Friday, 27 March 2009

No Final Victories - No Final Defeats: An Evening with Tony Benn


Tony Benn had the great pleasure of spending an evening with me last Friday in Coventry. Or at least, that's how I'd like to suggest the encounter is presented.

In truth however, my wife and I, alongside over a hundred others spent a hugely entertaining and lively two hours with a man who still represents a significant force for good in British and International politics.

Across the wide range of issues thrown at him his central focus on accountability and credibility of political leaders was key.

The event last week kicked off a year-long series of engagements across the UK and I really would encourage you to get along and get involved in the debate. Regardless of your political outlook and affiliation Tony Benn is worth listening to as someone who has played a significant role in British political life since the 1950s.

You can see a list of the dates/venues:

I took the title for this post from his response to a question about the point at which socialists should, if ever leave the Labour Party. He suggested that his own life within the party was a series of highs and lows but that ultimately it was best place for socialists to remain and fight.

Would you agree?



Sunday, 15 March 2009

Support for the Employee Free Choice Act


On 10th March the American Houses of the Senate and Representatives had laid before them proposals to adopt the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Act would restore to American workers the right to fully and fairly elect to have a trade union become recognised in their workplace. There is overwhelming support in the US for greater freedom to join trade unions. See:

Interestingly the Economic Policy Institute has just released a statement from 30 of the States' most eminent economists, some of whom have historically been vehemently opposed to the freedom to organise, but who all now support the Act. See their statement:

They place their support for the Act within the current climate and recognise that for far too long the process of recognition has favoured employers who have been able to employ intimidatory, vicious anti-union campaigns to eliminate the liklihood of a majority ballot in favour of recognition.

Given the heritage of some of the crew who have signed the statement the language is almost revolutionary:

A rising tide lifts all boats only when labor and management bargain on relatively equal terms. In recent decades, most bargaining power has resided with management. The current recession will further weaken the ability of workers to bargain individually. More than ever, workers will need to act together.

Clearly these are changing times and I am sure that you wish the passage and confirmation of the Act to proceed.

Comments on this are welcome.



Sunday, 8 March 2009

Increasing Claims at the Employment Tribunal


At the end of March I am delivering a two-day course for UNISON in the West Midlands on handling member's cases around capability reviews.

I was reminded this morning as I read The Observer of the long tradition of employers using the capability route as one to unfairly dismiss employers.

The article in today's Observer ( documents a marked increase in the number of ET claims for unfair dismissal (and related issues) as a result of employers looking for alternatives to paying redundancy pay.

A group that is particularly in the sights of employers are women returning to work following maternity leave. The CAB reports in the article of an increased demand for their services but having to operate in a climate where legal aid is not available to assist ET claims.

On the slightly positive side the article strongly promoted trade union membership as the greatest defence against inapppropriate employer behaviour.

Can I ask what the climate is at your workplace and whether you could see your employer using a spurious route rather than one of redundancy?



Monday, 2 March 2009

A Fair Deal on Redundancy


A new link has been added on the right of this page that allows you to demand that your MP supports Lindsay Hoyle's (pictured on the right of this picture with Tony Woodley) Private Member's Bill which will seek to increase the current level of redundancy pay.

The maximum statutory payment has always been scandalously low ever since the Tories broke the link with earnings in the 1980's.

I have cut and pasted below the text from the web-site of Unions Together which is the campaigning arm of those unions affiliated to the Labour Party.

On Friday March 13th, Lindsay Hoyle MP will be putting forward a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons that would uprate the current level of statutory redundancy pay – the minimum that workers can expect to be paid if they are laid off. When it was first introduced, this was more than double the average weekly wage. But because it has not been increased with inflation, it is now worth only half of average pay. This is an important issue for working people, particularly in these turbulent economic times.

Because of the rules on Private Member’s Bills, we need enough MPs to turn up to support the Bill, or any MP who opposes it can just “talk out” the Bill, preventing it even getting to a vote. It is crucial that we ensure there are enough Labour MPs supporting the Bill in the House of Commons on March 13th so it can move forward. That’s where you can help – by writing to your MP and asking them to be in the House of Commons for the debate.

Please take the time to harass your MP and shame them into supporting the PMB. There should be no reasonable reason why your MP refuses to do this, not least in the current economic climate, and I'll welcome your feedback on their replies.

I know well from personal experience that MPs can take an age to reply to requests like this so, in the meantime, I'd welcome any comments on the rate you'd want to see the statutory maximum set at and/or the methods to link the payments to, for example, earnings etc.