Employer Wish List
please excuse the muddled editing that comes of disabled
short-term memory; I don't know at the end of the page what I
wrote at the start.
Anti bullying notes in the staff handbook
Are almost self-contradictory. If you work in the sort of
place where people write a "policy" and put
it in the staff handbook or on the wall, then it's also likely
to be a place where machiavellis at all levels find ways around
them, ignore warnings from their human resources staff, and so-on.
Otherwise, what would be the point of a policy? Some people think
"policy" is a sensible word but some of them
are people who sit on committees and decide how other people
do the work - that's how silly they are and it isn't big or clever
or grown-up at all. It's just a sort of courtier class of people
who insert themselves between payments inwards and payroll-out.
"Do you mind if I just grab £60,000 for bullying
and machiavellianism? I won't be here long. Don't mind me, by
the way, you won't hear from me and if I hear from you I'll fire
you. The rest of the time I'll just find excuses to avoid the
difficult decisions like how to organise an operating theatre
and big-up the difficulties of commissioning software or fiddling
a governement grant. I'm no trouble at all."
Silly as it sounds it is the normal way of running PLCs and
taxpayer-funded organisations while alternatives are limited
to small firms and sole traders: for anyone who wants to work
in a large firm, the courtiers who get between the shareholders
and the staff or the taxpayers and the staff are the people in
Anti Machiavelli policy in the staff handbook
This is a contradiction too: the consultants who are hired
to write staff handbooks don't go back to their home offices
"what shall I do?"
"I know - I'll write myself a staff handbook to answer the
Nor do stallholders or builders. Nor does your newsagent.
The only people who have staff handbooks are the ones who want
to break their own rules after charging the taxpayer hundreds
of pounds for writing them. Or, just possibly, to help those
middle managers who simply don't know whether to be good or bad
and need it written down in a book for them, and to have something
to point to if someone up or down the management line disagrees.
The rule is: make it look like you've followed a rule and the
This rather plodding role in life leaves staff handbooks on
the shelf. They never shed their lever arch overcoats, go on
holiday and come back with new ideas about how to prevent staff
bullying. What would they think of if they could get off the
A happy staff handbook would overcome a list of difficulties.
I think they are the problems of too little staff control.
- Takings fall: will staff accept a wage cut or do you cut-down
to the most profitable parts of the business?
- A bully has become second headmaster, or head of services,
or head of human resources. Who's going to ask that person to
pass a complaint up the management line? Nobody. When it becomes
obvious that things have gone too far, there is no way of solving
the problem. One person at Edexel who nearly wrecked parts of
the organisation by bullying her staff was given a higher paid
job just to get her out of the building. But she still came back
for a bit before they paid her even more to leave.
- Obvious problems aren't being solved. Maybe the cleaner knows
how to clean better or the surgeon knows how to surge better,
or maybe not, and there is no way of filtering-out the good ideas
from the bad. Instead, the way to hold down a job is to keep
your head down.
- Someone is hired-in to take control. Maybe a failing school
hires a tough headmaster, or a failing factory is sold to a management
buy-out in the hope of great changes. Which don't happen. As
at HSBC where Sir Fred Goodwin was hired from Clydesdale Bank.
"They had a party ... to celebrate that he had left"
...said a witness later, but there was no way of feeding
Sir Fred's track record to the appointment committee until it
was too late. Or the one from ASDA to RBS, who told a House of
Commons Select Committee that he thought the problem had been
bogus bonds or rather
"the callibration: ... bonds valued at $1 were worth
"Weren't you talking about that?" asked an select
committee member, "because we were three years ago".
Whatever the best solution, it is something to do with sending
unwelcome news and good ideas up and around the management diagramme,
and feeding long-term rewards down in the form of shares and
votes, rather than in the form of a short term performance bonus.
Bank chief executives will admit that there is a problem of
inflated wages at the top of their organisations versus impossible
targets to sell useless services to customers at the bottom.
As Sir Fred Goodwin told the select committee
"The average salary is only £23,000"
and "it troubles us in the industry"
that top wages are so high. I may have mis-quoted Sir Fred at
the select committee, but in a broad ecoomic sense he was conceding
that it's bad for shareholders to have to pay so much to their
chief executives. Obviously any of us offered loads of money
to make strategic decisions for a big organisation of low-paid
people would keep quiet about the difference in itself being
wrong, and keep quiet about the balance between long-term and
short term interests until things have gone wrong, but there
is a problem of legitimacy.
Legitimacy in PLCs and absentee shareholders
There's something wrong with a system where a bank employee
pays-in to a pension, which has a manager who in theory can vote
at any of the hundred-odd PLC meetings the fund invests in, while
the bank employee who owns the money cannot vote. Even if she
buys ten thousand shares, it's likely that some of the big shareholders
fill-in a postal vote form so there's little point in anyone
else trying to vote. Never having worked in a PLC I don't know
first hand what the problems are, but an extra tax on shareholder
dividends where these shares have an absentee vote given to someone
with no other stake in the company might be an answer. Non-voting
shares would rise in value. The taxpayer would raise money and
discourage dodgy voting systems. What comes next I don't know,
but people in each company could think of something.
Legitimay in large organisations and headhunted directors
Back to bank directors. Somewhere on Google is a quote from
a colleague of Sir Fred Goodwin's asked what the first impressions
of his management style were. From memory
"We heard they were having a party at Clydesdale Bank
to celebrate that he had gone. That struck us as odd because
they are usually very conservative in the way they do business
at Clydesdale. And we wondered why they were having a party after
he had gone."
Examples from public-funded organisations.
The first report into Harringay Social Services showed no
criticsim of the 25 year-old social worker who had several jobs
"plonked on her desk" by a superviser who wouldn't
For example an ex Harringay senior social worker, Deborah
Cameron, was once my boss's boss's boss. I wrote her a whistelblowing
report about bullying. She replied that it was not about bullying,
but a grievance against a middle manager and forwarded the complaint
to that person. The tribunal chair held that the complaint was
out of time, or not plausible, or that my face didn't fit - the
man's responses were not entirely rational and he made the decisions
sitting alone in pre-hearing reviews without reading any of my
evidence. Maybe he was better at being some kind of governement
courtier than being a judge.
Meanwhile Ms Cameron has moved-on again and ran Addaction
for three years [in] [out],
a subcontractor to government that provides drugs rehabilitation
with a duty of care over hundreds of staff and vulnerable clients.
So such behaviour doesn't prevent you getting an ill-deserved
reference for honesty, while people who blow the whistle find
it more or less impossible to carry on in the same career for
lack of a reference. To digress, the man most criticised for
mis-running Harringay Social Services in his role as Chief Executive
also got another job, for part of what's now the Equalities Commission.
He claimed on his CV that he had learned so much from managing
different kinds of social worker at Harringay that he was the
ideal candidate. He, too, left quickly. He tried to insult a
journalist while drunk and to pull rank outside his own enclosed
world. "Do you know who I am?", he said, and
the journalist did. In the private sector of firms like Foxtons,
where performance is more easily measured, rediculous targets
can be set that are only achievable with dirty tricks. A manager
can bully an employee by choosing how much to overlook the dirty
There may be a role for the things though. Large numbers of
people watch bullies on television, and think the behaviour tough,
or normal, or inspiring. Maybe it takes a staff handbook and
a talk from their boss to remind tham that it is not.
Anti madness policies
One of the features of reports like the Victoria Climbie enquiry
or the Stephen Lawrence report is how stressed and unsuitable
for the job the people one or two layers up the hierachy from
the front line really are, and how distant the upper layers of
hierachy are. In some of the worst cases, someone is over-promoted
in order to get rid of them by proving that they can't do the
job, as looked like the situation at Harringay as described in
the Victoria Climbie enquiry. Nobody can ever really know. Some
of the other madness enhancers are a distant mangement who don't
really know what the job is but are also hiring for it (or delegating
to the matron - it alternates) so that people with very few of
the skills and nobody to ask are catapulted into management roles
which often have supervision built-in to them as a sideline.
The Harringay team leader tended to ring-in sick on supervision
days, or if she couldn't do that she would tend to talk about
herself - her race and religion - in order to make sure there
was nothing she could be criticsed for.
