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Showing posts from September, 2010

A Clear Run

David Miliband has undoubtedly done the right thing - by walking away from a leadership role within the Labour Party. In doing so he has shown good grace and sound judgment. Unlike his political opponents inside the Labour Party - who fought a paralysing civil war against Tony Blair's leadership for 13 long years. What some people like to forget is that Tony Blair won a comprehensive victory in all 3 sections of the Labour Party's electoral college - even though the voting system is plainly bonkers. He won the clear support of party's MPs, affiliated trade unions and - most important of all - individual party members. Tony Blair went on to win 3 general elections - the only Labour leader ever to do so. But this was still not enough for his detractors - the malcontents and goons surrounding Gordon Brown principally - along with union leaders trying to protect their own vested interests. David Miliband has decided to give his brother and their supporters a clear

Why Are You Clapping?

All political party conferences are stage managed these days - the aim is to manipulate and control the news agenda - often to the point of stultifying boredom. So, the best part of the Labour Party conference - so far at least - was the priceless exchange between David Miliband and Harriet Harman - during the Labour leader's speech. As Ed Miliband declared it was wrong to take the country to war in Iraq - his brother David noticeably failed to support the sentiment. Better still David Milliband then upbraids the former Deputy Leader - Harriet Harman - sitting next right next to him - and says: "Why are you clapping, you voted for it?" Harman responds - without a trace of irony - "I'm clapping because, as you know, I am supporting him." Now the point is not the rights and wrongs of the war in Iraq - on which everyone has a view. The point is whether people get away with re-writing history - presenting themselves as opponents of military action i

Generation X

The newspaper pundits are having a field day - with all the talk of a new generation running the Labour Party. Steve Bell in the Guardian portrays Ed Miliband at the conference rostrum - mouthing platitudes to the famous song by The Who - My Generation. Since many readers will be too young to remember the words - here you are. My Generation People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation) Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation) Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation) I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation) This is my generation This is my generation, baby Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation) And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation) I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation) I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my ge

Politicians and Brass Necks

Complaining about politicians with brass necks is a bit like complaining about the weather in Scotland - what's the point - you may as well howl at the moon. Because politicians and brass necks go together - like love and marriage or a horse and carriage - and most politicians will say whatever it takes to get elected - then pray that voters have short memories. In all the comments about Ed Miliband's speech at the Labour Party conference - here's one from John Rentoul at The Independent which strikes a chord. "If he (Ed Miliband) had won by a clear margin I would have said that Labour had chosen the Panda as its leader. He is soft, cuddly and panders to every oppositional instinct in the party. There has been no position taken by the Labour government - of which he was a member - that he was not prepared to trash if he thought Labour members would like it. Tuition fees, Iraq, the third runway for Heathrow: you name it, he disowned it. Even, in the case of the

More Questions Than Answers

Scottish Labour leader - Iain Gray - has announced his support for the policy of a £7.00 an hour 'living wage'. Now this sounds suspiciously like the same policy announced by former Glasgow City Council leader - Stephen Purcell - at the Scottish Labour Party Conference in March 2009. But what does it mean - does it mean that the Scottish Labour leader now accepts that many women's jobs in the public services - have been undervalued and underpaid for years? If so, where has he been all this time - when the fight for equal pay has been the single biggest issue facing councils in Scotland - many of them Labour controlled? If we assume that Iain Gray is a new convert to the cause of equal pay - presumably we can also assume that he supports thousands of women workers being compensated properly - for the losses they've incurred over the years. Because for many years traditional male jobs - such as refuse workers, gravediggers and gardeners - have been paid a great

Two Tier Workforce

The Sunday Herald highlighted another shameful use of public money at the weekend - payment of lucrative housing allowances and bonuses to senior police officers - that were ended for new recruits in 1994. Paul Hutcheon revealed that chief constables are still receiving an outdated property perk - the total bill for which runs to millions of pounds a year. MPs and MSPs are rightly querying why senior officiers are still receiving these payments - long after the case for making them has disappeared. Before September 1994 - police officers were granted an allowance that contributed to their housing costs, but the government scrapped the the handout for new recruits - presumably on the basis that no other public service workers were treated this way. But existing beneficiaries kept the payment - which can work out at around £3000 a year for ordinary beat police - and nearly £6000 per annum for chief constables. And the allowance can still benefit officers who have been promoted to se

