Unalloyed goodness is a rarity in politics, especially when it comes to labour movement politics. But the decision handed down by the Supreme Court this morning ruling that employment tribunal fees are unlawful is some of the best industrial news seen in years. Implemented by the Tories with Liberal Democrat support in 2013, it was ostensibly part of the contrived war on red tape. According to the former Prime Minister, workplace rights were getting in the way of job creation and growth. A convenient scapegoat when you consider the real reason for Britain’s economic underperformance has much to do with business banking its profits and effectively going on capital strike. In reality, the introduction of fees strengthened management in the workplace and enabled a more precarious labour force. Bosses had the freedom to intimidate, bully, and diddle workers without any comeback. Continue reading
Some eighteen months have passed since the nightmare began for the teaching assistants of county Durham. In December 2015, Durham County Council (DCC) announced proposals to sack the county’s 2,700 teaching assistants (TAs) and re-employ the same staff on new contracts with pay cuts of up to 23 percent. Many Durham TAs had already suffered a £1,200 pay cut in 2012. The TAs’ heroic campaign of resistance in the past eighteen months has garnered much attention and admiration, in the region and beyond. Twice the campaign has brought the county council back to the negotiating table for protracted talks; twice the council has produced slightly modified proposals; twice those proposals have been rejected by a majority of unionised TAs. Their tireless campaign has been a model for grassroots organisation and resistance. Continue reading
Got nothing against Gerard Coyne, but in 20-plus years associating with the labour movement I have never seen a candidate run such a desperate and rubbish General Secretary election campaign. Kicking off his Unite leadership bid, Gerard criticised Len McCluskey for spending more time talking about and fiddling with the Labour Party than looking after the welfare of the members. And since then, all his campaign has done is moan about Labour, taking potshots at Jeremy Corbyn, and busily morphing into the very caricature his pitch attacked. Meanwhile, Len has run a sensible Unite-focused campaign talking about workplace rights, pensions, attacks by bosses, members’ interests. You know, speaking to the people who pay his salary. Continue reading
“Party conference shall decide from time to time what specific proposals of legislative, financial or administrative reform shall be included in the Party programme. This shall be based on the rolling programme of work of the National Policy Forum.” (Emphasis added)
The results of that “rolling programme of work” emerge at this time of the year giving members a few weeks to read and discuss them and to get their party branches and CLP to respond. It’s a tight timetable and there is room to doubt the value of the consultation that this purports to be. Continue reading
I have been listening to their hopes and fears in the factories, bus garages, building sites and hospitals. They are worried about their jobs above all, about Theresa May’s “hard Brexit”, about the public services they can see crumbling around them after seven years of Tory austerity.
They are – every last one, no matter whether they support me or not – decent people, committed to doing their best for their families, their workplace and their communities in a troubled world. They are the sort of people who make me proud to be a trade unionist, and proud to be able to help them in their daily struggles. Continue reading