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Unite Left launch meeting: new name, same fiddle. Going bust in different countries they involve staff over there. Unable to work for spin doctor political officers off sick. £13.4m "gift" from a union with an overdfraft Coping with bullying at Unite It's hard without good advice
Cheerleeders & guards, Cuba two leaders spill the beans Inadvertant scanning error how unions run elections. Friends of Tony Woodley please make cheques payable Bucking the system independent candidates
MPs expenses: one party machine funds another How to run a ballot: not so hard.

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recent posts are on /hustings2.html


01.11.12
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/
barclays-and-coutts-threaten-to-withdraw-sponsorship-from-gay-rights-awards-
unless-bigot-of-the-year-category-is-removed-8262133.html

Barclay's head of global diversity, Mark McLane, now explains that it "detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event", so his bosses have told him that he has to be in favor of good things but not against bad things like the gentlemen below taking over the secondary schools of Richmond on Thames for example. Contradictions and bad things are for the little people to worry about. A recent undercover program about bullying at work showed that it's the same if you work for Barclays. The junior staff are forced to earn minimum commissions or they get the sack, and they get the commissions by pretending that customers asked for a pay-every-month bank account, or that they are giving sensible advice when recommending some mediocre financial product or a bit of confusion marketing.

The artical ends with a kind of double negative and a "do you agree?" poll with a two-to-one majority agreeing. If I've read it right, they're agreeing that evil is should be discouraged as well as good encouraged, while those who disagree are just bamboozled by convoluted question.


31.10.12
BBC Bergous are reporting from their home state of Washington this month, talking about the weather in New York and explanations of how it came from other countries, with maps.
There's nothing wrong with sacred cows. They represent the animal in all of us and are part of a tradition which tolerates differing views; they are not part of a monotheistic nerdeyness like worship of celebrity or or some all-encompassing save-you-having-to-think loyalty cult which is in line to take over two secondary schools in Richmond on Thames. Along with the schools counselling contract to an organisation that withdrew from the adoption trade because it was not willing to comply with discrimmination law and dementia care out-sourcing to another nerdey bunch. Catholic peer Chris Patten is put in charge of Pope's visit

By Daily Mail Reporter
UPDATED: 00:53, 9 June 2010
David Cameron has put a Roman Catholic Conservative grandee in charge of the Pope’s visit to Britain.

The appointment of Lord Patten of Barnes, former party chairman and Hong Kong governor, is an attempt to ease the controversy surrounding Pope Benedict’s autumn tour [...] the tour was thrown into jeopardy after the leak of a mocking Foreign Office memo suggesting the Pope could use the trip to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage.

 

 

There's nothing wrong with sacred cows. They represent the animal in all of us and are part of a tradition which tolerates differing views; they are not part of a monotheistic nerdeyness like worship of celebrity or or some all-encompassing save-you-having-to-think loyalty cult which is in line to take over two secondary schools in Richmond on Thames. Along with the schools counselling contract to an organisation that withdrew from the adoption trade because it was not willing to comply with discrimmination law and dementia care out-sourcing to another nerdey bunch. That fiasco led to charges from the Vatican that ‘dark forces’ were at work within Whitehall & saw grovelling apologies from two ministers. Mr Cameron’s choice of Lord Patten as his ‘personal representative’ to take responsibility for the visit is a rebuke to the Foreign Office & an attempt to mollify the Catholic hierarchy. A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England & Wales said: ‘We welcome the appointment. This will enable plans to move into a decisive phase.’

Lord Patten was credited with engineering John Major’s 1992 election win. After losing his seat he became the last Governor of Hong Kong. [Disclaimer: no suggestion is made by juxtaposition of photos that Pope Benedict was in Jimmy Saville's caravan nor a bad DJ who talked over the playlist records on Radio 1 in the 1970s, nor that Jimmy Saville played a leading hierachical and public relations role in a faith group that preaches contempt for its own congregations and causes extra-ordinary harm in its bigotted position on issues like condoms]


18.10.12
The pay for blogging is not high. Current earnings from adfly, which frames some of the links on the right, are one hundredth of the minimum payment over one or two months, predicting payment in 8-17 years' time which isn't very clever. Maybe something will come-up. Meanwhile, the accounts of Rodell Properties Ltd (formerly the Communist Party) are just as not-clever as the rest of us or more so. It looks as though They pay £2,600 for Macintyre Hudson to do the books on "unaudited accounts" each year - which is called book keeping - and accept arrears of £76,000 from their offspring tenant, an organisation that might do better working from home rather than running-up debt to another comittee. "Photocopier rental" costs even more than accountancy and is heading towards "sundry" and "professional fees". Charitable donations of £13,000 are down on last years' £60,000 and given without receipt any receipt that's easy for strangers to find online but are within a thousand pounds of the company's loss for the year - over £13,000 if you believe all these costs. As with most companies, Rodell Properties does not make receipts easier for strangers to find online but as a group that wants to unlock democracy, it's odd that they don't want companies to become more accountable and sometimes more democratic. This does tend to suggest that think tankers don't think quite so hard when it comes to fixing a photocopier than they do about playing with the figures and renting a new one. I suggest using Wizz which is recommended as the best solvent for unclogging old inkjet printers, which are to had for free on Trashnothing.com.
17.10.12
In the political world, it's OK to talk about people as "yobs", and lock them up for an insult so they know their place.
Nobody is too worried that the chief whip gets his constitution wrong and asks a policeman to know his place; to claim to be part of a group that runs the place. "Pleb" is a bad word, though. "Yob" good; "Pleb" bad. Apparently. Say Plobs.
14.10.12
There is a healthy competion among a half dozen or so communist parties in the UK - much more so than trades unions, where the need seems greater. My old union branch or some of its members are now interested in the New Communist Party of Britain, with its paper and web site The New Worker. It seeks to promote a way that people can be nicer to each other by handling most of the economy through committees instead of markets, reducing the problems of capital becoming monopoly capital and competition becoming a corosive competition that effects the norms and character of competitors or their monopolist bosses.

The blog does not carry any advertisements, so how to fund the domain name?

As the old Communist Party of Britain was wound up to become Rodell Properties Ltd with a building in Cynthia Street, London and an interest in sane pro-democracy think tanks, other Communist parties have had more trouble. In the words of one Communist Party treasurer in his return to the electoral commission "The Communist Party of Britain does not 'fundraise' like capitalist parties" but I think they do. Inherited wealth helped the Communist Party of Great Britain, along with entry-ism: a good trick for people who believe in lots and lots of committees. Sit on enough of them for long enough and then you get to control the cash of a union branch or such, then donate funds each year to the Morning Star and a network of organisations without public accounts - campaign groups usually - which do not publish receipts.

Calls to donate are another idea often tried. The New Communists state that they have raised over £10,000 towards renovating a some space for printing and meeting, now that they cannot use the digital machine leased by another communist party.

Lastly, many old communists were surprised that secret donations had been made by the Soviet and Czech embassies, made to help keep up appearances after those governments had been discredited. Can the trick be repeated? The Morning Star praised China's treatment of Tibet. What other wealthy discredited governments are there to try. Well, the New Worker suggests that the Syrian army are the goodies in the current civil war. Maybe they will get a donation in return, or maybe this is more of a cult-like test of loyalty in a group of some particular kind of people.

I suggest the religious route to fund-raising in future. "Watching Over You" banners on the right hand side might suggest an idea. And the same crowd of people used to hold their meetings at Cafod, the in-house and anti-condom charity of a hierachical faith group, so the idea will have crossed their minds.

If you meet one of these people, can you suggest adverts down the side of their blogs as a simpler solution?


Most of this site is about scam trades unions which use no-win-no fee lawyers and a minimal staff to cover disuptes and if that doesn't work for contentious employment disputes: tough. The employer generally inherits the union agreement and nods, so why bother what employees think?

But the interest began at the end of a career with a tax-funded social work agency in London called Foundation66 which still appears to employ those who cleared-out the payroll of troublemakers, people in post a long time who were paid a little more, and those in need of reasonable adjustments to disability such as sane informed supervision. By any means necessary. Because driving your staff to extremes and letting down clients seems cheaper than paying them off. That's just one person's view but widely shared and widely experienced in similar agencies. On the other side, trustees might state that the thick and the lazy and the in-the-wrong-job are being cleared out as well; that the formal means are badly written and not up to the job. As put by Gerry Robinson in on an open university program about the NHS "you cannot sack any body except in a rather machiavellan way?" (no reply or disagreement recorded).

Foundation66 also tweet the opposite side of the argument between good and evil:
Foundation66
Cost of poor mental health at work: http://bit.ly/txyFJX via @SocietyGuardian > alcohol and drug use can be a factor in mental health
20 Dec

Oh here's another tweet. If anyone is worth £55k they should be able to find this on google and state their position on the same place if they are hired. I think. If you read this in a few months' time and cannot google any such statement, you might want to ask why the postholder is being paid £55k of your taxes and possibly directing your service or your job. Or why a well-paid job like this requires a chief executive and director of this and that alongside, and whether such folk with their truties are limiting what the director of operations does. There have been quite a few postholders recently so the person would have to make their mark soon after being hired. The system contrasts with UK manufacturing where smaller firms usually have a director and that's that: the other job titles are redundant. After all, what would a director direct but operations?