The people at the top may as well be on the moon. For example
both the team leaders who were juggling team A and B in Harringay
seem to have been taking anti depressents at the time. Both were
behaving bizarrely. In a machiavellian organisation it's normal
for someone slightly mad to be appointed as henchman - the second
headmaster is the usual role - so that the chief executive or
headmaster can appear nice and escaple blame.
Those one layer down - foreman, heads of department, team
leaders, ward sisters - are often people stuck in the middle
of a hierachy with all the stress and vagueness of role that
goes with it.
It does look likely that an employee benefit of personal 1:1
counselling including career counselling could help a lot of
such people change career or change job earlier, before they
crack-up entirely. Presumably few would take it up and many would
opt for telephone counselling, which is cheap to provide, so
the cost could be less than the cost of employing a preventably-mad
person for another year.
Anti bullying practices
Some organisations are born to bully, almost regardless of
who works in them. These help:
- plenty of job applicants - arts, ambulance, social services,
- difficulty measuring activity and a history of not seeing
the need; a frustration with vague contracts and unwritten rule
that sometimes people have to be eased-out by any means necessary
after what happened with the dodgy book keeper etc.
- difficulty in pinning down responsibility between the layers
of management. A colleague at Nacro Housing in London - who employed
about 50 people and had about 500 tenants - once found that a
decision about a saucepan was referred up to the chief executive.
In such a situation, communication is substituted for "high
status person says this [if I remember right]" versus "low
status person says that [if I heard right: I'm just in the middle
- points two and three tend to lead to a kind of management
by chinese wisper. For example that groundsman is told to cut
down a conker tree in the playground because the Head of Playgrounds
had a word with the second headmaster who told him about a meeting
(actually a phone call) with the legal services team, who aren't
very good. What began as a not very good bit of legal advice
becomes a tidal wave of muddled command by the time it has reached
Will come back to this later
Union Democratic Agreements
...could be re-written with the word "democratic"
For some reason they just have the words "union"
"recognition" and "agreement"
in them rather than the point of the thing which must be something
to do with finding out what the staff think and want before turnover
gets too high or they all walk out at once or lots of them sue
or (not a fashionable statement, this) everyone toes the party
line but service to customers is terrible.
This overcomes some problems.
- The failure of ex employees to get equal legal representation
doesn't seem a problem at first. Not to people at the top of
the heirachy. It reduces the cost of getting rid of the problems
caused by middle management, predecessors, and mostly ex-employees
themselves. That "mostly" is judged from information
fed-up the heirachy, but what can you do?
It's when, say, five people take the same employer to court in
three years amongst 100 staff that the top of the heirachy should
be thinking: " are we hiring Machiavellis here instead of
honest managers? " and of course in public funded jobs the
answer is usually yes. Even at this point, if the second headmaster
is often named in tribunal complaints (or their underlings for
their faults and power games) then it's very hard for those at
the top to find the time to get evidence against those in the
middle. Who will give you evidence against the second headmaster
or the council head of human resources? Only when staff can blow
the whistle and give evidence can you get rid or the real problem,
and the can only do this with the help of a good union (which
is unlikely to exist) or a union forced to use proper consultation
of all members and keep records of complaints made to them in
I've suggested that bad people in the middle and near the top
of a hierachy are often culprets, but the system itself is often
to blame. The number of councils reported as using anti-terrorist
legislation against people who over-fill their dustbins or move
furtively to retain their siblings right to a posh school place
suggests a dynamic in the relationship between councillors or
trustees or governors and the people who run their organisations:
various excuses are made for problems over the years like "you
can't sack anybody nowadays, it's not my fault, please keep paying
me £60,000 a year" until a majority on the committee
thump the table and say "I'll get someone who can and
do whatever it takes". The avarage working life of a
hospital chief executive was surprisingly short, according the
Gerry Robinson NHS programme, so it's not surprising that most
of NHS chief excecutive's time is spent on finding ways to avoid
doing any work to which blame can be attached if it goes wrong.
Spanish Armada comes to mind.
Anyone in any organisation can write to the person at the top.
Anyone can look like a loonie.
I don't know how it works in most organisations, such as HBOS
or RBS, but it's likely that anyone there who wrote-in a while
ago to say "those bonds you are buying are worth 10%
what you think; you are hiring nutters who keep buying other
companies like AIB, and customers hate you" is still
not mentioned as an example to follow in the staff handbook,
but such a person, if allowed to influence the thinking of those
at the top amongst all those with worse ideas, would have saved
both organisations huge amounts of money, Lloyds the crippling
cost of buying one out, some Saltan the cost of propping-up Barclays
and of course taxpayers the lost tax of all of these biggest
taxpayers in the UK so it could be that independent thought and
non-conformity is good for tha balance sheet.
- Sparce meetings.
In a smaller firm there may be no union help to encourage meetings,
with any petty cash or visits by officials being kept for some
regional thing. And attendence is limited to saints, socialites
and people being sacked (or people who aspire to the first two
and fear the third).
Overworked people are less likely to attend so complaints at
enforced innefficient ways of working are not likely to be raised.
To be the one person who turns-up, volunteers to be a witness
or some sort of rep at a dismissal meeting or to talk to Sharon
Shoesmith in the quarterly recognition agreement meeting is not
a happy role. I've never done it. Who would want to talk to Sharon
Shoesmith without being able to say "50% say overworked,
20% say systems could be improved, 3 people write-in with suggestions",
which would be a more interesting job on both sides.
- Exploitation of the proletariat is a necessary stage so
efficiency cannot be on the agenda (some people really believe
Decades ago I tried to discuss mismanagement in in some voluntary-sector
place that was being over-run with machiavellis to the point
where there were a load of nasty dismissals and silly expensive
decisions being made while the people in the more powerful, high
paid jobs tried to avoid the problems of the trenches. I think
it had even got to the stage where the SMT (Senior Machavelli
Team) met over wine in a Chateau well behind the trenches and
discussed whether to court-marshall the sargeants who brought
them bad news about their battle plans.
You'd think that in such a situation, the union might be interested
in things meing managed better but there is a long distinguished
and silly tradition of them wanting things to get worse before
they get better - often an opinion amongst some of those with
union jobs - and it influences that things that are said day-to-day
at a Wednesday afternoon union meeting held at such-and-such
an office, by people who don't believe the above but want to
get through the agenda before 4.30 so they have time to go shopping.
The friendly chatty colleague who has been there years and somehow
wants to stop a union talking about mangemant is on the same
side as General Hague.
- Scapegoating and herd instinct
Herd instinct requires some solidarity and support for the lazy
witch who is being sacked.
A union missive at my last public funded employer suggested genuine
concern about a new form of performance related pay called "supporting
people" which made life difficult for employers of lazy
colleagues who talk a lot at team meetings and do fuck all. I
genuinely think it was genuine concern. How can this be?
Part of the problem is that it is not polite or good for a career
to go to a unoin meeting and say
"my colleague a lazy witch or worlock and I have to do
a lot more work than him, and as if that wasn't enough I have
to listen to the person's opinions at compulsory team meetings"
Better to suggest a more accountable way of splitting the
work and working independently.
Better to avoid hurd instinct.
This is where the need for individual sides of A4 is far greater
than the need to hear Gladys at a meeting.
To prevent workplace bullying and get good ideas
Anyone who takes maternity leave, has been ill, or for some
reason doesn't fit-in with middle management needs to have two
lines of communication to the top of a work hierarchy.
The management line will always say that problems are caused
by the most junior person in the management line - even if this
person is a consultant surgeon and the next rank up is someone
prone to little fibs who can read and write but prefers not to,
as in the Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? programme. Likewise
in Victoria Climbie enquiry people at the top of the organisation
were allowed to pretend ignorance of what went on at the bottom
because they could claim to be doing quite different work of
a managerial kind, such as sacking all their colleagues and re-hiring
in order to keep them quiet and have something on the CV while
applying for another social services directorship at Hackney.
Some large organisations with staff handbooks have a "whistle
blowing procedure" which is as ridiculous as it sounds,
and that is why there are whistle blower discrimination cases
in employment tribunals. It is not an alternative to directors
walking the shop floor or some sensible system for consulting
staff that can be irreverent and rebellious but can also be also
democratic and efficient.
