Sunday, 27 March 2011

A March for the Alternative

Colleagues, a great day was spent in London yesterday for the highly successful TUC March for the Alternative. I was able to travel down with Manjit Singh (TSSA Steward at Coventry Railway Station) and his son Bally (last pictures shown below) and was pleased to bump into so many friends and colleagues along the route of the march. A great head of steam was built up yesterday, it is important that we use own 'kettle' to help create some momentum behind the sheer anger and force that it across the UK.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Knowledge is Power: Unity is Strength

Colleagues from Ruskin College, Des McDermott (left) and John Walker (right) support striking UCU members at the University of Oxford on Tuesday this week.

They are proudly displaying for the first time our new UCU branch banner, provided by the UCU - but lacking a UCU logo!


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Guest Item: Asbestos - Still a Global Threat


I am very pleased to provide the opportunity and space for a specialist guest-written item on my blog.

I have been approached by Eric Stevenson (a health and safety advocate) to help publicise the continuing global threat posed from asbestos mining, production and use.

There are a lot of resources available to trade unionists on the dangers posed from asbestos and Eric's piece helpfully identifies these, and if you contact me I can send links to these as well

Quebec is home to one of the most successful asbestos mines in history. Since 1879, residents of the town have maintained a working relationship with their namesake. The Jeffrey Mine, today the world’s largest asbestos mine, has produced as much as 150,000 tons of asbestos since 2006. However with the dwindling deposit of the ore available, production has practically halted. That is, until very recently. It has been discovered that beneath the ground of the Jeffrey Mine lies the world’s largest deposit of untouched asbestos. With the discovery have come prospective buyers and investors.

They plan to resurrect the mine and consequently the town by offering jobs to the out of work miners there.However, with the rejuvenation of [] Jeffery Mine comes the medical problem that asbestos poses to employees and to those to whom the product will be exported. Asbestos has been banned from commercial use in several countries, despite its low cost and its fire-resistant properties, largely because asbestos is now widely known as a potent carcinogen.When disturbed, sanded, broken, burnt, or cut, asbestos and asbestos materials release nearly invisible fibers into the air. These fibers settle on the clothes, hair, and shoes of those who handle the product and loved ones and family members are also very likely to come in contact with the fibers. When the fine fibers are inhaled or ingested, tissue scarring results in mesothelioma, a cancer that ravages the lining of the lungs, the abdomen, and the heart.[] Mesothelioma symptom are subtle and very often lie dormant for 20 to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure.

Because workers and those with asbestos products in their homes are unaware of the cancer, it has ample time to metastasize, spreading to other vital organs without triggering symptoms. If mesothelioma is at all diagnosed before the death of the victim, it is often already at a late stage. Victims of the disease suffer from harsh treatment that often proves ineffective.Because many in developing countries are not yet aware of the danger of asbestos, the Jeffrey Mine’s potential buyer plans to export hundreds of thousands of tons of the toxic material to unsuspecting contractors and workers.

Despite the fact that [l] mesothelioma life expectancy[/link] rates are devastatingly low and even Canada has regulations and laws against using asbestos for manufacturing within its borders, the Jeffrey Mine fully insists that the products will not harm other buyers or workers.The refusal of the Jeffrey Mine to accept responsibility for the devastating effects that asbestos will have on those exposed to it shows that ethics is being pushed aside for the more appetizing idea of profit.

As a worldwide community, it is up to all of us, to those who have been made aware of the dangers of such toxins, to put a stop to the blatant violation of human rights and to prevent the [] Mesotheliomafrom unnecessarily affecting others.

Eric Stevenson is a health and safety advocate who resides in the Southeastern US, and has found his voice by shinning light onto commonly overlooked issues.

For questions about this article feel free to contact him at

Please do post items around your own experience of handling cases in the workplace which relate to asbestos and do contact Eric direct with any questions/comments.


Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Moral Position on the Right to Strike


The Court of Appeal ruling on the appeal brought by ASLEF and the RMT has brought the UK's labour movement welcome news - not least in the context of a potential increase in industrial action in the months/years to come.

Drawing on the BBC News online piece on the story the background to the decision is this:

Aslef and the RMT challenged injunctions blocking strikes over small faults in procedure, such as polling those not entitled to vote.

The Court of Appeal clarified the law, saying unions cannot be expected to always have up-to-date membership records.

The court said in future that the information should be "as accurate as was reasonably practicable" and that allowances should be made for "small accidental failures" in administration.

Full story:

The response of the RMT's General Secretary, Bob Crow, neatly (and typically) drew out the moral and political implications of the decision:

“This morning’s judgment is not only a victory for staff on Serco Docklands and RMT’s 80,000 members but it is also a massive victory for the seven million trade unionists in the UK.

The Serco Docklands injunction on balloting process would have taken the anti-union laws in this country to within a whisker of effectively banning the right to strike if it had been allowed to stand and would have tightened the noose around the neck.

This landmark victory for working people in this country could not have been secured without the sterling work of Richard Arthur and Doug Christie from Thompson’s solicitors and the advocacy of RMT’s standing counsel John Hendy QC."

RMT Press Release:

Naturally we can expect the government to attempto to 'reform' the law on industrial action partly as a result of its current 'consultation' of resolving workplace disputes.

In any case the CoA decision is a thumbs up for the thousands of trade unionists facing job loss and a great boost for the TUC March on 26th March.

See you all there!