Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Treated Like Mugs

Image result for mugs + images

I have to say I admire the plain speaking of local union reps at Faslane who accuse their union leaders of 'treating them like mugs' over a debate on renewing Trident at the Scottish Labour Party conference.

Now I happen to think that the UK possessing an 'independent' nuclear deterrent is a terrible waste of the country's military resources although I do support our continued membership of NATO, so it seems to me there are no easy answers to the challenge of achieving nuclear disarmament across the globe because, for good reason, NATO is not going to disarm on a one-sided basis any time soon.
But the shop stewards representing Unite and GMB members at Faslane are fighting their corner and issued a statement lambasting their union leaders for not consulting them properly over suggestions that equivalent jobs could be found for the local workforce, if the Trident missile system were not to be replaced. 

A fair point if you ask me, if this report from the BBC is anything to go by as it does seem to confirm that union members were rather taken for granted.

The statement from shop stewards laughed at the idea that mitigating measures could find new jobs for the naval base workers and went on to say:

“Those that choose to perpetuate the myth of diversification would be as well telling us to apply for jobs in Brigadoon

“This utopian land of employment that these people would have us believe exists is no more than a jobs mirage.

“We are dismayed and angered by Unite Scotland`s position. It is not supportive of our membership and members have expressed the feeling this morning that their union is treating them like mugs by taking their union subscriptions and failing to support their future livelihoods.”

Union leaders treating their members like mugs - now where have I heard that before!

Vote against Trident 'exposes rift' in Unite union

By Glenn Campbell - BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland politics

Image copyright - ReutersImage caption - Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey had insisted the union would defend Trident-related jobs

The vote against renewing Trident at the Scottish Labour party conference has exposed a rift in the UK's largest trade union, Unite.

The divisions are laid bare in emails between a union convener and Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey.

They reveal the frustration of Unite workers at Trident's home base with the national position taken by their union.

In one email, Mr McCluskey says Unite will defend Trident-related jobs. Three days later Unite voted 'no' to renewal.

The UK's nuclear weapons system, including the submarines that carry them, is situated at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde.

National security

The email exchange was released by Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, a Unite member whose constituency includes the Clyde base.

It began at the end of September 2015 when the Unite union convener on the Clyde, Derek Torrie, wrote to Len McCluskey.

He was "seeking assurance" that the union "will not deviate in any way from opposing any anti-Trident motion put forward at the Scottish Labour conference".

In mid-October, Mr Torrie chased a reply.

When this had not arrived by 27 October, he sent a further message describing the lack of response as "extremely disappointing".

He contrasted "silence and no response" from Unite with the GMB union's strident defence of Trident workers as "vital to national security". 

Image copyright - ReutersImage caption - The fleet of Trident submarines is based at Faslane on the Clyde

Mr Torrie said: "In the absence of a response to my previous emails, the 800 members of Babcock Clyde are left questioning whether or not their union contributions are going to a union that supports their jobs or one that stands on the verge of abandoning them."

Two days later, on 29 October, Mr McCluskey replied with apologies for the delay.

His message appeared to offer reassurance.

He rejected claims that defence diversification would provide alternative employment for Trident workers if the programme were scrapped.

"It (diversity) has produced nothing and is unlikely to produce anything of any substance in the future," Mr McCluskey said.

"Until we get guarantees about credible diversity of jobs, Unite will defend its members' jobs and communities."

'Take a lead'

Those remarks were made three days before Unite delegates at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth voted against renewing Trident.

In the debate, Unite's senior Scottish official Pat Rafferty argued that the UK should take a lead on nuclear non-proliferation and use the money saved from scrapping Trident to make defence diversification work.

The Scottish Labour vote does not change the position of the wider Labour party, let alone the position of the UK government.

MPs from both parties were elected on manifestos promising to renew Trident.

In his email, Mr McCluskey anticipates the decision to go ahead will be taken by the UK Parliament as early as March 2016.

In the meantime, Unite's membership on the Clyde may decline, with unions like the GMB and Community apparently eager to recruit.