Some large organisations - specially in the public sector
- have union recognition agreements and there is requirement
to sign them in large firms if enough employees vote. The NHS
trust in the programme probably would have had a recognition
agreement with Unison. Would Unison pass a message up past the
management line? My guess from watching the programme is that
they had not done so for a long time.
If a firm is too large for anyone senior to go walkabout,
then maybe it would be better managed as a staff partnership
or at least have some sort of staff rep on the board or the trustees
or the governors or whatever. Some system of communication should
help directors avoid doing things that are expensive exhausting
and illegal, even if they are the biggest bastards in an organisation
and a system of communication helps them avoid these things.
Oddly enough, the same system of by-passing the management
line for complaints about bullying could be a way of getting
good ideas too. The same Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS?
programme showed about a dozen ideas, some badly thought-through
or ill-informed, held back from directors by middle management
and bogged down in committees and tactical avoidances. By the
end of the programme it was not clear whether a better way had
been found of carting patients through operating theatres, but
it was clear that the lid had been kept on ideas for a long time.
For PLCs to issue fewer new voting shares and issue free,
non-transferable, voting shares for staff.
These is legal. PLC managers could chip-away at the voting
rights of absentee investors until a problem crops-up, if it
does. Quite apart from anything else, this helps PLC directors
by reducing the chances of entry-ism by private equity financiers,
which seems very similar to the technique used by Communist Party
of Britain supporters to take over union branches and voluntary
organisations. Ideally there ought to have been organisations
trying to promote non-voting shares in staff-partnership companies
as a chart-topping form of investment. There have been attempts
to do this. Unfortunately the oldest one is taken over by something strange and bizarre but
not an attempt to capture the savings market.
For employers to look for parts of their business that
they could sell to the staff.
The Baxi Partnership
can advise on what's worked in the past and, like Industrial
Common Ownership Fund of Co-Operative Finance has money to
Footnote 1 / back:
Two MPs are trying. I got their names from They Work for You
debates and their web pages. They have produced a Labour
and the Trades Unions a free download published by the Centre
for Policy Studies, reviewed
Software whistleblowers' agency
When staff are employed by a committee, the committee tend
to want to avoid the staff and if the organisation is large enough
for directors, they form a kind of courtier class between the
committee and the staff, blaming the staff to the committee,
blaming the comittee to the staff, hoping they will have changed
jobs before anyone discovers. They avoid any useful action because
it could be something they could get blamed for it if went wrong.
Also, if you're feckless you need staff and there is often a
mangement fee of between 10% and 20% built-in to government contracts,
so there at least 10% cut to directors if they can hire an underling
to take the blame. "we have to expand to survive",
some of them tell each other and anyone else who cares to listen
without punching them; "governance costs are rising",
they say when they mean they cannot stay out of court any more
than the drunk on the town hall steps.
One of the stupid things these folk do is talk to software
consultants. We don't know how much they talk to their legal
consultants (my ex-boss talked to the HR person for ages
I saw out of the window and a contact tells me his director is
always on the phone to a lawyer; they can do this because they
don't have a specific job to do) but employees know that directors
do it to stay out of our way, keep a distance, keep a lot of
power, let it be known that whistleblowers will get unfair treatment.
We also know that public sector bosses are spectacularly bad
at getting the software done: they talk to the most expenive
person about the subject they know least about and hey! There's
an NHS management system.
So what should software engineers do when confronted with a snakepit
of a mangement team?
I suggest they report to an agency that anonymises their reports
and only makes them public if one other agency does too. So "ARP
working with Sauce Design" could be reported by Sauce
Design while another agency working with Fat
Beehive could be reported by Fat Beehive and if the two merge
or prove to have been the same that's a public bad reference.
There's still a problem that most of what voluntary sector council
and NHS trust web sites need to do could probably be done with
a free webs.com address and the free site tools that go
Why should web design agencies piss on their chips? To show
they have subscribed to a whistleblowers' quality standard that
public sector employer's can quote as an extra brownie point
on their grant applications. And funders could insist that if
a large design or web or software agency is used, that it subscribes
to the piss-on-your-chips standard for reporting public-funded
If you are a public-funded director then you might just have
had your kitchen done for £30,000 and not see what all
the fuss is about a £5,000 or £10,000 or £20,000
deal for software engineers to talk to you outside your usual
office block and pretend you are saying useful things while you
avoid your colleagues. Such is life.
I hope the important thing is to expose the scandal of feckless
unions so that members can fix them or ditch them for ones that
- don't donate "on behalf" - not to the Communist
Party's landlord, not the Labour Party central office, not to
webs of campaigns and charities that don't publish accounts on
their web sites and might be giving kickbacks, not by giving
a contract for legal services to a chain of solicitors who offer
to do loss-making cases for free: nothing. Niet. Non. Nein. No.
- are transparent, with online accounts and wide elections
using something like Ballotbin.com or similar cheap online
services that have got themselves on government authorized lists
like Electoral Reform Services. (more here)
- pass whistle blowing complaints of bullying or good management
suggestions up past the management line
- lay down the law when the management line is beginning to
do something illegal, rather than hope to settle later and watch
it all happen again. Most complaints to the bullying advice line
were about serial bullies.
- represent properly in complicated tribunal cases where there's
not much money to be made for a no-win no-fee lawyer but a lot
of points of principal at stake. This is something that members
pay for and don't get. There's a similar problem with personal
injury claims under £1,000 which have to use the small
claims procedure at a county court that doesn't allow claims
for costs. The system was nearly extended to cover £5,000
claims, but for a TUC campaign: unions couldn't possibly back
members, without no-win no-fee lawyers, the TUC argued; at the
moment small claims costs were shared between unions and lawyer
- in other words lawyers are asked to do them for free as a bribe
to get the lucrative work.
In contrast, when employers buy proper legal insurance, they
may get lawyers and human resources workers that are a s' - on
time, up to date with law, with enough paid hours to prepare
a bundle and a budget to pay barristers solicitors and other
officials if that's what it takes. Two of the people who either
ordered my boss to bully or ordered whistle blower's discrimination
are still employed at different employers in more senior jobs
because of the feckless T&G legal system at my tribunal:
a condition of a tribunal settlement could be that they wouldn't
get a reference. They're not employable.
- Walk-out once in a blue moon, protest, send a letter to the
local paper, write to the chairman
- Buy more and more shares, set-up rival employers, apply for
the same grant that grant-funded employees are getting through
their unwelcome managers: just generally represent employees
in any logical way.
This page is among the least-read: my opinions attract no
advertising revenue, but to offer answers is a good constructive
thing in itself, a fun thing, and a transparent thing: those
who do not offer the world their free opinions invite guesses
as to where they are coming-from and what they are trying to
do. Better to just to say where I am coming from and what I am
trying to do.
The truth is that I don't know and it changes. As I try to
work out where my money went all these years that it was not
helping employees or paying for lawyers - who are charged commission
to get the work at T&G - then sometimes the site is about
the little parties and campaigns that get a cut, and too little
it is about the toad of the Labour Party Central Office that
presumably gets most of it, and presumably far more than any
opt-out-able political contribution because the Labour Party
is the best funded party and the T&G for example seems to
provide almost nothing at all to members, so it's a fair bet
that money has transferred from one to the other.
This site is written in short paragraphs dictated by bad concentration,
and another older one takes off here...
I am not attacking the Socialist Workers' Party because I believe
that New Labour should get all the money (which seems to be a
reason for unfair dismissals of Amicus union officials at the
moment). There are no opinions here about the Communist Party
of Britain, The Labour Party, The Marx Memorial Library, Cuba
Solidarity Campaign, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy or any
of the dozens of organisations for which my union raises money
because it's the removal of money that makes the difference rather
than where it moves. Like most people, I haven't read any of
their political stuff. If a thief stole my video I wouldn't say
"your honour: he used it for taping bad programmes and
that is the reason I am here today". I wouldn't have
to. My taxes would fund a police force to arrest him and a crown
prosecution service to prosecute him. The idea would be the obvious
one that it was my video (or my membership dues) that were being
stolen that that this is obviously wrong.
