebuild successfully at either the national site, company and industry level or the global company and industry level. Without organising effectively globally we can not realistically expect to achieve long term sustainable success at home.

 

Section 4: T&G Organising Practice and Structures

Having discussed the theory, we must now discuss the key practical components of the T&G Organising strategy – what was needed to build the strategy and how it works on the ground.

Committed Leadership

The first and perhaps the most critical element needed to develop an effective organising strategy is the firm commitment and direction of the leadership of the Union. Prior to the election of Tony Woodley as General Secretary of the T&G, the Union had no leadership commitment to any meaningful strategy for growth - let alone an organising strategy built on the principle of collective action. It is safe to say that without the election of a General Secretary committed to organising any union will find it impossible to rebuild effectively. It may be the case that within any union there are pockets of commitment to organising, and indeed some unions have had nominal numbers of organisers parachuted into particular areas, but this type of action will fail without the principle drive coming from the leadership. The leadership of any union needs to see organising as the central base, not only for growth, but for winning for members at work. This can not just be a policy, as difficult decisions must be made to ensure that the organising culture is the cornerstone of the union. At the first stage of implementation the shift to an organising union will be perceived by some as an attack on the status quo. The leadership needs to be prepared to ensure that compromise does not derail the organising strategy. The key base for any decision must be driven by what is needed to build collective organisation for workers, not the placation of differing personal interests.

Allocation of substantial financial resource

In order to be able to drive a successful organising programme the union needs to ensure that it makes available the necessary resource, both in terms of organising capacity and the running of campaigns. At the beginning of moving resources to organising hard decisions need to be made so that the necessary resource can be allocated. As the programme develops the union needs to ensure that it dedicates protected funds to organising. The T&G has committed 3 million in year one, five million in year two and seven million in year three of the programme. The union also needs to ensure that all funds spent on organising are actually spent on the day to day organising of workers - not conferences or glossy materials.

It is important to bear in mind that in the early years of changing a culture to organising, and as the union is building organising capacity, the programme will not pay for itself. Indeed arguably the amount of organising spend in a year will never be recouped in the same year, but as the programme builds sustainable organisation, the union will see membership staying with the union, not only winning industrially but truly growing year on year.

The establishment of a central organising department and national targeting strategy

Critical to the success of the organising agenda is to have a centrally driven national organising department. There must be one strategy in place not a number of different approaches adopted throughout the Union. Success or failure must be judged on the agenda set by the leadership. The T&G National Organising Department comprises of: The elected Deputy General Secretary; the Director of Organising – leading the department on a day to day basis and leading key sector campaigns; and three lead organisers - leading key sector campaigns. There are also eight organising teams within each of the T&G’s eight regions – to ensure that national campaigns have the capacity to be driven on the ground across the entire union and targeted sectors. The eight organising departments in each region currently consist of one senior organiser running one team (one team leader and five organisers) or two teams. The T&G Organising Department was put in place in June 2005 and we currently have sixty eight organisers. As we continue to develop the strategy and build on success we will be expanding both national and regional capacity.

It is critical that organising targets are set nationally and taken by sector not by geographical location or on an individual site or company basis. If we are to move workers across sectors then our organising strategy and resource must be geared towards this from a central base. How campaigns are targeted is critical to the success of the strategy. There must be clear targeting criteria, not driven by individual preference or previous encounters with an individual employer. To ensure that we target strategically, it is vital to map the economy in order to understand what sectors are suitable targets. To achieve this aim, the criteria we use includes; sustainability, growth, power and precarity. It is also necessary to take into account the industrial landscape of the Union when considering appropriate sector targets.

Essential resources

The main resource used within any organising strategy is the dedicated organisers themselves. Very early within the development stage of the organising strategy we decided to set up and run our own T&G Organising Academy for organisers. This was despite the fact that TUC had already set up an organising academy in 1998. What was evident from our experience was that organisers being trained through the TUC academy had not been trained on the type of organising that the T&G wanted to adopt – therefore we knew we would have to grow our own. This inevitably slowed the rate of our development, but we needed to ensure that the type of orgnaisers entering the T&G structure were assessed against our organising ideals and trained to implement them. The T&G organising academy therefore has two primary functions. Firstly, the assessment centres, where people are interviewed for appointment. The seven day assessment is extremely detailed. The first two days are skills based assessment workshops, the following three days are training days, then there is a final two day assessment in the field. Applicants need to pass the full seven day assessment to become a “trainee organiser”. The second function of the T&G academy is on-going training. This again comprises of skill sets linked to our ideals, including: Advanced organising training; union busting training; and planning and delivery of campaigns. Throughout the organisers’ training period, most of what they learn is out in the field on actual campaigns. On average it takes nine months for a trainee organiser to become an “organiser”. Organisers are assessed daily on outcomes linked to the particular campaign to which they are assigned.