Foundation66
We're hiring! Director of Operations, circa £55k starting salary #jobs #substance misuse, see website for details http://bit.ly/udZrw5


2011

A Tory MP with a name a bit like Alan B'Stard has voiced opinions about trades unions.
He would like them to represent their members better.
That's fine. I'd expect someone with more background in representing a constuency with a lot of unionised employers and perhaps a background as a shop steward to add comments and suggestions, so that a credible debate takes place.
Anyone?
No.


A report of a regional committee reveals how unfit for pourpose the union is, and how any political party needs to make unions transparent and accountable along with company pensions and PLC-owned employers.

Under the old bogus T&G system, regional unions paid the centre.
Under the new bogus Unite system, "The Region would receive £270,000 as the opening balance and any monies not spent would more than likely be recouped by Central Office.", so there's pressure to get through £270,000 on any pet project at the end of the financial year but still no accounting or accountability to make sure it's spent on the members: still a bogus system. Some subjects are kept out of site and out of mind, like a subject that shouldn't be discussed in front of the servants. It appears that a third of a million names on the membership database are not linked to recent payments for membership, which raises questions as to who put the names there, whether these people ever existed, and how long it took to type them but the questions go unasked. Other questions might be asked about the politics of UK manufacturing closing, staff having no share of responsibility in decisions about British Airways, or why the union is backing a strike by staff at British Airways but not at Swissport a few years ago. Do they only back staff who can help the union get on television, or was there a deal behind the scenes about Swissport?

Apparently the political part of the meeting was just about marginal seats at Westminster and "the anti trades union laws", so it isn't clear why the union employs specialist political officers. It isn't stated whether the 37-member Communist Party of Britain or the Taxi Drivers' political party are still getting concealed hand-outs but the emphasis seems very much on the Labour Party without any explanation of why, how much money they are getting or for what reason.

There still seems to be a legal department that does more than farm-out the simplest safest injury claims to no-win no-fee lawyers on commission, but it's not clear what this department does except defend the union against its own staff and members. Three staff are on long term sick leave and "the matter regarding the NW tutors was being dealt with by the Union solicitors and could not be discussed." Something is rumbling about legal services - "Georgina Hirsch" ex Amicus "Director of Legal Services would be leaving the employ of the union on 29 January and her position would not be replaced. The assurance was given that the department would not suffer a detriment. However, Paul Talbot would oversee the running of the department. Tony Woodhouse explained that the panel of union solicitors was being examined." Whether it's being examined for lawyers who pay too many backhanders and win too few cases, or the other way around, is not mentioned.

unitetheunion.org/ba ~
unitetheunion.org/PDF/100milldispute.pdf ~

Whatever the union, it is the only major one that Unite cabin crew have got in the face of a far worse employer that's even more prone to the them-and-us / us-verses-them dirty tricks and macho management far more than the junior staff or the union. Few of us would support a system that said we have to shop at Woolworths or we have to fly with Ryanair, but reporting of employment disputes is a little vague. Journalists and passengers don't know quite what to say. Of course employees have a right not to work for an employer, and all of them to decide at once to withdraw their labour, just as passengers have a right to use another airline.

Other pages of this site quote the union criticsised and berated by staff of Swissport - tha desk staff of Swissair who's employer was bought off the reciever by a private equity group detirmined to cut costs at the expense of staff. However little Unite wants its members to share the decision-making, it's better to have a union that stands up for BA members than a union which just takes £10 a month of Swissport members and lets them go when they realise it's a waste of cash.

Taking a pargraph almost at random from the second statement

"Because this is a dispute directed at breaking trade unionism, BA has invested heavily in strike-breaking measures which would otherwise make little business sense. An example is the cost of “wet lease” aeroplane hire – that is, planes which come fully crewed."

"A well-connected source has told Unite that on one contract alone, the hire of twenty planes for the three-days strike last weekend came to £7 million. All together, we believe BA used around 40 “wet - lease” planes, which would mean on this head alone, BA probably spent British Airways’ cabin crew are about to start the second period of strike action in the course of the current dispute. This will run for four days from March 27-30. Around £14 million over the three days. During the second strike, this bill may rise even further. The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has told the Daily Telegraph (March 23) that he leased three planes to BA over the first strike, but will lease “four or five” for the second strike. The bill for this will also obviously rise."

Passengers who wish that their services did not grind to a halt while trying to sleep in an airport terminal, or wondering what the point of all this strife is, should think about an employer which is willing to spend redicoulous emounts of money subsidising its rival just to quash a union rather than co-operating with staff as the most dependent stakeholders and the ones with most to offer given good will.

New Name, same fiddle: the Unite Left launch meeting

The only purpose of keeping this page is to note that big unions are not democratic in any generally understood way as you might expect from the way they are reported on telly as "representing" their members. The Unite union is not democratic in any normally-understood way, but has changed the system by which people are excluded from the trustees. In the past the governing group was quite literally a private members' club, meeting in private and deciding

  • who should be excluded from backing next time,
  • who shoud be voted-against among those present, and
  • who should be excluded from among those keen to stand next time.

Backing takes the form of "nomination" by branch structures that hardly pretend to be democratic, such as the communist branch 1/1148 or the taxi driver's branch. Such a system prevents many mavericks from standing and if they do, the political machine can make sure there are candidates standing against them next time (some seats are un-contested) and that their votes are out-voted at the biennual trustee meetings, whatever they are called. The General Something-or-other that meets for an awayday in a hotel with minutes usually carefully sensored and no video cameras allowed. If you are a posh journalist reading this thinking "how do real-life union members really view their unions?" it is with contempt and patience in the hope that one day things get better. Unless the member has never tried to use union services, in which case their opinion probably comes from the BBC.

So what do the status quo candidates want, except the status quo?
A chance to get through the show and off the stage with some dignity?

Maybe it made more sense to those present because they are reported in adjectives rather than the subjects verbs and objects of most working life. "new left", "old right", "up middle", "good afternoon madam, can I interest you in a bucket?" - like Ken Dodd, these are people who note the applause in their diaries. One thing that works is to appear to have a contest by roping-in some half-forgotten factions to stand as a favour and get a seat or two, by mouthing the old traditional lies, like the one in the Wilfred Owen poem in order to get a nervous round of applause in the general's HQ, well behind the trenches and the front lines. By using the jargon and adjectives of politics rather than stating practical things to do with £10 a month per member, a millions-strong mailing list, some half empty office buildings and a vague old purpose.

  • When union leaders talk of nationalisation of Waterford or Vestas or LDV vans they are in a position to buy at least one themselves, and later sell slowly to staff-owned organisations if some business can be salvaged or for scrap and land if not.
  • They are in a position to make union accounts more plausible -
  • including the accounts of local activist groups who decide who can be nominated to stand for election. Union leaders are in a position to expose any
  • deliberate sweetheart deals with employers and to
  • pay proper lawyers what it takes to be as good as employer's lawyers in employment tribunals rather than pay proper lawyers to defend them against their own disgruntled ex-members. They are in a position to
  • insist on democracy, almost for free, mainly on web sites and by email in all their branches. They are in a position to say
  • where the money has really been going all these years. Meanwhile, bribes to MPs who are embarassed to recieve them but work in a system of un-capped expenses could surely be mentioned in a speech. MPs would surely celebrate to see
  • election expenses were capped all-round at low levels, and never mentioned again. Other parties have asked for it. But unions and the party establishment insist on a system paying bribes to distant ansympathetic MPs for unknown reasons from the contributions of members who are not always in regular work and don't get three secretaries, shared office space and large allowances, let alone the salary of an NHS consultant. Somebody with the time and the skill could work out these: the best price a reciever might quote for LDV vans, and the total of all union expenses paid to MPs, say every two years because the best financial rate of return anyone can get is usually to get your money back in two years. If the current rate of return on MP bribes is zero to give and taker, anything greater would be a bonus. Can Unite
  • buy LDV vans for two year's MP election expenses? (suggestion: don't say "government-backed just before an election"; find out what the phoenix four did)

Like the tradional lie in the Wilfred Owen poem, that it is right and proper to die for your country, some of the activists have a traditional lie that employment has to get worse before it gets better: more monopolised, more unpleasant, more us-and-them in order that the system implodes to a worker's paradise in a few generations. Nobody believes it any more, just as the military staff at General Hague's HQ didn't really like latin poetry and think things were going well, but they were glad to be there and to stick to status quo rather than be in the trenches. The old traditional words still get a nervous round of applause at General Hague's HQ.

Unite Left Launch Meeting


Going bust in different countries: they involve staff over there

Air

This June 2009 British Airways has asked its staff to work a week for free.
Passengers are paying in pounds and euro while fuel is paid in dollars.
Air travel and upmarket air travel are cyclical trades; they're more sensitive than most to boom and bust; the executive flies economy class and the trourist skips a holiday.
Staff response at this pivotal moment has been ....

Oh: sorry. None. There is a system of recognising bogus unions. Swissport for example is one of the headline examples of union failure: someone bought it off Swissair, reduced the staff terms and conditions as much as the law allowed and the T&G union's response was just to merge the Swissair branch in order to keep troublemakers quiet. Whether they took any money from Swissport's new owners is unknown. Unite T&G section, as it's now called, employs an ex labour party spin doctor as a senior political officer who is unable to share an office with anyone else - they refuse. So the response of employees to an employer's offer to do things differently from now on has been silent.