Great Job - Minus the Weans

Scotland's teachers are getting their knickers in a twist again - this time over a proposal to encourage parental involvement in their children's schooling. Predictably one of the teaching unions is up in arms - claiming that disproportionate weight was already given to parents' views - which is far removed rom my personal experience. The Scotsman ran an interesting article about this at the weekend - with two people arguing the case for and against. Yes - says Eileen Prior Parents need to be involved. We talk about parents as partners in children's education, but if we are serious about that, then they have to be part of it. Parents have to be more involved in reviewing how schools are doing. The majority of parents want the best for their children and they have knowledge about what works for them. For schools not to get that information, they would be really missing out. There are areas where parents can help, for example identifying a community project which ca

6% = 70% = 90%

The Labour party's electoral college makes about as much sense - as one of the Mad Hatter's tea parties. But to be fair it has done what it was designed to do - which is to give union leaders undue influence over key party decisions - by galvanising a small handful of union activists to vote in a particular way or, as in this case, for a particular candidate. Democracy it ain't - instead it's all about machine-like, Tammany Hall politics - also known as vested interests and raw power. Consider for a moment the voting figures which decided who would be the next Labour leader - and potentially, at least, the country's next Prime Minister. 199,671 trade unions votes were cast in the trade union section of the electoral college - 80,266 for David Miliband and 119,405 for Ed Miliband. Before the ballot took place the unions were boasting that around 3,500,000 trade unions members would be invited to vote - in a veritable orgy of union democracy. Yet the turnout of

Unions Pick Labour Leader

Hot off the press comes the latest news from Manchester - the trade unions have effectively picked the new Labour leader, Ed Miliband. Ed won the contest by 50.65% to 49.35% of the total votes cast in the electoral college - a close result as predicted. But he won only by significantly out-polling his brother David in the trade union section - where most of the voters are not even Labour party members. David Miliband received the most votes in the MPs section - and also amongst individual party members. But his undoing came about because union bosses ran a concerted campaign against him - the big public sector unions - GMB, Unite and Unison - working in concert to deliver for their man. So Labour's worst nightmare has indeed come true - see previous post dated 22 September 2010. A close run contest is one thing - but the differential turn out in different sections of the electoral college - means that the trade unions have overturned the will of MPs and individual party

Public Money Well Spent?

A police officer who was jailed for assault after being caught on CCTV throwing a 57-year-old woman into a cell is back on full pay. Sgt Mark Andrews, 37, was filmed dragging Pamela Somerville through Melksham police station in Wiltshire - she cut her eye as the police officer pushed her violently to the floor . The officer was jailed for six months - but freed on bail on Monday pending an appeal. But papers released by Wiltshire Police Authority reveal he is "on full pay while suspended, pending the outcome of a conduct hearing". Chief Constable Brian Moore said: "For this period Wiltshire Police have invoked Home Office Circular 8/07, which allows for the force to withdraw his salary on the grounds he was serving a custodial sentence further to conviction". "Further to his successful bail application on 13 September 2010, the required conditions in relation to this provision were removed and Sgt Andrews returned to the status of being suspended on full p

GMB Apes Unite

The GMB union is the latest to be accused of bending the rules in the Labour leadership contest. The GMB has not just encouraged members to back its chosen candidate - Ed Miliband - but has done so in a way that is childish and manipulative. The envelopes containing ballot papers are overseen by the Electoral Reform Society - but the unions are then allowed to put these envelopes into larger ones - also containing material from the union. The original idea was to have separate mailings - but the unions complained about the cost - and asked for a joint mailing instead. By some amazing coincidence the GMB envelope features Ed Miliband's picture - which is presumably there on purpose - and has not appeared miraculously by chance. Yet Labour rules state that you cannot include in the ballot envelope any literature backing a candidate. The rules go on to say: "Affiliates should not include any materials in the ballot envelope indicating support for individual candidates. T

Ten Free Pairs of Tickets

Fox Cross Solicitors is sponsoring a special screening of the film 'Made in Dagenham' - next Friday 1st October at the Filmhouse, Lothian Road, in Edinburgh. Ten free pairs of tickets are up for grabs for readers of the blog site - on a 'first come first served' basis. If you would like a ticket, please send your name and contact details to Alex Boyack at: alex@foxcross.co.uk Made in Dagenham is from the same director who brought us 'Calendar Girls' - see previous post dated 17 September 2010. The film tells the tale of women workers fighting for equal pay at the Ford car factory in Dagenham I968 - which led directly to the 1970 Equal Pay Act. 40 years later women throughout Scotland are having to fight the same fight all over again - in the teeth of opposition from employers - and lack of leadership from the trade unions. The screening at the Filmhouse will be followed by a question and answer sessions with the UK’s renowned equal pay expert Stefan Cross

Public Money Well Spent?