The other key resources that need to be developed for an organising strategy to succeed are: Research, Media and Communications, and Education. All three are critical to the building of successful organising capacity. Without effective proactive research then targeting and client strategies become impossible to create. Without effective use of the media then maximising the output of the client strategy becomes impossible. Without education programmes committed and focused on building collective strength, then workplace leaders will never become the shop stewards and industry leaders that we need them to be.

Key elements of T&G organising in practice

The T&G’s organising ideals are based on building a shop stewards movement within key suitable sectors of the economy. Every sector campaign has the objective of winning relevant sectoral agreements within at least 75% of the companies within the targeted sector – including key companies that seek to undercut major players. The membership objective within these areas is to achieve at least 65% density within all targeted sites, as we believe that this is the minimum collective density required to ensure a sector agreement is won. This is done by organising workers on the ground and also by triggering client leverage at a suitable stage. When we pursue significant improvement for workers it is vital that we maximise the influence of customers who often control the “ability to pay”.

Each sectoral target has a national organising plan that includes a strategy for a number of key areas. Some of the key areas are as follows (each area has a timeline of key stage actions). Firstly, the ground campaign. We look to building workplace leaders through issue based campaigning – initially done through local issues; building organising committees made up of workplace leaders by site; training of workplace leaders – with the training comprising of planning sessions where workers take ownership of the campaign; identified issues are won through a series of collective actions that are split into low risk and high risk – a low risk collective action would be a petition or badge day, a high risk collective action would be collective grievances or industrial action. An issue is escalated through collective actions with every collective action requiring the worker to become more visible in regard to the campaign. It is important to say at this point that the recruitment of members in a campaign is seen as a collective not individual action. Therefore at key points in the campaign we trigger “collective sign up” around particular issues. Another key part of the ground campaign is building senior workplace leaders from local site organising committees to form the campaign sector combine. When at this stage we view the sector as one bargaining unit and it is at this point that all workers are mobilised around the key relevant sectoral agreement through the direction of the sector combine.

Secondly, the development of client leverage to ensure maximum campaign success. Information is gathered about who the targets supply to, who they sponsor or any organsations that they belong to (for example ethical bodies). Research is completed on this area prior to the campaign, to make certain that when we need to pull this lever all necessary information is available.

Thirdly, the inoculation strategy, ensuring workers are prepared for the employers campaign against the union. It is important in any inoculation strategy, that we have a plan to inoculate workers but not to give them the disease. All communications, whether or not an employer attack on the union is present, will always carry an inoculation message. Every one to one with a worker or any meeting of workers will also carry an inoculation message. The severity of the employers campaign against the union will determine the Union’s messages of inoculation.

Other key areas of the plan will include; the media campaign - again lever areas are looked at with the potential for public exposure at the right time in the campaign; the community campaign and the legal campaign.

The workplace leader – why/how?

As previously indicated, the cornerstone of the T&G organising strategy is the rebuilding of the shop stewards movement. This is only possible through the identification and development of effective workplace leaders. The key to any campaign is finding the right workplace leaders and this is always the hardest task. Traditionally our activist base has played an important role within the movement and this is no different in organising campaigns. What is different in an organising campaign environment is that when we are looking for workplace leaders they must always be the natural leaders of the workplace and in some cases they may be anti-union or in the first instance be against union ideals. Previously unions may not have sought these leaders out, as there was no serious recognition about how key natural workplace leaders were to winning any campaign. Unions tended to put their hand on some-ones shoulder or task the first person who showed an interest in the union rather than thinking strategically. Of course all those that show an interest should be involved in the campaign, but without effective workplace leaders the campaign will not succeed. The key task of an organiser is to ensure that workplace leaders are on the union programme not on the employers. If natural workplace leaders are not converted to the union programme in a campaign, they and the workers they lead will become advocates of the employer.

How do we identify a workplace leader? Through one test - workplace leaders have followers. When organising in any environment it becomes very apparent who are the workplace leaders – in a group environment they will be the one other workers seek guidance from, in a one to one a worker will state key names. They are not always the most vocal and as stated they are not always for the union. As the campaign may succeed or not depending on whether we get this right, organisers are trained to test workplace leaders before we build site organising committees. Leaders are tested on who they can move in a workplace. We test on small actions initially, to ensure when we have to mobilise workers for key actions we bring the whole workplace with us. The task of electing shop stewards obviously always must remain with the members.