Unfortunately in the world of employment and unions it's all
very different and those who have suffered most from crime are
those who have to try to take it to court and find the system
stacked against them. And those who use public services. These
are provided by directors and senior management teams who you
would not buy a second hand car from or hire to do building work,
and who do little in the way of management or direction, but
specialise in a kind of machiavellian rat race that bogus unions
- Buy legal insurance to back-up your union membership. I regret
not doing this and want to advise others to do it. If this site
is about anything, is is about saying that I wish I had had legal
insurance. It isn't for sale on the web as far as I know but
you could either contact
the insurers and ask them to suggest a broker that sells
their product, or go to an insurance broker and ask if they deal
with any of the legal insurers. "Family Legal Cover"
is often what it's called. Ideally, get insurance that covers
professional negligence so you can sue your union if it lets
- Opt out of the political fund unless you agree with where
the money goes. This could save more money than you have just
spent on legal insurance which is why I mention it. Just email
your union central office with the words from the act: "National
Union of Teachers' POLITICAL FUND (EXEMPTION NOTICE). I give
notice that I object to contributing to the Political Fund of
the Union, and am in consequence exempt, in manner provided by
Chapter V1 of Part 1 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations
(Consolidation) Act 1992, from contributing to that fund. Paid
Cymru have set-up a special
form: "a cheap publicity stunt" according
to the T&G's press office, run by a communist who also runs
one of the political organisations paid for by the fund.
- If your union is like the T&G, with an unpaid self-election
committee holding a branch budget, you could keep asking and
embarrassing them to hold broad elections by post or online
until they do it. If they don't have a way of contacting members
to ask how to spend the branch budget or what to say to an employer
at a recognition agreement meeting they are basically bogus shits.
Or do what the Communist Party does: raise a possy of seven to
outvote their five or six activists, and then do only what seems
worth your time and patience, like emailing all members with
proper voting arrangements and finding-our what the regional
budgets are for officials' salaries and lawyers. One move might
be to split the branch account per member and send a cheque to
each (which is a way of checking their addresses and getting
a response) and asking them each to give an email address to
be able to vote on future spending.
- As above, put the word around that you would rather support
colleagues who have legal cover. That's common sense. Otherwise
you are caught in the middle between a feckless union and an
ex-colleague. Or study law in your spare time, become an unpaid
solicitor and barrister while holding-down your day job and despite
the risk of victimisation and getting on with your own life.
That's what suits the union financially and they will push as
hard as they can for you to do it. If there is difficulty in
your union in exposing the lack of clear contract, do your bit.
If your union is Unite T&G then put the current rule book
on a web site or somewhere and ask anyone who will listen to
collect their thoughts ready for any consultation on the next
- Some reps try to insist on meetings with the paid officials
(who in T&G tend not to reply to return calls to anyone but
insiders) and to take the member along with them. That's another
way to avoid getting stuck in the middle and a good one. Otherwise
you'll end-up like Sandra Beeton
at the Eric Shepherd Unit of Hertfordshire NHS Trust, quoted
forever as doing the union's dirty work.
Union officials may pretend, as mine did, that it's OK to talk
about something entirely different and then close the meeting
without offering to do anything. After the meeting my first rep
said "I have to go to the lavatory" to avoid embarrassment
and as far as I know she's still there. If you didn't become
a union rep in order to hide in the lavatory, why not thump the
table, or make a completely ridiculous threat that you can't
believe you've just said? Why not draw attention to the problem
rather than skirting around it? It's a lot easier than being
rude to your boss.
- Switch unions if anyone knows a good one
Bunches of employees should find it far easier to switch unions
than individuals because they can take the network of volunteer
support with them.
Unfortunately, members at a work may not know each other particularly,
they're busy doing the real job and sometimes the getting-on-with-management
job too, which can be quite unrelated and involve lots of initiatives
and meetings. There isn't time for a third job thinking about
a trades union.
After some kind of online voting system is set-up for a branch
it might be possible to get a dozen people voting for or against
a motion, rather than the usual activists. It might be possible
for someone who isn't the branch secretary to send a message
to all members. So if one or two people know that they want to
switch, it might be possible for them to take a dozen with them.
The Cerfication office lists dozens of other unions to switch-to.
My guess is that if two or three people in a drab meeting say
"the reps recommend XYZ union", and can get the message
to colleague members, then at least half the current membership
will change. If the old union hears that you three union reps
are willing to do this, they might offer a better service and
say "yes we will sign a contract to say what we offer your
shop", or "no: we will show your members what bastards
we really are". Either way, you will discover next month
and many employers will let you help members of any union or
none - it's only the paid services that are denied non-members
and those who stay with a bad union make their own decision.
If all the unions that anybody has ever heard of are worse than
useless, or members of the union's cartel - whatever it's called
- which tries to reduce competition between unions by carving-out
turf between them, you can do worse than start
your own union
These first five points should be written-in to recognition
agreements to make them stick. Either the employer or the union
could suggest a change, and an individual member could suggest
to either of them that they make a change.
1) For branch elections to be held by the broadest cheapest
system - usually online.
This used to be expensive so the
law only insists on postal ballots for senior jobs. The T&G
rule book expects all members to turn-up like a football crowd
once in two years and show hands. Our generation should work
at least half as hard as they did to have proper ballots.
Now, Ballotbin or some
of the all-in email group
systems will invite each person on an email address list
to vote once for free, avoid double-voting, display results and
so-on. Surely anyone who used to stuff envelopes to get union
stuff to members is now trying to get members' email addresses,
so a machine that lets you invite the whole lists to vote and
stops anyone voting twice is the obvious next step. It is easier
to take a risk on a new system locally than for the national
office to impose it on 750,000 members tomorrow. They have to
look sensible and anticipate all problems. If a branch election
goes wrong you can just shrug. They would probably claim a union
modernisation grant for Electoral Reform Services to set-up a
system. In a local branch you can just try Ballotbin and see
if it works.
Local branch committees can be made up - as mine is - from
among the 37 of members of the Communist
Party of Britain who promote the worst possible voting system
to ensure a less than 1% turnout and have a long tradition of
making donations to favourite causes. It's ridiculous when they
do it but the same logic applies when the Labour party pinches
cash too, and more so because it fuels more demand from both
big parties in exchange for neglecting fair union law.
My local branch is not connected to any one employer and not
in touch with people informally, but they don't have a formal
system either and the way the T&G union rule book is interpreted
now allows a show of hands in a back
room every two years as an election method if the committee
want. Of course they do. Communists don't win elections any other
way according to their report to the electoral commission. They
are not frightening people to deal with, but depressingly anxious
to please by giving other peoples' money away, writing one dimensional
slogans to attract other interest groups, marching with banners
and not complaining to the union's regional office about duff
lawyers. Or not very loudly - not with any threat that they will
cease to recruit new members or ask the same question next month
or anything so drastic. T&G offices tend to ignore everyone
but reps. My rep's complaints were fobbed off by someone who
was "very senior".
2) For all union voters to acknowledge that they have seen
Shareholders do. Union members would do if their organisations
were mutuals, but all the ones I've noticed are odd trusts running
membership organisations, which is nifty but no excuse: those
who vote at union elections should sign to say "I have read
the accounts and vote for..." or not vote at all.
3) Direct elections to budget-holding volunteer committees
allows everyone on an email list to be invited to vote once.
Demochoice.org is another free service.
If the same email that invited members to vote included last
year's accounts, I think the daftest committees would get a good
turnout for change. If the email vote were held after a face-to-face
meeting and show of membership cards, with the outcome reported
by the chair, I think the real result might overturn the face-to-face
result and more people might want to go to face-to-face meetings.
If not, the vote would surely not be reduced: anyone who has
gone to a meeting would be likely to confirm the vote online
when they get home.
If a large union set-up a system like Yahoo for free online
email, I think a lot of activists would like to use it. Over
time perhaps as ballot-rigging techniques are discovered, so
better balloting techniques would be discovered and allowing
each paid-up member one email account might be part of that automated
Here's the sort of thing that has to go: The
Sector Bi-Annual Delegate Conference. If it has a budget
from member's subscriptions, and it is run by elected volunteers,
it should be directly elected and not elected by people delegated
to elect from committees that say they are elected because in
truth only six people want to turn-up to the South London Voluntary
Sector Unite-T&G branch meeting every month and there are
seven traditional volunteer posts so everyone just keeps a straight
face and divides-up the £20,000 bank account.
