Wednesday, 30 November 2016

North Lanarkshire Update



Here are two posts from the blog site archive which relate to NLC's job evaluation (JE) review.

Now as far as I know, no further posts have been brought into the review in spite of the developments at the Employment Tribunals.

For the life of me I can't understand the local trade unions and their DIY approach to equal pay which puts the onus on individual members to raise issues instead of the TUs taking the initiative on their members' behalf. 

As I said back in June 2016 - "Why have a dog and bark yourself?"

No doubt trade members in North Lanarkshire are scratching their heads and asking what they pay their union fees for - if they have to represent themselves.

  


**STOP PRESS** (16/06/16)



A kind reader has sent me the following statement which appeared on the Facebook page of the Unison North Lanarkshire Branch earlier today, apparently.

EQUAL PAY RELATED JOB EVALUATION

"Last week the outcome of some job re-evaluations related to equal pay was approved by the council. The jobs that were re-evaluated were identified by the unions and solicitors involved the equal pay case and the re-evaluation was part of the legal settlement. The posts were home support worker, school crossing patroller, playground supervisor, road sweeper, two grades of gardener and chargehand gardener.

"UNISON is currently in negotiations with council about re-evaluating the other posts that were part of the equal pay litigation.

"Members whose posts were not part of the equal pay case, and think their job is graded wrongly, are able to apply for re-grading through existing procedures. If you want to submit a re-grading claim, speak to your line manager in the first instance and then contact the branch office for further advice."


Now putting aside the fact that union members and the wider workforce are still awaiting details on what exactly has been agreed (without balloting the members), what jumps out at me is the fact that individual members are being expected to do all the 'heavy lifting'.

Reminds me of the old saying, "Why have a dog and bark yourself?" 

Because surely it's the job of the trade unions to be leading from the front and raising these issues on behalf their members, as opposed to telling people DIY-style to fend for themselves.




DIY and Equal Pay (02/03/14)



A number of readers have been in touch about the post on advice to union members over equal pay - from around the country and not just South Lanarkshire.

A typical comment is that their union is not interested and tells people they should have registered an equal pay claim - that this was their individual responsibility not the union's acting collectively.

Now this is a very odd stance to take if you have ask me, because when trade unions try to sign up new members they make a positive case about of the benefits of union membership and actively persuade people to join.

In other words it's not a spectator sport, so where did this DIY approach to equal pay come from all of a sudden?

And if you think about it for a minute it's a completely barmy attitude for a collective body like a trade union to take - because unions don't behave this way when it comes to strike ballots for example.

In a strike ballot every single trade union member is issued with a ballot paper and is encouraged to support whatever dispute is underway - in practice the members' views count and the union is keen to secure their backing, so they pull out the stops even though the law law lays down certain rules as well. 

Likewise when it comes to the Political Fund and union efforts to encourage their members to support the Labour Party, a topical issue at the moment, but again the unions get in there and get their hands dirty - they don't sit on the sidelines.    

So how is it possible to say, with a straight face at least, that when it comes to equal pay the members are (or were) all on their own?

If you ask me, that sounds terribly odd, inconsistent and unfair.   

Can I Have My Money Back?



If trade union members in North Lanarkshire are being encouraged to look after their own interest when it comes to job evaluation, maybe they should ask for a reduction in their union fees.

  

Can I Have My Money Back? (August 2015)


14 August 2015

Unison contributions or membership fees operate on a sliding scale based on what people earn - £1.30 a month for a salary of up to £2,000 and a maximum of £22.50 a month for those earning over £35,000 a year.

The 5th point on this scale is £7.85 a month which is paid by members earning £11,001 to £14,000 a year - and that seems like a reasonable figure to use as the contribution Unison members pay on average in your average Unison branch.

So let's apply that figure to Unison in South Lanarkshire and calculate how much the union has collected or earned in contributions from members in places like Hamilton, East Kilbride, Rutherglen and Lanark over the past 14 years. 


