Thursday, 29 September 2016

Cockamamy Council

Here's a copy of an email I have circulated to all MSPs and MPs who have local constituencies within the boundaries of Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council.

As ever, in the fight for equal pay 'many hands make light work' and the more people who help turn up the heat on this cockamamy Labour council - the sooner we will get this issue resolved.

I have also sent the email and blog post to Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, albeit for information only at this stage.



North Lanarkshire and Equal Pay

I enclose for your information a copy of the latest post to my blog site regarding Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council and the fight for equal pay.

I am sure that local constituents will be in touch to ask for your assistance in persuading North Lanarkshire Council to 'get its finger out' as this is a very big issue for the many hundreds of employees involved.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

CC - Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (for information)


North Lanarkshire Update

I'm afraid to say that Labour-led North Lanarkshire seems to be sliding back into its old ways, despite recent claims that the Council is under new, improved leadership.

Because for weeks NLC has been saying that pay information would be delivered to A4ES by the end of September 2016, so that Home Support workers could receive their backpay arising from the Council's very late-running job evaluation (JE) review.

But Labour-led North Lanarkshire is now reneging on that commitment and, to add insult to injury, the Council is unwilling or unable to say when this process will finally be concluded.

Which is a complete disgrace if you ask me - a clear case of senior council officials and Labour politicians treating the workforce with ill-disguised contempt.

Now the payments due to NLC employees are a full-blown contractual entitlement and so A4ES, in conjunction with our lawyers (HBJ Gateley), will be making a formal complaint over this latest NLC 'foot-dragging behaviour in relation to equal pay.

As ever individual claimants and A4ES clients can help persuade the Council of the need to get its finger out and finally resolve this long running issue by:
  1. Writing to the NLC chief executive Paul Jukes at:
  2. Writing to the Labour leader of the Council, Councillor Jim Logue at:
  3. Contacting the opposition SNP leader of NLC, Councillor David Stocks at: 
  4. Raising the council's behaviour with local Holyrood MSPs - details to follow
  5. Raising the council's behaviour with local Westminster MP's - details to follow
  6. Contacting and complaining to the local newspapers - details to follow
I will also have a look at the official NLC diary and see if we can arrange a suitable protest at a future full Council meeting which the media will be invited to attend, of course.
I also notice that Scotland's First Minister was in Motherwell earlier today to formally reopen the Dalzell steel plant and, as regular readers know, Nicola Sturgeon has previously stated that her government will take tough action against councils who are dragging their feet over equal pay.

So given this latest North Lanarkshire debacle, I will send the First Minister a copy of my blog post and may ask her officials to become more actively involved, depending how things pan out in the next few days.

In the meantime let's turn the heat up on this 'cockamamy' Labour council which as readers know has been making a terrible dog's dinner of equal pay - for the past 17 years. 


North Lanarkshire Update (19/09/16)

I still get emails on an daily basis asking if Home Carers in North Lanarkshire will receive their JE review 'backpay' by the end of September 2016.

Now the honest answer is that I don't know for sure because this requires North Lanarkshire Council to pass on the relevant financial information which has to be checked carefully prior to letters being sent out to individual A4ES clients.

So assuming that this process is concluded before the end of September, A4ES will be able to turn things around and get individual letters out to all NLC clients within the space of a few days.

As soon as there is a firm date or timescale, I will share the details on the blog site.


North Lanarkshire Update (06/09/16)

I continue to receive lots of enquiries via email and Facebook about North Lanarkshire's job evaluation (JE) review - far too many for me to answer on an individual basis.

Now as regular readers know, the JE review was conducted by the Council and the trade unions and if I remember correctly, it was accepted that other jobs could be reviewed going forward.

In effect the baton was passed to the trade unions, but Action 4 Equality Scotland continued the fight on behalf of Sheltered Housing Wardens, Clerical Assistants and Classroom Assistants in the Glasgow Employment Tribunal (ET).

The A4ES clients involved in the ongoing Glasgow ET hearing eventually won the argument to have their JE scores and grades matched to higher paid male comparators which resulted in a much more favourable settlement of their equal pay claims.

But the tribunal outcome affects only the individual clients of A4ES and the three job categories involved were not included in the recent NLC job evaluation (JE) review, primarily because the ET hearing was still underway. 

My understanding of the JE review is that other NLC jobs can still be brought into the process, if a strong case could be made on behalf of particular groups - a test which must surely be satisfied as far as Sheltered Housing Wardens, Clerical Assistants and Classroom Assistants are concerned. 

So if I were a Sheltered Housing Warden, a Clerical Assistant or a Classroom Assistant I'd be asking asking the Council via my trade union when they are going to review the scores and grades of these three jobs - given that the ball is now well and truly in their court.


North Lanarkshire Update(01/09/16)

I've had lots of enquiries about backpay and the NLC job evaluation (JE) review which I have written about regularly on the blog site for the past year and more.

Here are two posts (one from May 2015 and the other from June 2016) which explain the background to the JE review and the fact that only a limited number of posts were covered by the review in the first place.


North Lanarkshire Update (23/05/15)

Lots of readers have been in touch to ask about the re-evaluation of various jobs in North Lanarkshire Council which has been prompted by the council being forced to concede at the Employment Tribunal that a number of female dominated jobs had not been assessed and graded correctly back in 2006/07.

As part of the equal pay settlement it was agreed by all the parties that the process of carrying out a further job evaluation would be down to the council and the trade unions.

Now that is quite sensible because while Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) has led the fight for equal pay in North Lanarkshire all these years, the council (management and councillors) along with the unions make up the permanent collective bargaining structures in North Lanarkshire.

Part of the agreement is that A4ES will be kept fully informed about what's going on and how the council and the unions intend to tackle the problems that clearly exist within the present grading structure.

