Reform? Absolutely.

Just a quick one this evening, I’ve been a little busy.

I note that Francis Maude has stepped back from his calls to introduce tougher union laws.

Now, as I’ve made clear on here previously, I don’t have a lot of love for the unions, but the ballots to strike have been carried out in a perfectly democratic fashion. I don’t think it is right that a small portion (in percentage terms) of the population can hold the government to ransom, but by the same token, a parliament of around 650 regularly hold the rest of the country to ransom, and I ain’t too keen on that either.

The parallel between government and unions is an important one to draw. I understand that Maude was demanding that in order for a strike ballot to be acceptable that the union concerned would have to have at least a 50% turnout. As an aside, I think the main reason turnout wasn’t higher in this round of industrial action ballots was because the result was a foregone conclusion.

And here really is the point; that is exactly the same reason why turnouts are so poor in general, by, local authority and European elections in this country – for many constituencies and wards the result is a foregone conclusion.

So, what’s good for the goose must also be good for the gander and any calls for a 50% turnout to legitimise a union industrial action ballot must also be met with a 50% turnout threshold in any constituency or ward for that constituency or ward to return an MP, MEP or councillor.

Not only would it make the unions think a little more about how they conduct business, it would also focus the minds of the politicians a little more.

Just saying. . .

Compare and contrast.

From the Telegraph, 8th August 2011:

Twitter users could face arrest for inciting violence in the wake of two nights of unrest in London, a Scotland Yard chief warned today.

Some messages posted on Twitter surrounding the riots had been “really inflammatory, inaccurate”, Mr Kavanagh added.

When asked by reporters whether officers would consider arresting tweeters in relation to incitement to violence, Mr Kavanagh said “absolutely”.

He later added: “That investigation is already under way and that is exactly the sort of thing we are looking at.”

From the BBC this morning:

The head of Britain’s biggest union has urged a campaign of strikes and civil disobedience to fight government cuts.

Speaking on the eve of the TUC congress, Unite leader Len McCluskey said no form of protest should be ruled out including “direct action”.

 

I’m assuming, Mr. McCluskey, that when you call for direct action and no form of protest being ruled out, you’re condoning, perhaps even inciting, crowds of people running up and down streets smashing up property and burning buildings?

No doubt it is fine for you to call for such action though, because for some reason in your simple, addled, little Socialist brain, you seem to think that you think every action you carry out is fine. Hell, if the history of Socialism has taught me one thing it is that some loss of innocent life is acceptable, because your ends are always justified, regardless of anyone else’s feelings or beliefs.

How about a cup of shut the fuck up, you vile, ugly, big nosed, fat little trot?

I tried, but I couldn’t.

I tried to come up with a more ridiculous idea than this. I tried really hard. I’ve been pacing up and down the living room all evening trying to come up with something even more boneheaded than this suggestion, I’ve worn a hole in the carpet, I’ve failed.

I’ll just let this, I struggle to think of a term which doesn’t go from dim, through absurd, racing through insane before stopping at inspired as it completes the cycle breaking through the divide at the back. I’ll just have to use inspired.

I’ll just let this inspired idea speak for itself.

[Bob Crow] The General Secretary of the militant Rail, Maritime and Transport union was booed as he outlined his idea for a 1p tax on each email during an appearance on a late night comedy show. 

Errrrrm.

No. I’m speechless.

How modern Unionism works.

Make a joke about stoning a leftie. . .

Roger McKenzie, Unison’s West Midlands regional secretary, said he had been inundated with complaints from city council workers outraged at Mr Compton’s comments and he called on Mr Compton to resign from the council.

Destroy property and throw fire extinguishers at police officers. . .

We reject any attempt to characterise the Millbank protest as small, “extremist” or unrepresentative of our movement… We stand with the protesters, and anyone who is victimised as a result of the protest.’

 As with all authoritarian organisations it is one rule for you, one for them.

(I’ll bet poor old Roger was shagged out after chasing round and browbeating all those people into complaining.)

What a waste of bloody money.

It is bad enough that money is taken from our pockets and pissed up the wall with gay abandon on projects you’d never even be able to dream up, let alone support. It is even worse when you willingly surrender your income for a service and then find that you’ve been stabbed in the back.

What am I going on about? This:

Staff at Breckland Council will no longer be paid for the time they spend smoking after the proposals were given the go-ahead.

Simon Clark, from smokers’ lobby group Forest, said everyone was entitled to a break during work.

That’s old news. We’ve heard this story before. But here’s a new spin:

The group described the plan as “tyrannical”, but council management, unions and workers backed the change.