 

Section 5: T&G Organising success

The T&G Organising strategy has had considerable success in what is the opening phase of development. The National Organising Department was established in June 2005, following agreement by the lay-led Executive Council of the Union. [Fact: nearly all of them are from an approved list called Broad Left promoted to those few members who vote] The net membership figure gained from organising activity between June 2005 to date is over fifteen thousand. This was achieved despite starting from scratch – employing and training new organisers; establishing and targeting new areas. All the targets we have been set within the scope of the resource we hold have been met. For any Union, it is critical to understand the importance of success in the development of any organising strategy. In order to establish organising as core business it is vital that those within the Union are convinced of its merits – this can only be achieved through delivery, not theory. Because of the transparent initial success we have achieved the T&G culture is beginning to change to an organising culture. We have now set the ambitious target of organising net twenty thousand new members through the national organising strategy in 2007 and are now looking at how we move the strategy on, in order to organize 30, 40, 50 thousand new workers into the Union.

At this development stage the strategy has focused on four key target sectors:

    1. Meat processing industry
    2. Low cost airlines
    3. Building services (cleaning)
    4. Logistics

In the meat sector we have not just increased industry membership and won recognition at all the major market players, we have implemented a growing sector wide bargaining strategy. This has been achieved through the development of the “meat combine” for shop stewards to drive issues on a sectoral basis – maximising bargaining power. Through this sector combine we have already used our client strategy to move on the issue of excessive agency working at sites and pay parity. For the first time the key processing companies and their supermarket customers are having to deal with such issues in the face of united industry wide trade union organisation – all shop stewards pushing for the same agenda building pressure through increased power.

In low cost airlines we have not just increased industry membership by tackling companies undercutting traditional trade union employers. We have done this in the face of union busters employed to encourage workers to oppose the Union. When organising the low cost carrier Flybe the company employed the Burke Group (American Union busters) in an attempt to derail the T&G recognition drive. Through correctly identifying workplace leaders and building worker organisation though them, we delivered a resounding and unparalleled result in the UK. Following the competing campaigns of Burke and the Union, workers voted by secret ballot 94% in favour of trade union recognition on an 89% turn-out. This delivered one overwhelming central message – effective disciplined and focused organising works.

The success of the client strategy in the London cleaning campaign has delivered another vital message – leverage is paramount. With able assistance from Grant Williams of the SEIU we have now forced the vast majority of cleaning contractors in the City of London and Canary Wharf to sign “zonal agreements” with the Union. We have done this by putting at stake the reputation of key clients. Well organised daily demonstrations against clients who would prefer to accept the possibility of paying a marginal increase in cost rather than have their reputation tarnished has proved hugely successful. The clients have used their clout with the contractors to force them to the table and sign agreements with the Union. All agreements are zonal based agreements locking contractors into what in effect becomes one bargaining unit. This approach has been developed to increase the power of disparate cleaners, increase the likelihood of sustainable progress at the bargaining table and prevent the possibility of companies undercutting each other in a race to the bottom.

The logistics campaign has focused on the parcels sector – taking the major companies and driving up standards throughout the industry. We have already achieved major success at the bargaining table through an organising approach built on a sector strategy. The campaign is now set to target the contract logistics sector, and in the first instance grocery retail logistics. Research proves that grocery retail is a key area of the UK economy, and also an area extremely vulnerable to supply chain problems. The logistics process is critical to the major clients (retailers) which hold a massively profitable monopoly position within the UK. If consumable produce is not delivered then retailers have big problems. This campaign will bring together a key occupational group with critical leverage in a sector where the clients undoubtedly have the ability to pay for significant improvements at the bargaining table.

 

Section 6: Moving forward – building on success in the New Union

The creation of the new super Union following merger between T&G and Amicus will lead to the establishment of the largest Union in the UK with over 2 million members. This offers immeasurable opportunities in regard to organising. The success of the T&G organising strategy and the strong T&G leadership focus has meant that both Unions have already agreed to spend 10% of membership income on organising within three years of merger. This commitment will ensure that 1/3 of trade union members in the UK will be automatically part of a Union with the organising culture at its core. This commitment will allow tremendous scope for the development of the main ideal of T&G organising – the rebuilding of the shop stewards movement. From this base we will pursue economy wide industry strategies to maximize bargaining power to win for workers. We will develop capacity to take organising trade unionism to the millions of workers previously untouched by trade unions. And we will develop an effective global industry strategy to maximize bargaining power and fundamentally alter the balance of power between workers and their employers. However, none of this will be possible if we do not continue to deliver and remain committed to the creation of collective organisation at the most local level. We are confident that T&G organising will remain a lasting legacy not only of a commited leadership team but also of the T&G as new traditions are made in the new Union.