Motown

GM Detroit goes bust: government bails out some of the company to be owned by creditors with some ownership by staff, represented by unions.

GM Germany aka Opal goes bust: government bails out some of the company to be owned by creditors with some ownership by staff, represented by works councils.

GM UK aka Vauxhall is one fifth the size of Opal because of bogus exchange rates designed to make politicians look good these last 20 years. Politicians lament the likely closure of Elsmere Port van factory. Staff response. As above. Government response: bail out the banks and ignore Elsmere Port. When Rover Group went bust a few years ago, politicians ended the talks with a last-resort buyer prematurely to prevent bad news surfacing during an election. One Labour politician told people near a hundred year old plant that there were jobs being created at Tesco, misunderstanding the long-term nature of manufacturing clusters of expertise and tools.

Rivals to Elsmere Port's van factory are LDV vans, closed and c/o Price Waterhouse Coopers recievers in Birmingham. They just make vans so their business is even more cyclical than the rest of the motor industry as they're making things that companys can cut-back on replacing when times are hard - in fact they're still open for business in the sense that un sold vans are available, the tools licences and buildings are all in one place, just waiting to an end to the recession. In saner times this kind of problem would be dealt with by arrangement with staff, shareholders or bank but when a bank goes bust and pulls-out of agreements, it seems that governement subsidises the bank and lets the real econonomy that makes vans disperse and loose any chance of opening again. The union's response? As above. Except that they back a party with a car scrapping policy which doesn't seem to apply to vans - more to imported cheap cars which keep politicians in power by making it looks as though goods are available long-term, when they're not.


One of the strange things about bogus democracy in unions is the effect it has on those who take part. It makes them cynical about any kind of democracy, including the control of work by people who do it that most people would want and has been proved efficient. The cynecism shows most strongly when unions are called to say something in order to get free television coverage after some closure or scandle, such as cases where an employer is also a pension provider to its staff, but is controlled by a team of managers. One such firm went into receivership, dispite help from the pension fund. Luckily the management team found enough money from somewhere for a buy-out from receivers, sadly without any money available to pensioners. In effect, staff and ex-staff at all levels should have come to own the company because it had defaulted on them. But the paternalistic wording of the contracts, and of company stuctures, meant that a certain group of senior staff got the lot and the rest got a job if lucky.

The union position on this? None. Simply to deplore the closure of a pension. This cycnecism is the worst effect of the antics below, and the reason for quoting them.


This from The Times February 16, 2009 Derek Simpson / Unite - apology

Our report “United they fight to the bitter end: how marriage of unions went sour” (January 17) about the internal feuding in Unite wrongly stated that Kevin Coyne, one of the challengers to Derek Simpson for the post of General Secretary of Amicus, had received twice as many nominations as Mr Simpson. In fact, the opposite is true. Mr Simpson has received almost twice as many nominations as Mr Coyne. We apologise to all concerned for the error and are happy to put the record straight.


Unable to work for Spin Doctor
- political officers off sick for three months

This from The Observer February 15, 2009 by Toby Helm, Whitehall editor

Britain's biggest union was in turmoil last night after it emerged that three key officials in its political department have been off work for much of the past few months on full pay. They claim that they were bullied by Gordon Brown's combative former spin doctor, Charlie Whelan.

Another top official, who clashed with Whelan after he was appointed as Unite's political director in autumn 2007, has done no work for more than a year, while receiving his full salary and perks package of about £70,000.

The revelations of chaos and wasted money at the super-union put the spotlight firmly on joint general secretary Derek Simpson, who backed Whelan's appointment and who is standing for re-election in what promises to be a bitter contest beginning tomorrow.

The allegations of bullying against Whelan have fuelled a backlash against Simpson. Many claim the union, which has given several million pounds to Labour since Brown entered Downing Street, is not only riven by vicious internal disputes, but is also being run like an outpost of Number 10, rather than an independent organisation fighting for workers' rights.

Last night Simpson's main challenger, Kevin Coyne, accused the union under Simpson of failing to fight for its members' interests.

In a statement to the Observer, Coyne said: "On a host of issues, from the privatisation and fragmentation of public services, the failure to overturn laws that prevent unions from representing their own members, through to the potential sale of Royal Mail, we have failed to press our case.

"I'm a lifelong member of the Labour party, but I recognise that our independence from Labour is vital. The job of the general secretary is to protect the money in our members' pockets, not to be in the pocket of the prime minister. Our members are entitled to ask what value they get out of our support for Labour." A Unite spokesman confirmed that three staff members - including former Labour MP John Cryer - had chosen to be off full duties, citing "stress" and other reasons, after lodging grievance procedures last autumn against Whelan, and that a fourth had not been doing anything for the union for 14 months.

He dismissed as "absolute nonsense" claims that Whelan - a renowned figure in Whitehall, known for fierce loyalty to Brown and equally robust treatment of his press critics - had bullied staff and pushed people to adopt a more pro-government line. He also pointed out that the tortuous process of bringing together two unions - Amicus and the TGWU - into one organisation had inevitably led to unpopular changes.

"In any merger situation or change, there are always going to be people who are uncomfortable, or who lose out in terms of their own position." He added: "Any suggestion that we have not been fighting the government is ludicrous. We have called for a bigger bail-out for the car industry, we have attacked them over the row on foreign workers. We have gone for them on every issue."

One of those who instituted grievance proceedings against Whelan, Sarah Merrill, the union's political officer who had been responsible for liaising with MPs, was in effect ousted from the role.

Relations deteriorated to such an extent that Merrill, Cryer and another female political officer jointly began grievance procedures last autumn. A written statement submitted by Merrill said the political department had "a real culture of fear and a climate of bullying that he [Whelan] allows to take place in his department". Merrill has been off work with "stress" since October.

Cryer has also been away for most of the time, though he returned to work recently, and the third official has also been off for lengthy periods and has now been found a new role in the union. Separately Mike Griffiths, a senior political officer sidelined by Whelan, has been at home on "gardening leave" for 14 months.

Whelan's arrival at the Treasury in 1997 as the new chancellor's chief spin doctor was followed by the rapid departure of Jill Rutter, the head of press.

Last night Whelan declined to make any comments.

Labour MPs believe that Simpson will face a tough fight from Coyne. Last week, more than 25 MPs attended a meeting at the House of Commons addressed by Coyne, who received a warm reception. "Simpson is going to be run close," said one. "It really is time for change at the top."


£13.4m "gift" from a union with an overdraft

This from The Times February 14, 2009 by Christine Buckley and Francis Elliott

This article is the subject of a legal complaint from Derek Simpson and Unite

One of the leaders of Britain’s biggest union has been accused of breaking election rules, an allegation that could have serious implications in the battle to gain control of the organisation.

Derek Simpson, a strong ally of Gordon Brown, is standing for re-election as leader of the Amicus half of Unite, with voting due to begin on Monday. The Times learnt that his main rival, Kevin Coyne, made a complaint after Mr Simpson sent a letter to a million Unite members this week saying that it was “vital that I, together with senior colleagues, am able to provide the continuity so necessary in these difficult times”.

Under Amicus rules, candidates cannot use union resources in their campaigns.

Mr Coyne said that the letter, which outlines Unite’s efforts to help its members during the recession, would have cost the union more than £250,000 in postage alone.

The union said that an independent commissioner had seen a draft of the letter before it was sent and rejected Mr Coyne’s complaint. It added that it was not appropriate to comment on the commissioner’s decision. Mr Coyne is now taking his complaint to the Certification Officer, the unions’ watchdog.

Electoral Reform Services, which runs union elections, says that the election will cost Unite about £500,000.

The election process is checked by a returning officer and a scrutineer chosen by the union, but all union elections are ultimately governed by the Certification Officer, who has the power to order a fresh election if any rules have been broken.

Mr Simpson, who is standing for only a year’s term, triggered the election after a legal challenge was made to his attempt to stay beyond his retirement age.

The controversy comes amid fears that the union, which negotiated a £6 million overdraft last year, is running out of money. A senior Labour figure familiar with the union was worried that it may be in difficulty. Unite said that it had not used any of the overdraft.

Unite has given £13.4 million to Labour since Mr Brown became Prime Minister, and was instrumental in saving the party from bankruptcy last year.

It has given guarantees that it will continue to fund the party but ministers fear that it will run out of cash, partly as a result of a bitter fight between its joint general secretaries, Tony Woodley and Mr Simpson.

Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, said:

“There needs to be a breath of fresh air. Someone needs to take a hold and provide inspiration to members, many of whom are going to suffer more and more in coming months.”

Coincidentally, Mr Simpson recently met union activists in a tour of the country. The union offered to reimburse travel expenses for those attending. A union spokesman said that the tour had been arranged before the ballot was called and was not intended to further Mr Simpson’s election campaign. A complaint was made but dismissed by the independent commissioner.