Now I'm using 14 years for a good reason - because the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement was signed by Unison and the Scottish council employers - including South Lanarkshire Council - just over 14 years ago.

The South Lanarkshire Unison branch claims to have 6,000 members on its books - so let's say only 5,000 of that number (a conservative figure) are directly employed by South Lanarkshire Council. 


5,000 members x £7.85 x 12 months x 14 years = £6,594,000 (£6.59 million UK pounds) - which is a whole lot of money by any standards, but the serious question I'd like to pose is this:

"Does anyone in their right mind believe that Unison members in South Lanarkshire have received value for money for their £6.59 million - especially in the fight for Equal Pay over the past 14 years?" 


I suspect not and if I were a Unison member in South Lanarkshire Council - I'd be asking for a full refund or in the words of the famous Gerry Rafferty song 'Can I Have My Money Back?'.

Gerry Rafferty Sings (14/08/15)


I'd like to nominate the following song as the new anthem for the Unison branch in South Lanarkshire Council - "Can I Have My Money Back?", by Gerry Rafferty.

If readers have any other suggestions, I'll happily share them on the blog site.

Talking Tripe


I watched BBC's Question Time last week as a young woman, Cat Boyd, made a complete fool of herself by revealing that she had failed to vote in the great EU referendum.

"Technically, I was out of the country" explained Cat to a live TV audience, as if she had never heard of postal or proxy voting in the most significant political event of recent years.

At the time I thought this was just a one-off, but here is Cat again in the pages of The National cheerfully extolling the virtues of living in Cuba's one-party state under what she clearly regards as a 'benevolent' dictatorship.

Strange that a 'socialist' should espouse such nonsense, but for a more sober and balanced view of Castro's Cuba read the following article by Zoe Williams in The Guardian and Sean O'Grady in The Independent.  

Apparently, Cat studied politics at university and stood for election to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, but managed to win just 1% of the vote in Glasgow as a RISE candidate.

I can't say I'm at all surprised because this is the kind of reheated 'leftist' claptrap that you'd expect to hear from Jeremy Corbyn or his cheerleader-in-chief, Unite's Len McCluskey.


  

Forget Fidel Castro’s policies. What matters is that he was a dictator

By Zoe Williams - The Guardian

We need not agonise over whether Cuba’s former leader was a hero or villain. His rule was an insult to the principles of the left

 
‘We cannot afford to argue the toss about dictators, parse the difference between the really bad ones and the less bad ones who looked cute in a beret.’ Fidel Castro poses with Saddam Hussein. Photograph: Getty Images

The death of Fidel Castro brings a tide of anti-travelogues, memories of a crumbling Havana and a degraded people from holidays that realistically can’t have been that bad, otherwise any reasonable person would have cut them short. Prostitution was rife among women and men; there was nothing to buy except black beans and odd socks; and voting, assembling, entering the lobby of a tourist hotel and being homosexual were all proscribed. The life of this 90-year-old is nothing to celebrate; the fact of his death makes it all the more urgent to speak ill of him. And the litany of his abuses is laid down, not really in the service of historical accuracy, but more as a challenge to the left: a dare to lefties, especially those in the baby-boomer generation, to mourn Castro as their hero.

It is a challenge they are unable to pass up. Jeremy Corbyn spoke rather obliquely of Castro as a “massive figure in the history of the whole planet”. It was a fudge and a tautology – anyone whom history remembers is a massive figure in history – but he chose a side eventually, praising Castro’s “heroism”, “for all his flaws”. Ken Livingstone sailed straight for the choppiest waters. Livingstone approaches history like a toddler with a cattle prod, and one can only brace for the needless shock of insult. He delivered: “Initially he wasn’t very good on lesbian and gay rights, but the key things that mattered was that people had a good education, good healthcare and wealth was evenly distributed.” By “initially”, he means “for the first two decades of his rule”; by “not very good”, he means “incarcerated homosexuals in labour camps”; but sure, let’s not get aerated about it. It’s not as if it were a key thing that mattered.