Apparently the unions have issued some limited information on the process which says that the following jobs will be subject to further evaluation:  

  • Playground Supervisors
  • School Crossing Patrollers
  • Home Support Workers
  • Road Sweepers
  • Refuse Collectors
  • Gardeners at grades 4 and 5
  • Chargehand Gardeners at grade 6
Now the list contains only the three female dominated jobs which were originally identified at the Employment Tribunal hearing.

Other employees such as Admin and Clerical Workers and Classroom Assistants, for example, may have a case to argue that their jobs and factor scores should be reviewed as well which could be done by bringing a group of such workers together to look in detail at the existing job description and individual factor scores.

Now this would also require a proper look at the male jobs to compare what scores these jobs have been awarded under all the different factor headings to ensure consistency and that jobs are not being treated in isolation.

As I've said before on the blog site what would help this process is maximum transparency and openness which could be achieved by putting all of this information on the Council's web site, for example, where everyone could see what is going on and have the opportunity to comment if they wish.

Over the coming weeks I'll do my best to answer people's questions and requests for information on the blog site, so watch this space.

NLC JE Review (12/06/16)

I submitted a freedom of information (FoI) request to North Lanarkshire Council on Friday (10 May) asking for details of the report to the Policy and Resources Committee on the Council's late-running job evaluation (JE) review.

But later that day a helpful contact from within the Council sent me a copy of the report and here is a summary of the main outcomes as far as JE is concerned.

Claimant Jobs

Home Support Workers - Existing Grade NLC 3, New Grade NLC 7

School Crossing Patrollers - Existing Grade NLC 2, New Grade NLC 3

Playground Supervisors - Existing Grade NLC 2, New Grade NLC 2 (no change)

Male Comparator Jobs

Road Sweeper - Existing Grade NLC 2, New Grade NLC 3

Refuse Collector - Existing Grade NLC 4, New Grade NLC 4

Gardener (4) - Existing Grade NLC 4, New Grade NLC 5

Gardener (5) - Existing Grade NLC 5, New Grade NLC 5

Chargehand Gardener - Existing Grade NLC 6, New Grade NLC 7

So two out of three claimant jobs have seen their grades increase (notably the Home Carers) and three out of five male comparator jobs and the new grades will be backdated to 1 April 2015.

However lots of predominantly female job groups have been left out of the JE review which will, I suspect, make many people very angry.

So the trade unions have a lot of explaining to do especially to fee-paying members who have been excluded from the review process.

No Protestants At All

Image result for green brigade + hanging doll images

Glasgow Celtic went some way to restoring the reputation of Scottish football last night with a magnificent performance against Manchester City which kept the club's Euro dreams alive.

But amidst the drama of a great sporting contest at Parched came the news that Celtic have earned another €10,000 (Euro) fine for the behaviour of their Green Brigade fans at a previous match involving the Israeli club Hapoel Beer Sheva.

The same morons went on to repeat their performance at a subsequent Celtic versus Rangers game  at Parkhead although looking on the bright side a number of  individuals are now helping Police Scotland with their enquiries.


No Protestants At All (22/09/16)

Image result for green brigade + hanging doll images

The arrogant numpties who style themselves as Parkhead's 'Green Brigade' will be banging their drums again today as Celtic get fined yet again by UEFA over the anti-social behaviour of a small minority of the club's supporters.

I was at the Celtic versus Hapoel Beer Sheva game when the Green Brigade, the self-appointed moral guardians of the stadium (in their own minds at least), staged a protest by waving Palestinian flags to 'welcome' the visiting team and its fans, despite being asked not to behave in this way by their club.

Now I've been a supporter of Palestinian independence for many a year, much longer than the Green Brigade has been around, but if you ask me the political arena is the place for debating the difficult issues surrounding the Middle East conflict - not a football ground.

Because a Champions League qualifying match is a sporting contest even if some of the fans prefer to regard such events as an opportunity to display how completely stupid, tribal and/or sectarian they can be while hiding under the 'cover' of a large crowd. 

For example, I take a rather dim view of Mother Theresa and the behaviour of the Catholic church in proclaiming the nun to be a modern day saint on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.

Personally speaking, I prefer I the assessment of Christopher Hitchens who described Mother Theresa being 'Hell's Angel', as someone who was 'in love with poverty rather than the poor'.

Yet I wouldn't dream of waving a banner at Parkhead stadium roundly denouncing Mother (now Saint) Theresa as a 'Hell's Angel' even though that is my strongly held view, shared no doubt by others attending the football game or watching on television.  

During the Celtic v Happoel match the Green Brigade sang the following little 'ditty' to the tune of 'On The One Road' after waving their flags proudly in progressive political solidarity with the Palestinian people: 

"Northmen, Southmen, comrades all

"Soon there'll be no Protestants at all"

Tossers or what? 

And, of course, they repeated their sectarian, juvenile behaviour at the recent Celtic versus Rangers at Parkhead on 10 September 2011.

In other words these clowns are every bit as bad as their knuckle-dragging Orange counterparts from the other side of Glasgow.


In Love With Poverty (03/09/16)

The late Christopher Hitchens observed that Mother Theresa of Calcutta was in love with poverty rather than the poor.

So on the day that the Vatican is to proclaim Mother Theresa as a saint after performing two miracles from 'beyond the grave', now seems like a good time to share Hitchens' debunking documentary film Hell's Angel. 


The Greetin' Brigade (19/08/16)

Image result for celtic v Hapoel + images

Glasgow's 'Greetin Brigade' were up to their old tricks the other night when Celtic met the Israeli club Hapoel Be'er Shiva in a qualifying tie for the Champions League.

