Sunday, 30 November 2008

Developing Trade Union Leaders


I spent this weekend with a great group of trade union activists and officers (pictured) who were piloting a course developed by colleagues at Ruskin College which aimed to take a new approach to developing leadership skills and structures within the trade union movement.

The driving force behind this new initiative is Roger McKenzie who is the Midland TUC's Regional Secretary. Please have a look at Roger's blog and feed into the areas of debate he is interested in (

The issue I'd like your feedback on is what forms of leadership best describe your own unions. If you need to some background reading around leadership types please have a look at this useful outline:

Please consider leadership in all contexts and not just the role of a GS or NEC. Think also of your own views of what type of union leader you are.



Saturday, 22 November 2008

The BNP Membership List


What an interestesting week.

Whilst the rest of the UK ponders its economic future the BNP boneheads continue to fall-out (great news!) and one of their number - maybe the one with the brain cell - leaks the membership list.

One brave soul has published this on the web and as you'll see if you follow the link has (as can be expected) been subject to abuse and threats. You can see the leaked membership list here:

There is a great assessment of the characters found on the list on today's Guardian:

You can also find a map of the density of the party:

I think the issue I find most worringy is the number of ex and current TU activists and those identified as central and local government employees within the list.

There are many interesting perspectives here. For example, some lament the fact that data protection laws have been usurped.

Others suggest (and I tend to agree) that for years Red Watch ( has menaced and harassed democratically elected leaders and representatives of the left with impunity and that it is time to return the favour.

What is your view?



Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Biting the Hand that Feeds


I am bringing to you a story first posted by the blog union renewal ( Please visit this site and sign-up for e-mail alerts as it regularly posts excellent news items and the people behind it are based at the FNV the largest union in the Netherlands (

The story refers to a new arrangement at the Dutch-based banking giant ING of offering to pay the union subscriptions of new employees.

The Christian trade union federation CNV which organises within ING has recorded significant membership growth whilst the head of labour relations for the firm has backed the initiative by saying that at ING 'we highly value consultation with unions'.

As in the world of industrial relations however, nothing is straightforward and ING have admitted that the reason behind their generous offer is to force the CNV to have a greater degree of representation amongst graduate and younger staff.

Wow! I wish UK employers would help the movement grow in such an enlightened and philanthropic manner.

At the same time however, can the CNV claim a proper degree of impartiality and indepedence from the employer?

The CNV claims that it has no problem 'biting the hand that feeds'.

What do you think?



Friday, 14 November 2008

Economic Depression: A Good Time to Organise?


As I went to write this post on the severity of BT’s decision yesterday to shed 10,000 jobs I read the news that this morning RBS has also announced job looses of around 3,000 staff.

There is very little room for optimism currently in the UK economy as unemployment figures increase to levels not seen since prior to 1997 and where even the Bank of England’s interest rate cut appears to have made no significant dent in consumer confidence. Similarly, trade unions I work with appear to be approaching next year’s pay bargaining round in readiness for battle.

But, does the long-term impact of an emerging period of economic depression necessarily mean a bad thing for the UK trade union movement?

When I read the various responses from the range of trade union spokespeople responding to the announcements of job losses invariably they spoke in a traditionally reactive manner and arguably appeared to many workers listening as simply trying to ensure that the transition to unemployment went as smoothly as possible.

In this context it’s possible that trade unions appear as valueless but in truth we would know that because of union membership workers are assured, for example, fairness in the process of selection for redundancy and are potentially in receipt of an enhanced redundancy payment as a result of prior negotiation of a settlement at a higher rather than the statutory minimum.

Even in the current economic gloom I would argue therefore, that trade unions must raise their profile and argue that, regardless of sector or job, there is no better time to join a trade union and organise to defend your job.

I can hear some of you saying ‘easier said than done’. However, if trade union membership isn't seen as relevant or credible at a time of significant economic crisis and worry for mainstream members, and particularly non-members, why would it be seen as relevant and credible at any other time?

As usual, responses, comments or (constructive) criticism welcome.



Sunday, 9 November 2008

Concepts in a Single Equality Act


I spent this weekend with a group of TU activists and officers who were attending the GFTU's Advanced Course in Bedford.

As usual a core part of the course was delivered by Rebecca Tuck and Betsan Criddle of Old Square Chambers. You can review their profiles at

A particular focus of the course was a review of recent developments in a range of employment law areas including discrimination.

As part of this focus there was some discussion on what specific concepts would drive the drafting of the proposed single equality act. There has been some useful material produced by a UK human rights organisation, Justice which can be seen at:

The government has, with the drafing of the Act, an opportunity to clear up a number of anomalies that currently frustrate the work of officers and activists for example in the interpretation of aspects of the DDA. But will they?

Can I ask for some feedback on what, from your TU perspective, the new Act should attempt to identify as the fundamental concepts within the new legislation?



Sunday, 2 November 2008

Is Impact Assessment Happening?


I was this weekend with equality representatives undertaking the stage two element of the GFTU's current programme of training as part of its Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) project.

A critically important issue was flagged up around the lack of employer engagement/understanding around impact assessment arising from the three public sector equality duties.

I've agreed to develop a weekend course around this theme and in particular examining good practice approaches to negotiating impact assessment activity. In addition I've agreed to have a speaker from the EHRC to identify to what degree an employer's intransigence here will realistically result in an investigation or prosecution.

I am keen though to identify amongst those of you in the public sector what your experience to-date around the equality duties and impact assessment has been.