I went to Cuba in the 90s, and the poverty – or, to put it more precisely from the observable data of the tourist, the abject lack of stuff – was unignorable. The museum proudly displaying the shirt in which Che Guevara was fatally shot didn’t look terribly different from the window of Havana’s largest clothes shop, a couple of threadbare shirts stapled to the wall at jaunty angles.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/fidel-castro-death-cuba-us-communist-hero-capitalism-british-left-a7440796.html

Why does the British left still worship Fidel Castro as a hero?

Castro was an enemy of a free press and free trade unionism. So what if he made the trains run on time?

By Sean O'Grady - The Independent

Fidel Castro survived numerous assassination attempts Paul Faith/PA Wire 

Why do so many on the left feel so sentimental about Castro? I once attended the annual conference of the National Union of Journalists. One of the many (hundreds) of policy motions placed before we delegates was, to paraphrase, a declaration that Cuba is a socialist paradise defying American imperialism and capitalism, and a call from the NUJ to the US to drop its inhumane sanctions. Naturally, our call went unreported anywhere in the British or international media. Not so much as a news-in-brief.

Well, it seemed very odd to me, and entirely, and poignantly, symbolic of the gullible and confused attitude of the British left to dear old Fidel. For here was a man being feted, and not unusually, as a hero by a roomful of liberal, progressive journalists, but who oppressed journalists in his own one-party state. The very people who lazily raised their hands to support the annual NUJ "Hands off Cuba" motion would never be allowed to write the sort of free-wheeling, opinionated, satirical or investigative articles that are commonplace in Britain if they happened to be working in Havana.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Same Old Faces

Image result for tom price US senate

Donald Trump's idea of 'draining the swamp' in Washington DC is to appoint a career politician, Tom Price, to act as his new Health Secretary.

Mr Price has been a Republican senator since 2005 and is currently the chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, having served previously as chairman of the Republican Study Committee and Republican Policy Committee.  

Before his election to the Federal Government in Washington Mr Price was a member of the Georgia Senate for ten years between 1996-2005.  

  


Down with Nepotism! (12/11/16)


 Getty Images - Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner

After campaigning on a platform of 'down with global elites' the BBC reports that Donald Trump has named three of his children and his son-in-law to the transitional team preparing for his inauguration as President of the United States (POTUS).

Who knows where it will all end, but the move stands in stark contrast to Trump's justified criticism of political dynasties in America which have seen the Bush and Clinton families dominating American politics for the past thirty years.

  

Political Dynasties (21/10/15)

Image result for dynasty + images

The BBC reports on the victory of the Liberals in Canada who sprang a surprise win over their Conservative rivals having entered the recent election as the underdogs.

Now, by and large, I think the Liberals success is a good thing, but isn't it disturbing how much of politics is dominated by political 'dynasties' because in Canada Justin Trudeau is following in his father's (Pierre's) footsteps.

While across the border in America, Hilary Clinton is seeking to emulate her husband Bill Clinton's success by being elected as President of the United States, as George W. Bush did with his father George H. Bush.

And not only that, of course, because there's another Bush (Jeb) who is seeking to win the nomination for the Republican Party so we could see another 'Bush versus Clinton' contest in the battle for the American Presidency in 2016.  

The same is true in other countries as well: Pakistan (the Bhutto family), France (the Le Pens), India (Nehru-Gandhi), Philippines (Marcos) and so on.

Although I suppose it's better than the same old face like President Mugabe  of Zimbabwe or President Putin of Russia in power for decades on end.  

Canada to withdraw fighter jets from Syria and Iraq strikes

BBC US & Canada

Image copyright - EPA Image caption - Justin Trudeau said Barack Obama understood his commitment to ending Canada's involvement in Syria and Iraq

Canadian Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has confirmed he will withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

He informed US President Barack Obama of his decision hours after leading his Liberal Party to victory in the polls.