This from The Times, January 17th 2009 by Francis Elliott, Christine Buckley and Sam Coates

This article is the subject of a legal complaint from Derek Simpson and Unite

Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, the joint general secretaries of Unite, were the butt of last year’s best political joke. “Look how far they’ve come,” Dave Prentis observed, sarcastically, of his fellow union bosses at the TUC’s annual conference in Brighton. “Only last year I said to Derek, ‘What would you do if you saw Tony staggering down the road?’ Derek replied, ‘Reload’. ”

Today Mr Simpson is the target of the latest volley in the most bloody union fight for decades. The fight has serious implications for Gordon Brown and the Labour Party.

It is not what Unite’s two million members were promised when Amicus and the Transport and General Workers’ Union merged on May 1, 2007. As a new dawn broke over that May Day, Mr Simpson declared that this was the beginning of a process that could lead to a global super-union.

“Right now we have this madhouse where we are all played off against each other. Until the unions can be structured internationally like the companies, we will always lose,” he told The Times.

Nearly two years on, the question of who – precisely – is running the asylum has never been more acute. No company that was the result of a merger would let both chief executives remain at the helm until they retired, but neither Mr Simpson nor Mr Woodley would agree to the merger unless allowed to stay on.

The agreement was that Mr Simpson would retire on his 66th birthday, December 23, 2010, and Mr Woodley a year later. The election of a single general secretary was supposed to take place next year, Mr Simpson’s last in office.

The period of co-rule started badly – and promptly got worse. Mr Simpson stayed away from Unite’s launch, offended that Mr Woodley had made a media appearance without telling him. There are few better symbols of the disharmony than the way that T&G and Amicus have been unable to move in together. While Amicus is in Covent Garden, the T&G is over a mile away at Transport House in Holborn. As observers never tire of pointing out, the two halves remain “in spitting distance” of one another.

Damaging stories about both men appeared to be the result of tit-for-tat briefings. It emerged, for example, that Mr Simpson had twice taken a helicopter to attend the Glastonbury Festival. Not long afterwards the arrangement of Mr Woodley’s grace-and-favour flat in London came under scrutiny. Mr Simpson’s purchase of a £50,000 painting by Antony Gormley for the Amicus headquarters found its way into print recently.

The manoeuvrings were sometimes farcical: at Labour’s conference both men were given cubicles – of equal size – behind the Unite stand because they literally could not bear to be in the same room.

When Mr Simpson likened some of Mr Woodley’s staff to “SS guards” and “cheerleaders in ra-ra skirts” it became clear that their relationship was heading for a breakdown.

The formal merger, due to take place last November, was put off. Mr Simpson was put on notice that he would face a legal challenge if he tried to stay in office beyond his 65th birthday.

To prevent Mr Woodley from seizing control after Mr Simpson’s forced departure next year, he has now put himself up for reelection as Amicus general secretary, a battle he is far from certain to win. Nowhere is the battle for control being watched more closely than at No 10. Not only is Amicus Labour’s most generous union donor, but Mr Simpson stuck with Mr Brown through the Prime Minister’s darkest hours last summer.

While Mr Woodley boycotted a crucial meeting of union leaders with Mr Brown, Mr Simpson stayed loyal. When David Miliband was about to open up a leadership challenge on the eve of Labour’s annual conference, it was Mr Simpson who launched a devastating attack on the young pretender, labelling him smug and arrogant – with a stream of epithets deemed too abusive to print by the newspaper that carried the interiew.

It came as little surprise to those in the know, therefore, when Mr Simpson hired Charlie Whelan, Mr Brown’s former spin-doctor, to become the union’s political director. “Anyone who believes you can write off Gordon Brown can think again,” Mr Whelan told a meeting during Labour’s conference.

“We’ve got an £8 million political fund. People need to know that a union can mobilise its members to support a candidate that the union likes.”

To the growing dismay of Labour MPs directly funded by Unite, most of the union’s energies are being spent on infighting. The level of mistrust in the union is graphically displayed in a recent e-mail sent by Mr Whelan to his staff. “You will need to let me know in advance when you are visiting the House of Commons and the purpose of your visit,” Mr Whelan wrote on January 6.

One of the e-mail’s recipients, Sarah Merrill, had already lodged a written complaint claiming that the political department under Mr Whelan had “a culture of fear and a climate of bullying”. Ms Merrill’s complaint went on to say that the atmosphere was “totally at odds with the policies of the union, and indeed is totally against the principles established under any dignity-at-work procedures.”

With little evidence of any dignity, many of the 111 Labour MPs sponsored by Unite are embarrassed at the damage being caused by the infighting when the party is desperate to reassure voters that it is focused on the effects of the recession.

Next month’s Amicus election is a two-way fight between Mr Simpson and Kevin Coyne, a northwest regional secretary.

Simpson on greed

‘We need action to protect jobs not just the huge shares and pensions that the executives secure for themselves’

Derek Simpson, 2008

‘The pay gap between workers and employers is astonishing, with average earnings rising by 4.5 per cent a year but 20 per cent per year for directors’ pay. City executive pay and bonuses would make Midas blush’

Derek Simpson, 2007

Woodley on greed

“London’s cleaners are fed up with fat-cat profits for the bosses while cleaners struggle to make ends meet”

Tony Woodley, 2007

“We live in a world where there is too often a race to the bottom in terms and conditions for workers, where the bad employer is able to undercut the good. A world of pensions robbery for those at the bottom and unbridled fat-cat greed at the top”

Tony Woodley, 2003


Getting employment advice can be difficult at some employers

This from The Times, November 8th 2008, edited from artical by Christene Buckley and Valentine Low

 

A reason the political arms race should end: spin doctorsCharlie Whelan, a senior member of staff and Gordon Brown’s former spin-doctor, is at the centre of bullying allegations that he could lead to the union’s staff going on strike.

Mr Whelan is no stranger to discord. As Mr Brown’s mouthpiece at the Treasury, he was notorious for his foul-mouthed briefings to political journalists [...] Mr Whelan is now the political director of Unite, where he is accused of

  • bullying,
  • breach of staff members’ contracts and
  • discrimination

John Cryer former MP for Hornchurch and T&G political officer- by three Unite employees, one of whom is John Cryer, the former Labour MP.
The three, who are all political officers, are being represented by GMB, a rival union, which is considering balloting for industrial action among its members at Unite.

One of the political officers, Sarah Merrill, says in a written complaint that the political department has

“a real culture of fear, and a climate of bullying that he [Mr Whelan] allows to take place in his department, which is totally at odds with the policies of the union, and indeed is totally against the principles established under any dignity-at-work procedures.”

It is not known whether Mr Whelan, as part of his induction at Unite, was made familiar with the concept of “dignity-at-work procedures”.

[...]
Mr Simpson, who is currently in Cuba [...] is fighting an election for the Amicus side of the union after a legal challenge against his plans to stay on beyond retirement. He is facing four opponents, all of whom argue that the merger process is going badly [...]

Complaint against Charlie Whelan, Unite’s political director, by Sarah Merrill on October 14

“Over the last year, I have been excluded, undermined, bypassed, accused behind my back of committing issues that have led certain people to question my capabilities, conduct, and performance and . . . have been accused of plotting against the union, among other issues. Charlie has led a bullying campaign against me . . There is a real culture of fear, and a climate of bullying that he allows to take place in his department, which is totally at odds with the policies of the union, and indeed is totally against the principles established under any dignity-at-work procedures.”

Further claim against Mr Whelan

“he has said hurtful comments about members of departments to others, and at a Christmas function abused a female member of staff. At the same function, he treated other female members of staff inappropriately.”

Employees.org.uk notes on this Times artical:

  • Never add a weak & easily parodied complaint about a Christmas function after a strong but vague point about what people were doing all day, every day.

    Complainants choose Chirstmas functions as well-witnessed examples, but these examples are so often quoted in tribunal cases that they overlap with cases where two people dislike each other, something possibly awkward or rude has happenned, and there's no provable reason for the legal system to judge anything. Laywers will begin skim-reading much faster from the word "christmas".
  • Judges and tribunal chairs are much more comfortable doing what they are good at, looking dignified while bored stiff and then making academic judgements backed by essays on what they have heard. They have risen to the top of a tough profession doing all this. They are less good at risking criticism in judging the power relationships that add meaning to the events, or complainant's good and busy track record that made an assertive response harder at the time before things came to a tribunal (or a newspaper but it's only polite to assume that the complainants knew about tribunals and couts and made their complaints; to remind the of it, as Unison did to their member, seems rude).

    For example when judges themselves in Zimbabwe or any other autocratic state have been over-worked, given very meaningful threats by very threatening people over a long period, and are trying to make the best judgements on principal rather than just doing a habitual cash-in-hand job (the law would expect them to show efforts to find other judging jobs and sue only for loss of earnings while searching) and are driven to a nervous breakdown, the individual details sound petty without context. It is a bit like describing a rape case to a Victorian judge. The judge might agree privately that if it happened to someone somehow vulnerable as suggested, or to Anthoney Gubbay in Zimbabwe, it would be a terrible thing but that a judge's job is an academic one and without the evidence and case law s/he is in trouble.

    The judges' problem is more stark when overseen by ministers who are members of a party that used to employ Mr Wheelan and Mr Cryer and recieves donations from the employer for no reason that anyone outside the clique of individuals has ever worked-out. It is not 10% or 1% as bad as examples like Zanu-PF's influence in Zimbabwe over Anthoney Gubbay's role as chief justice, but there may be party pressure nevetheless just as there is a concentration of ex party press spokesmen or MPs in this particular trades union which had nothing to do with the employer's rule book until the clique tried to change it unsuccessfully a while ago. A judge wants to know: "what are you for? Why does Transport House not have anyone around who can advise on an employment dispute and suggest you leave out the Chistmas Party incident?" and that isn't clear from the Times report.