Sharon Graham
Transcribed from Union Ideas Network. Much of the same article is on the T & G website but with some of the Gerald Ratner highlights removed. Some of the obvious parts of this artical - the need for democracy to find the "leaders" who "have followers", is self-censored from both copies, presumably because Sharon Graham's bosses got their jobs on a dodgy electoral system and are not going to change it and loose their jobs just because everybody knows it would make sense. One thing they have all had in common over the years - in private if not in public - is a cynicism about workers' electoral systems; what the organisation was set-up for, they turn-out to be against.

Other points that might be interesting to outsiders are not mentioned.

Why does a shrinking organisation with £10+ monthly membership fees and many badly paid members give money to the best-funded political party and it's MPs who get £80,000 a year? And a party which sets tight quotas for the number of employment tribunals held each year? Unlike other judges, the tribunal chair in a pre-hearing review must say "sorry: you didn't get another job recover from your experience and learn employment law in three months. A T&G sponsored MP has set us these targets which we can only meet by saying that complex cases are often out of time". No judge in a negligence trial or a criminal trial or a fraud trial has to says this, even when the effect on individuals even in criminal trials, is often less then the effect of illegal employers on their employees. So why is the Transport and General Union sponsoring Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton and junior minister, to read these quotas out in the commons?

And why has a union set-up to promote job ownership not done it, even for its own staff and subcontractors? It's like asking why Northern Rock no longer promotes home ownership and thrift, except that building societies did try to do this for generations while unions gave-up from the start. Why does Unite-T&G have a paternal pension scheme that could be fiddled on a whim? There is something wierd about the large UK trade unions which no one person seems ever to have unravelled, least of all at the top of the the organisations themselves. For example one person got elected to the Amicus National Executive Committee and asked why they pay so much money to a political party. At the next election some technicality was found to prevent her being nominated for election.

Section 1 :
Members should buy legal insurance separately from ordinary union membership.
The text doesn't recommend this but it may as well. It says services to members are out of fashion and even claims they were prioritised, when employment lawyers are getting less than one pound a year per member according to the legal director's interview with The Lawyer magazine, while according Stoy Hayward the union is charing no-win no-fee lawyers for referrals. A scam. Some union lawyers, according to a report for the Law Society, are doing all their employment work for free in order to get the personal injury work. It is obvious why a scam should fail to recruit members, particularly when there's no clear written contract and those who run the union are not embarassed to change the service promised to members who have been paying for years. Such a union is a mirror image of a company pension scheme that decides after decades that it would like to stop being a pension scheme and become a slush fund for the directors instead. Both are recommended by employers, strangely enough, as well, and unions have great difficulty realising what it is they should be criticicising about over-paternal pension schemes even when they realise they're expected to make a noise. It is the same when they try to understand criticisms made of unions.

"A union is not about [insert reasonable request here] but solidarity", is a common response on those few occasions you can get through to a paid staff member at the T&G but this is rare. Basically you can't. My citizen's advice bureau tried once and my MP tried twice. One of the few times I met an official was when he was hobnobbing with a self-election society called branch 1/1148 that the union pays for. "I wash my hands of this", he said when I asked him to make sense of a legal bundle from the employer's solicitors and tribunal judgements to date, although he had plenty of time to listen to the self-election society and their worthy donations.

Individual members' services are not defined in a contract - there is no "schedule II" as the rule book says there should be - and even the rule book itself is interpreted as a historical guide to current norms rather than a fixed contract about how things should be by the certification office, which is run by an ex Pattinson Brewer solicitor. Pattinson Brewer are subcontractors to the T&G. They are the ones who know where the bodies are buried and it has been implied in newsgroups that act like Berresfords solicitors for the Union of Democratic Mineworkers.

Individual members' legal services at tribunals have a 90% success rate according to the TUC, suggesting a complete rip-off of members who had a 51%-89% chance as well as a system where there's no time or money to say

"the chef would settle more quickly if he knew that Mr Ramsey were removed from the kitchen and not given a good reference to supervise other staff".

Any business should know its market and Unite-T&G's is like any other unions': people who will say in focus groups that they don't necessarilly want the highest payout after an accident, but want help if things go wrong at work and ideally help in making things better at work. Most of these people have never been in contact with their union and have the haziest idea of which union it is and how it works. They may have very good ideas to feed-up their management line, money to invest in buying-out the employer, and valid complaints which the employer will not want to hear from them, will hear grudgingly from a union official, but if sorted could save the employer and employee stress and tribunal costs.

