Friday, 21 May 2010

Employment Rights & Vulnerable Workers


I have previously mentioned my role at the GFTU and the current national project I am managing which will provide, amongst other elements, employment rights information to vulnerable workers, via a series of information rights fairs, across the UK.

As an update, I have been working with Thompsons Solicitors to jointly produce a new series of factsheets that will be distributed at the fairs, and via project partners and allied organisations.

You can obtain electronic versions of the new factsheets by going to:

Any feedback on the factsheets is welcome.



Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Unite Here!


I had this week an e-mail from a close friend in the US who is allied to the coalition of organisations behind the labour organising movement Unite Here!

Our American sisters and brothers allied to Unite Here are worthy of our attention not least because their organising drives engage younger, creative, vibrant mechanisms to draw attention to their work and hit hard at employer exploitation.

The latest manifestation of their creative talents is a flashmob assault on a notoriously anti-union hotel. Have a look at the flashmob event and see part of the future of organising:

What I particularly like about this organisation is their essential zeal to combine the very best of traditional, in your face, organising tools with web-based information dissemination strategies.

To see what I mean have a look at the allied web sites:

The overall message from Unite Here! is one of a sophisticated, integrated sectoral organising strategy, based on coalition building direct action initiatives with a core message driven across the web. I couldn't think of a better model of a way the way forward for the global labour movement.

Or am I wrong?

Please follow the links, view the video and tell me, what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of what Unite Here! are doing?



Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Hold On, This'll Be a Rocky Ride!


Who of us could possible witness the unfolding events of the past 24 hours without wondering what the travesty of a Con-Lib coalition will mean for the trade union movement and our allies across progressive social movements in the UK and internationally?

I do not believe that the Lib Dems as Tory allies in government will be able to effectively moderate the worst inclinations of a party desperate to unleash a turbocharged wave of neo-liberal slash and burn policy across the public sector and and who are hell bent on eradicating the relatively minor workplace safeguards. For example, the Tories have literally foamed at the mouth in creating lies about excessive health and safety legislation and the need to rein in red tape. The impact of this mantra on the HSE can only be disastrous.

You can of course expect me to document accurately what this 'government' expects to unfurl as an employment and industrial policy and in partcular I am keen to see the actual policy outcome of the supposed clash between the two party's manifestos around employment.

Whatever the outcome, we will spend the next four years in a battle for the future of the labour movement in this country, moreso than at any time over the past 13 years. I am up for this, I am sure you are.

What do you say should be our first steps?



Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Internet & The Labour Movement


I spent this weekend with students who are completing the labour and trade union studies MA at Ruskin that I manage.

Sadly, this was their last residential workshop (and they are working hard on their dissertations) but as recognition of their hard work and effort I was able to secure the input of Eric Lee (LabourStart, UnionBook etc) as guest speaker on Friday night.

Eric is pictured here addressing students.

You can see a brief biog of Eric here.

For those unfamilar with the significant academic work of Eric's the most significant starting point is the 1996 publication of his pivotal work The Labour Movement and the Internet: The New Internationalism.

You can review abstracts and read reviews at this link:

In addition to Eric's coverage there is a significant body of literature on the significance of the Web (in particular in the form of its latest guise as Web 2.0) an example is:

Amongst Eric's comments on the current state of play on the application of web technologies and the labour movement were:

1. Too many unions were wholly replacing web-based activity with 'actual word' mobilisation.

2. Often unions were guilty of Internet colonialism and only offering English as the reading language available, wholly disabiling the potential of member engagement where members do not use English as their first language. In addition, where a first language is used, there is a lack of recognition of member competence of literacy skills.

Eric's session was a fantastic opportunity to gain a global perspective on the applicability (or not) of the web as it relates to trade union activity.

In short Eric's view is, the Internet is a great tool, but only one of many which are based on the continuing physical, real world, manifestation of worker mobilisation and consciousness-raising.

Any comments on what I've said here is very welcome.



Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Law Versus the Trade Unions: IER Seminar


The outcomes of the General Election tomorrow will have ramifications for the trade union movement, and of course for workers generally, across a wide range of fronts.

There is much evidence already of Tory thinking around trade union rights and of industrial relations generally.

The Institute of Employment Rights have convenved a seminar with a stellar cast of speakers to discuss and consider the outcomes of the general election with a specific remit of the future of trade union rights.

Attendance is free so, if you can attend please do, as we must all be party to the discussion and examination of the impact of any reform on the way we move forward as a movement.

Go to the following link for more details:



Saturday, 1 May 2010

May Day 2010


I am pleased to report that on this May Day I am thoroughly surrounded by strong, vibrant evidence of the vitality of this movement of ours.

I am at Ruskin College this weekend in part to meet a new group of students starting out on the long road towards the achievement of the College's BA in International Labour & Trade Union Studies (ILTUS).

A very fine bunch of women and men - I wish them all well.

Being in Oxford I can happily report also on a very well attended march and rally in defence in jobs and the public sector as part of the city's May Day celebrations.

I always draw on illustrations from Walter Crane for May Day, and the Workers' Garland image shown here is as good as any he created.

I wish you all the best for this global workers' day of celebration. Let us reflect on the need for solidartity with workers globally and prepare for whatever it is that comes out of the general election next week.

My very best wishes.