Council management I’d expect no more of. Workers come in the same group as ‘the people’ in Righteous speak, they are a homogenous mass, of one opinon and utterly identical to each other. But the unions? What the fucking flying fuck?

I don’t even know where to begin. I really don’t.

Firstly, I bet I can guess which unions are involved in this, at least two of them, and they are biggies.

What the hell? Are members paying their subs only to find that when management penalises people for engaging in a perfectly legal activity, an activity which sits very much in a bracket with other perfectly legal activities, the unions actually support it? As the bloke from Forest says:

Some take coffee breaks others go out for a cigarette.

In the old, old days, you could smoke at your desk, but they are long gone. I don’t object to that. In the old days there was a smoking staff room where I worked, people would take their work in with them, so the loss to the business was nil, now we’ve been sent outside, from our sealed and vented room which no non-smoker had to go into, and having been sent outside we find ourselves being penalised for doing what we’ve been told to do.

Ah yes, but you don’t have to smoke.

True, but then I don’t drink tea or coffee, you don’t have to drink it either. So why the fuck aren’t you clocking off when you go out to get your umpteenth fix of caffeine of the day? Oh, they’ll come for you eventually, your addiction will become as anti-social as mine, make no mistake, they’re coming. Don’t come crying to me. You’ve spat in my face, when your time comes, I will point, dance and laugh at you until I’m sick.

I’m getting side-tracked here. For a union to take subs from members under the pretence of representing their desires and interests, and then to arbritrarily abandon those members, members who are engaging in an activity which harms no other members, nor the union as a whole is a sickening betrayal.

I disagree with the TUC affiliated unions on a good number of subjects, but give them their due, they will support (by and large) the terms, conditions and rights of their members, even when those demands are excessive, outdated and completely against the interests of the public that fund them.

But this? This is a total betrayal, and if were a member of one of these unions, I would be livid.

The thing is these unions, the really big ones, I’m talking PCS and Unison here, the two I’m convinced are behind this capitulation, aren’t really about staff in the way unions were when they first came into existence. They are more about politics than staff t&c’s, it is the members’ job to pay their subs and then dance to the tune which is played for them.

How loudly would they squeal if a clock was put on the computer terminals in the office to measure how much time was spent on ebay or slebrity news websites? How high would the pitch of that squeal get if that time was then knocked off staffs’ flexitime?

Exactly.

Treacherous, spineless, hypocritical cowards. The fucking lot of them.

If you are a member of the union(s) behind this capitulation and you smoke, make no mistake, this will not be confined to one anonymous district council in Norfolk, it will come to your office soon and the precedent has been set. Be a good drone, pay your cash and do what you’re told. They know best. Not you.

I see, so what you’re saying is . . . whoa! Hang on! Where did that come from?

Just caught a few minutes of Jeff Randall on Sky News this evening. No problem with Jeff, he’s quite entertaining. What I was struck by was the report on the demonstrations across Europe today, with special focus on the one taking place in Brussels.

This Pan-European Union Trade Union Marx-in revealed the usual it’s all the bankers’ fault. There was one British moron going on about how capitalism had failed. Well, it would have done, had we had capitalism, rather than governments trying to tame lions, milking them and coming running when they get a thorn stuck in their paw.

That isn’t capitalism, the best description I can think of is corporatism, and we all know where that had its best run, don’t we?

What caused me to stop, press pause on the old Sky box and whip the camera phone out was this quite remarkable banner carried by some of the participants today:

You actually think the EU is Liberalising things?

Sweet Mary, mother of Jesus and all the little orphans!

I don’t know which is worse, the fact that you think that the EU is a force for liberty, or the fact that you think a process going towards more liberty is a bad thing.

I’m speechless, except to say, remember folks, these people elected the leader of the second biggest party in the UK.

If you live near some hills, I’d run for them, if I were you.

Confusion or delusion?

I’m a little confused about the election of the work experience boy to the big chair in the Labour party. I guess ageism trumps racism and sexism, eh, Diane?

Anyhow, if Ed is as ‘Red’ as we’re led to believe, and if he lurches to the left, as some have predicted, I can only stand and applaud the wisdom of the trade union members who decided to cast their votes for him. If he’s the heir apparent to Michael Foot then Labour really will be unelectable for years to come. Remember Labour have never unseated a leader, it just doesn’t happen.

Clegg seems to have divorced himself from the membership of his party, that lot who are neither liberal, nor democratic. I’ll hand it to the LimpDim membership though, they do have principles, one of the advantages of never having a decent shout at getting power. Unfortunately for Nick, he seems to have thrown one of the biggest principles (that being an abhorrance of the idea of getting into bed with the Tories) out of the window just so he can have a go at pressing a couple of the buttons that Cameron can’t be fagged to press himself.