As part of his election campaign, Mr Trudeau pledged to bring home the CF-18 fighter jets that were deployed to the region until March 2016.

He has not yet given a timescale.

Justin Trudeau's Liberals swept to power in Monday's election, ending nearly a decade of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper.

Mr Trudeau, an ex-high-school teacher, is the eldest son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.


Jets and refugees

In his first telephone conversation with the US president as Canada's prime minister-designate, Mr Trudeau informed Barack Obama that he would make good on his election promise to withdraw the fighter jets.

"I committed that we would continue to engage in a responsible way that understands how important Canada has a role to play in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State), but he (Barack Obama) understands the commitments I've made around ending the combat mission," he told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.

However, he said he would keep Canadian military trainers in northern Iraq, the AFP news agency reports.

Mr Trudeau has also vowed to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year - a move previously rejected by his predecessor Stephen Harper, who took a much harder line on the issue.

He also quipped that President Obama had "teased me about my lack of grey hair, but said I'd probably get some quite soon".

Justin Trudeau looks set to improve relations with the US in other areas, especially on environmental issues. 


Trudeau's to-do list
  • During the 11-week election campaign, the Liberal Party said it would:
  • Cut income taxes for middle-class Canadians while increasing them for the wealthy
  • Run deficits for three years to pay for infrastructure spending
  • Do more to address environmental concerns over the controversial Keystone oil pipeline
  • Take in more Syrian refugees, and pull out of bombing raids against Islamic State while bolstering training for Iraqi forces
  • Legalise marijuana
"Canada's days of being a less-than-enthusiastic actor on the climate-change file are behind us," he said on Tuesday, in reference to Stephen Harper's decision to pull Canada out of the Kyoto climate change protocol in 2011 - the first country to do so.

The White House said in a statement on Tuesday that President Obama looked forward to working on climate policy with Mr Trudeau, who has pledged to set targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Ties are also likely to improve over plans for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would send Canadian oil south across the border. President Obama was reluctant to approve the proposal, which angered Stephen Harper who said it would create jobs for Canadians.

Mr Trudeau, who supports the plans, has said he is willing to work with the US to address some of the environmental concerns.



Speaking earlier to supporters, Mr Trudeau addressed concerns that under Conservative rule "Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years".

But, he continued, "on behalf of 35 million Canadians, we're back".

His Liberal Party began the election campaign in third place but now has a majority.

There is no fixed transition period under Canada's constitution. Mr Trudeau is expected to be sworn in in a few weeks' time.

North Lanarkshire Update



A reader from North Lanarkshire has sent me the following enquiry regarding equal pay:

Hi Mark,

I am after your advice on employees who started after the initial wave of equal pay disputes but are within the backdated dates of the new pay scale. 

I started with NLC in October 2015 as a Home Support Worker but have been discriminated against, in my view, of equal pay from my start date to June 2016. 

I can't understand why anyone who started after the initial equal pay dispute should be penalised after the results of  the independent job evaluation graded the role as a band 7. 

Surely then all employees should have been backdated till April 2015, if this is not then do we not have an equal pay case for that period?

I would be grateful for any advice you can give me at this point.

Thanking you


B

Now I haven't seen anything in writing to explain North Lanarkshire's position on this issue, but if the reader is correct the Council is applying the new rate of pay and NLC Grade 7 only to Home Support Workers with an outstanding equal pay claim.

Which sounds odd to me since the whole point of a JE exercise is to establish grades and rates of pay that apply to the post - not individual postholders.  

  


NLC Update (15/06/16)




I received a nice email from a regular reader in North Lanarkshire who is less than impressed, understandably, over the lack of support from the trade unions in connection with the Council's job evaluation (JE) review.

"I am totally disgusted that Unison once again have not fought for us Clerical with regards to the recent JE. I have messaged Unison but no reply, well how does that not surprise me. 