    A GMB political officer tried to argue the same kind of case to the employment appeals tribunal a year or two ago; the employer's case was that with falling membership this kind of pith-helmet job title was no longer required and the vagaries of the situation made the case harder to judge.
  • If there are no good union officials in Transport House, get a friend to pretend they are a tribunal chair and explain to them what this is about. Find someone who isn't part of a political clique who is in on the secrets, and doesn't understand why "political officers" are employed at all in a union that so obviously cannot represent its own staff. Were the indignent staff busy doing useful things with a good track record, or where they sitting in the canteen plotting legal wrangles? What was their job? Employees.org.uk/inded.html provides a list of legal helplines for factual advice about how to handle a tribunal case if a trades union has let you down.


http://clustrmaps.com/counter/index2.php?url=http://www.employe


Cheerleeders & guards; team meetings in Cuba

Christene Buckley, Industrial Editor, The Times 10.10.08

T&G section of Unite has sought legal advice about pulling out of its troubled merger with the Amicus union, amid tensions between its joint leaders. [...] The T&G side is also very unhappy with Amicus’s finances after it went £3.6 million into the red in the past six months. Amicus says it is paying for some operations that serve both unions, such as communications.

The confirmation of the severity of the problems at Unite comes as Mr Simpson prepares to stand for re-election to bolster his own position. He will submit himself to an election among members of his Amicus side of the union after a legal challenge to his plans to stay on beyond retirement age.

As revealed in The Times last month, Mr Simpson is seeking a fresh mandate in the face of the legal challenge, which is being considered by the unions’ watchdog, the Certification Officer. [...] Mr Simpson will face a serious internal challenge for his job from Laurence Faircloth, a regional official. A third candidate will be Jerry Hicks, a former Rolls-Royce official who is mounting the legal challenge to Mr Simpson’s tenure. The election will be held early next year.

Mr Simpson had intended to quit as joint general secretary of Unite in late 2010, when he is 66.

Mr Woodley plans to step down early the following year and hand over to a single successor for the merged union, who is due to be elected next year.

Mr Simpson has been an ardent supporter of Gordon Brown, giving a job to Charlie Whelan, his former spin doctor, and if he were toppled it would be a blow to the Prime Minister.

An emergency meeting of Unite’s ruling executive yesterday voted to approve his plan to hold the election. Significantly, it also suspended for six months the new rule book for the merged union. [T&G rule book now here] This means the two sides remain individual organisations. The full merger was supposed to have been sealed, with the new rule book, on November 1.

Although formal plans to merge were laid out in May last year, the two sides are still at odds over a financial structure. Finance is a key issue for the T&G, where officials are also unhappy with the spending of Mr Simpson. He has been criticised for living in a house paid for by the union and for other costs such as twice taking a helicopter to the Glastonbury Festival.

Mr Faircloth, 56, Unite’s regional secretary for the southwest, said he was standing against Mr Simpson because he did not believe enough was being done to push through the merger. The election will enable the new joint general secretary to serve only for a year, finishing in 2010. Unite officials declined to comment.



Certification Office News Alerts: inadvertant scanning error

Not many people would want to stand for a volunteer-job on the executive council of a union, attend a small number of seminar discussions or committee meetings, and do their best to improve a trade union. Of those that do, trouble-makers such as the independent candidates to TGWU's council below, tend to be removed.

Individual's sources of information about Amicus are

They give more idea of how a rambling institution justifies itself to directors in a jostle of detail than any official statement, and most organisations could do with more independent opinion, and encourage fair elections.

There's something puzzling about union ballot papers, which have to exist for national and regional elections even if the local branch secretary says "the region would probably not allow it" of a home-based vote for the branch committee. Like Eurovision candidates, the names on the ballot paper are a surprise to many members, even if claiming to be nominated by the branch or eurozone that the member belongs to. Anyone with the time and inclination can get email alerts from the government offices in Northern Ireland and Great Britain that certify unions as independent and put their accounts online. At least once a month there is an emailed advance notice of a Certification Office internal tribunal hearing at which a union member claims s/he has been unreasonably prevented from standing. Later an email follows saying that it doesn't matter as the member "has now been expelled from the union", so that's OK then, or that the tribunal has been held and there was some confusion about nomination by various undemocratic branches.

The latest decision reads "in order to become a candidate Mrs Simms required five branch nominations", so that's reasonable. Not. It's a system like Westminster before 1832, when the gatekeepers of power are a host of rotten boroughs. Why would such a system not exclude trouble makers? What else is it for?

So many people complain about trades unions that often two of them have similar names. There is Lisa Simms and Cynthia Simms. It's tricky from skim-reading of googled sites to know which simms is which.

There was another Simms complaint to the same tribunal a year or two before, which was fobbed off in a different way. According to the minutes of Amicus NEC 2005 (para 33/06 "other reports) before such things we made private - it was reported by the union's legal officer that after the 2003 election the union had had to admit to a change to the same candidate's election address caused by an "inadvertant scanning error", but the Certification Officer had "accepted that the change was not deliberate", "noted the general secretaries declared intentions re the conduct of future elections and had made no enforcement order".


vote results made public

Unite TGWU union managers were "delighted" at the high turnout of just over 25% for merger, held after they paid for a ghost-written magazine full of pictures of people smiling and praise for the unoin's merged prospects to be sent to all members and then sent ballot papers with a freepost address. Management got near-17% turnout for the rule book vote. Recently the union's management have taken to putting election results on their web site, rather than the "activists extranet". The results are re-typed from those of Electoral Reform Services and don't mention seats where only one candidate stood, nor figures for spoilt balllot papers: only staff of Electoral Reform Services know whether the words were about Electoral Reform Services and it's signing of Unite Transport and General Workers' union elections. There is a surprisingly steady 10% turnout. There's no mention of membership of internal political parties, but most of the successful candidates are members of the Broad Left internal political party. Whistleblowers are excluded.
[PDF download link 12/08]

The union has also started publishing some sort of financial account on its web site, to save members having to discover the one at the Certification Office. The account claims that an amount of money is spent on legal services, while another, non-public account quoted in minutes of an Amicus National Executive Council pre-merger states that T&G "charges referral fees to solicitors" and Amicus too has benefited from "reduced professional fees".


http://employees.org.uk/rules.html - old rules for T&G section: an unusually interesting document. Rather than PDF, is is transcribed to a format that can be cut-and-pasted into a Wiki for comment among branch members, from which paragraphs can be cut and emailed, put-on to small web sites, and so-on. The new rules below have been put into plain text as well.

http://employees.org.uk/new-rules.html - proposed rules which will probably be voted-in on a small good-will vote, like a vote of shareholders in a company. With recent turnout for executive council elections under 10%, the glossy magazine was necessary just to make the union look democratic by getting some kind of turnout.

Here are some reasons for a protest "no", like the Irish vote on the EU constitution.

Is the new organisation about help at work, or a fundraising organisation pretending to be about help at work?
The new rule book describes a fundraising organisation for the central office of the labour party which is mentioned by name and various cartels which are also mentioned by name.

Political contributions are limited by law but there is no bar in the rule book on ways of getting around the law, such as investing money at 0% interest in a bank that goes to the legal limit in making soft loans to the Labour Party, making soft loans direct writing to members asking them to vote labour, making soft loans to labour (something they were caught doing recently), failing to defend members against the state funded organisations that can be bad employers, attempting unfair dismissals of staff who step-out of labour-line, or turning a blind eye to money transfer via various organisations like branches, trades councils and charities that do not keep accounts and can in turn pay money to anyone they like.

Surveys of why people join unions show two things. "help at work" or similar phrases are top of the list (not fundraising), and membership is falling. Membership is falling because unions have become fundraising organisations. If you're offered a chance to join an expensive organsation that gives secretive amounts of money to the labour party, why not give more efficiently and post the cheque direct?

Funding politicians or PR in the new Unite rule book?
The old rule book allows members to donate collectively to sympathetic politicians. In 1922 when the first draft was written, MPs weren't paid. Those who could afford to be MPs seemed less likely to be interested in a national health service, for example, than union members wanted them to be. There is no bar to the union funding break-away politicians like Ken Livingstone or Martin Bell, regional parties or opposition parties.

Now MPs are well paid and donation to a central PR machine is more likely to divert their attention onto "two or three eye catching initiatives ... entirely conventional ... associated with my name", as the prime minister explained in his email to ministers in July 2000. The idea of funding a PR machine is precisely the opposite of the original purpose of funding practical MPs who wanted social insurance, a safety-net, and individual rights.

"From time to time": democracy in the Unite rule book (now the old rule book again as, dispite the ceremonial vote with only one option and no detail put to members, the ruling party has decided the rule books should not be merged for another six months)
The new rule book tries to do a good thing in encouraging branches to be something to do with one trade or employer, and introducing democratic rules "from time to time". This good thing is done in a way that pours all power into the centre:
officals will "from time to time" choose a ballot system. There are no checks and balances to say how or why. For example, there is no way of going to arbitration.