It is difficult to help this market or constituency of people. Nearly none go to meetings. One of two volunteer. Some are super-active in this cause and others such as Cuba Solidarity Campaign as they are entitled to do, and if they are the only person to turn-up to a branch budget meeting on a wet Wednesday, why not make a donation on a show of hands and record it in the minutes? Why should the Cuba Solidarity Campaign not advise all its staff to join this union and pay one of them to gladhandle the committees of other branches for donation? And if these branches - like rotten boroughs before the 1832 representation of the people act - control who gets the jobs in a union, why not turn a blind eye in exchange for the job? Anyone who does this will be disillusioned and depressed by the whole process; any initiatives they take will exclude any ideas about staff partnerships or equity incentives or people getting dignity at work by controlling work, because the poor attention span of union members is confused with the longer attention span of people in their own way of making a living. If the staff of a firm invest in pension that part-owns the firm

It is difficult to serve a fairly passive and disiniterested group of people who sign a standing order or an employer's payroll contribution, but are never heard of again. It is like the task of selling pensions to people who, by and large, think they are immortal and ever of a working age until facts prove otherwise. It is possible to sell pensions but difficult just as it is possible to sell union membership but difficult and the main sales technique is the force of convention, which in state-funded employers, unions often have on their side. They have their membership recommended by the employer in its contract with new permenant staff.

Unite-T&G has been acting in a way which should be criminalised by the legal system, but has somehow-or-other been protected. It has ripped off its supporters mercilessly and concentrated on serving those who sit on obscure committees and might help a slate of candidates get elected on a 10% turnout, and protecting its financial and employment links with one of the large GB political parties. For example I have never heard of a union like T&G canvassing its members by all available means to find things to say to their managers before a quaterly recognition agreement meeting. Usually one or two people volunteer to be reps, have no way of knowing what their colleagues want them to say and are refused a chance to meet anyway at my old employer. This service is so scandalously bad that some hint of it should have filtered-up to even the activists and the consultants who write documents for the union.

No. It is possible to set-up a system to help employees and it is difficult in a structure that isn't very commercial, but it is possible.

The decision is that ripping-off members mercilessly is not enough. They must be ripped-off ever more mercilessly. They use to get no help from officials who were no good anyway and a chance of a referral (for commission to the union) to a no win no fee laywer with such a low budget or such a high fee that 90% of cases succeed: the others had to go in the bin. This kind of observation is rare in the party-controlled national executive committee (now held in private and with only about half the seats contested) or the committees of people who like going to committees who are the rotten boroughs of the system, but anyone else gets the idea. Lawyers win 90% of cases and the T&G charges referral fees to lawyers. Comprendi? Contrast:

We believed that workers wanted unions to act as protectors of the individual rather than facilitators of the collective.
This simply did not work
.

Many unions – including the T&G – adopted measures perceived as allowing us to reach out to the individual worker – insurance policy membership
. We started to prioritise a number of tools which ran counter to the theory of trade unions as collective agents:

  • The winning and publicising of legal compensation for individual workers;
  • concentration on achieving success in individual grievance and disciplinary matters;
  • the setting up of insurance and holiday schemes.

In addition - and perhaps centrally - we began to increasingly view recruiting the employer as a key tool in achieving growth and sustaining the future of trade unionism.

One bizarre bits of the quote is to say a 90%-chance-of-success no-win-no-fee solicitor paid 66p per member per year is "prioritising" or an official who doesn't turn-up to recognition agreement meetings, my bosses disciplinary meeting, and then my dismissal meeting is "concentration on". If this is what the union concentrated on I hate to think what happened to the things they neglected. Luckily the Discuss conference suite and the Eastbourne care home are separately paid for, while nobody cares what the "political officers" at Transport House do without consulting their members so I suppose this is the only thing the main part of the union had to concentrate on.

My guess is that the boss here has long thought that the union neglected workplace organisation, is putting all he can into it now, and that an assistant is writing it up.

My guess is that all sorts of legal protection organisations started a few years ago when no-won-no-fee was allowed, and that everyone is gradually getting the hang of it just as union organisers and union members are getting the hang of it. Union publicity might have mentioned pay-outs a few years ago, but that's because people didn't realise they can get personal injury payouts for free by answering adverts in the post office:

"Did you walk into a lamp post that wasn't your fault?"
"Sue the council for £1.000,000 and see if they settle for £1,000 with £200 to Blaims-R-Us".

There is an odd sense that individual services might not be collective. It isn't clear from the article what Sharon Graham thinks, but the opportunity to use tribunal cases to win concessions for future employees is missed, even though the Hattersley research shows complainants motivated to do just this, rather than be paid to shut-up which is what happens.