All we need now is for Cameron to be secretly filmed by the News of the World putting kittens into microwaves and the job will be done.

The Lib Dems will haemorrhage support, they’re done before they even start. This coagulation government (as Leg Iron so beautifully puts it) will surely result in the death of the Lib Dems. This is probably not a bad thing, as the Liberals can go back to being liberal (assuming there are some properly liberal people amongst them) while the Social Democrats can go back to. . . well, where?

If Mr. Ed really does want to usher in a new era of swivel eyed socialism, those Social Democrats won’t be welcome there. SDP, anyone?

I’ve always felt quite sorry for Labour members. I thought the way the New Labour agenda was smuggled in without the members’ consent was a pretty shitty trick. The euphoria of government after so long out must now be dissipating, and the awful, awful truth dawning. But perhaps I was wrong? Surely if Miliband Minority was the best candidate to reflect what I always thought were the core opinions of the Labour party membership, then the membership would have turned out in their droves for him? They didn’t.

Indeed Andy Burnham was probably an even more traditional (?) old (?) new old (?) Labour leadership candidate and he hardly got out of the blocks.

So we now have this odd situation where the person who I thought was the closest to the traditional membership was shunned by the membership and elected by the unions. A fact that I’m sure Woodley, Simpson, Serwotka, Crow, et al will remind him of at every available opportunity. If I heard Boulton on Sky News correctly, turnout amongst the trade union portion of the vote was around 10%. So hardly a ringing endorsement of any of the candidates on offer then.

So it leaves with me four questions:

1. What do the Labour party members want?
2. What are the Labour party for?
3. How does a party abdicate responsibility for their leadership elections to a load of people that don’t even care enough about the Labour party to join?
4. Why would anyone vote Labour?

I’ve been saying for a couple of years that it wasn’t the election just gone that was the important one, it’ll be the next one. Let’s hope that the Lib Dems tear themselves apart, that the Tories disgrace themselves and the coalition falls apart and that Labour go back to their old ways, with the unions cracking the whip. If we can get a snap election in, ooooh, 12 to 18 months, all bets will be off, especially if any AV referendum carries a ‘yes’ vote.

Why is this so difficult to understand?

I’ve just had the misfortune of listening to some of this morning’s phone in on Radio 5, and it left me tearing my hair out in despair.

It all centred around this news story about the public service unions discussing industrial action over forthcoming cuts.

Sigh.

It really does drive me to distraction. Usual pointing out, I am a public sector worker, and come early November, once the spending review has been digested, I will find out how deep and how close to home the cuts in my department are. There’s nothing I can do about it. What happens, happens.

I am not a member of any of the TUC affiliated unions, I’m not interested. I dislike the authoritarian nature of those unions, I dislike their militant tendencies and I’m damned if a single penny of my pay is going, via my subs, to the Labour party. It isn’t happening.

How did we come to be here? Well, there’s a couple of major factors in my mind. Firstly we’ve just come out of 13 years of Labour rule. Quite why people expected a different outcome this time is beyond me. Labour governments always end in bankruptcy and industrial strife. Always, always, always.

For over a decade we had a government that was obsessed with spying on us, monitoring and measuring us, nannying us, telling us what do to, how to do it, when to do it, and regulating us to make sure we complied with all the above. This was a government that really did oversee the introduction of officers to root through people’s bins, to adjudicate on whether people had driven their car in a bus lane for two metres, to go into our schools and tell kids to eat 5 a day.

Like the person who wins the lottery and then lives the next 5 years spending, spending, spending, the money was always going to run out. The levels of expenditure were not sustainable, this money does not magically appear out of thin air, there comes a point when the people you take the money from simply do not have any more to give. The cow has been milked dry.

Secondly, there was a huge shift in the way the civil service (my department at least) did business. It used to be that when someone retired or moved on, people wishing to fill that post from within would apply for the job and would be interviewed etc, etc, before being given the promotion. That all changed, I forget the reasons now, but you can bet that one of the prime motivators was that senior positions did not have adequate representation of women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, the incompetent, and that wasn’t good enough. There was then this programme of ‘assessment centres’ where anyone could apply for their ticket to promotion, and as long as they met the minimum requirements for the promotion (and the criteria and process bore very little relationship to the real life demands of the promotion, it was spectacularly vague and general) then that ticket would be given.