This is odd because the current General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary did a lot of work investigating people who tried to change the voting system "from time to time" in Scotland at another set of union elections. And they haven't shown much interest in newer cheaper ballot systems for local branches up till now. However much they ask governemnt for laws allowing easy ballots for senior jobs, they don't ask themselves for ballots on anything else.

Without good, cheap systems of democracy that fit-in with how people live, it will continue to be hard to trust branches with a share of the membership money, and most of the money will remain in the ten regional offices or simpily donated-away, while the executive council and conference will continue to be like Eurovision: something you might see on television once in a blue moon but have no great part of making.

Black hole accounts: accountability in the Unite the Union draft rule book
The old rule book assumed that members met each other in person and could keep a pretty close eye on the union bank accounts and budgets. The new rule book doesn't open-up the black hole that is Unite accounting now. For example a due dilligence report by Stoy Hayward accountants for Amicus into Transport and General noticed that T&G "charged referral fees": members pay a union for years and then get a no-win no-fee lawyer who has to pay commission to their official. There are so few officials per member that it's possible to believe that they're paid for by these referral fees. The whole organisation is no more than a claims managment agency, but with a volunteer-co-ordinator role added-on to the claims handling that the other firms do.

Services to members: don't ask the Unite rule book
If the union is going to become a way of helping people at work then it ought to say so in a sensible adult contract.
The 1922 rule book mentions "Schedule II: services to members" but there is a mysterious absence where this document should be because there are basically no services to members. Employment Appeal tribunal cases where members have been let down by large unions, won cases against their ex-employers privately, and then tried to sue the union for discriminating against them demonstrate the problem. There is a case like that on this site, against Unison, and another linked from it against University and College Union. Until unions do something for the money they're given, they will continue to sink and pull-down with them any volunteer effort like rep work that's related.

Someone else has done the work: why criticise the Unite final draft rule book?
Wikipedia links to a thing called "Amicus Unity Gazette" which is a political party controlling part of the Executive Council. The Unite equivalent is called "Broad Left" and more secretive. Members of the executive council who were not part of these two groups did not even get to see the new rule book until recently - after the last elections with their less than 10% turnout. Members of the council who blow the whistle are mysteriously not re-elected. So whoever and whatever a "Rules Commission" was, it wasn't allowed to rock the boat, and these rules are called "final draft". Whoever did all the work of discussing these rules would probably like a bit of an uprising. There are probably all sorts of things they'd have liked to put-in if the weight of job and party hierachy wasn't resting on them. The polite thing is to vote "no", and bring the issues out into the open, as well as keeping the union afloat in future. Otherwise you might have to start your own union, which is another thing.

Aspirations are for the Labour party - not for yobs and non-supporters according to the new rule book.
The 1922 rule book is for aspirational people who want to work for an employee-owned firm like John Lewis, and encourage others to do so. They also want help with student loans. Reading the rule book, you'd expect the union to encourage members to buy from employee-owned firms, union-recognising firms and good employers as this site tries to do and possibly buy shares in firms and encourage staff ownership as Baxi Partnership does. Unite the union is now emphatically opposed to workers even controlling their own pension funds, let alone their employers. The party it backs is the same.

This site is not funded by any organisation and is written in odd scraps of time.
Your ideas may be different and based on better knowledge but in any case, vote No.


super key marginals

£2,000,000


This from Amicus Executive Council minutes, April 2008 - pdf link

Political Report

Charlie Whelan reported on the use of Unite donations to support the Labour Party. There was some discussion about which party to support, or whether to use the money for the purpose given instead such as paying for lawyers in unfair dismissal cases. No. That was a joke by the person transcribing this text. The £2 million from Unite would be used in the ‘super key marginals’ to counteract the money being pumped in by Lord Ashcroft for the Conservatives. Unite money would be used for social profiling and to send out personalised mail shots to voters. [note: I got a picture of my crap scam union's regional general secretary on top of a rare letter urging me to vote labour. I have since left my union and was anyway in a liberal / conservative constituency. I have know way of knowing whether jargon phrases like "social profiling" were used to bamboozle a volunteer committee but suspect that nothing useful was done with £2,000,000 of Amicus members' money].

One NEC member asked how many Unite sponsored MPs had voted against the Agency and temporary Workers Bill, and expressed a fear that it had been kicked into the long grass by the Government.

Another NEC member talked about the problems in the NHS. There were over a
million NHS workers, and their families and friends as well. She had had a phone call in the lunch break from health workers set to lose their jobs, and another about the privatisation of the GP out-of-hours service in North London. The written political report to NEC members noted the threats to health visiting, and the written report commented on a cardiac unit threatened with closure. If the Labour Party was serious about those people voting Labour, what was needed was a sharp reversal of policy. There would be similar issues in other sectors. If we gave so much money to the Labour Party, we had to start saying,

‘Come on guys, we want something in return’.

Charlie Whelan said there had been a meeting with a Health Minister on health visiting, and the intention was to arrange a fringe meeting on health at the Labour Party conference.

The General Secretary said he partially agreed with the people who had raised problems, and that putting £2 million in wasn’t all we were doing. Arguing for the right policies and putting the money in was the best combination. We had a commitment from Gordon Brown that the principle of legislationon agency and temporary workers would be in the Queen’s Speech, and we would take part in a commission aimed at actually delivering the legislation. We couldn’t win it in a private member’s bill, so we had to participate in the commission. If we didn’t, what else had we got? We didn’t want this kicked into the long grass


This from TonyWoodley.com

Cheuq marked "friends of Tony Woodley: Two hundred pounds" - copied from the Friends of Tony Woodley web site"To run a successful campaign to win a national T&G election requires serious finance, once nominated. Your financial support would be appreciated. Cheques made payable to 'Friends of Tony Woodley'."

This from the ballot paper for national executive elections, which doesn't tell you how you were meant to have stood for election, or how to ask questions of the candidates:

"This page intentionally blank"

Most internal union elections are not governed by specific laws, nor are rule books enforced as contracts - more as guides to an evolving tradition as the King v TGWU case shows: the rule book insists on all members attending a biannual branch meeting and electing on a show of hands; it says that all members should have an equal say in the how the property of the union is managed. The Certification Office says that one part of the branch committee is keeping up appearances by electing themselves on a show of hands round the table and if they say that other committees of more or less the same people with the same letterhead and bank account are different then that's OK. And people like this draft the next edition of the rule book. Obvously it isn't OK but they say it's OK and it is not for us to criticise the learned. They sound like a theologians -

"This is nonsense, obviously, but if we read it in a way that suits our funders us we can keep our salaries".

The Trades Union and Labour relations Act insists that some elections are held by postal ballot and that no member should be unreasonably excluded from standing and having a hundred word statement printed for members. The way the papers are printed, it's made to look as though you have to go-round loads of branches getting nominated before you can stand and this may even be true: you would have to ask a theologian. There has just been an election to the first Unite General Executive Committee and the turnout was under 10%, according to Electoral Reform Services' letters to the General Secretary, published on the private activists intranet and from there on the DearUnite.com web site. This large .pdf file shows the results.

This Guardian article describes the few remaining branch committees that meet and an enclosed world in which factions try to get the votes of those at the tables. The answer - online voting - is easy and ways of doing it are listed at the end of the page. If individual union activists don't get nerdy and invite colleagues to vote, then unions will get dodgier and dodgier, failing ones will merge, and younger people will prefer to buy insurance off PLCs or probably go without. An immediate problem is dirty tricks like overwork, bullying and goal-post moving played on just the people I most disagree with according to the DearUnite site, but the principal that union officials should have the tools for the job , a controlled workload known to their members and to be chosen in a rational way on merit are common to all union officals and people in the voluntary sector who they (except mine) try to help.

 

Bucking the system: independent candidates

This from a blog of Tuesday, 25 March 2008, written by someone who has held-down a real job and been a branch chair and been elected to the National Executive Council's quarterly four-day conferences until just now. She has a special interest in democracy because truck drivers, like cab drivers, are obviously not going to assemble in a car park and elect on a show of hands while loosing trade as the rule book suggests and are more intersted in things like an online blog. Independent candidates lost to the party machine last time, so for the moment it looks as though new unions have a better chance of working than reformed old ones. What follows is a direct quote.

Can Democracy survive in Unite?

As the elections for the national Executive Committee in Unite draw to a close, questions are being asked about the role of the Broad Left, the Amicus Unity Gazette and other groupings in the union. These factions are officially banned but tolerated within the TGWU Section, but formerly permitted in the Amicus Section. The new Unite Rule Book is presently known only to a few at the top of the union. Early indications are that it will further reduce democracy in the union. The problems start at the local level but manifest themselves right up to the top. We understand that there is a sub-committee of the GEC taking responsibility but members do not appear to have access to minutes, further the GEC, to whom the sub-committee reports does not have a Published Agenda so delegates arrive from Ireland, the UK, Channel Islands and Gibraltar for a four day meeting without proper documentation which would allow them to consult their members before the GEC, this includes Rule Book drafts. Examples of our Concerns:

Case Study 1. Rigged Voting.