"Bragging they have done this, they have done that, for us lowest paid, when really they have done nothing at all but line their own pockets with our monthly contributions. I have to say Mark if it was not for action4equality we would not know what is going on, so thank you for your blog page, at least someone is standing up for our rights. 

"Wish you were our UNION, I would gladly pay fees to you!!"

K

Now I can understand why the Council and senior managers would wish to exclude people and restrict the scope of the JE exercise, but I have no idea why union leaders would go along with such a move because it's clearly against the interests of ordinary union members.

So the question I would be asking if I were a union member in North Lanarkshire today is "Who made this decision and why?"

Time for some straight talking.



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 & 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.



Falkirk Council Update

Image result for calling + images

Action 4 Equality Scotland has been unable to contact the following clients in Falkirk regarding their equal pay settlements:

  1. Agnes Barr
  2. Julie Calder
Now it's likely that the individuals concerned have changed address with advising the A4ES office of their new contact details.

So if any readers in Falkirk are in touch with Agnes or Julie, please ask them to get in touch with A4ES as soon as possible: enquiries@action4equality.co.uk  

Otherwise their equal pay settlements will remain with the Council which would be a terrible shame after all the effort that's gone into resolving their long-standing claims.

  

Monday, 28 November 2016

Arrogant Tosser



Len McCluskey is an arrogant tosser, if you ask me.

Because Len's always banging on about other people's leadership abilities while conveniently ignoring the fact that he led Unite members at the giant Ineos plant in Grangemouth into a crazy, politically motivated strike that almost cost them their jobs and left the workforce on poorer terms and conditions than those they enjoyed before the dispute began.

The Sunday Herald reports that Len is none too impressed with Kezia Dugdale, as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, as if the Unite boss is speaking from a position of strength.   

But as we all know people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.  

  

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14930685.Unite_boss_McCluskey_savages_Dugdale_over_leadership_of_Scottish_Labour/

Unite boss McCluskey savages Dugdale over leadership of Scottish Labour

By Andrew Whitaker - The Sunday Herald

THE leader of the UK’s largest trade union has launched an extraordinary attack on Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who he accused of doing a “disservice” to herself and the party with her leadership.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, in a dramatic intervention, also claimed the SNP could help keep a Jeremy Corbyn-led government in power after the next General Election, if there was a “progressive alliance” to oust the Tories.

He hailed a call by Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley for the party to ditch its “narrow” Unionist ideology and return to its Socialist roots – as reported in the Sunday Herald earlier this month – as a “clarion call” and the “correct thing to do,” adding: “Alex speaks a lot of sense”.


Debacle of a Dispute (24/10/14)

BBC Scotland's business editor, Douglas Fraser, does a good job of summarising the lessons of the disastrous dispute at Grangemouth which came within a whisker of shutting down the giant Ineos plant. 

If you ask me, the union reps involved owe the workforce a huge apology for the way they fought the dispute because the bottom line is they were playing politics, party politics at that, with people's jobs and livelihoods.   

Lessons from the Battle of Grangemouth

The Grangemouth dispute moved quickly over the past two weeks

Well, it's been a white-knuckle ride for Grangemouth and anyone who cares about the Scottish economy.

Only one of the surprising parts of this story is how fast it moved. Disputes like this usually take many weeks to unfold. But having come to the boil only two weeks ago, this one had dramatic tension and pace and was over before the weekend credits rolled.

Who won? Well, of course, Grangemouth did, and its workers and the wider Scottish economy. Politicians showed they can put differences aside to act as peacemakers.
Jim Ratcliffe founded Ineos 15 years ago

Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos emerged from relative obscurity to become poster boys for global capital. The firm secured a bundle of sweeteners from governments, BP (easing the terms of its supply contract) and, of course, from workers.

And who lost? Workers made sacrifices on pay and more so on pensions, but the humbling was for their union, Unite.