As they do from time to time, this small but vocal band of supporters tried to hijack a football game for their own political ends by encouraging Celtic fans to wave Palestinian flags contrary to UEFA rules.

Now the Greeting Brigade can do this quite legitimately outside the stadium where they are 'free citizens' and the UEFA rules don't apply, but they know that the vast majority of Celtic fans aren't interested in mixing football and politics this way.

The end result is likely to be another hefty fine for the club because of the boorish behaviour of a small section of its supporters.

Celtic face fine after fans unfurl Palestinian flag at Israeli match

Celtic face fine after fans unfurl Palestinian flag at Israeli match

By Brian Donnelly - The Herald

CELTIC were facing disciplinary action after fans went ahead with threats of unfurling Palestinian flags against an Israeli team in the Champions League.

Despite warnings to avoid political gestures and the certainty that the club will be fined, some Celtic supporters raised Palestinian flags at the Scottish champions’ match against the champions of Israel, Hapoel Beer Sheva.

A Facebook page called "Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice" was set up to co-ordinate the protests with fans being offered Palestinian flags to fly at the match.

Greetin' Brigade

The tiny group of Celtic supporters known as the 'Greetin' Brigade' have brought shame on their club once again as the BBC reports the deliberate disruption of a Remembrance silence before yesterday's match at Aberdeen.

Now this has nothing to do with free speech of course because the idiots behind this kind of disrespectful and insulting behaviour are free to organise their protests anytime, anywhere - instead of trying to use football as a platform to air their views.

So, I'm all in favour of Celtic fans giving those morons up because by identifying who they are which will allow the club to name and exclude them from future Celtic FC events, and the for police to act whenever they can.  

Celtic fans arrested during Remembrance silence before Aberdeen game

Police said the vast majority of fans observed the silence

Two Celtic fans were arrested during the Remembrance Sunday silence before the game against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

There has been anger on social media in the wake of disruption during the minute's silence.

Police Scotland said two men, aged 32 and 55, were charged with assault following a disturbance in the away fans section during the silence.

Another two men, aged 24 and 29, were arrested elsewhere in the stadium for unrelated offences.

'Behaved impeccably' 

All four are expected to appear in court at a later date.

Supt Innes Walker said: "The overwhelming majority of the sell-out crowd from all sections of the ground respected the minute silence and behaved impeccably throughout the entire game.

"Police Scotland will continue to work with Aberdeen Football Club to improve the match day experience for all spectators but fans must be aware that any form of unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with firmly."

Celtic - who were down to 10 men - won the game 2-1 thanks to a late goal, after Aberdeen had taken the lead

Greetin' Brigade (18 December 2014)

Here's an article on the Green Brigade which appeared in Scotland on Sunday at the weekend - a spectacularly ill-informed and mealy-mouthed piece of work, if you ask me.

Because the 'activism' on display by this group of Celtic fans, is essentially no different to the the marches and parades which are still an ugly feature of life in Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland - from time to time.

The marchers claim they have right to march when and where they want in a 'free' society, yet any reasonable person can see that their insistence on being able to march through areas where they are not welcome - is not about activism but about their desire to provoke and upset their neighbours.

In other words their real aim is to magnify and glorify religious tensions - and not with the purpose of making a sensible political point or bringing people together in an atmosphere of reconciliation.

Now I can understand the argument that Bobby Sands and the other 'hunger strikers' are regarded as a political inspiration to some, but a football game is not the place for political statements - especially where the message will inevitably be seen as divisive and provocative.

Football is a sport after all and should not allow itself to be hijacked for political ends - if some fans want to run political campaigns, let them knock themselves out elsewhere.

I have my own views on Scottish independence or Dignity in Dying, for example, but I would never dream of trying to use a football match as a vehicle for promoting my views.

The comparison being drawn with Nelson Mandela is plainly ridiculous because the former South African President was a great healing and unifying figure, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, so why would anyone want to turn a minute's silence for Nelson Mandela into some arcane political point? 

So, the chap who calls the Green Brigade the Greetin' Brigade makes a fair point - time to move on.       

Comment: Trouble in Paradise for Green Brigade

A banner displaying William Wallace and Bobby Sands shown by the Green Brigade at Celtic Park last month. Picture: SNS


Celtic have banned their ultra fans the Green Brigade, but is it really political activism that’s being punished, asks Dani Garavelli

WITH their passion, their ­colourful and provocative banners, and their anti-authoritarian attitude, the Green Brigade breathed new spirit into the all-seater Celtic Park, aka Paradise to faithful fans.

That’s something few supporters would dispute. The ultras’ youthful defiance combined with their ability to produce stunning visual expressions of cultural identity revitalised matches which had had the life sucked out of them by health and safety rules, corporate interests and heightened sensibilities around sectarianism.

Take the notorious Four Horseman of the Apocalypse display, featuring Neil Lennon, Hector the taxman, Death and Craig Whyte advancing towards beleaguered Rangers, which was unfurled on the last Old Firm derby of the 2012 season. Whatever your loyalties, it would be difficult not to marvel at the creative energy which went into the realisation of that goading image, accompanied by an array of tombstones across Section 111, the part of the stadium the Green Brigade made its own.

Given the way the supporters’ group boosted the atmosphere, it is little wonder the club has often encouraged its activities, trading on its full stadium display to celebrate Celtic’s 125th anniversary before its victory against Barcelona. “I would say there’s a commercial advantage to the club from having a group of fans who, from their own time and energy, talent and money, provide that kind of support,” says Jeannette Findlay of the Celtic Trust.