The Sector Bi-Annual Delegate Conference seems to be a job
interview for regional general secretaries in which they address
the miniscule activist vote with foreign policy suggestions and
gain or loose their jobs accordingly. Whether they have ever
shown their face in an employment tribunal for Unite-Transport
and General seems to be the last thing on the agenda but then,
as a member who isn't an activist, I wouldn't know because I've
never seen the agenda or what goes-on at the Sector Bi-Annual
Delegate Conference or delegated anyone to go there. I just have
a gut feeling it might be held in a decaying seaside town: watch
this space for updates. 21/02: Yes
it is - and what a strange way of appointing staff it is.
It looks like Eurovision,
but there isn't a way for daytime TV viewers to phone-in their
votes for favourite slogans so I suppose it's even less democratic
than Eurovision. Since I first wrote that it has emerged that
some of the Eurovision phone-ins were rigged in favour of the
Franco government entry, "la la la", but at
least there is some attempt at polling. Anyway, the third
picture to from the bottom, left-hand side shows someone
who also crops-up on the Communist
Party of Britain page. He is also a newspaper
commentator and writes something which would be great if
he could make it happen in his union:
For a start, socialism makes possible the re-establishment
of democracy whether at national, multinational or global level.
Capitalist globalisation has become synonymous with democratic
powerlessness as all important decisions are taken further away
from the people affected and concentrated in the hands of ever
fewer corporate bosses, private equity and publicly traded alike,
for whom the common weal cannot be their priority.
4) Union contracts ("rule books") to be displayed
on the certification office web site, to show their paternal
idealism, if it's the T&G
I asked. The certification office said they were considering
it. The things are still not there two years later. Taxpayers
have paid salaries to these people. Shits. The Belfast Certification
Office complain too much of their office time is spent answering
Freedom of Information Act requests, so it must surely be in
the civil servants' interest to put as much information as possible
online so that they don't have to answer enquiries about it.
The existing law says that the union must send its rule book
to this office in Bermondsey High Street (or George Street Edinburgh,
Gordon Street Belfast) but the internet is where more taxpayers
Meanwhile, unions could try adding their rule books to annual
returns as an appendix, and hope that the certification office
puts the scan online for free, which would be a good system.
5) For members to sign a contract when they join the union.
At the moment you get an A5
flyer in an envelope full of slogans, pictures of people
smiling, and financial offers such as credit cards and pet insurance.
These include key facts statements, major exclusions, and enforcably
clear descriptions of when your pet will be insured. Your pet
can read exactly when it can go to the vet, the maximum amount
of cover, major exclusions and so-on so you might assume that
it's owner gets the same rights and that a contract the matches
usual law of contracts has fallen out of the envelope. It
hasn't. There isn't one. The flyer says "legal assistance
and advice" but the paid official usually decides whether
you can have a solicitor's assessment, when, and which solicitor
you have to go to. This decision is controlled by his boss and
the union budget, which in the T&G's cases is 66p per member
per year for employment lawyers. If you want to use your legal
right to change solicitors the union can change their mind about
the strength of the case, as they did with mine. If you send-off
for the rule book, it reads like a general statement of purpose
and the courts have interpreted union rule books very loosely
with a lot of consideration of custom and practice, so there
is no detailed statement of rights at all - the "schedule
II" mentioned in my union's rule book does not exist.
6) For unions to back members with a 50% chance of success
in employment law.
I think this is implied to members when they join and unless
stated otherwise should be easy to enforce in law. I don't know
how, because it's difficult to see how a legal system that's
meant to work for buying toasters and pet insurance seems to
fall-down when buying union membership. Over the years judges
have overcome this kind of muddle in employment law with "implied
terms" in any employment contract and something similar
- whether from judges or from an act passed in parliament - could
help: a trades union implied terms bill. Majority labour MPs
have argued very strongly for the status quo just recently forcing
the legal services bill to go through parliament twice. Their
argument if any was that there is a magic relationship between
a grateful member and an avuncular union official which would
be undermined if the official were forced to do anything. That's
not about buying toasters, though: they are all in favour of
consumer rights being spelt-out and easy to enforce except for
the rights of union members.
7) Real votes:
Next time there is a change of party in government, someone
is bound to sort out unions. Do it first. Run real votes of real
members for more union offices and all budget-holding offices.
This is not illegal and there may be unions doing it already.
They should come out of the closet and boast about it. If you
are an activist in a union branch, you shouldn't say "the
region would probably not allow it" as my secretary
said to me. You should set-up a free Yahoo group, use your existing
list of members' email addresses and invite them to register
so that they can vote with the free poll system that's included.
Another option is services like Ballotbin
which invite everyone on an existing email list to vote once.
The same service could publicise minutes and accounts. If you
have time for some scanning you could even include some receipts,
and if you know of any obscure rule books, policies and phone
numbers which the union has forgotten to give to members, there
is plenty of space for those. And if the region chucks you out,
as ASLEF did to someone at Associated Train Drivers' Union, do
what he did and set-up a better one.
8) Buy proper legal insurance
...of the sort that employers have. This is a quantifiable
clear service that you can show you are offering members. If
you are a branch activist, there might be money in the local
budget to pay £5-15 a
year per member. I tried to pass a motion for this but it
was "put on one side", as "what you
really need is a lawyer". We got to this stage because
(like the branch chair and my colleague from the same firm) I
had discovered how much worse than useless the branch's panel
lawyers was, so I sacked him and asked for another. My branch
secretary liaised with Ms Philp, a senior administrator among
the paid regional staff. "John, Ms. Philp implied that
an opinion from OH Parsons
would be very soon - as Ms. Philp said ET things are always 11th
hour - so in her view the two weeks was plenty of time. I assume
as your file is with OH Parsons for the second opinion - if the
decision is to support they will be the ones taking on your case.
Ms. Philp explained that she is the person who deals with these
matter for the Region - so has experience. [sic] She was also
very clear that the procedures [sic] were going to be kept
to. Cheers" This is a all wrong because OH
Parsons could not have had the file; the first lawyer from
Edwards Duthie had refused to take any written evidence from
me and only had the sketchiest idea of the case as hand written
notes of a conversation, which he had returned to me. Ms Philp
doesn't sound much cop either. For example she was either assembling
a bundle of documents for me by telepathy or she thought that
union members don't deserve them, and there's no sign of a track
record or a qualification. Maybe if your main function is to
take money out of union budgets you are prepared to be awed by
Until there is proper legal insurance, some stand-ins are cheap
and could be offered. There is a standard draft letter for grievance
and grievance appeal which can be filled-in with references to
law and contract. It only costs a few pounds from Rapidocs, or
a few tenners from MyLawyer.com who add a legal helpline to the
same service. This service would help union reps as well, who
are otherwise caught between angry members and paid staff who
don't return calls. Union local budgets might also cover a subscription
to Which Legal Service or DAS legal helpline to anyone who asks
for either, or maybe keep a list of members who have a legal
helpline anyway for some reason, and might ask the odd question
for other members now and then.
9) Buy shares in PLCs where your members work and send
questions by letter to the general meeting.
My union's central office holds millions of pounds in low-interest
bank accounts, government bonds and unit trusts. The unit trusts
are only £8 per member but add-up to £6m altogether,
and could be converted to vote-holding shares in union-members'
PLC employers immediately. (Individual employee shareholders
can ask questions anonymously through Investorvoice.co.uk
Dolphin's Stocktrade is one of the online stockbrokers. It's
unusual in passing-on voting rights of shares - not that there
would be many votes to start with anyway. But unions last a long
time and a small investment every year for a hundred years adds-up
to a lot of votes at shareholders' meetings, as well as a lot
of dividends and increased value for the union.Union
Ideas Network have published something on votes at work,
signed by several politicians. And the BaxiPartnership
(related to Baxi Boilers) has quietly been funding staff buyouts
of other household-name firms. The Employee
Ownership Association has a few pages of notes listing obscure
tax breaks and schemes for employees to buy shares in their companies
and in some cases they have borrowed money to buy companies that
then pay-back the loan. The more employee ownership there is,
the more easily this kind of thing can happen and there is a
list of obscure schemes linked to tax breaks by which employee
share holding could be encouraged.
10) Union rule books to be clear.