Red top notoriety

The employers had asked for a no-strike deal for two months. What they got was three years, along with everything they sought on pay and pensions.

The union lost all that, when it hadn't even fought over it. Instead, it chose to make a stand on a disciplinary matter, letting it become entangled with much wider demands from employers, then rushing calamitously into provoking the shut-down with a strike date.

The disciplinary issue, affecting union convener Stephen Deans, still isn't resolved, though it was due to be completed on Friday.

But it's worth noting the Ineos 'survival plan' was firmed up to ensure that the Grangemouth complex will have no further full-time union conveners.

Despite his red-top notoriety, Jim Ratcliffe claims not to be anti-union. He told the BBC he sees a role for them in representing workers, and in working with management on investment options and maintenance programmes, while sharing the common aim of the company's success.

He claims to get on fine with unions elsewhere. Indeed, he's got a similar investment project under way in Norway, where little moves in the oil and gas sector without union consultation.

Carrots without sticks

For other unions, and on other sites, co-operation has become more of the norm, for instance finding common cause on training and safety. Workers and bosses have worked together to steer a path through the downturn, where sacrifices have been made to secure jobs, retain skills and minimise compulsory redundancies.

It will be interesting to see if that unravels when the fruits of recovery are there to be shared out, or if lessons have been learned that can be carried over from the co-operative downturn years.

It might be more likely to do so if these relationships existed within one country. But the Ineos case is a reminder of how a modern corporation can work; behind veils of secrecy about its affairs and finances, without accountability, and with global investment portfolios allowing it to play off one plant against another.

As Unite has learned the hard way, there's little a trade union can do about that. And as governments have found, they can offer carrots to attract international investors, but the modern economy offers them few sticks. Carrots were duly deployed in this case.

Near death experience

Perhaps the main lesson to learn from this is the need to think and plan ahead. Several commentators have reflected on this.

For unions, there's a need to see the context in which their sector works, and to see ahead to the direction their employers are heading. Change is a constant, so it's doubtful that digging in to defend the past is much of a long-term strategy.

For government too, the near-death experience of Grangemouth petro-chemical plant brings up questions of what it can do to constrain or harness the power corporations have over strategic assets.

It also raises the question of how governments can plan ahead as industries rise and fall. That helps inform the skills and infrastructure that government puts in place, and where it puts seed and development funding where markets won't.

For 49 hours between Wednesday and Friday, the threat to Grangemouth prompted Scotland to face up to a future without the business of producing and processing hydrocarbons.

This has taught us a lot about the refining and chemicals industry, just one facet being the threat across Europe from efficient competition in other parts of the world.

The Scottish chemicals consortium responded to the Grangemouth turnaround with a welcome, but also a warning - that the competitive advantage it gets from re-orienting itself to the processing of shale gas from the US also protects it from the looming 'bloodbath' across the European sector.

Even if Grangemouth has now secured its future for 25 years, it may already be time to ask; what comes next?

Business Scotland this weekend considers the lessons of the dispute at Grangemouth. BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday at 10:00. It will also be a feature of Sunday Politics from 11:45 to 13:00.

Article written by Douglas Fraser
Business and economy editor, Scotland

Unite Debacle (23 April 2014)


Unite's handling of the Grangemouth dispute last year was widely seen as inept, even within the trade union movement, but for reasons best known to itself Unite seems determined to draw attention to the debacle all over again.

Now to recap the dispute started with the claim that the local Unite convener, Stevie Deans, was being victimised by his employer, Ineos, and the union called a strike in support of their local representative.

But as the affair dragged on and threatened the closure of the plant, Ineos claimed that Mr Deans had been abusing his time off arrangements, by devoting much of his time to Labour Party business, instead of representing the direct interests of his own members.
   
And when push came to shove Mr Deans resigned from his job rather than face the serious charges of which he had been accused.