Yet like Frankenstein’s monster, the left-wing group seems to be veering out of control. As its members’ anger towards the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications at Football Act – a piece of legislation many see as an attempt to criminalise fans – has mounted, they have sung Irish Republican songs with greater gusto and their displays have become more overtly political, incurring the wrath of Uefa. When a banner showing William Wallace and Bobby Sands, which riffed on the old freedom fighter/terrorist paradox, was unfurled at the Champions League match against AC Milan last month, manager Neil Lennon accused them of “going rogue”. Celtic were fined £42,000 for the protest, the fourth time the club has been punished as a result of fan indiscretions in two years.

But it was the behaviour of supporters within Section 111 at the recent match against Motherwell at Fir Park, when flares were set off and seats destroyed, that proved a tipping point. Last week, the club ended the Green Brigade’s dominance by handing out “precautionary suspensions” to 128 of its members, while forcing 250 season ticket-holders housed in Section 111 to move to other parts of the ground or have their season ticket money refunded.

For those who believe the Green Brigade was long ago swallowed up by its own ego, the move was overdue. Closing his parody Twitter account, The Greetin’ Brigade, one supporter wrote: “I’m [now] positive that a line will be drawn in the sand and the proper fans who have the sole objective of supporting the team within the confines of the law, will now have a safe environment to achieve that.”

But for others it is a massive over-­reaction, and a surrender to a prevailing political agenda which wants to outlaw all displays of Irish nationalism. Though no-one condones the ripping up of seats, Celtic fans are quick to point out that such vandalism takes place at other matches (Motherwell fans recently destroyed seats at New Douglas Park) without attracting the same degree of opprobrium.

In any case, those who support the Green Brigade believe last week’s vandalism is a red herring; what its members are really being punished for, they say, is their activism, and they claim that is rank hypocrisy. “We are told politics should be kept out of football, but then the SFA holds a minute’s silence for Mandela,” says one Celtic fan, who is not a member of the Green Brigade. “I have the greatest respect for Mandela, but how can that possibly be seen as anything other than a political statement?”

One could also question the apparent double standards in Uefa’s tolerance of pro-Catalan flags in the Nou Camp and ask whether or not we would disapprove of an Eritrean refugee who wanted to cele­brate his heritage through songs about past battles.

The Green Brigade believes its members have been the victim of heavy-handed policing (although others have pointed out the policing at Fir Park was virtually nonexistent). And it feels particularly aggrieved at the way in which Celtic fans have been arrested for singing Roll of Honour, which commemorates the IRA Hunger Strikers. “This song has nothing to do with supporting any armed organisation but is about remembering the sacrifice of ten ordinary young men who gave their lives in their campaign against criminalisation,” a spokesman tells Scotland on Sunday.

“Nelson Mandela cited Bobby Sands as an inspiration and led his own hunger strike at Robben Island shortly afterwards. It’s ironic that this week football clubs across Europe have celebrated Mandela yet our fans are in the dock for displaying banners depicting Sands.”

The way the Green Brigade highlights such contradictions may not meet with everyone’s approval, but they do raise questions which cannot be easily dismissed. For example, is the new Act a legitimate weapon with which to tackle residual sectarianism or a means by which to clamp down on expressions of Irish identity? And should we really expect sport to exist in a vacuum or accept that – from Barcelona to Cairo to Glasgow – football, nationalism and politics are inextricably intertwined?

The Green Brigade wasn’t formed until 2006, but the ultra movement, which is synonymous with banners, choreographic displays, fireworks and drums, has thrived in other European countries since the late 60s. Though often associated with right-wing ideologies, there are many left-wing ultras such as those attached to Livorno and the Hamburg-based St Pauli, with whom Green Brigade members have struck up a friendship. In north Africa, ultras were instrumental in the Arab Spring, particularly the uprising against President Mubarak in Egypt.

“Our group was not modelled on any others but instead sought to marry ultra culture with the unique identity of the Celtic support,” the Green Brigade spokesman says. “This was not a particularly big leap as our support have always been a bit different to the norm in Scotland and Britain; we’ve always been known for our passion and noise, and have always been proud to show our colours. Given Celtic’s roots, our fans have always been proud of our Irish identity and supported the Irish nationalist cause, and our group naturally followed in this tradition.”

Describing itself as anti-fascist, the group has been involved in political campaigning and charitable work. It organises the biggest bloc on the STUC’s anti-racism march, runs its own annual anti-discrimination football tournament, seeks to engage asylum-seekers and regularly organises food bank collections. After the Scottish Government introduced the new legislation, however, the Green Brigade began to engage in increasingly provocative behaviour. The Act, which became law in 2012, makes it illegal to sing certain songs inside and outside the stadium, on public transport, in streets and pubs, although its many critics point out it was already possible to tackle unacceptable football-related behaviour through existing legislation.

“There has always been a law of breach of the peace and prior to the introduction of the new legislation, people at football grounds were convicted under that law for behaving in a manner that was objectively seen to be offensive,” says Brian ­McConnachie QC. “The situation now is that the police know which area will house the people who are likely to sing those songs, so they film them on their hand-held cameras. They specifically target individuals, then they take the time to look at the footage and work out whether they are singing the song in question. They prosecute them and, at the trial, the only evidence that requires to be led is the evidence of two police officers to say, that’s the guy, here’s the video footage, we heard the singing.

“Nobody in the ground was offended or made a complaint, but nonetheless he’s guilty of that offence and, potentially at least, liable to a custodial sentence. It is crime creation in many ways.”

According to the Green Brigade, victimisation by the police is not confined to taking pictures. “We’ve had fans arrested at airports when returning from family holidays on bogus charges that are dropped as soon as they reach court and supporters dragged from their beds in co-ordinated dawn raids as if they were big-time drug dealers,” the spokesman says.

The Green Brigade has campaigned against the Act with the Celtic umbrella group Fans Against Criminalisation, but it has also produced banners like the one in November 2010, protesting over the placing of a Remembrance Day poppy on a Celtic shirt, and the more recent Bobby Sands one.