The setting-up of insurance and holiday schemes. Dumbfounded? Me too. She must be on about union central offices who flog services to the mailing list as anyone with business sense would, but it is to get money in; it does not mean that the union is providing Liverpool Victoria insurance or whatever holiday scheme some union might be offering.

The last two lines are so odd as to be hard to comment on. My best guess as to what Unite-T&G means is that they had three million members in the 1970s, the number reduced quite fast and they only have 750,000 now because of a reputation for fecklessness among public sector management. This is an attempt to paraphrase what Shaman Graham of the T&G seems to me to be saying:

"We have to recognise a union", the argument would go; "It's lucky we've got a feckless one like Unite-T&G"
"Just don't tell the new recruits how many times this union has tried to settle with us before employment tribunals when they haven't even read the the evidence
. We don't even bother to settle with them any more."

Placard: Welcome to UNITE UNION via Shafted Rd, Broken Promise Avenue and Shattered Dreams HQ. Support our hunger strike - Belfast Airport WorkersSection 2:
Trade Union indistinguishable from management - Union agrees with
Bullyoffline.com

Sharon Graham notices that members who join almost by default at certain employers will leave just as quickly when they change jobs. I don't know why these employers recommend a union in their employment contract but it's known that they are public-funded employers. I know from experience that recognition is with contempt: one employer used to see the union official as long as it was at 7.30-8am on a Monday morning. Another used to allow union meetings as long as a senior manager who was a bit mad and used by them as their bully could attend and gerrymander. They would see the delegated rep for recognition agreement meetings or not - sometimes they just cancelled. And the official, who had several thousand members to answer to, was never there to press the case. A good guess at why these employers recommend union membership is that it doesn't cost them anything but the extra payroll administration - the staff pay subscriptions and time off for union duties is negligable - while it makes their grant proposals look posh. It also discourages their staff from setting-up proper trades unions or buying legal insurance or both, so everybody wins but the employee. These employers are grant-artists and anything that makes them look good on paper is what earns them their grant. Like second-hand motor traders, many are honest but the trade forces them to buff-up things of hard-to-define value for those who want to be conned. That is what the public sector nowadays is. It is second-hand motor traders on various grants from central government, and these are the people who give unions business by recognising them and recommending them in their contracts.

All of this can happen without anyone conciously thinking about it, but Sharon Graham suggests that things have got worse still. Some employers have conciously conspired or done business with paid union officials or regional or general secretaries. They have met. which they wouldn't do otherwise as union officials in my experience don't turn-up to things like recognition-agreement meetings or even member's dismissal meetings, so they are two groups of people with no business in common. But this artical suggests a deal. They know each other's names. They have met or phoned. The tough new director of human resources for a PLC has sounded good in a meeting by saying "I spoke with x y or z". They have some kind of agreement. As someone who used to concentrate on a public-funded job, rather than think about the union or the pension or the staff handbook or anything like that, I'm still getting used to unions that are crap by default. The idea of a concious conspiricy is a bit hard to swallow and maybe it is for readers of this site too. I shall politely brush it under the carpet and pretend it has never happened.

Except to notice that my union is surprisingly to the right of most of its members in ignoring the objective of staff ownership, which is up with student grants and legal insurance in the current rule book that recruited so many members from 1922 onwards. They regard John Lewis and Waitrose - founded about the same time as their union with similar objectives - as an impossible revolutionary dream, I guess, of workers' control which to pinch an american phrase would frighten middle england, loose elections for their MP contacts and probably never work. I have been shopping at Waitrose since the age of about six and it's never looked like anything revolutionary or frightening to middle england. My liberal MP is worried about her councillor colleague's opinions of the ugly frontage, as it expands onto the old Safeway's site, and the resident's committee behind the shop claims to be worried about extra traffic or maybe they just want something to complain about as a way to meet the neighours over cheese straws. I think Waitrose advertise on Classic FM and loyal customers can get tickets to light classical outdoor concerts in summer in the Royal Borough of Richmond Upon Thames. Parking space is included and more cars than usual are Volvos. Valid criticisms of worker control could include bitchiness among staff quoted quite rightly in the staff magazine, too much internal promotion to incompetence, and failure to expand quickly at risk to current staff when the market grows. Valid compliments or worker control could include management interest in the shop floor, ability to accept tough decisions and even pay cuts in a shriking market, and so to be more stable than Safeway next door. I think that every trade unionist should get the maximim chance of bitchy but stable employers and all the other things that come of worker control. To fund the London Socialist Film Co-Op's screening of Battleship Potempkin (possibly with a backhander in exchange for the subsidy) is a bad substitute, even to people who feel uncomfortable at a light classical picnic in a royal borough.