So why Unite would want to rake over the coals of this disastrous dispute is beyond me, although Paul Hutcheon is on to a good story with the following piece in The Sunday Herald. 

Unite-Ineos relations plummet as union considers Labour candidate proposals



THE Unite trade union is considering plans to withhold support from Labour candidates unless they back a campaign to seize the assets of the company that owns the Grangemouth oil refinery.

In a sign of worsening of relations with plant owner Ineos, Unite will debate whether to link backing for Labour at Westminster and Holyrood with support for nationalising the company's operations without compensation.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said it was clear the union had a "stranglehold" on the party.

Unite's shambolic attempt at influencing Labour's Westminster selection contest in Falkirk, in which the union signed up over 100 new members in a bid to help their favoured candidate, had huge political ramifications.

The sign-up, which was linked to the Ineos plant at Grangemouth, was criticised by Labour leader Ed Miliband and led to the party rethinking its links with all its trades union affiliates. It also spiralled into a major industrial dispute.

Ineos accused Stevie Deans, at that point the plant's shop steward and Unite Scotland's chair, of using company time and resources to work on Labour Party business.

That row led to Unite backing strike action and was followed by Ineos threatening to close Grangemouth. The employer also insisted on swingeing changes to workers' terms and conditions. High-level political interventions led to a last-minute agreement between Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe and Unite, but the dispute left the union feeling wounded and Deans out of a job.

It also cost the Scottish economy an estimated £65 million.

The Sunday Herald can reveal Unite will reopen the Ineos issue at its UK policy conference in June. A copy of the preliminary agenda contains a motion signed by two Scottish branches.

It condemns the "threat by Ineos's Ratcliffe to shut down operations in Grangemouth" and noted that it was "unacceptable" for "one individual to be able to wield such power".

The motion also commits Unite to "campaign for the nationalisation without compensation and under workers' control of all Ineos assets in the UK".

It called for this demand to be a "major focus" of the union's campaigning in the run-up to the next Westminster and Holyrood elections, including "withholding support from any candidate who does not support that demand".

Unite is the biggest union donor to Labour, but the party has not come close to backing calls to seize any of Ineos's assets.

A Labour source said: "You can understand why Unite have concerns about the ownership of Ineos, but they clearly have not learned any lessons from Falkirk if they think the solution is to hold a gun to the head of Labour candidates. It is crazy."

If passed, the motion could result in only a handful of left-wing Labour candidates receiving funds from Unite and starve Miliband of resources. It would also hamper Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont's bid to become the next First Minister in 2016.

The row between Ineos and Unite was one of the most bitter industrial disputes in years. The company was accused of treating the plant's workers in a brutal fashion, while the union was believed to have over-played its hand by backing strike action.

Another motion to the conference, from branches in the northwest of England, calls for Unite to cut the money it gives to Labour.

Murdo Fraser said: "It seems that no matter what Ed Miliband and the Labour Party say, the unions still have a stranglehold on the party.

"With their massive funding of the party they are always going to have a significant influence, including the selection of candidates.

"Despite the Grangemouth dispute costing the Scottish economy £65m, the unions do not appear to have learned any lessons."

A Unite spokeswoman said: "It is in the preliminary agenda. It will have to go through due process before being debated and could well change."

She added: "It will be for conference to decide."

An SNP spokesperson said: "It is of course a matter for trades unions which candidates they wish to support and for what reasons, but this resolution obliges Johann Lamont to set out exactly what Labour policy is."

An Ineos spokesman declined to comment, as did a Scottish Labour spokesman.

Weird Gift


The Labour Party report into claims of vote-rigging in Falkirk has been leaked to the Guardian and can be read online at the paper's web site: www.theguardian.com

But here's what the BBC has to say on the subject and now that the report is finally out in the open, people can make up their own minds about what was going on.

For me it's not exactly the crime of the century and certainly not a matter for the police and the criminal law as I said recently on the blog site - see post below 'Right From Wrong' dated 26 January 2014.

