recent posts are on /hustings2.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.
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.
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 Popes 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 Benedicts 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.
That fiasco led to charges from the Vatican that dark
forces were at work within Whitehall & saw grovelling
apologies from two ministers. Mr Camerons 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 Majors
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]
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.
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.
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
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
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:
Cost of poor mental health at work: http://bit.ly/txyFJX
via @SocietyGuardian > alcohol and drug use can be a factor
in mental health
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
We're hiring! Director of Operations, circa £55k starting
salary #jobs #substance misuse, see website for details http://bit.ly/udZrw5
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.
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
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.
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
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 OLeary, 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
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
A chance to get through the show and off the stage with some
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
- 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
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.
Left Launch Meeting
in different countries: they involve staff over there
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
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.
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.
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
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'
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"
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
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."
"gift" from a union with an overdraft
from The Times February 14, 2009 by Christine Buckley and
This article is the subject of a legal complaint from Derek
Simpson and Unite
One of the leaders of Britains biggest union has been
accused of breaking election rules, an allegation that could
have serious implications in the battle to gain control of the
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,
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 Unites
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 Coynes
complaint. It added that it was not appropriate to comment on
the commissioners 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 years 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 Simpsons election campaign. A complaint
was made but dismissed by the independent commissioner.
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 years best political joke.
Look how far theyve come, Dave Prentis
observed, sarcastically, of his fellow union bosses at the TUCs
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 Unites 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
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
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 Simpsons last in office.
The period of co-rule started badly and promptly got
worse. Mr Simpson stayed away from Unites 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
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 Woodleys grace-and-favour
flat in London came under scrutiny. Mr Simpsons 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 Labours
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 Woodleys 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 Simpsons
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 Labours most
generous union donor, but Mr Simpson stuck with Mr Brown through
the Prime Ministers 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 Labours
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 Browns former
spin-doctor, to become the unions political director. Anyone
who believes you can write off Gordon Brown can think again,
Mr Whelan told a meeting during Labours conference.
Weve 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 unions 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-mails 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 Merrills 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 months 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
Londons 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
Tony Woodley, 2003
advice can be difficult at some employers
from The Times, November 8th 2008, edited from artical by Christene
Buckley and Valentine Low
Whelan, a senior member of staff and Gordon Browns former
spin-doctor, is at the centre of bullying allegations that he
could lead to the unions staff going on strike.
Mr Whelan is no stranger to discord. As Mr Browns 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
- breach of staff members contracts and
by three Unite employees, one of whom is John Cryer, the former
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
It is not known whether Mr Whelan, as part of his induction
at Unite, was made familiar with the concept of dignity-at-work
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, Unites 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
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,
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.
guards; team meetings in Cuba
Christene Buckley, Industrial Editor, The
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 Amicuss 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 Simpsons 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 Unites 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, Unites 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
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.
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".
- 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.
- 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
"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
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
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
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
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
wasnt 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 Queens Speech, and
we would take part in a commission aimed at actually delivering
the legislation. We couldnt win it in a private members
bill, so we had to participate in the commission. If we didnt,
what else had we got? We didnt want this kicked into the
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
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"
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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."
Rachael Webb 07989 851602 rachael dot webb at bbnet
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.
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
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
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
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
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
- 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.
or stamps: 30p+postcard. Slow.
- Viapost.com 30.5p
per letter inc. paper & envelope. Mailmerge. Program download
25p+VAT+35p card processing fee
- Ezgram.com 50c per US
letter, US based
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
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.
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
to do online elections for other votes. Another of the named
Electoral Reform Services,
also runs expensive-looking e-votes - this
is a sample.
deserve a mention here about government spending and political