To Findlay, such actions are welcome evidence of engagement. “What really gets me in an age when we have young people who are so politically disengaged, is that you take a group of people who are so politically active, so willing to get out and voice an opinion and to work productively with other organisations, and you suggest they’re a problem,” she says. “Well, they’re a problem to the people who don’t want to hear what they’ve got to say, but in terms of society, I would be more worried about the young people who sit around watching Big Brother, those who have no political involvement.”

To others, however, including the man who ran the Greetin’ Brigade, the group has become a “self-indulgent circus act”. Either way, their activities, which have included letting off flares, could be seen as counter-productive, leading not to an early review of the law, but to bad publicity. “I don’t think the Green Brigade are doing themselves any favours” says ­McConnachie. “One wonders how many of the people in their section have a clue what these songs are about. Of course, some do, but I’m sure there are many who are going along with the crowd and it’s just a means of noising up the police.”

And that’s before you address last week’s trouble at Fir Park. Though the Green Brigade denies its members were personally responsible, it admits “that as a group that believes in fan control” it should have policed the section better.

Nevertheless it believes the decision to impose a collective punishment on its members is disproportionate. “We cannot see why the alleged misdemeanours of a small minority of people who may not even stand in our section at 111 should impact on everyone who does,” the spokesman says. “If someone deliberately breaks a seat at a football stadium then they should expect that action will be taken against them, and that they may be banned for a period from football games. However if football clubs here wanted to have better relationships with their fans they would do well to look at some of the models from some clubs in Germany and elsewhere, where fans and club directors work consensually on contentious issues and disciplinary matters.”

Though the brigade laments the loss of its section, it has no intention of giving up its fight against the new law. “Wherever you go, you’ll find that Irish communities (like every other diaspora group) express themselves through music and song, singing about past and present events in their motherland,” the spokesman says. “That’s what [our] fans have always done, whether that was Celtic’s founding fathers singing about the Manchester Martyrs and the Fenians, or my granda’s generation singing for Kevin Barry or James Connolly, or my own remembering Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers.

“Now singing about events during conflicts might not be to your personal taste, but the idea that it should be outlawed is utterly ridiculous.”

Nor does the Green Brigade plan to give up its charitable work. A food bank collection outside Celtic Park before the Hearts game will go ahead next Saturday as planned. “We’ve had some great days and fantastic nights in 111 over the past three and a half years of having an official section, so it’s a real disappointment to lose it,” the spokesman says. “It’s definitely not the end of the Green Brigade though. We are far more than just a small section in one corner of Celtic Park, we’re a spirit that will endure and a group of brilliant bhoys and ghirls that will continue to do our thing.”

Better Late Than Never

Labour'e deputy leader Tom Watson, who has his own mandate of course, finally wakes up to the fact that relentlessly attacking your own party's achievements in government sends all the wrong message to voters.

For having the audacity to speak out on this subject Watson was immediately attacked by one of Jeremy Corbyn's biggest supporters, Unite boss Len McCluskey.

So Watson must be doing something right, if you ask me.


Doesn't Add Up (28/09/16)

I said in a recent post that Len McCluskey's £400,000 'loan' from his own union (Unite) raised more questions than answers and it seems I may well be right, if the following entry on Wikipedia is accurate:

"McCluskey was elected as the National Secretary of the TGWU General Workers Group in 1990, and moved to London to work in the union's national headquarters.[1][3] In 2004 he became the TGWU's national organiser for the service industries.[3] In 2007, he was appointed as the Assistant General Secretary for Industrial Strategy of the newly merged Unite the Union.[3]"

Because if Len moved to London in 1990, then why on earth would the Unite boss be seeking a generous 'loan' from his own union all of 26 years later - to help him buy a  new £700,000 house?

Doesn't make any sense at all, if you ask me.


Union Bosses (09/09/16)

I was rather puzzled by the news reports about Len McCluskey and the Unite boss's £400,000 'loan' from his own union to buy a £700,000 property in London.

Because I was a beneficiary of financial assistance from my union, NUPE (now Unison), when I took up a promoted union post many years ago, but there were rules and conditions attached.

As I recall, the scheme took into account an individuals's financial circumstances and applied in the same way to everyone who qualified - not just the general secretary.

The scheme was not intended to help someone build up a property portfolio by buying a second or third home, for example, so they could be required to sell a property already in their possession.

The scheme was also accessed at the time the person involved took up their new appointment which in Len McCluskey's case was January 2011.

So why is the Unite boss seeking such help more than five years after his election as general secretary and if he was already a senior London-based official, why was financial assistance required in the first place?

The Guardian reports on the breaking story which has more questions than answers at this stage, but the biggest one of all for me is why would an equity share scheme be attractive for Unite?

Especially as such a deal ties up £400,000 chunk of union members' money when no doubt this could be put to much more practical use.

Maybe this arrangement allows Len to live in a £700,000 property while paying for only his minority share of around £270,000 but as the full details of the scheme have yet to be disclosed no one can say for sure, at this stage anyway.


Unite union gave Len McCluskey £400,000 'loan' to buy London flat

Union insider says there will be ‘much disquiet’ over payment of £417,000 for leader’s apartment under equity share deal


McCluskey’s flat cost £695,500 in February. Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

By Rajeev Syal - The Guardian

Unite the union has contributed more than £400,000 towards the purchase of a £700,000 central London flat for its leader, Len McCluskey, Land Registry documents show.

McCluskey, who has been described as Labour’s kingmaker, became the owner of the two-bedroom apartment near Borough market just south of the river Thames in February this year.

'I was politicised by the docks': the rise of Len McCluskey

Unite put forward 60% of the cost of the flat – amounting to £417,000 – after signing an agreement with McCluskey.