Yet another senior official has left office early - with a big pay off from the public purse. The lucky person this time is tourism quango boss Philip Riddle - former chief executive of VisitScotland - who walks away with almost £250,000 - having been effectively removed from his job five months ago. As ever, the details are shrouded in mystery - so it's not clear why VisitScotland has played so fast and loose with all this public money. But one thing's for sure - Home Carers, Cooks, Classroom Assistants and Clerical Workers - don't get this kind of special treatment. So, why do different rules apply to those at the top of the food chain? - while those at the bottom have to make and mend - the same generous arrangements never seem to apply. For all I know, Philip Riddle could have been badly treated in the end by VisitScotland - he had been its chief executive for nine years apparently. Yet he still receives £127,000 as a tax free lump sum - plus another £113,000

Hugh O'Donnell, MSP

Hugh O'Donnell is the latest MSP to declare his interest and support - in the ongoing fight for equal pay in South Lanarkshire. Hugh is well aware of the important role of the Scottish Information Commissioner - he is keen to be kept in touch with developments - and to provide practical support where possible. I am planning to keep in touch all MSPs in South Lanarkshire, but if any readers wish to contact Hugh direct his e-mail address is: Hugh.O'Donnell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Hitting Nails on the Head

I am currently reading a collection of essays written by Denis Healey - a true Labour warhorse - reckoned by many as the best Prime Minister Britain never had. The essays were written between 1952 and 1991 - and cover Healey's long and distinguished career both in government and in party politics. Call my reading habits a bit odd if you like - but I came across this little gem the other day - which was written in 1991. "These markets were managed by young men who treated money simply as numbers on a computer screen - as a commodity, like rice or coffee beans. As a result interest rates and exchange rates began to fluctuate violently without reference to the flows of production and trade which they were supposed to reflect. New financial instruments were invented to hedge against interest rate or exchange rate risks. Anything which could be gfiven a monetary price was turned into a security which was traded on the global markets by anyone who had a computer. So there

Openness and Transparency

The BBC has finally bowed to pressure from the government and FOI campaigners. The corporation has at last agreed to give a public spending watchdog - the National Audit Office (NAO) - unrestricted access to most of its budgets and accounts. The NAO will now be given free rein to examine the salaries paid to top BBC stars - which has been the source of much public comment and controversy. But the BBC's decision was taken only after government ministers threatened to bring in new legislation - aimed at reforming public bodies - which seems to have persuaded the BBC finally to comply. So we now wait with baited breath to see what the NAO will uncover. Because if the BBC had nothing to hide or be ashamed about - why not just open the books and let people decide for themselves? Previous examinations by the NAO have shown that the BBC spent £250,000 on a purpose built studio for the Euro 2008 football championships. Because BBC executives did not like the view from the premises o

Bob Doris, MSP

A group of readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch to say - they've had had a very good meeting with Bob Doris, MSP. Bob is a List MSP for Glasgow - but the peculiar boundaries of South Lanarkshire Council - mean that Rutherglen falls into the Glasgow catchment area - for electoral purposes relating to the Scottish Parliament. So, if any other readers from Rutherglen are looking for an MSP who is interested in the fight for equal pay - Bob Doris seems to be taking an interest in what people in Rutherglen have to say. If you want to get in touch, Bob's email address is: Bob.Doris.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Labour's Worst Nightmare

The Labour leadership contest finally came to an end yesterday - all the votes have now been cast and the count is underway. The result will be known at the weekend - for the start of the annual Labour Party conference. What's clear is that one of the Miliband brothers will emerge as the new leader - but the contest developed a rather nasty edge in its closing stages. The long election campaign over the summer months was intended to reinvigorate the party - but instead has descended into an unseemly fight - between the forces of New versus Old Labour. Neil Kinnock weighed in on behalf of Ed Miliband - denouncing the tactics of brother David's supporters - who were allegedly portraying the younger Miliband as 'Red Ed' and being in the pocket of the trade unions. Peter Mandelson struck back for the forces of New Labour - saying that Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband were responsible for writing the Labour manifesto - which voters roundly rejected at the May general e

