Wednesday, 29 October 2008

In Bed with Boris


Those that know me well will understand my focus on an issue that puts a negative spotlight on the nation's so-called favourite past-time. I stopped following football once I left school and to the shame of all my football-following friends I often suggest that a bit like wetting the bed this sport should be grown out of.

So, it gives me some delight to put the boot in (excuse the pun) except that I have to side slightly with Mad Boris Johnson to do so.

It appears that Boris is supporting the Fair Pay Network's campaign to urge Premier League clubs to pay a living wage to cleaning and catering staff.

It doesn't surprise me at all the the Clubs in turn feel that paying the minimum wage makes them very generous employers indeed.

There is more about the FPN campaign at:

One of my dislikes of football isn't so much the matter of hyperinflation in player salaries but more so that football fans display little capacity to organise in an industrial sense and channel this to air their grievances.

I understand that their capacity to 'bargain' is limited because of their reduced power due to widening global support and other sources of revenue. Despite this however, I have always thought (and please do tell me if I am wrong) that, opposed to the traditonal worker, a football fan's 'labour' is only required for a few short hours one day a week and for only one period of the year.

Given my lack of football knowledge my philosophical position on the manipulation of the game so it becomes a global commodity may be wrong.

However, my basic question is this. How can football fans, if at all, ally themselves to a campaign like that of FPN? And, is it likely that, regardless of any fan-led campaign, the leading clubs will ignore their position?

As usual I welcome feedback. I also expect my limited knowledge of the game to increase as those activists who are football fans rush to inform me that I am wrong.



Saturday, 18 October 2008

Organising Irregular Migrants


I am just back from three days this week spent with officials of the Maltese General Workers Union ( One of the topics for discussion was the union's approach to organising what is referred to as the illegal or irregular migrants arriving on the island from North African countries.

For a country as small as Malta, and with a relatively low degree of ethnic diversity, it isn't surprising that the country's right-wing is exploiting the highly visible growth of the new community.

For the GWU there is the significant challenge of attempting to organise a wholly new layer of member that is primarily employed within the informal/un-taxed part of the economy. Unsurprisingly the GWU's initial attempts at making contact with the new migrants was met with a great degree of suspicion.

Following migration recently into the UK from Eastern European countries a lot of my work has been with trade unions in devising approaches to organising these workers and ensuring that trade union activists were well placed to support their needs. We were working though in a climate largely that had sufficient experience of migration and emigration and recognised that as a significant feature of British culture.

Where though do our colleagues in Malta start?

I'll be maintaining my links with the GWU and any comments to this post will be fed back.



Friday, 3 October 2008

Challenging Racism in the Workplace


On Monday and Tuesday next week I am with activists from UNISON's local government branch at Wolverhampton City Council. I'm delivering a course that is part of the union's national project on challenging racism at work.

This course aims to challenge public sector employers to meet their duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The act arose as a result of the murder of Stephen Lawrence (pictured here) and commits public authorities to a range of general and specific duties in tackling institutional racism as it affects employees and service users.
The McPherson inquiry delivered a damning assessment of the Metropolitan Police at the time and I have since then worked with a wide range of public sector unions to address institutional racism and implement the duties within the act. Many trade union activists within the public sector however, will still argue that institutional racism is a feature of central and local government activity.
What is to be done?
I'd be interested in your own personal perpsective of the issues facing activists (public/private/third sector) in tackling issues around race discrimination in the workplace.
What works, what doesn't etc?