The disclosure comes at a time when many of Unite’s members are struggling. One union insider said there would be “much disquiet” over the arrangement.

The union said the purchase agreement was not a loan but an equity share arrangement. It added that this type of equitable agreement was commonly used to help general secretaries buy homes in London and insisted the agreement would raise more money for its members when the property was eventually sold.

'Kamikaze' McCluskey (10/07/16)

Image result for mccluskey + BBC images

The boss of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, issued the following statement after talks collapsed over Jeremy Corbyn's continued leadership of the Labour Party:

“I am dismayed at the statement issued by Tom Watson announcing his withdrawal from talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the Labour party.
“Extraordinarily, I received no notice of this statement before it was issued. I had made arrangements for a meeting of trade union leaders, Tom Watson and representatives of the PLP and the party leader for tomorrow, arrangements requested by Tom Watson and his colleagues, specifically for Mr Watson’s convenience. 
“In that context, when the possibility of a workable plan had never seemed closer, Tom Watson’s actions today can only look like an act of sabotage fraught with peril for the future of the Labour party. 
“I must clarify one point in Tom Watson’s statement; I made it absolutely clear from the outset of these discussions that Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as the leader was not on the agenda. Watson knew that, and it is entirely wrong to suggest that any public statement by Jeremy represented any change in the situation. This is a deeply disingenuous manoeuvre.
“I will continue to work with trade union colleagues and others to chart a way forward, including meeting the legitimate concerns of Labour MPs.”
Now if McCluskey had already made plain that Corbyn's position as leader was 'non-negotiable', then the talks were doomed from the outset, the vast majority of Labour MPs (from all  wings of the party) having concluded that Jeremy is simply not up to the job.
So it's worth remembering that Len McCluskey's style of leadership almost led to the closure of the giant Ineos plant at Grangemouth after Unite foolishly called a damaging strike over a local union steward who was called to account for carrying out work for the Labour Party during his employer's time. 

Resign! (26/09/15)

Image result for jim murphy and len mccluskey

The Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy won a vote of confidence (17-14) at the Scottish party's executive committee the other day, but decided to stand down nonetheless because of the wrecking tactics of his most vocal critics, including Len McCluskey the boss of the Unite trade union.

Unite has wasted £14 million of its members money in donations to the Labour Party since Ed Miliband became leader in 2010 and last year the union called a disastrous strike at the giant Ineos plant in Grangemouth which almost cost thousands of Unite members their jobs 

So why doesn't Len McCluskey follow his own 'lead' and resign as the Unite general secretary because by any standards he's done a lousy job after accepting that the vast majority of Unite members in Scotland supported the SNP in the general election, having deserted the Labour Party in droves over recent years.

Jim Murphy gave Len McCluskey both barrels in announcing his decision to resign and has pledged to table a report of proposed reforms to the Scottish Labour executive next month.

Here's what he had to say:

“It is clear that a small minority who didn’t accept my election as leader of the Scottish Labour Party just five months ago won’t accept the vote of the executive today and that will continue to divide the party.

Today I received more support in the executive vote than I did from members of the executive when I stood for election five months ago.

When I table that report at next month’s meeting of the Scottish Labour Party executive, I will also table my resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

It will be for the party executive to decide whether it accepts the reforms proposed, but a party in such urgent need of reform blocks those changes at its peril.” 

The Labour Party’s problem is not the link with trade unions, or even the relationship with Unite members - far from it.

It is the destructive behaviour of one high profile trade unionist.

One of the things about stepping down is that you can say things in public that so many people in the Labour Party only say in private.

So whether it is in Scotland or in the contest to come in the UK, we cannot have our leaders selected or deselected by the grudges and grievances of one prominent man.

The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey, and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”

Right from Wrong (26/01/14)

A number of readers drew my attention to the story below from the BBC web site in which the Unite trade union claims to have been vindicated over the 'vote rigging' scandal in Falkirk - that blew up into a much wider industrial conflict involving the giant Ineos plant and the local Unite convener, Stevie Deans. 

Now I don't know of anyone who ever accused the Unite convener of criminality because he seems like a decent enough chap to me, but there seems little doubt that Stevie Deans was guilty of wrongdoing by abusing his time-off arrangements with his employer (Ineos) - a civil not a criminal matter, of course.

In effect Ineos claimed that Stevie Deans was working on Labour Party business when he was being paid by the company to represent the interests of the workforce - and Ineos management instigated an investigation to get to the bottom of things which was duly followed by a disciplinary hearing. 

Nothing to get too excited about there, you might think, but the union's reaction was to call a strike which was a completely crazy and irresponsible move especially when the agreed procedures provided Stevie Deans with every opportunity to defend himself and explain his behaviour.

Instead the whole business escalated out of control and in the end Stevie Deans resigned from his job rather than face the charge that when he was supposed to be doing what was best for workers at Ineos - he was devoting much of his time to party politics and the internal affairs of the Labour Party.

So the real issue was never about criminality which is a complete red herring.

As the old Labour Party slogan use to say, the real issue was always about knowing right from wrong - resisting the temptation to play party politics, and refusing to take risks with people's jobs and livelihoods. 

Falkirk row: Police say 'no evidence of criminality' in Unite emails

The controversy centres on claims the Unite union tried to fix the selection of a parliamentary candidate

Police have found "no evidence of any criminality" in emails sent by a former Grangemouth union convener.

Stevie Deans, who was a full time Unite official at the petrochemicals complex, had been accused of being involved in vote-rigging in Falkirk.

He was later cleared by an internal investigation by the Labour Party.

The Unite union, which called the complaints "vexatious", said it had been vindicated in consistently saying that no wrongdoing had taken place.