Problem, with all these people being told they could have promotion, there were no promotions to give these people. Solution? Create new jobs for them. When I joined my department, there were six Senior Bottle Washers and one Bottle Cleaning Policy Wonk, if you had any dealings with the Bottle Cleaning Policy Wonk, it was because you’d happened to walk into the toilet when he was there or you’d been very, very bad. In 2010 we have, blimey, I don’t know, over a dozen Senior Bottle Washers, five Bottle Cleaning Policy Wonks and two Directors of Liquid Containment Vessel Management (Cleansing and Deployment). All these people had to be given a responsibility, a staff, a budget and all the trimmings. If this was replicated throughout the civil service, and I bet it was, then the bill must have run to tens, even hundreds of millions of pounds.

Where were the unions? I heard no policies of caution and parsimony from them at the time. Now the credit card bill has arrived and the gnashing of teeth and wailing has started.

So on the radio this morning, we’ve heard the old bogeyman being rolled out. ‘Ooooh, it’s the evil bankers and the evil Tories.’ Bullshit. We’ve been spending for too long. The banks didn’t help, and then spending loads of our money to bail them out when we could have said ‘you’re broke, and? What do you expect us to do about it? Your shareholders can bail you out, or do they only count when there’s dividends to pay and they don’t ask too many questions?’ didn’t help at all.

As for the bonuses. Well, as long as the bank paying it hasn’t taken a penny of public money, they can pay someone a hundred, billion, trillion pounds for all I care. If the shareholders are content with it, then fair enough. If the shareholders’ silence or indifference leads to the bank collapsing, then tough.

Our politicians and senior civil servants have been just as wasteful and as profligate as our failed banks. The bankers were not held to account by their shareholders, and the civil servants have not been held to account by the (warning, management word) stakeholders of the politicians, unions and electorate.

Is it fair that some capable and worthwhile staff (and they do exist) are going to lose their jobs? No. It isn’t, but that is the situation. If you are on an economy drive at home, is it fair that the Chinese restaurant, the video rental shop, the local zoo all lose income as a result? No, it isn’t, but that’s life, if you haven’t got it, you don’t spend it.

This is going to hurt, but it cannot be escaped.

Unions: For years you have stood back and watched as millions of pounds have been pissed up the wall, and you said nothing. You knew the party had to end sometime, but all the while people were joining and donating to whatever causes you saw fit, you kept quiet. You don’t represent peoples’ views and interests, you collect people as if there’s a prize for whoever has the most members. I don’t want to hear people on huge salaries moaning about the inequity of bankers’ pay (as detailed by OH here), it is hypocrisy and you are as self-serving and corrupt as the politicans you have finally decided to rail against.

Public Service Workers: What good do you think going out on strike will do? Will it make the money magically come back? Will Joe Public recoil in horror and take out his wallet? Ask yourself the question ‘will I be missed if I go out?’ If the public will not absolutely miss you as an individual not pushing forms, internal memos, order dockets and the like about, then watch out. You are turning a huge spotlight on and your empty desk is right underneath it.

Public Service Managers: Stop wasting money. Stop introducing idiotic schemes promoting alternative lifestyles, rambling groups, religious awareness seminars. Stop bringing in stupid teams with mad budgets, if your department has managed to soldier on despite a lack of a ‘vital service’ thus far, the chances are it doesn’t need doing now. Sweep away the ridiculous empires which have sprung up in the last ten years. I can think of half a dozen in my department alone. Get rid of them. For every person in these non-squads, there is someone who works in a worthwhile office who is seeing it fall apart because the reason for the existence of the department has been forgotten. You’ve forgotten that you have a clear purpose, and you’ve failed to exercise sufficient control over those below you. They’ve pulled the wool over your eyes whilst their gaze is set on the next promotion. Keep it simple and do what is absolutely required, not what your grasping assistants tell you it would be nice or good to do.

What a bloody mess.

The One That’s Glad He Isn’t A Member. . .

I believe that unions are very important. When well managed and run they can head problems twixt the office and the shop floor before they even take hold.

Unfortunately, there’s a section of unionism who exist to do nothing but it stick it to the disgusting capitalist pigs, who no doubt throw fallen women from their sports cars whilst they doff their top hats at their counterparts in other industries and cackle and twirl their moustaches.

Today’s speech from Cameron will no doubt bring the militant unionists to the fore, and I’m fairly certain there’s going to be strife in the public sector. There are some very militant people in public sector unions. I saw the election list for the recent PCS elections and they should have come with their own revision notes. There were thousands of people from units and departments I’ve never heard of and will never understand what they do.