Like the Monty Python film "Life of Brian" each of the union factions portray themselves as the "goodies" and all other factions as the "baddies," Delegates elected to a Trade Groups in Region 1 attending their first meetings in February, (which were due themselves to elect delegates to other Regional and National Committees), were recently bombarded with phone calls from the so-called Broad Left just as meetings started and urged to support and oppose a whole series of representatives merely on the say-so of key people, thereby diverting the democracy of the union. Where did the BL get elected delegates mobile phone numbers from? Surely only from within the union, in clear breach of the rules. So this amounts to rigged voting, with members being pressurised and perhaps bullied, with candidates possibly smeared. About as democratic as fraudulent filling in of ballot papers en masse. Monty Python would never dream of a situation where there were about three organisations in the T&G calling themselves "Broad Left", as far as we can discover none is broad and none is left, this must be a first - a two word title with two lies in it?

Subsequent voting within the trade groups followed a pattern that was remarkably consistent for people some of whom had never met before. (The temporary acting Chairs never invited those seeking office to state their policies). The Broad Left is also suspected of using the official union mailing database and Steve Hart, Region 1 Regional Secretary is presently investigating this. We do not disagree with factions in principle and totally oppose the current T&G Rule on factions which was drafted to enable witch hunts against Communist Party members, however, at the moment we in the T&G get the worst of both worlds, factions and currents are forced underground and have become secret societies lacking accountability and lacking any responsibility to the membership.

Case Study 2. Broad Left becomes New Right.

The Woodley supporting Broad Left has long since abandoned any political principles or policies in favour of promoting people because they are "good people", ie "one of us"; who just happen to know one another, (and be trusted to vote according to personal wishes of the group "leaders"), rather than people who share any common political objectives. Social anthropologists would have a field-day if set loose on the TGWU Broad Left.

The semi-clandestine Broad Left has no open record of members. Like the Freemasons, individual union members are invited to join based on recommendation. Divided into regions to reflect the TGWU regions, each has its own unelected Chair and Co-ordinator and the BL nationally has an unelected Chair, currently Martin Mayer a GEC member.

BL policies are largely handed down from the GEC BL members to the BL membership which is ruthlessly policed by regional trusties, some of whom regularly milk the union of attendance allowances and "stand-down" money supposedly paid in place of pay lost but often within the gift of Broad Left union Regional Industrial Officers. The Broad Left has become a secret union within the union.

The Broad Left took over control from the old corrupt Right Wing of our union, (also called the Broad Left), culminating with the election of the then Left candidate Tony Woodley at the last elections for GC. Without any checks and balances, the Woodley supporting Broad Left has mutated to become a controlling network for an increasingly New Labour-style union leadership. 25 of the 40 TGWU executive seats were uncontested, reportedly, the result of a secret deal between the BL and all the other factions. Democracy?

Case Study 3 - Broad Left starts expulsions.

Activist Andy Erlam was expelled from the Region 1 Broad Left, without the right to appeal, apparently for questioning the transparency of the BL Slate. Standing against the BL candidate, Erlam beat the slate decisively. Activists Rachael Webb and Ian Lidbetter also stood successfully against Broad Left Regionally, with the former securing 5 times the number of votes as the BL rival. All three are currently standing as independent Left candidates in the GEC elections, suspecting a groundswell of support for principled, accountable and determined socialists on the union's executive.Case Study 4 AUG. The same trend has occurred within the Amicus Unity Gazette, previously a relatively enlightened grouping of the Left and allowed under Amicus rules.

Increasingly, the AUG, with the exception of the London Region and isolated pockets of members, acts as a support network for Derek Simpson the dominant Joint General Secretary of Unite. Case Study 5. Des Heemskerk. Former Simpson Campaign Manager, Des Heemskerk, a candidate for the Amicus Executive was recently and mysteriously sacked from his job at Honda despite being a model employee. There no evidence that the Amicus organised this sacking but Hemskeerk is now unable to stand for the Executive because rules dictate that candidates must be actually employed in the relevant sector. These rules must be changed. Case Study 6. Swissport. 1,000 bag handlers at Heathrow airport have been let down very badly by the union by being mis-led into agreeing to a transfer of undertakings in 2001. Hundreds lost their employment as a result and more have had pensions affected. The union response? Closing down their Branch and refusing to talk about the problems at every level of Unite. Protecting Tony Woodley, the Broad Left in Region 1 refused to listen to Swissport leader Eugene Findlay and has refused outright to support the Swissport Workers, presumably because it might embarrass the Woodley leadership of our union?

A recent Swissport request for details of meetings in Region 1 was met with an insulting reply from the co-ordinator full of foreign language lettering. Is this democracy and the intelligent Left? What is the difference between this sell out of our members and the sell out of the Liverpool dockers?

BL is now based on confidence trickery, lies and misrepresentations. However, we must not ignore the good intentions of those involved when it started and the good intentions of the majority who remain in it, they just don't happen to be the ones who can afford hour long telephone conversations and have access to lists of delegates telephone numbers.

Case Study 7. Branch Political Corruption.

Take the case of a branch where the Branch Secretary pays herself an annual sum of money in excess of £25,000 and is protected by a Broad Left activist. There are apparently several examples of Branch officials taking all the Branch income personally. Case Study 8. - Broad Left pulling the wool over the eyes of union democracy. Recently a disabled woman delegate to her Trade Group last bi-annual period was told in her Branch meeting by the Broad Left Branch Secretary that "she wasn't eligible for reconsideration for election as Delegate to Regional Trade Group (Woman's Reserve Seat) because she had stepped down as Shop Steward". There is no such ruling in our Rule Book.

Case Study 9. John McDonnell.

Having previously stated that the Broad Left in TGWU would support John McDonnell as Labour Leadership candidate, the BL members of the GEC refused to back McDonnell in the final nomination vote and voting records from that meeting still remain unpublished despite previous assurances that they would be. It was sickening to hear the self-appointed Broad Left Chair of the Broad Left recently announce to the Labour Representation Committee, (which effectively ran McDonnell's campaign), that it would affiliate to the LRC. Some support! The Broad Left is exactly the sort of trade union organisation that MI5 would help organise - control and contain the Left, in case it finds the confidence to act in genuine solidarity.

Case Study 10. Apprx 6 years ago two members of what is now 1/888 Branch campaigned against cheap labour from Eastern Europe threatening hard won pay, terms and conditions under circumstances where Willi Betz, using Bulgarian drivers at very low wages, encouraged racism and national chauvinism amongst British drivers. The 1/888 members campaigned under the slogan "fight Will Betz, not the drivers". They linked up with Danish Trade Unionists who set up a series of meetings of rank and file drivers paid for by European Union Funding, one of the 1/888 activists was criticised for "being too open and putting everything on her Branch Blog". Both the 1/888 activists were sidelined by a current B/L member and now we hear nothing of the project which showed signs of becoming a genuine rank and file workers pressure group within the existing union structure when it started. If any work is done it must be being done in secret. We state unequivocally there is no such thing as secret negotiations in our movement, no secret diplomacy, no secret negotiations behind the members backs and no "working in the background". Either the members know what is happening or the "ordinary" members will not be there when they are asked to support union calls for action.

What is to be done?

We must fight like hell for the democratic worker-led fighting union that the T&G was more like when the Rule Book was written. At one time we fought for the Broad Left. Now the Woodley-ite Broad Left reminds one of Legs Diamond when attacking other factions when he said of Bugsy Malone: "it's bums like him what gives honest hoods like me a bad name".

We must now demand a Special Re-call BDC to examine ways in which we can re-involve members in running our union. At such a Conference, we would be ask Conference to endorse new requirements that factions are democratic, transparent and act within the constitution of our union, publishing their minutes for all to see?

Is there any reason why National Executive Council meetings can not be broadcast, via the internet, to all members so that they can see at the time what is being decided in their names? Videocasting is now cheap and high quality. The TU movement must use all available technology to spread union democracy.


 
PRESS RELEASE FROM TGWU BRANCH 1/888
Rachael Webb
posted Monday, 3 March 2008

Release date: immediate

"Rebel" Unite Candidates bid for union national General Executive Council (GEC)*

Three rebel union candidates may win places on the executive of Unite, the new union which combines the Transport and General Workers' Union and Amicus in protest at the "New Labour-type" leadership of the union.

The candidates, all life-long union activists, who describe themselves as "independent", are within striking distance of national success following big regional election wins. If elected, they are likely to be sharp critics of the two Joint-General Secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley's drift away from "lay-member democracy" in the new Unite union. The influential TGWU Truck Drivers' Branch (Branch 1/888) is supporting the 3 Candidates: Rachael Webb, Ian Lidbetter and Andy Erlam.

While each of the candidates is "fiercely independently-minded", they are all furious about what they see as the closing down of democracy and transparency in the union and last year's crucial executives' decision to back Gordon Brown for Labour Leader rather than the Left firebrand John McDonnell.

Union leaders are also secretly drawing up a new Rule Book which many fear will end members' democracy. Apparently, the new rules will not include an effective grievance procedure for members with a complaint about the union. The candidates are also challenging the informal "machines" called The Broad Left and the Amicus Unity Gazette" (AUG) which fix the elections, undermining genuine union democracy. The candidates are also backing members of the Swissport Branch*, 1,000 baggage handlers from Heathrow, who have been "badly let down by the union" in a scandal which has rumbled on from 7 years.