Unite Leadership Ballot

Unite is currently gearing up to hold a leadership ballot for a new General Secretary. The winner will replace Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley - who have been doing a double act - by acting as joint general secretaries for the past few years. Two for the price of one? Not really because they both draw very handsome salaries - paid for by members' contributions. Derek Simpson's salary and benefits packcage comes to a whopping great £179,241 (Salary = £ 97,027, Pension Contributions = £26,292 and Other Benefits = £56,102) Tony Woodley's package is worth £123,754 (Salary = £96,149, Pension Contributions = £17,307 and Other Benefits = £10,298) But the salaries of Unite's general secretaries is not the point of this post. The point is that a friend of mine - a Unite member - received an odd letter in the mail the other day. She received a leaflet urging support for Les Bayliss - one of the leading candidates in the forthcoming ballot to find a Unite's next General

Public Money Well Spent?

The BBC's Panorama programme last night lifted the lid - on some of the crazy salaries paid in the public sector. Panorama revealed that more than 9,000 public sector employees earn more than the prime minister does - David Cameron is paid £142,500 for running the country. The statistics are jaw dropping and highlight the fact that more than 38,000 public employees earning above £100,000 - and 1,000 people on more than £200,000. The government has already revealed that pay for the top 5% of earners in the public sector has risen by 51% in the past 10 years. Predictably the unions responded by saying this was another attack on the public sector. But it's not - it's about ensuring that public money is well spent - not handed out willy nilly. The reality is that if people at the top are significantly overpaid for what they do - you can bet your life that layers of managers underneath - will be getting their slice of the action as well. Panorama requested pay details

More Kind Words

More kind words from another regular reader - let's hope she had a fantastic time on holiday: "Dear Action 4 Equality Scotland Many many thanks for all the hard work you have done for us home support workers. What a great boost. I am off on holiday soon so it is great timing. On behalf of my co-workers and myself included - from the bottom of my heart. Thank you a trillion times. JT"

Why Does Ayrshire Need 3 Councils?

As the country comes to terms with our massive national debt - no one is arguing about the need to bring public spending under control. The argument is about how far and fast to move. Even the Labour Party agrees that two thirds of the spending cuts planned by the coalition government - would have been made if Labour had returned to power. But now that Labour is in opposition - the party is trying to have its cake and eat it at the same time. At least while the Labour leadership contest is underway - which is the nature of modern politics, sadly. Yet there are obvious things that can be done to spend public money more wisely - the Accounts Commission in Scotland, for example, is asking: Do we really need 32 councils in Scotland - with all the duplication and bureaucracy this involves - because councils employ more senior officials than is really necessary? What is so special about Ayrshire for example - which has three separate councils for goodness sake. North, East and Sou

More Kind Words

More kind words from some regular readers in North Lanarkshire - as ever, glad to have been of service: "Dear Action 4 Equality Scotland Just to say a huge than you to you all for your hard work and commitment in the fight for equal pay for North Lanarkshire Council workers. We appreciate everything you have done for us and for getting such a fantastic result Thank you once again. NLC Home Carers"

Wasting Public Money

At the weekend, various newspapers reported on the scandalous behaviour of the former government minister - Shahid Malik. Shahid Malik claimed £235 on his second home allowances to pay insurance premiums - for the engagement ring belonging to someone else. Not a huge amount of money to be sure - but it just goes to show the mindset of Westminster MPs - who felt the public purse should meet all kinds of ludicrous 'expenses' claims. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, said that Mr Malik was guilty of a "clear-cut breach of the rules" - but the former Labour minister has since lost his parliamentary seat. So ultimately the voters of Dewsbury exacted their revenge. Mr Malik clearly has a real brass neck - because instead of accepting responsibility for his own behaviour - he said he did not recall asking his insurers to cover the ring. He also said the fees office had failed in its "duty of care" to him by twice accepting his claims for expense