The public sector is bloody huge. As detailed previously, the axe is bound to fall near me, perhaps even on me. I’ll have to make sure I’m worth my money, or I’ll have to deal with the consequences. The axe has got to fall. No matter how well argued the points, no matter how compelling the cases, the fact is we do not have any money. Unions have to accept this point, otherwise the BA example will be followed.

Speaking of which, isn’t it odd how quiet Unite have been over the strikes? Nothing on the news, no delays, obviously BA aren’t going to shout about the passenger numbers they’ve lost, but you can bet Unite wanted people queueing out of the door at Terminal 5, going feral and eating pigeons, it hasn’t happened. Bad news for Unite and their members. Management at BA will not take long to join the dots.

With so many staff out and a functioning if not comprehensive operation running, BA management will start to re-examine their staffing levels.

This is the danger with strike action. I absolutely, and without reservation, support the right for employees to unionise and to go out on strike. The problem with strike action is that it is rather a blunt instrument, and unions, and more importantly their membership, have to take care that going out doesn’t undermine their own position. It’s a minefield, and one that has to be negotiated with great caution. To say that ‘when a strike goes ahead both sides lose’ may be a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

The problem, certainly in my workplace, is that some union officials agitate for strike action, they try to lead their members rather than be led by them, or at least attempt to amplify the feelings of the staff.

The danger comes when the union officials start to treat the organisation as their own fiefdom. The NUM is a prime example, not belonging was not a realistic option and the behaviour of the officials was questionable at best.

The miners’ strike was the daddy of industrial strife in my lifetime, I’m not about to get involved in the politics of the situation, it is Israel vs Palestine, Unionist against Nationalist, far too big a subject to cover here. However I will say this, I remember a conflict which ceased to be about the miners fighting for their jobs, and became a story of Scargill vs. Thatcher. It became about the union’s officials rather than the union’s members.

And then today we see news that since his retirement in 2002, Scargill has been living in a flat in the Barbican, paid for by the members of his former union. I don’t know what the membership of the NUM was at the height of the strike, but by their own admission;


there are 9 collieries left with only 3,000 miners.

Is it really right to have what is now a small union keeping their former puppet master in this fashion?

This is where my problems with the union movement lie. An organisation that is supposed to support the workers, leans on and bullies them, treats them like chattels and serfs, as much as any evil top-hatted Victorian capitalist industrialist ever did.

And all the time they’re being told it is for their own good. That to me is reprehensible.

Any union that treated me like that would find themselves short of my subs in very little time.

The One That Says ‘You Are Beneath Contempt. Be Silent’. . .

Interesting to see today that Unite and Amicus, two enormous trade unions, alluding to the fact that Labour have seemingly abandoned their constituency.

Here’s a newsflash, Labour no more represent your members interests than the organising committee of the Eurovision Song Contest. Labour must be incredulous that you persist in giving them money. Jesus, they’ve even started taking money from big business in case you cotton on to this fact. What’s going to happen when one body that donates to the party demands a return on their cash that is diametrically opposed to the wishes of the other? It is a disaster waiting to happen.

When Brown bangs on about ‘hard working British families’ (a phrase that Al-Beeb seems to regurgitate with sickening glee) he doesn’t actually give a damn. Labour don’t want hard working families. People that tend to work hard, especially if they do it with any thought, tend to succeed and better themselves. That is the last thing that Labour want.

This government want you to be beholden to them for everything. Because if you rely on them to keep you in housing, food, education, healthcare, anything, you are unlikely to act as a turkey voting for Xmas and putting an ‘X’ against anybody else’s name. If you work hard and succeed, you will be penalised for it.

How dare you? How fucking dare you decide to do something for yourself? These people know what is best for you, you ungrateful snivelling little irrelevance, you are beneath contempt. Be silent.

I’m not a huge lover of the unions. I think they do have an important role to play in ensuring that employers do the right thing by their staff. Unfortunately just as much effort is wasted on the protection of the feckless, lazy, something for nothings as is spent on looking out for those who are decent employees and have been shat upon. All this calling of delegates ‘Brothers and Sisters’. Give me a break. It is one step away from linking arms and marching on, hammers and sickles brandished in a display of workers’ unity. You’re being played old chum, ask the bloody workers how much power they had in the USSR and their associated satelites.

Anyhow, I digress, the glorious irony of Labour’s policy of making people reliant upon them, is that the class of people who are most reliant couldn’t give a toss about politics and don’t turn out to vote. The people you are milking dry do turn out to vote, and boy have you pissed them off.

I am enjoying enormously watching this house built on a foundation of self-righteous hubris come tumbling down. Do keep it up. I could do with a laugh.