What the report does confirm is that there were numerous examples of wrongdoing and bad behaviour by various individuals in an attempt to bend, break and otherwise manipulate the selection process.

One of the weirdest revelations is that certain individuals became members of the Labour Party without their knowledge - and that this was within the rules because their membership was bought as a 'gift'.

Have you ever heard of anything so daft?      

Labour report: No doubt on Falkirk rigging claims

The revelations come on the day Labour's governing body votes on changes aimed at reducing unions' power over the party

There is "no doubt" the Unite union recruited members to Labour in Falkirk in an effort to "manipulate" the party's selection of a parliamentary candidate, a leaked report says.

The publication of the previously withheld document comes as Labour's ruling body meets to discuss changing the party's relationship with unions.

Ed Miliband wants to change party leadership elections to a one member, one vote system.

Unite called the report a "stitch-up".

Last year the union - the UK's biggest - was accused of trying to rig the selection of the party's parliamentary candidate for Falkirk, to replace the outgoing MP Eric Joyce.

Signatures

The Guardian newspaper has published the full report of Labour's internal inquiry into the allegations, which up until now had remained secret, with the party saying this was to protect a claimant's anonymity.

The 20-page report says "there can no doubt that members were recruited to manipulate party processes" during the selection of a candidate for the next general election.

It finds some union members were signed up without their knowledge and there were some signs membership forms appeared to have been forged.

The report also says there is "evidence that signatures were forged on either application forms or direct debit mandates or other documents".

The investigation was completed last June.

Unite has consistently denied breaking any rules and sources say the full report was full of inaccuracies which the union had no opportunity to rebut.

A Labour spokesman said the party had moved on since the row.

Mr Miliband is also proposing changes aimed at altering the way the leadership is decided.

Labour's governing National Executive Committee meets on Tuesday to discuss his plans for a one member, one vote system.

Trade unionists would no longer be able to vote as a result of their automatic union affiliation, but would have to agree to pay a £3 affiliation fee to Labour to take part.

Labour will hold a one-off conference next month to approve the changes.

At the moment, affiliated unions control a third of the votes in Labour leadership elections as part of an electoral college system, last used in 2010 when Mr Miliband was elected.

The proposed changes would give ordinary Labour supporters - as well as party members - more say over who leads them with no individual having more than one vote in a future contest.

Mr Miliband has described his proposals for altering the century-old link between Labour and the unions as "a huge change".

But union leaders have warned of a sharp fall in affiliation fees, with GMB boss Paul Kenny saying the shake-up is not a "done deal".

Speaking to Labour MPs and peers on Monday, Mr Miliband said MPs would need the support of 15% of their colleagues, not 20% as reported in recent days, to put themselves forward in a future leadership election.

He said this threshold would "strike the right balance between protecting the role of MPs and ensuring a diverse range of candidates going forward".

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said: "As this report shows, Len McCluskey's Unite union was trying to rig Labour's candidate selection in Falkirk.

"Yet Ed Miliband has been too weak to investigate how Unite applied their 'political strategy' in 40 other contests and he even had the publication of this report forced on him.

"Instead, all he has done is give the union barons even more power to buy Labour's policies and pick Labour's leader. Nothing has changed."

Analysis
Chris Mason
Political correspondent, BBC News

This is a political case study of the law of unintended consequences.

It began with a punch-up in a Commons bar involving the Falkirk MP Eric Joyce, who later stood down as a candidate for the next election.

And it sparked a chain of events that led to a deep and very public search of the Labour movement's soul.

This 21-page report - marked "strictly private and confidential" - offers an insight into the complex, often baffling series of links between Labour and affiliated unions, and the rules that have governed those links.

Its publication is an unwelcome reminder for the party of the mess in Falkirk: the claim, the counterclaim, the frustrated investigation, the lack of clear answers.

It's a gift for Labour's political opponents.



Right from Wrong (26 January 2014)


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."