Clarity about the main services people say they want of a
union - help at work and legal help - are vital.
Paternal, discretionary services are not just quaint; they are
a deception. When an official passes on the message via a volunteer
that "you do not understand...", it is too late.
That is why people aim to have contracts in the rest of life.
To avoid clarity is simply wrong.
Another way to look at the same problem is to avoid hassle
for unions. If the usual standard of insurance contracts is set
by the Financial Services Authority, and unions are exempt while
a union-funded party is in government, it makes sense to show
the world that there's no need to be regulated in future: unions
can do just as good a job themselves and write contracts just
as clear. Or at
least be legal under current contract law. Current legal
interpretation of rule books is that they are not contracts but
the beginning of a tradition that can build-up over the years,
as the King v TGWU case shows
when compared to TGWU rule 10 about voting,
so it is almost impossible for a non lawyer to know what if anything
the rule book means.
11) Promote products of staff-owned companies.
This was a much-repeated objective in the quaint old T&G
12) Doodle draft rule books - (rules2.html is an example) ready for any consulation
by others on changes
Or in Unite T&G,
at least circulate and form opinions about the old one.
There is one
in the wings. There is a secretive old
one available for members who ask. Parts are really rather
lovely, and appeal to a much broader range of people than usual
There is an attempt at a wiki community edited one at http://unite.wikidot.com/example-item-1
and maybe you can find a free wiki host to edit your own draft
with anyone you know who is interested. I don't know how to propose
a draft but presumably there will be a vote or a link on the
Unite-T&G website or something quite soon which will say
"everyone agrees with the new rule book (available on request)
don't they? Please submit 51 page drafts by tomorrow at 9am"
and silence will be assumed to be a yes unless there's a vote
and a lot of people are interested enough to vote no.
If you are good with online software you may find far better
ways of hosting a wiki rule book. This is a list of likely places
Party politics is part of this. I discovered when subscribing
to TheyWorkForYou.com and seeing that
my pet issue had just been debated at Westminster without me
realising, and debated in a party political way. But to mention
party politics makes readers think that You Work For Them and
stop reading. Please read-on. If party politics makes you sick,
skip to Activist Wish List
and Bank Wish List below, or back
to the main index page.
1) MPs to criticise bad unions publicly - particularly
MPs who don't call themselves right of centre.
At the moment, only the DUP and Conservatives voted for Financial
Services Authority regulation of union legal services. The Liberal
Party changed spokesman and changed position just before the
vote, without reason. I had complained to my Liberal MP a month
before on this very point, and she had promised to keep me informed
if there were any committee meetings or regulations being passed
in Westminster. She didn't tell me the Legal Services Bill itself
was being passed or tell me why they voted with the Labour Party.
The Liberal leader at the time was Vincent Cable. Nobody asked
him on television why his party didn't seem interested in politics
and why MPs like mine seemed to be pretending to be local counsellors
in order to get in the local paper rather than doing work at
Westminster. At the time this was going through parliament, she
kept quiet about it which is a pity, because MPs get reported
a lot more than badly-treated trades union members.
This is a pity because although less than half of union members
are Labour voters, less than a quarter vote Conservative and
it is tricky for MPs who call themselves centre-right, aren't
union members and don't have a track record promoting employees
rights to try and reform trades unions[ 1].
I found this out by googling the people who voted against this
loophole and seeing what one or two of them had written. And
I found out about the loophole by ringing trading standards and
then the financial services authority to find out how my union
could behave as it did.
2) For votes at work.
According to Union Ideas Network, nobody has found a single
example in the world of a trades union taking over an employer
for the staff, or promoting a staff co-op. There are too-few
staff-owned companies; too many quangos and PLCs. It is these
- particularly quangos and the public sector - which spawn the
daily post of complaint forms to Employment Tribunals and makes
managers worry that everything has to be done by rigid procedure
to save being caught-out.
I guess that PLCs are just as bad to their staff but better at
finding smooth ways around the law. What shocks me about public
sector managers is what they think is normal in order to get
rid of trouble-makers, from time-wasting to cruelty to dishonesty.
It is a kind of game imposed on the other staff - just as mixed
in ability and just as short of ideas - who are doing the real
work. Staff are as likely to be eased-out of a job for being
a rival to the boss or for knowing too much than for being bad
at helping clients of public services.
I think that votes at work should go with votes online for
the union branch. Union votes and work votes don't have to be
enacted at the same time in the same law, but a politician who
supported both might be popular.
3) For votes to back political ideas with support
I don't think that union members should always tell Labour
MPs how to vote.
MPs have their own ideas and other constituents than trades unionists.
There is too little independent voting and MPs probably need
a union themselves.
But if union policies are a tradition of the party, I think
the system should be made to work as well as it can even if -
as one of the T&G political activists reported back to my
branch of his meeting with the Prime Minister's advisors
"the most that can be said is that we were politely
I would like to know what union members think of this, that
or the other policy in directly-held online elections, particularly
about employment and company law where staff should have something
distinct to say.
I find the Labour movement baffling and have never been much
to do with it. I only started getting emails about labour politics
when I hooked-up to T&G branch committee 1/1148 in order
to complain to them and got Lambeth Labour Party politics back
instead. I've never voted Labour and only worked in Lambeth,
but it would have been interesting to read if it were not rather
one-diamensional and designed to attract support in disguise
rather than solve real problems.
As I understand it there is a whole hobbyist class of people
who sit in trades union committees or join the party as individuals.
They pass ideas up to a conference via a system in the party
"watering down motions and making sure that only the
most anodyne are passed, which ministers then ignore",
one of them said (my branch donates members' money to the
Campaign for Labour Party
Democracy and Labour
Representation Committee, listening to their speeches in
their time at meetings, despite avoiding democracy at the branch
itself. Unless you count being smug as democracy, but I think
that smugness is only part of it; being voted-in with a workable
system is the most important part).
At the same time, activists allow large amounts of money to
be sucked-out of their unions into a political party central
office, where presumably it is used to run a corporate alternative
of private focus groups, opinion pollsters, and ad campaigns
to find out what real people think and let them know that politicians
are in touch. The party central office is an expensive parallel
version of what traditional membership clubs first meant to do.
It is the office that helps party whips with party PR and reduces
the role of individual MPs. By subsidising a party, they decrease
their influence over it my strengthening the centre.
If the traditional union voting system worked, and included
marginal voters, the duplicate system could be cheaper; if non-labour
members in trades unions were allowed to cast individual votes
on the party's policies (rejected or not) then it would be a
much more interesting and attractive party, much more true to
its roots and much more photogenic. There is good television
in discussing which way a million teachers vote individually,
but not in showing the punch lines from a rousing speech at a
teachers' union conference by someone who has a bloc vote of
a million in his pocket.
4) The Representation of the People Act
This act sets strict limits
on what a local candidate is allowed to spend on a campaign after
the first mail-out.
It sets no limits on what the candidate's party central office
spends in order to shut her up and spin us a consistent party
MPs tend to say - through gritted teeth - that central offices
do important and useful work which the public do not understand,
but which has to be funded one way or another. Until they say
what this work is, I don't believe them, and I doubt that they
5) The Arms Race and Political Fund Opt-Outs
Politicians have described party funding as an "arms
race". They know better than me but and it sounds a good
description. As part of negotiations to end the arms race, I
would like to see unions forced to provide an online service
by which members could donate to political parties or charities
tax-free, but only if they choose the charities and political
parties individually. There should also be a duty for unions
to publicise an opt-out that exists for political funds now.
The party funding arms-race and the political-fund opt-out that
doesn't work are two separate points, but while a union-funded
party is in power I think they will only be dealt with together.
And I've just seen that an
attempt has failed.
6) Libel Law
Two of the recipients of union branch money were alternative
newspapers - Cab Trade News and Morning Star.
While googling, I discovered that the libel laws had closed Scallywag
magazine and persuaded a lot of the news trade not to touch political
hobbyist magazines again. Caravan World yes; Scallywag
no. This is a pity because one of the drains on union funds is
from activists who want their messages spread one way or another.
If they could sell more pamphlets and magazines commercially,
less would try entry-ism to union branches. I don't understand
how libel works but it needs sorting-out, on the internet as
well as for print publications.