Another reason why unions should be so opposed to their founding objectives is that their elected regional managers and directors know by instinct how democtratic structures can be manipulated if nobody else is interested; they are ashamed of rival's tactics or even their own and wouldn't wish a dodgy democratic structure on their worst enemy, the employer. They are wrong. Those who's living is bound-up with a firm are different voters to those who join a union or a pension fund that their employers recommend and for the union allow three out of the thousand-odd branch members to agree all branch union business on a show of two hands. Worker owners are bitchy, self-indulgent people prone to fundng Classic FM concerts for their customers and being bad in a boom but good in a bust. They are the most middle class bunch you could imagine and it is wrong (here's the thunder) for others not to share in the bitchy Classic FM-sponsoring parts of life,

Sharon Graham suggests that unions should be more organised, recruit more stewards and protest, but not to picket transport house in Belfast and go on hunger strike outside it as the people above have done. She suggests that, if there is a choice of volunteer shop steward or "workplace leader" and any budget or even respect is available from the employer or union office or colleagues to make this some sort of ceremonial moonlight job once a month, then there might be more tha one candidate and the candidate with "followers" should be chosen. This is a good. Votes are good but she doesn't mention votes: the logic stops like the Belfast picket at the front door to Transport House. Talk about votes by all means at home but not while writing in the roll of a Transport and General policy think person, she implies. I think the logic trails off because an independent candidate who isn't just interested in the social club and the banner and the communist party of britain is going to criticise the union as well as the employer. So: reps are now called "workplace leaders" but there is any reason to choose between them, elections won't be involved except amont the union aristocracy of people who like going to small monthly meetings in brown formica rooms.

This is a brave gesture when Amicus for example is said on a political web site to be running-down its voluntary structures to concentrate on subscriptions and paid staff while the University and College Union even has office space to let because it does so little. So does Amicus. It is selling office blocks to pay for voluntary redundancies. The creaky old money-laundering machine of the T&G that has less than a pound per member per year for employment lawyers is no help to those who protest. Until she breaks the usual good manners and says that unions have been a fraud on their members for years it will be hard for her to end the fraud, which is what she seems to be trying to do.

For months there has been an Airport dispute of union members against their own union in Belfast. It's all seemed too local and specific to make sense of; it's hard to believe a union would let down large numbers of their own members. But after reading section two of this page, the Indymedia story repeated on the DearUnite.com web site does make sense. The themes of my own worse-than-useless union legal service, the Unison-lawyers.html case and the much more serious Belfast case are not exceptions but an emerging pattern of cause, effect, and some acknowledgement from the union itself.


Woodley Faces Hunger Strike
Unite joint General Secretary Tony Woodley is facing a hunger strike by two of the union's own shop stewards. Bizarrely this is because Woodley reneged on promises he made to end a previous hunger strike, according to the workers. Unite shop steward Gordon McNeill, referring to legal costs not being paid, told Indymedia

"We soon discovered that the word of Tony Woodley and other senior leaders of this union is worthless. "

The union deny that they have reneged on a promise to pay the legal costs, see their press release at bottom.

The dispute arose because the union repudiated a strike, siding with the employer's claim that it was illegal. The union's executive minutes are littered with such strike repudiations*, which basically amount to giving in to employer's lawyers. However in this case the workers then took their own legal action, and won a determination that the strike was in fact lawful at an Employment tribunal and then again at the Appeal court.

Last September's hunger strike and rooftop protest at Transport House in Belfast was called off after Woodley agreed to pay the £200,000 in legal costs arising from this long court battle, which the workers had to fight without any support from their union. The two hunger striking shop stewards say not one of promises made has been kept.

"We will not call off our hunger strike until we have firm commitments from Tony Woodley that he cannot wriggle out of."

* Typically the Amicus Executive alone was making about 10 strike repudiations per meeting, until these decisions were buried in the joint NEC minutes last May.

Section 3: Shop stewards are expected to have time to work for free while paying £15 monthly membership and backing members who do not get proper HR or legal help. Stewards are stuck in the middle. If they have any sense they insist on a meeting with the full-time official and take the member along with them (Mr Jervis's rep in Unison-Lawyers.html didn't have the sense to do this and was stuck sending rejections by email on behalf of paid officials)

In my own experience even this fails. When shop stewards discover that they can't refer colleagues to decent help, the shop stewards resign leaving only political activists who are willing to cover-up the holes in the budget. If there are only 400 staff and 750,000 members paying £10-£15 a month there is a very big hole in the budget: a social work agency might have one human resources worker per hundred staff or less. A fair use of the subscriptions would pay for one member of staff on an average wage per so-many-hundred members. This union has one official per several thousand members or more. They are not an equal match. No wonder officials don't answer letters unless forwarded by a union rep: they are forced by pressure of work to be volunteer co-ordinators rather than proper officials, and the volunteers are people who have begun to realise this but are interested in unions because of politics, so they carry-on.