Mr Deans left his job at the Grangemouth oil refinery last year and decided not to seek re-election as chairman of Labour's constituency party in Falkirk.

The Falkirk seat is held by Eric Joyce, who resigned from the Labour party and now represents the constituency as an independent.

Labour's selection process for next year's general election has been mired in controversy, with allegations that Unite members had been signed up to the Falkirk Labour Party to ensure the union's favoured candidate was selected.
Stevie Deans was at the heart of the Falkirk candidate selection claims

In September, Labour said it had cleared the Unite union of trying to rig the selection process.

It said the decision was made after "key evidence" was "withdrawn".

But in November, The Sunday Times newspaper said it had seen 1,000 emails to and from Mr Deans, which it said revealed the full extent of the plot to influence selection of the candidate.

Its story also included extracts of the internal Labour report in which Labour officials said there were "deliberate attempts to frustrate" interviews with some of the key witnesses.

Police Scotland, which earlier this year dropped an investigation into the Falkirk allegations, was called in to study the emails, which were passed on by Mr Deans's employer Ineos.

A spokesperson for Ineos, which operates the huge Grangemouth oil refinery and petrochemicals plant, said: "The Ineos investigation of Mr Deans was related to the misuse of Ineos procedures and systems.

"Mr Deans resigned prior to the final stage of the disciplinary process. The email cache was referred to the police and the information commissioner based on legal advice to protect the company."

A spokesman for the force said: "Following information received alleging misconduct by a member of staff at the Grangemouth refinery, a Police Scotland enquiry was undertaken.

"This enquiry has now concluded and there is no evidence of any criminality."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Unite has been vindicated in consistently saying that no wrongdoing or criminality has taken place and welcome Police Scotland's conclusion.

"It is shameful that the police's time has been wasted by vexatious complaints and their attentions diverted from catching real criminals and solving real crimes."

He added: "Stevie Deans is a decent and honourable man who has been smeared and hounded with a callous disregard for him and his family by those who should know better.

"The anti-union hysteria whipped up by certain sections of the media and their friends to pursue a spiteful agenda has been shocking. Their witch-hunt has been exposed to be without foundation."

Calamitous Cover Up (2 November 2014)

Dan Hodges is still a Labour Party supporter, as far as I know, although he did resign his membership of the party recently - so Dan's support is not unqualified and nor is he afraid of calling a spade as spade.

Which he does in this opinion piece about Unite and the 'vote-rigging' scandal in Falkirk - which became caught up in the nasty industrial dispute at Grangemouth that came within a whisker of the plant's closure.

Party politics and industrial relations are a toxic mixture that should be kept apart  at all times - but the events of recent weeks are damaging to all concerned and Dan Hodges is right to say that Unite's behaviour has made a mockery of Ed Miliband's pledge to be the champion of a new politics.

Unite and Len McCluskey are completely unapologetic, defiant even, about their behaviour and seem to be saying that they would do the same again - given the chance.

In other words the kind of machine politics that Ed Miliband promised to get rid of - is alive and well in the UK's largest trade union which doubles up, of course, as the Labour Party's biggest financial donor.

Falkirk's sordid cover-up damages the credibility of the unions, the Labour Party, and Ed Miliband

By Dan Hodges

Last month the Labour Party announced that it was halting its inquiry into the selection scandal in Falkirk. Over the weekend, thanks to the leaking of over a thousand emails to the Sunday Times, we know what that inquiry would have uncovered, had it been allowed to proceed.

The first thing it would have discovered is that the Unite trade union was indeed attempting to fix the selection on behalf of its favoured candidate Karie Murphy. In one of the “smoking” emails, Murphy expresses her desire for senior Unite official Stevie Deans to be elected “procedure secretary” for her ballot because it was “the best way to control the process”. Deans success in securing the chairmanship of the local party was described by Murphy in a separate email as nothing less than “a masterstroke considering the influence the chair has in a selection process”.

The second thing the inquiry would have discovered is that once Ed Miliband finally decided to take action over the scandal, Unite began to draw up a strategy to force the Labour leader to back-off. One idea the union came up with was to try to drag former Prime Minister Gordon Brown into the affair by getting him to intercede with his successor directly. One email from Howard Beckett, the Union’s director of legal and membership services, suggests “We will prepare for an approach to Gordon Brown wherein we ask Gordon to consider the potential damage this could do and request GB [Gordon Brown] do contact Ed M[iliband] in private”.

A second idea was to start drawing up information to smear Unite’s internal opponents. In another email Beckett wrote “Comms will prepare the nasty stuff we know of individuals in the Labour Party”. In the end, neither the approach to Brown, nor the plan to smear Unite’s opponents, were acted upon.

The third thing the inquiry would have discovered is how Unite directly intervened in the evidence of those who had claimed to witness attempts to rig the selection ballot. In particular, Unite focused on evidence supplied by members of the Kanes family, who were at the heart of allegations that people in the constituency had been signed up to the Labour Party without their consent.

Howard Beckett agreed to draw up “statements on behalf of the Kanes rebutting allegations in the report as to what they are alleged to have said”. He added that “Stevie [Deans] will arrange for these to be signed”. In response, Deans wrote “I’m happy with the draft letter and can get this to the Kane family and get it posted tonight”.

It appears that it was this letter, in which the Kanes claimed “We have no complaints against either Stevie Deans or Karie Murphy”, that was the catalyst for Labour for terminating its investigation, and reinstating the Deans and Murphy to the Labour party.

There is one other thing the inquiry would have uncovered. Alongside the ballot rigging, and the plan to pressure the leader of the Labour Party, and the alleged manipulation of evidence, it would have found that throughout the whole affair the Unite union lied, and lied and lied again.

