Saturday, 20 December 2008

Happy Christmas?


The last post from me this year and what a strange year it has been. From Obama to Credit Crunch there has been plenty to discuss and I do hope you have enjoyed either contributing to a posted item or simply following the debate.

As a final comment I just want to flag up two contrasting items that suggest some hope and yet also the continuity of challenges to trade union stability and growth in the UK.

The first is USDAW's response to the Woolworths' closure plan that will see up to 30,000 job losses. There's no good time to lose your job, but Christmas can't be the best, and so I do wish USDAW well in its efforts to secure the best redundancy deal possible on behalf of its members. Follow this link for more information:

At the same time UNI (the global union federation covering logistics, telecoms etc.) has just signed a global agreement with G4S (the world's largest security corporation) which, amongst other things allows its global workforce of 570,000 the right to organise and bargain freely. This is a first and quite distinct from international framework agreements which tended to focus on singular employers. Read more at:

So colleagues interesting and challenging times as one year ends and we enter another.

I do hope you and yours have a good Christmas break, despite the economic climate, and that we can spend 2009 in the continuing struggle to build a strong, independent trade union movement.

Yours in Solidarity


Sunday, 14 December 2008

There is Power in a Union!


Every now and then a right-wing commentator suggests that the pre-eminent days of organised labour are long gone.

We know different as there are many examples of workers' combining to resistthe fall-out of capital to supply the right wing media with a picture of the 'real world' on a regular basis - sadly we are not a 'good' story'.

And so to members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (pictured) employed by Republic Windows and Doors, Chicago, USA.

Read the story at:

These workers staged a classic sit-in based on acute intelligence and (if you read the NYT story) a strong determination (obviously) to save their jobs.

As reported by the New York Times:

The reverberations of the workers’ victory are likely to be felt for months as plants continue to close. Bob Bruno, director of the labor studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, predicted organized labor would be emboldened by the workers’ success. “If you combine some palpable street anger with organizational resources in a changing political mood,” he said, “you can begin to see more of these sort of riskier, militant adventures, and they’re more likely to succeed.”

Naturally all readers of this blog wish our sisters and brothers in the US good luck with their campaign.

My request now is somewhat different from all other posts.

Please send a message of solidarity to those affected by the URMRA campaign (

Please post any replies/comments you receive.



Sunday, 7 December 2008

What Future for Union Learning?


Another great week on the TU education front starting off with 3 days at the T&G centre in Eastbourne delivering the National Association of Probation Officer's ULR course (pictured) and then finishing off with a new reps course for the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP). Two fantastic unions that I do really enjoy working with.

An interesting debate always arises during the ULR courses about the future of government-funded initiatives like the Union Learning Fund (ULF) either under another New Labour government or the Tories.

The Tories did threaten to close the ULF down on day one should they have won the last general election so it may be safe to suggest what the ULF's future should Cameron win next time around. Having said that though unionlearn did make an appearance at the Tory conference in '07 (were they there this year anyone?) and there is nothing to suggest that the Tories have a huge problem with initiatives like Train to Gain etc.

Leaving that aside however, the debates arising from courses like the ULR one is what future the legacy of funding from New Labour has left the movement. There is some very good analysis of what the relationship between the government and the movement has meant from highly reputable sources like Gary Morton. See his profile at:

Please read his essay (written in collaboration with Paul Smith) posted on the Union Ideas Network site: Nine Years’ New Labour: Neo-liberalism and Workers’ Rights

Gary's analysis of how TU's have not fully benefited from mainstream New Labour policy is well worth reading and discussing with other colleagues. I do not necessarily prescribe to everything he says however, he does address the long-term fallout from the relationship from a pro-trade union perspective.

In dissecting the essay an interesting question emerges about the sustainability of the partnership model that has been keen to initiatives like the ULF and Union Modernisation Fund (UMF). Gary is sceptical that it will last once the cash has gone.

Your thoughts?