7) Registries of charities, unions & trade associations,
limited companies, financial service providers, friendly societies
These registers are part of a Victorian tradition set to make
organisations accountable, alongside the registers of births
deaths and marriages, the electoral roll and the land registry.
They made it easier for strangers to do business with each other
outside of networks of family and personal trust.
The modern equivalent of these registries is online, and a
policitician's first response to skullduggery in an organisation
should not always be that heavier regulators are needed; often
more transparency would do the same job for free. For example
Northern Rock registered headings of accounts at Companies House
as well as being regulated by the Financial Services Authority
and the Bank of England, but the detail of whether they had sold-on
tranches of mortgages or not is still opaque. It is hard for
a financial journalist to find-out. Likewise Unite and Transport
and General have free-to-download headline accounts at the Certification
Office, but they're in TIFF format and give no detail for people
like Ms King and King trying to find out about the cab trade
Names are hard to find too. The name of Halpin has got in the
news recently because of a story about inherited art treasures,
but the names of branch activists and the coincidence that they
are also activists for the Communist Party of Britain are not
so easy to track down on Google.
- preference for searchable documents, sent-in in word-processor
formats or as forms filled-in online
- Open Office spreadsheet templates available
- a transcription charge for firms that post or fax their account
The advantage of this would first be for financial researchers,
politicians and their research staff, and journalists:
- What is the average return on capital for a limited company?
- How many Friendly Societies are there?
- What sorts of firms call themselves Charities?
- What do Trades Unions spend money on?
Curious Googlers would benefit next by discovering things
earlier about where their pension fund is invested and names
of those involved. Oddfellows, Charities, Unions, Political Parties
and any other types of firm that account to registries would
be picked-up a little later by journalists, and I suspect that
the "Halpin" link would have been found for me long
before I really needed to know if there were better government
registries. Apparently this Halpin family was a big part of my
life without me knowing it. It is only now and too late that
I have discovered.
8) The Co-Operative Party and the Co-Operative
movement (written about 2005)
This is a stooge movement, designed to raise money for Labour
and divert attention from the cause of employees owning their
firms. Job ownership was one of the main
objects of my Transport and General Workers Union according to
its rule book - potentially the most popular one - and it
is such a low priority now that you'd think they were trying
to strangle the idea at birth rather than foster it. In fact
we know they strangled the idea at birth because an influential
socialist in the 1930s, Beatrice Webb, wrote exactly what she
thought in a series of books. She began her career bossing the
poor about in the Salvation Army (I used to work in hostels so
I can be rude about them) and ended it writing "The Truth
About the Soviet Union" as though anyone was calling
her a liar. She didn't end her career by writing the book. Her
career ended because she got old and died. If she had carried-on
she would have written: - no I won't say. It would cause offence.
I've never read any of these books but know that in the middle
she tried to write co-operatives of employees out of the entire
labour co-operative thing, and her ghost still haunts the institutions
she helped set-up.
Not even Co-Operative Party MPs publicise the fact that there
is a Co-Operative Party. The party has no policies, except being
vaguely against worker co-operatives and in favour of busy-bodies,
smugness societies and steering committees like Hackney Community
Transport. It's alternative idea to worker co-operatives is that
consumers elect busybodies on an election turnout of [insert
figure here] to tell supermarket staff how to price beans. These
people's track record seems to be vaguely in favour of mergers
and of giving money to their "sister party", in
which they have been in coalition since formation in 1918. It's
a big sister, not a little sister, obviously.
The name Co-Operative and Co-Operative finance is used for raising
money for staff partnerships, but on such a small scale that
it nobody could decide to put their own savings into the shares,
and I'd want to question any trustee-investor about possible
kickbacks, after sacking them.
The origin of the fund is and attempt by Scott
Bader, a chemical company that works as a real co-operative,
to work with the Co-Operative movement in setting up an industrial
common ownership finance company in the 70s. At one point the
fund got a little taxpayer subsidy and at another point it was
such a little-known organisation that it was used as cover for
providing jobs to soviet spies - who turned out not to be good
Since that embarrassment you'd expect it to close or get back
to basics and specialise in investors and borrowers in the field
job ownership, just as early trades unionists were also interested
in setting-up building societies that lent real money to build
houses, or co-operative employers that really did things and
The organisation muddles staff partnerships with "community projects"
- of which a few samples are quoted on the prospectus instead
of detail. The more voluntary-sector projects know that there
should be pictures of people smiling. Hackney Community Transport
provide a picture of a double-decker bus, but it isn't owned
by the drivers and staff but a "board of trustees made
up of co-opted industry experts and elected representatives of
our service users.". Like
the joke of the Stagecoach T&G branch they have a steering
committee, but to them it is a boast, not a joke: they will do
anything to prevent industrial common ownership ownership of
the industrious, however many busybodies grant artists and ill-attended
evening meetings chaired by press officers it takes. On a scale
of one to ten where one is on the left and all about people controlling
their own jobs, and ten is on the right and slush-fund busybodies
controlling your job, Hackney Community Transport is ten out
of ten. It is to the right of Stagecoach.
Hackney Community Transport have got the same press officer
that Unite-T&G branch 1/1148 had, Fiyad Velmi. I didn't even
know I had a branch when she was press officer, but maybe the
world knew what she thought I thought. It's odd that a union
branch should have a press officer - unpaid I suppose although
some T&G branches employ staff - and it's even more odd that
a bus should have one. It's a fashionable job and often a disguise
for unpleasant work like telesales or chairing evening meetings,
but there must be some press office work if the job is called
I'm quite middle class and prefer the tube but I think usually
bus companies display fanciful information on a notice board
attached to a post near where the bus sometimes stops and it
is called a "timetable". HCT is a big firm for
"mainstream bus routes, education transport for children
with disabilities, social services transport for older and disabled
people, yellow school bus services..." and then it trails
off. So they do buses and minicabs for the council, including
work done by volunteers maybe.
If you have time to run a bus company, get a grant from Hackney
Council, and organise cabs (maybe volunteer-driven) sto schools
and hospitals you don't have time for "a board of trustees
made up of co-opted industry experts and elected representatives
of service users" but the people involved probably try
their best at making it work before blaming passenger appathy
for low attendence at evening meetings and stitching things up
in some way: "is that you Mary? We're wondering of we
need a meeting this month or if we can all just agree. Yes I
thought so too. I'll put your point about cat poo in the minutes.
How is your cat? What was that about the million pounds? Don't
worry Mary it's all sorted. I'll speak to you next month".
Maybe Fyad Velmi the press officer has got more patience and
talant than I've mentioned. I paid her branch slush fund without
knowing it for years so she's not daft and she even had a job
for South East Regional TUC which got paid by my branch so she
must be good at slush-fund committees, if not at appropriate
sized buses and timetables. Oh I've lost the thread, which was
about a pitch to savers.
The pitch to savers looks like something to justify money
"your honour: I invested the trust at zero interest for
reasons of conscience, not [accusation here]". "I
had no idea that as trustee I was invested in [insert slush
fund here]. The prospectus was vague"
Since that was written, another ICO investment, Ethnic
Mutual has been closed by the financial Services Authority
and a theme in reports of missing money is that the accomplices
know each other and know the world of grants and donations in
Anyone who hoped that ICO Fund PLC would do what its name
suggests, and maximise a fund for industrial common ownership
would find their pitch sarcastic. If it ever got reported in
the financial pages it wouldn't be in the best-buy tables. The
investments of the fund are in a couple of dozen co-operatives
or not. Some are other organisations with a C in them like Community.
It might be one dozen organisations or two dozen; numbers are
being decided. Meanwhile the prospectus concentrates on feel-good
examples of hippy co-ops, but runs out after three (Radical Routes
tends to lend to them anyway) and then finds an advertising agency
made-up of professionals working as a partnership, as though
the idea had never been tried before. They lend cheap money to
an advertising agency. It's not unusual for add agents to work
as partners, but this ad agency, which is called Alpha
(good name innit) gives a discount to their sort of people. Maybe
they designed the dummy cheque made out to "friends of Tony
Woodly" for his election campaign or the cheesy graphics
"The sickle shape suggests an open road, the C of
Community, and the U-turn of a lost bus".