The union said it had not been involved in attempting to fix the selection, when it had. It said it wanted an open investigation into the allegations, when in truth it was drawing up a strategy for getting Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to back off from investigating. It repeatedly claimed it had nothing to hide. But in fact it had lots to hide, not least over a thousand damning emails.

Back in June, when the scandal first broke, Ed Miliband gave a solemn pledge. "Let nobody be in any doubt, there is only going to be one outcome to this: the Labour Party will act in a way that upholds the integrity of our party, the integrity of our party members and the integrity of ordinary trade union members. I will not allow the good name of the Labour Party to be undermined by the behaviour of a few individuals,” he said.

This morning it’s not the good name of the Labour Party that is on the line, but that of Miliband himself. Unite have made a mockery of him, his party, and his pledge to be the agent of a “new politics”.

Labour sources point to the fact that Karie Murphy has withdrawn her name from consideration for the seat. And the Falkirk constituency remains in “special measures”, effectively in control of national party headquarters. A Labour spokesman said “Information has been passed to the police, and it’s right and proper for us to wait and see how that investigation proceeds. Once it has been concluded we will make a judgment on whether further action is taken”.

But the Labour Party themselves passed information to the police earlier in the affair. And on that occasion it did not prevent them from running their own internal investigation, or suspending party members.

Labour’s leader must reopen the investigation, suspend the individuals at the centre of the scandal and clear up this while sordid mess once and for all. It’s no longer about the rigging of one CLP selection. It’s about Ed Miliband’s credibility as a leader, and as a potential Prime Minister.

Trust and Betrayal (29 October 2014)

The latest bombshell to be dropped in the long running Grangemouth saga is that the Unite official over whom the union called a damaging strike - has resigned from his job rather than 'face the music' of a disciplinary hearing.

Here's how the BBC reported the news on its web site, but it has to be said that this is a real hammer blow to Unite's credibility at Grangemouth and elsewhere - another sign, if you ask me, that the union is prepared to play politics with people jobs and livelihoods.

Because why would the union jeopardise the future of the plant for someone who was accused of abusing his position as Unite's local union convener by carrying out  political work for the Labour Party - when he should have been representing union members.  

Unite has been complaining for months about Deans 'treatment' by company management - the inference being that he was being victimised and treated very unfairly - yet when push came to shove the Unite convener failed to defend himself against allegations which were reportedly backed up by hundreds of damning emails sent during working time.

In other words, the company's case was that while they were paying Deans to work for them and represent the interests of ordinary Unite members at the plant - Deans was actually devoting much of his time and energies on political matters to do with the Scottish Labour Party.    

Now if I were a member of Unite, I would be extremely angry at this latest turn of events - in fact I would feel completely betrayed.

To my mind Unite owes its members, the workforce at Grangemouth (who have been through hell recently) and the people of Scotland - a huge apology for trying to make monkeys of us all.   

Unite official Stephen Deans resigns from Grangemouth job

Mr Deans had worked at Grangemouth for 24 years

The Unite union official at the centre of the Grangemouth industrial dispute has resigned from his job at the facility.

Stephen Deans had been suspended by operator Ineos over claims he used company time for union business.

Ineos had been expected to reveal the outcome of a disciplinary case against him on Tuesday.

The union previously voted for strike action over his treatment, which led to last week's shutdown of the plant.

Mr Deans declined to comment when contacted by BBC Scotland. Unite said it would not comment until officials met union members at Grangemouth.

A statement released by Ineos confirmed Mr Deans had resigned from the company with immediate effect.

It said: "The company has conducted a thorough investigation into Mr Deans' activities over the last 18 months and made Mr Deans aware of these findings last week.

"Mr Deans requested an additional five days prior to the final disciplinary hearing to allow him time to provide any further relevant information.

"The company was due to meet with Mr Deans again tomorrow but has now received his resignation."

'Rigging' claims

Mr Deans, the convener of Unite in Scotland, had worked at Grangemouth for 24 years.

He had been accused of trying to rig the selection of a candidate for Westminster in his role as chairman of the Labour Party in the Falkirk constituency.

It was claimed he signed up dozens of new members for Labour, promising the recruits that Unite would pay their membership fees on the understanding that they would back the union's choice in the contest to select a new candidate to stand for parliament in Falkirk, to replace the disgraced Eric Joyce.

Mr Deans was suspended from the Labour Party but was later cleared by an investigation and reinstated.

“Documents were handed into Falkirk Police Station and will be passed to our electronic crime unit for examination” - Police Scotland

But Ineos carried out its own investigation into allegations that some of the new Labour members had been signed up in the refinery.

The row over his treatment erupted into a vote for strike action which was eventually called off by the union.

But the threat of industrial action led to Ineos shutting down the facility last week - before later announcing the site's petrochemical plant would shut permanently with the loss of 800 jobs.

The company eventually reversed that decision after staff agreed to implement changes to pay, pensions and conditions which Ineos said were necessary to ensure the survival of the petrochemical plant and the neighbouring oil refinery.

Labour MP Michael Connarty, whose Linlithgow and East Falkirk constituency includes Grangemouth, said he believed Mr Deans had been the ''subject of victimisation''.

Mr Connarty, who is currently at a conference in Lithuania, said he would be making no further comment until he had spoken to Mr Deans.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "This is a matter between Stevie Deans and Ineos."

There have been calls for Labour to reopen its investigation into the vote-rigging allegations after the Sunday Times claimed to have seen emails showing Unite had undermined its original inquiry.

The newspaper reports claimed a fresh complaint had been made to police on Friday about the Falkirk Labour Party's handling of its candidate selection.

In a statement, Police Scotland said: "Documents were handed into Falkirk Police Station and will be passed to our electronic crime unit for examination."