In December 2007, Major General Graham Binns, Commander of British Forces in Basra, handed illegally occupied Basra Province back to the Iraqis. However, Major General Binns, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade when it led the siege of Basra in 2003, is back in Basra with a new hat on. In the revolving door between the US and UK armies and mercenary companies, Binns, who left the army in 2010, joined Aegis Defence Services, who have been employed by the New Governor of Basra. Amongst other things, states the Major General: ‘Aegis will be asked to provide help with setting up specialised CCTV detection and checkpoint systems across the city, establishing a “ring of steel” security system to thwart suicide bombers.’ Sounds just like old times. Continue reading →
It was just another average afternoon as a news reporter. I’d bagged a good story and was now waiting for the train back home. Suddenly I see Bob Crow along with other RMT activists waiting to board the same train. He’d only met me on a handful of occasions but he still knew me by first name.
Immediately he asked if I wanted to travel with him and his colleagues. I accepted and the next hour and a half flew by, with a mixture of hardnosed union politics, two beers each and laugh-out-loud comedy, much of it provided by Bob with his colleagues getting in a few friendly digs along the way. That was the measure of the man: politics infused with humanity. Continue reading →
Now is not the time to debate the complex issues of whether the RMT’s industrial and political strategy has been an overall success; although there is a debate to be had there. The RMT’s strategy has of course also not sprung from the head of one man: it has also been shaped by other leading members of that union, and endorsed by their elected governing committees.
Bob Crow was the leader of an industrial transport union with particular strengths and opportunities, and he played the hand of cards he was dealt, with no small skill. Exhortations from some commentators that other unions should learn from the RMT model need to be contextualised by recognising the different membership demographics, membership densities, and economic and social clout. Continue reading →
I’m shocked I have to write this piece now. Bob Crow, probably the most effective trade union leader of this generation has been cruelly snatched away from our movement. Our thoughts have to be with those who feel his passing most keenly – his family, his friends, his close comrades.
Now is not the time for a critical appraisal of his industrial and political career. That can wait. But we can appreciate what Bob represented to our movement. In the first place, enemies and fair-weather friends in their effusive (some might say fulsome) obituaries all agree that Bob won significant gains for RMT members on the London Underground. They flatter him in death as they fought him tooth and nail in life. But behind the flattery is the recognition Bob represented something assumed long gone: a hardy trade unionism resting on working class solidarity. As Ken Livingstone observed, tube workers are the only group of working class people in the country who have successfully protected their pay, their pensions and their working conditions since the stock markets crumpled. No mean feat. Continue reading →
The growing use of zero-hours contracts (ZHC) is primarily a conduit for the exploitation of working people. The growth in casual employment is contributing to the growth in in-work poverty, damaging public services and the economy.
Yesterday, I was giving evidence at the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into zero-hours contracts. My evidence was largely based on our experience of the growing use of these contracts in the care sector. Continue reading →
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, has tragically died at the age of 52. According to a statement from the RMT, he died in the early hours of Tuesday morning. It has now been reported that he suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed into Whipps Cross hospital in Leytonstone by ambulance at about 7am, but had suffered critical heart damage as a result of an aneurysm and could not be revived.
Plaudits have been pouring in from across the Labor movement and beyond, including from people with whom he clashed and people who strongly disagreed with his politics. Continue reading →