If they were interested in productivity and thrift like early
labour activism they'd know that you can get free computers off
freecycle.org.uk and free open source software, but this bunch
of lenders have never heard of anything practical, as you'll
read in the last quoted paragraph.
Unlike normal shares,
ICO fund PLC's Co-Operative Shares are not
- designed to achieve capital growth or
- maximise returns.
This is simply not possible when lending at a fair
rate & seeking to create opportunity. [and give money
to the Labour Party] However, we have a target to pay annual
dividends in line with inflation ...to a
- maximum of 6% a year... and repay the shares in
full after 10 years ...ICO fund PLC will
- not guarantee to find a new person to purchase the shares
... but will maintain a register of persons interested in purchasing....ICO
Fund plc has
- not sought and is not seeking permission for its shares
to be listed on the Stock Exchange ... the trustees do
- not consider that the share value will appreciate ....Please
consider carefully the
- option to waive any dividend payment on your Co-operative
Waived dividends will be held in a Guarantee Fund which,
at the discretion of the Trustees, will be used to provide guarantees
on particular advances. By this device we will be able to make
- a limited number of higher-risk investments in worthwhile
is a design and editorial co-operative based in Durham
that delivers a range of marketing services to co-ops, social
enterprises and third-sector organisations. ICO Fund plc has
recently helped the co-op to purchase new IT hardware and software
to enable it to continue to deliver competitive services while
trading for social purpose... clients include .. co-operative
and community finance.
...and I haven't looked but the same councils that
hired Pollson as an architect seem to be hiring alpha for their
put a different point of view by arguing that firms with high
employee ownership outperform the market. Their own Employee
Ownership index claims to show that the value of employee
owned businesses has grown faster than the FTSE index over long
periods. Government-backed researchers conclude that an overlap
of employee ownership and payment by results makes money.
release has a link to the long PDF download:
Fair share capitalism is positively associated with labour
Although FSC effects varied with the measure of labour productivity
used, results were fairly consistent across the three productivity
FSC effects differed by type of FSC scheme. Share ownership schemes
had the clearest positive association with productivity. However,
interactions between FSC schemes revealed that this positive
association was confined to instances in which share ownership
schemes were combined with profit-related pay or group payments-by-results
In isolation, share ownership was associated with lower productivity,
as were PRP and group PBR in isolation.
No wonder another proper co-op, Baxi
Boilers, has started a separate trust fund unconnected with
Co-Operative finance to do the same job of investing in staff
buyouts and other real co-ops including Scott Bader have their
own pressure group for job ownership: "The Employee Ownership
Association is the voice of co-owned business in the UK",
it says on the JOL.org.uk
web site. The last word on this from a Management
Today artical about how little the business world uses
this model and how government can change the culture with Capital
"If there were a nil-rate band for businesses transferred
into a co-owned structure, it would be brought to the attention
of every single accountant and lawyer in the country."
9) The Money Laundering Regulations
don't exist but they could, and they could say that society
bank accounts must be public. Her Majesties Revenue and Customs
issues a 73 page
notice telling businesses and societies what to do, which
I haven't read. A tweak in the system to make Northern Ireland
banks and building societies reveal what they do with their money
would be easier than one in Scotland or England and Wales, and
a deadline could be set for as soon as bank software can be changed
- say a deadline of two years for the larger banks.
10) ACAS's arbitration
service for people who have sent forms to employment tribunals
could work better.
At the moment most litigants talk to each other or via ACAS
about money for compensation. I don't have statistics to show
this - just an an anecdote from an employer who was told by insurer's
lawyers "settle for £8,000" and then "if
we'd known she wasn't represented we wouldn't have advised settling
at all". This makes sense, so I suppose it is typical.
But if Union and No-Win-No-Fee lawyers are paid by winnings on
a tight budget, they are not going to say "and my client
is prepared to drop everything and help you, just so long as
you sack Mr Ramsey as manager of the kitchen". This
would not make sense to the lawyers but fits the motives of complainants
described in the Hammersley
research. I think that ACAS should have a legal duty to phone
the client and the lawyer, in case the client wants to settle
for something other than money.
11) The Trades Union and Labour Relations Act (or Possibly
the Employment Act now being discussed)
...should insist on proper votes as a condition of
a union being certified as independent, a condition which is
symbolic but important. Proper votes are members votes, not delegates
votes. Members are interested in efficiency and help at work,
rather than foreign policy and making donations. This is the
same as Union Wish List number eleven. Improper votes are votes
by a committee of five who say they represent the membership
because they got five votes for themselves in a dingy room one
night and act stridently at the biennial sector delegate conference
to ask for more money for whoever sent them - usually the Morning
Star newspaper. They also ask for senior union officials to have
opinions about foreign policy, rather than a good track record
in employment tribunals or a qualification.
There is also a bit of case law that needs over-turning: Foster
v The Musician's Union made case law that a member should not
be able to "conduct an audit of the union's affairs"
such as finding-out how much had been paid the the previous general
secretary to persuade him to resign. A line of law would put
12) The un-taxed iterest schme for bank accounts should
be made easy to use.
I don't know the detail, but an account that pays interest
like TSB can pay it tax-free to people who fill-in a form to
say that they're not taxpayers. The trouble is that if your form
says "I only use this account as treasurer", then they
could close it. I don't know the solution.
This covers societies, voluntary branch organisations, and large
- Not much is written about how the smallest organisations,
like a union branch or a sports club, should do this so they're
a good example to quote.
- Online. If all respectable charities and political parties
put their accounts online it would be easier to spot the others,
but they don't, so it isn't, and then they wonder why people
don't trust small organisations more
- There are different laws at the moment for different types
of organisations; some have account headings and totals online
already, and could tell members this.
Political party example
political party example
Trades union example
Donations inwards and outwards are an important point for political
parties and union branches. They can't be seen in detail; there
is no scan of the cheque or the receipt or the bank statement.
- Ask organisations recieving the money to acknowledge it online
as well. A rule not to give to organisations that don't would
be a good rule for a union or a political party to have. Some
organisations do this already but I don't know of example that
help restore trust among the cynical; that save the need for
- Technically, all a small organisation's treasurer needs to
do is put the pdf-formatted bank statements online in some way,
such as on dropbox or a free web server. Quite likely, not a
single person would read them unless forced to say they'd read
the things before voting, which is a good thing. Anyway, the
fact that the statements are there - the transparency - makes
- Technically, there's an increasing number of virtual accounting
systems capable of producing accounts for someone like a book-keeper
or an accountant who is not allowed to know how to log-in to
the bank, nor allowed to spend the money. I haven't done the
work of finding out which one suits, but there are lists here:
- Free Online Bookkeeping Software for Simple Accounts - likely
to offer a guest login
- Simple Bookkeeping and Account Agregators - less likely to
have some kind of guest login
- An example of what to do and what not to doL
The advertising company Ecosia is also a fundraising company
to plant trees. (Digression
on planting trees)
They put copies of receipts for donations in a drop-box account,
Donation receipts for planting trees- https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9nc0nod3h1mo23j/AADB7avoT-nVxECdHegp2rYpa?dl=0
Their system is for the credulous: links point to one page graphics
which have clearly been put together for this purpose, and so
are less plausible than if the hard raw data of bank statements
was shown alongside. Donation receips just show a formatted graphic
from another organisation, which is less plausible than a simple
number because the attempt to dress-up the data in a graphic
begs the question: why?
1) Offer club accounts where members can log-on to see
Most banks recognise clubs and societies as a small market,
in which the Co-Op probably has a large share. Unity Trust bank
exists specifically for unions, but is known for resignations
of specialised staff after financial disgareements. The only
distinctive thing about these accounts is lower
interest than these,
even if you don't claim tax back on a personal account. Society
treasurers have a quaint habit of opening accounts in the society
name, to make it look as though it's safer there, which it isn't.
If you work for a bank that would like to get more of this market,
you should set-up an account where anyone can see the statement
without having to log-on. Elaborations could include free accounting
software, or free labelling of transactions by category.
2) Offer slow archive download of account information more
than a few months old,
so that treasurers who loose their statements can retrieve
the information at the end of the year and investigators who
find a fraud can trace it back for longer.
Notes to self
- check quantcast code
- facebook links
- check analytics
- check aardvaark mailing list
- google Bamify ads reduce visitors