Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Broken Commitments, Vulnerable Workers" - Union busting by National Express continues

On Tuesday morning I attended  another presentation by US transport union, the Teamsters, to pension funds on the anti-union practises by a National Express owned US company called Durham which runs schools buses.

The Chair of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), Cllr Kieran Quinn, opened the meeting and made it clear that while he has a union background, as an investor he has concerns about the financial prospects of a company, that appears not to treat its workforce properly nor provide a safe environment for school children. He has had a number of meetings in the past with National Express where he has been told that the unions have exaggerated the problem. However, when he has asked for proof of this they have never produced this information.  

Teamsters spokesperson, Louis Malizia, was even more blunt. The "poisonous" and "unsustainable"  anti-worker and unsafe business practises will put the company at risk. He described the union busting and black-listing activities condoned by National Express. How union activists are victimised for reporting safety issues and the company continues to ignore decisions in favour of the union by the US courts. The company is now facing a backlash over civil rights and is losing contracts.

The final two speakers were two British Members of Parliament, Ian Lavery, MP, and Jim Sheridan, MP, who had both gone over to the US on a fact finding visit. During this visit they spoke at community meetings, met school bus drivers and were interviewed by US press and television stations. They were also thrown out of a local bus depot run by Durham when they tried to visit.

Jim Sheridan, MP, asked why doesn't National Express operate in the same way in the US as in the UK where they have usually good relations with the unions? Why are they treating children's safety differently? Why are they putting profits above safety? This is not some sort of "Communist plot" but about safety. No-one wants "revolution" they want a "resolution". Other bus companies in the US recognise trade unions, run safe services and make money without exploiting people.

Ian Lavery, MP, spoke about the unacceptable and unsafe US school bus services that would just not be tolerated in the UK. The bus drivers are poorly paid but do a very responsible job. He is a former Pension trustee and understands the need to make money to pay for pensions but there has to be a social conscience. Ian introduced a report that he and Jim wrote about their visit that they are just about to publish called "Broken Commitments, Vulnerable Workers".

In the Q&A I made the point that not exploiting people is not just about having a social conscience it is also a good investment choice. Research shows that long term investors such as pension funds get better returns from investing in companies that have good governance and do not for example treat their workers badly. Also, why doesn't National Express engage with its shareholders such as LAPFF? What else are they hiding?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thank you, Good luck and Goodbye - to a Workers Champion

Picture from last night's leaving dinner for my branch outreach worker, Andy Robertson (2nd on

Andy is a former UNISON Housing activist in Leeds who left to become a mature student at university to study a HR (Human Relations - what we use to call "Personnel") degree.

He passed with first class honours.

He has worked for the branch for the last 9 months on a temporary basis while we are restructuring the branch office. Andy is leaving to work with the Baptist Church in Wyoming, United States of America.

Andy is from the Christian Socialist tradition of the Labour Movement and as well as being a trade unionist is a part time Baptist preacher. It was great to meet his lovely wife who is a HR officer! They must have some interesting conversations about "how was work today?".

He will be working for the Labour Party as an organiser in the run up to the General election, which meant that his leaving do had to be brought forward to Friday at the last minute.

Many thanks to Andy for all his hard work during the past 9 months. During his time he helped build an effective steward structure in a number of key employers as well as some stunning successes  while representing members in disputes and hearings.


Before you go to bed tonight remember to change your clock according to your political values...

Labour Campaign Launch at Olympic Park

Yesterday morning Labour Leader Ed Miliband launched the Party campaign at the top of the Orbit.

Ed is pictured in the collage (top left) shaking the tiny hand of Juniper baby daughter of Newham Councillor, Farah Nazeer.

UNISON Assistant General Secretary, Liz Snapes,  was also there.

Waiting outside for Ed to appear there was definitely an air of excitement amongst supporters. The 4 tory yobs who dressed up as SNP supporters arrived to late to shove anyone.  I hadn't applied for a ticket and so went for a swim in the Aquatic centre next door.

Friday, March 27, 2015

East Ham and Ilford North Election fund raiser

After the Stratford By Election candidate selection and West Ham Labour General Committee some of us went to support this fund raiser.

It took place in the Royal Regency in Manor Park. Which is a magnificent former cinema restored as a plush function venue.

We missed the speeches but met up with our MP Lyn Brown and East Ham MP Stephen Timms. Seen in picture with former MP Sarah Mccarthy_Fry, Redbridge Councillor Shelia Bain and the newly elected West Ham delegate to Labour Party Conference (and PCS activist) Anamul Islam.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Charlene McLean officially selected unanimously to fight the Stratford & Newtown by election

This is great news. Tonight local new Mum Charlene McLean was selected by Stratford and New town Labour Party ward to be their candidate in the forthcoming by election.

This will take place at the same day as the general election.

I was the procedural secretary for the meeting and saw the ward unanimously select her.

Following the announcement of the decision there was an emotional ovation by members for Charlene.

(picture of Charlene in Stratford supporting the 2012 TUC March)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

UNISON Special Local Government Conference 2015

I am not a member of the Local Government Service Group anymore (even though my pay and conditions like many UNISON Community members are still determined by the National Joint Council) so I was not there yesterday and don't know how accurate this UNISON Active post is but it has a ring of truth about it.

I may not agree with every comment it makes but would agree that it is far, far better than the self seeking, pompous and nonsensical accounts by the Evil Ones' - Goblin in Chief.

BTW - did the conference total cost the union £250,000 or £750,000?

"Dear Pissed off Voter...why I am going to Vote"

The right to vote is so precious. People have suffered and died for this right. Politics in this country is far from perfect but if you don't vote, then you betraying these democracy martyrs from the past and present and just giving the thumbs up to bigots, dictators and fascists.

Hat tip Bill Beedell on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The case for Collective Bargaining

Great Youtube video produced by the Institute of Employment Rights' featuring Professor Keith Ewing and John Hendy QC.  I don't think many trade union members really understand that the most important thing we do is collective bargaining with employers over pay and all other terms and conditions. 

The case for the reintroduction of sectoral collective bargaining in this country, to not only tackle social justice but increase economic demand, is unanswerable in my view.

See motions from my branch sent to Labour Link and National Delegate conference. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

UNISON Housing Association Branch Labour Link AGM with Emma Reynolds MP

Last Tuesday evening we had our Annual General Meeting of Greater London UNISON Housing Association Branch Labour Link at the House of Commons. UNISON Labour Link members (also known as APF) choose to support and affiliate to the Labour Party

Our keynote speaker was Labour Shadow Housing Minister, Emma Reynolds MP. Shadow Minister for Civic Society, Lisa Nandy MP, had to drop out as a speaker at the last minute.

Emma was supposed to only be there for 20 minutes but stayed for about 45 minutes, giving first a speech and then she engaged with us in a prolonged Q&A.

We had UNISON members from all over London and as far away as Norfolk, Kent and Surrey. Housing management workers and those working in care and support. There was a really positive and far reaching debate with Emma about the housing policy of a future Labour government. Including difficult questions on the future of right to buy, social rents and rent controls for the private sector.

After Emma our UNISON regional officer Colin Inniss gave a rousing speech on how important the General Election will be to our members. We also had a planning discussion on how to mobilise telephone, leafleting and door knocking teams in marginal seats.

After the close of the meeting we went off to our social at the Weatherspoon near Trafalgar Square and were able to continue the debate on housing in between helping to also celebrate St Patrick's Day.