International lorry driver Rachael Webb, the women's candidate for London, the South East and Eastern England said:

"Most women members, apart from those with union careers, are still sidelined in the union. I want to see good socialist women running about half the union at every level in every region based on merit not on being patronized. I'm a woman working in a man's world - the road transport industry - so my decades of experience will be very useful, if elected. Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, (once heroes of the Left), have both been huge disappointments in office."

Andy Erlam , Chair of the large Central London Branch said:

"The Unite union leaders increasingly make the important decisions, such as supporting Gordon Brown, behind closed doors. Debate is stifled and "slates" of candidates produced by self-styled informal leaders of the Left are like rabbits out of a hat. There is no discussion. The semi-clandestine Broad Left in the TGWU and the AUG in Amicus are as about democratic as the freemasons and about as progressive as Opus Dei. It's now time for political change." Andy is London's candidate for the GEC.

Ian Lidbetter , another truck driver said:

"The average union member doesn't know how the union works or how to influence it. That suits the powers that be. Those members aren't stupid, they just haven't been encouraged to really own the union. There is a wealth of experience and power to utilize - that's my mission. Disabled members, including so many injured at work like myself, must be a real priority for the union. No-one else is taking up the challenge."

The three also said:

"The TGWU is a great union doing some great work, such as defending migrant workers. Unite will only be a great union if the members rise up and demand to be involved in all major decisions. This is our mission."

Further information:

Rachael Webb 07989 851602 rachael dot webb at bbnet dot ie

Ian Lidbetter: 07838 381998 iglidbetter at y ahoo dot co dot u k

Andy Erlam 07518 743 007 or 07795 547033 or hm 01273 841827 andyerlam at y ahoo dot co dot uk

Eugene Finlay (Swissport) 07985 800019 eugene dot finlay at y ahoo do co dot uk

 

Note to Editors.

*The General Executive Council (GEC) is the top national ruling body of the TGWU Section of Unite with 40 seats.
26 of the 40 seats are not being challenged with just one candidate.
The Amicus Section has an additional 40 seats. (Controversy surrounds Amicus candidates being disqualified).
The combined 80 seat Unite executive soon to be elected will probably run the union for the next 3 or more years.
Webb and Erlam are candidates for Region 1: London, the South East and Eastern England.
Lidbetter is a national candidate for truck drivers (Road Transport Commercial Trade Group).

Unite represents over 2½ millions workers. The national postal ballot for the GEC begins now (on Monday 3rd March and runs to 28th March). Ballot papers will be dropping on members' doorsteps at home this coming Monday.

----- ENDS -----


MPs expenses - another party machine gets money from union party machines at the expense of help to members at work

Union chief accused of using funds to boost New Labour

By Barrie Clement, Labour Editor, The Independent, Tuesday 11 Novermber 2003

Labour's biggest union benefactor was in turmoil last night over allegations that its co-leader abused the organisation's funds to promote the interests of Tony Blair and New Labour.

Derek Simpson, left-wing head of the Amicus-AEEU trade union, is to investigate claims that Roger Lyons, TUC president and general secretary of the MSF division of Amicus, misused union resources to promote the interests of Blairite candidates for union posts.

The allegations have emerged on the eve of the official opening of the union's new headquarters in central London, which will be attended by senior cabinet ministers.

Mr Lyons is accused of using the journal of Amicus-MSF, released yesterday, to boost the chances of New Labour in the forthcoming election to the union's national executive committee. At stake is the political direction of Labour's largest union affiliate in the run-up to the next general election.

Left-wingers point out that in the latest issue of the journal MSF Works, there are references to 11 New Labour candidates - and pictures of some of them - to the exclusion of any others.

The magazine, for which Mr Lyons is responsible, costs £500,000 to produce and circulates among 350,000 members.

Ballot papers go out today in the election for the first unified executive of the newly merged Amicus, which will begin its work in January. Three other factions are involved in the fight to control the new union: left- and right-wingers from the engineering section, and left-wingers from MSF.

In a reference to Mr Lyons' expected elevation to the peerage, one left-winger said Mr Lyons was "earning his ermine" by allegedly advancing the careers of New Labour loyalists at MSF. The Amicus-AEEU leader is retiring in a year's time, although Mr Simpson has already assumed administrative and financial control of the new amalgamated organisation.

Brian Pemberton, a left-wing candidate in the north-western area of the union, described the contents of the organisation's official journal as an "abuse of union funds" and an "obscenity". He accused Mr Lyons of rewarding existing right-wing executive members who voted to increase his salary by £20,000 to £100,000 ahead of his retirement. Mr Pemberton said that when the grassroots membership heard about the allegation, the membership would "blow them away".

Mr Simpson said the union took the allegations "very seriously" and would begin an immediate inquiry. If necessary the complaints would be passed to the Certification Officer, the Government's union watchdog.

Mr Lyons denied there was any attempt to promote the interests of one candidate above another.


How to run a ballot

This duplicates "startyourownunion#running-a-vote" but sits here just to show how cheap it is to run an honest election.

Union Ideas Network has some quite subtle articals about how branch members can do business from home with something called "Deliberative democracy".

This collection isn't all subtle. It suits a branch secretary or a rep or official who has an election to hold or a recognition-agreement meeting to go to on behalf of a load of people, but is only in touch with the three who turn up at branch meetings.

Traditionally in the T&G, branches are self-election committees of these people who elect on a show of hands and don't necessarilly have to be anything to do with one employer; they can be more interested in politics and campaigns and turn a blind-eye to a cruelly dispicably illegally bad union services as long as they get a subsidy for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign or whatever their favourite cause is. They certainly won't make the accounts known to each member, as the law says they have to.

Recognition agreement meetings are often cancelled by management without explanation, or held with one out-of-touch rep representing the work force, who, because they are working, may not have made time to go the the last branch meeting. The chances of a workplace bullying problem or bad management being sorted out are nil.

Online ballots are one small part of sorting the problems out if they include more people than the show-of-hands-in-a-back-room system.

Free online vote systems come-&-go over time. Some of the sites that come-up on a Google search are government funded papers that never get to the point and list dozens of dud links. There are also free commercial sites, sometimes ugly with adverts or short-lived. Sites that offer surveys with roughly one vote per computer tend to come-up on the same google searches as these rarer voting sites that offer roughly one vote per code from the vote-holder's list, such as a reference on the electoral roll, a membership number, or a code that has been posted or emailed. Larger organisations might have web sites that allow ballots to be built-in but simpler voting pages are less fiddlable.

A web link about socks is run by the same group of companies as
Delib.co.uk/products_and_services/opinion-suite - an open source collection of deliberative software, whatever that is. One of the packaged products - My Election - has a price guide of £5,000.

Fraud gets mentioned on the web. The main difficulty with a small election is whether the secretary and chair are simply making-up email addresses from distant branch members, as the union law about a register of addresses is about postal addresses and union IT departments (or the T&G one at least) don't help voluntarily. When I asked a Unite T&G branch secretary about elections he wrote "the regional office would probably not allow it".

In my branch the membership database didn't always work, was kept in Manchester for the whole union, and didn't have a way that branch secretaries could log-on: they have to ask the few paid staff and wait for a reply. To convert postal addresses all over the UK to a decent email list could take a long time but presumably most branches have some sort of email list. Mailouts of over about 50 letters, asking members to log-on to a web site, to vote, and give their email address to save the union money might be done by hand or online, with Viapost being about the same price as sticking stamps on postcards by hand and probably with easier proof that you've posted most of the things to most of the right people. If doing it by hand in the worst situation you'd need a certificate or posting with one address per line, or someone to witness that you've done the right thing.

    • employer's franking or stamps: free if in recognition agreement. It might be possible to get a committee of a few people to share the stamping and addressing while talking. If there are just a few members who aren't on email this might be the best system but it's fiddle-able.
    • http://sg.royalmail.com or stamps: 30p+postcard. Slow.
    • Viapost.com 30.5p per letter inc. paper & envelope. Mailmerge. Program download required.
    • cfhDocMail.com 25p+VAT+35p card processing fee
    • Ezgram.com 50c per US letter, US based
    • Pixelletter.com €0.55 per German letter, German based
    • Pc2paper.co.uk 54p per second class letter, UK based
    • l-mail.com (a small L) 70p per UK letter, by credit card, +their logo
    • doc2post.com no price given - possibly 50p. Website down 6/10
    • Royalmail.com online calculator for large mailouts by post code

The next stage is trying to get at least as many people to vote online after a meeting as turn up to meetings. That can't be hard. The problem of a register of voters is solved if all members want to join something like CollectiveX or a Yahoo Group and there may be similar things like Facebook or Meetup that I know nothing about.

The UK government names upmarket firms authorised to ballot and scrutenize under the Trades Union and Labour Relations Act, which covers a few votes for the most senior union jobs and insists on paper ballots sent to physical addresses rather than email ballots, so the posh end of the market has no privilages over the free firms above when it comes to email voting. Some of the firms are listed on the BERR page about these ballots. One, Polaris, has partnered with the expensive-looking firm

Everyonecounts.com/index.php/demos to do online elections for other votes. Another of the named firms,

Electoral Reform Services, also runs expensive-looking e-votes - this is a sample.

Protest-the-pope.org.uk deserve a mention here about government spending and political reform.

 



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.

 
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