Thursday, 24 July 2008

Slán, Slán go fóill


All being well the heading of this post offers you an Irish Gaelic goodbye as I am away to Youghal (just outside Cork) for two weeks and won't be back until w/c 11th August.

I had considered (for about 2 seconds) the thought of bringing my laptop and boring you with images from around the South coast of Ireland - but I won't.
Instead, as the image above illustrates, I shall use the time instead to pursue cultural interests.

I'll send a new post as soon as I get back.



Saturday, 19 July 2008

ECJ Establishes Right to Claim Discrimination by Association


Reported via Labourstart this morning is a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the Coleman case.

I've taken the text below direcctly from the news article just to save time - thank you LabourStart.

Ms Coleman who worked as a legal secretary in London resigned from the Attridge Law partnership and claimed constructive unfair dismissal.

She justified this with allegations against her employer that included an unsupportive and discriminatory attitude with regard to Ms Coleman's needing to care for her disabled child, a comment by a partner that her "fucking child was always fucking sick", and that her requests for time off were treated differently from other colleagues with medical problems.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice followed a legal opinion of its advocate general establishing that disability discrimination is illegal not just when directed at disabled people but also when applied to people who care for them.

The judgement of the ECJ will need to be interpreted into UK law. The ECJ signalled that this principle should be extended to all carers.

If the government interprets the ruling literally then employment protection will only be extended to parents of disabled children.

The article ends with a query however, as to whether the government will interpret the ruling broadly enough to enable claims at the Employment Tribunal.

Your thoughts?



Wednesday, 16 July 2008

BPO e-Union: A Model for the Future?

A recent article in the Times of India profiled the entry into the Indian trade union movement of a new model of trade union organisation.

See the Times article here:

The union has been formed specifically for employees of the Indian company BPO. BPO refers to itself as a 'business process outsourcing' venture and employees undertake a range of back-office and call-centre functions for UK, European and US clients.

See this article for background on the firm:

The BPO union is interesting in that it exists predominantly (although not exclusively) on the basis of e-based organising and on through exerting pressure on shareholders not employer representatives.

What is not surprising however is that unions in India are able to tap into the significant pressure on workers like those at BPO. Much work has been done in India to document the significant degrees of racism faced by call centre workers from Western customers.

Similarly, many of these workers have suffered from the employment and health issues that has led to call centres being referred to the new factories of the 21st century.

Although similar models can be found in the UK and are evident, for example, within the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), they have formed as a response to trade union decline.

The BPO e-union however has witnessed higher relative growth and, as opposed to the UK, amongst younger, graduate workers. The union web-site is at:

Once you've had a chance to look at the sites I would welcome any comments on what the implications for the UK are from this form of organising and whether you think there is the potential for success here.



Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Organising Migrant Workers


I have been extremely fortunate to have spent 2-6 July in Coimbra, Portugal attending an event that witnessed the roll-out of an EU-wide training package aimed at recruiting migrant workers and encouraging their activism within trade unions.
These materials followed an extensive prior research exercise that more broadly investigated good practice in encouraging migrant workers into civic participation. I am pictured here with Rakesh Patel who heads Thompsons Solicitors Migrant Workers' Unit as well as the firm's operations in the South East.
Also attending from the UK was Ian Fitzgerald from the University of Northumbria who has led the TUC's research on migrant workers and who is eminent in this field. Also attending from the UK were Jenny Webber and Lesley Howard from the GMB.
Both Jenny and Lesley have been instrumental in developing new, radical methods to engage with the needs of new migrant workers and to ensure their participation in the union.
A question I would like to pose in response to this work however, is the extent to which you might feel in the UK that we need to 'normalise' this work and simply recruit all workers regardless of their status.
As ever colleagues, your comments are welcome.