The result is that large amounts of money are given to people who turn-up once a month to donate it to the Morning Star. Who else would do rep work, hold down a normal job which is probably difficult because it needs a union, live their own lives and go to sit on extra committees and training sessions?

One interesting part of Sharon Graham's report is that she believes that leaders should have followers. Not be the first to volunteer and then self-elect in an obscure committee, necessarilly. Maybe there are situations where sheer force of conviction wins an adoring crowd but in real life "followers" surely means elections. Why doesn't the artical say so? Some kind of self-censorship maybe. The text does not say elections should be held, but they are surely something to re-invent in the world of T&G politics where they have never existed in a serious way before. The laws that impose elections are still regarded as "anti trades union legislation" and worked-around very effectively by imposing the idea that candidates must be "nominated" by bogus branch. If real members were sent real accounts, real invitations to volunteer or apply for jobs, and real votes for regional managers and local budget-holding reps, then something might happen. It might be a bad thing or a good thing, but in an organisation as close to expiry as Woolworths a risk might not be a bad thing.

Section 4 :
Cost: The union had 750,000 members that year, so millions of pounds, weeks of training, and several dozen staff take just about all the divertable cash. There is less than £10 per year spent on paid staff and expenses per member, out of a subsription of £12 a month.
Merging union Amicus is even closer to chaos, hiring temps, harassing left wing staff and selling-off their stately home according to DearUnite.com and running-down what's left of their volunteer branches according to socialist worker web site.

The union's decision-makers are putting all their eggs into one basket, which is the organising and troublemaking basket, and none at all into the legal insurance or the buying-out employers baskets. Members are not asked which resource basket their subscription eggs should be placed-in with any kind of mutual chicken online subscription egg-basket allocation democracy system on a show of clucks-pecks-and-wings, which would have fitted the 1922 rule book better.

Research shows a number of tribunal complainants so hopping mad with their ex employer that they are willing to give-up career prospects and months of their lives just to sue, and it is their unions who are imposing a quick settlement for a gagging agreement not the members: there is certainly demand from some members for legal services as advertised in a short pdf download leaflet.

Sharon Graham would fit-in well to the rival union, Industrial Workers of the World, which raises hardly any money but makes a lot of noise. It has 152 UK and Ireland members to Unite-T&G's 750,000. Presumably she's using T&G with it's different objectives of legal insurance an d buying-out employers because it is so large and hard for members or employers to leave and therefore able to offer a living, whoever runs it. Nobody else is hired to run it because the democratic stucture is decayed and other advisers wouldn't appeal to the few political activists who squat derelict committee structures.

Section 5:
Confrontation is preferred for its own sake.
For the same cost the union could simply buy logistics companies, cleaning agencies and a slaughterhouse if not a low cost airline. This is what the rule books "objectives" section says it's for, after legal insurance. The idea of eternal class struggle in which union members are eternally to stay in their place fighting against the bosses is a repeated idea on sites about trades unions - the Industrial Workers of the World for example - but the different idea in the T&G rule book of taking over companies, educating staff, and insuring against poverty looks a much more popular idea.

There's a hope in the article that this union can give-up being an organisation that takes money away from un-critical subscribers and gives it to a political party that shields the union from being sued by clever use of the law. There's a sense that it can get back to basics and do what non-union members always imagined that trades unions did (join one and you'll discover they don't). This is sentimental shit. Until the shits come clean about the massive hole in trades union accounts - equivalent to ten or eleven of members' twelve monthly subscriptions - they cannot pretend that they will make trades unions do what trades unions are meant to do. They know this. They should be in prison.


I will get back to you if enough people are interested in proper legal insurance for employees. For now, the email handling is handled by
Aardvark Mailing List. Like Pledgebank, this list is for people who would like there to be cheap legal insurance but don't set it up because not enough people want it at once to make it viable. If you check out Aardvark, you will see that they remain free bacause they don't give email addresses to list owners; if anyone hijacks your email address it will be them, not employees.org.uk, and they look honest. You can add your name to the list to be told when there are a lot of people on it and cheap legal insurance is possible.

. foundation66 (formerly Rugby House ARP) advertising for employment lawyers & solicitors