Harry Potter and the Third Way

I came across the following article the other day which I wrote for The Scotsman newspaper - more than ten years ago now, would you believe. I still maintain that John Prescott would have made a better Hagrid - than Robbie Coltrane. Harry Potter and the Third Way The adventures of Harry Potter, boy wizard, are to be portrayed on the silver screen; speculation is rife about who will be cast in the starring roles. Famous names from home and abroad are bandied around as shoo-ins for various parts: Robbie Coltrane, John Cleese and Danny DeVito to name a few. But, as ever, the Holywood moguls are unable to see beyond the end of their noses. If the casting directors possess real vision, they will sign up the Labour cabinet and some of their chums at Westminster. Tony Blair is Harry Potter to a tee! Raised in a prosperous Tory family, sent away to a fabulous boarding school far from home, finding his heart lay with Labour despite his upbringing and, against all the odds, discovering incre

Realities of Sharing Power

The Liberal Democrats are having their big annual conference this week. Apparently some in the party are wrestling with their consciences - over the realities of being part of the coalition government. Well, what exactly did these people expect? The Liberal Democrats were never going to win power on their own - at Westminster or anywhere else for that matter. The Labour Party took fright at the prospect of a deal with the Lib Dems - so they made a decision to provide the country with a stable government - and struck an agreement with the Conservatives instead . The only alternatives were to have either the Conservatives or Labour try and govern on their own - as minority administrations - or call another election. The first option would have brought chaos and lasted only months - the second may not have changed anything - or perhaps made the outcome even worse. So the Lib Dems should stop bleating and wringing their hands - they've got a job to do and should get on wi

Trade Unions and Self-Harm

Duncan Hamilton has an interesting article in today's Scotland on Sunday - in which he argues that the trade unions are only harming themselves - by their stubborn refusal to accept certain realities. Duncan is a former MSP and supporter of the SNP - but his views are all the more relevant for that - because there are lots of SNP trade unionists in Scotland - and, of course, many ordinary trade union members actively support the SNP - in both local and national elections. Go out and buy the paper to read the article in full - meantime here's an extract of what Duncan has to say. "To be taken seriously, and to harness the public support they crave, the sine qua non for the unions is the acceptance that we do need to cut spending, that jobs will go and that more of their members will be unemployed. From that acceptance of reality, the unions could champion the argument that the coalition is going too fast and cutting too deeply. On that, there is a genuine argument to

Politics and the Unions

As everyone knows. when it comes to politics the trade unions support only one party - the Labour Party. Despite the fact that ordinary union members vote for a wide range of parties - or are so scunnered with politics and politicians - that they don't bother to vote at all. In the wake of the recent TUC conference - trade union bosses and activists are now set on a collision course with government - by choosing to fight on a fundamentalist 'anti-cuts' platform. So, according to the unions, every public pound is wisely spent - and the unions will die in a ditch to protect every last penny of public spending. Now this is bonkers - completely bonkers - even the Labour Party doesn't believe that - and party leaders said so clearly - before the May general election. In effect, the unions are saying that everyone else has got it wrong - Labour, Lib Dems, Tories, SNP, Greens and all the rest - and that the only people who really know what they're talking about a

Made in Dagenham

A new film is to be released next month which tells the story of the struggle for equal pay in 1968 - by a group of women at the Ford car plant in Dagenham. An inspiring story - by all accounts - it tells the tale of 187 women machine workers who walked out of the Dagenham car plant in 1968 - when their work was downgraded as 'unskilled' - and their demand for the same pay grading as the men in the factory was refused. Directed by Nigel Cole of Calendar Girls, the film has a great British cast - including Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, Rupert Graves, Geraldine James, Miranda Richardson and John Sessions. The idea for the film came about when the women behind the original protest - appeared on Radio 4's The Reunion programme. Made in Dagenham stars the award winning Sally Hawkins as Rita O'Grady - who is the catalyst for the 1968 strike - which took place only two years before Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970. Working in poor conditions and for long

South Lanarkshire - Hearing Dates

The next set of hearings involving South Lanarkshire Council are being held on the following dates: Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 September 2010 Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 September 2010 The hearings will all take place at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal - 215 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7TS - a short walk from Central Station. If any readers do go along, make a point of introducing yourself to Carol Fox - who will be there on behalf of the Fox Cross Solicitors legal team.

Ramblings Warmly Received

I listened to some of the closing speeches at the TUC yesterday - one chap from the POA (Prison Officers Association) caught my attention. He droned on for ages about the need for his downtrodden members to take determined strike action against their employer - without ever explaining why or what this would achieve. Warming to his theme, he then said that the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King - should be thrown in jail for crimes against the economy - Mervyn King having addressed the TUC earlier in the week. The thing is that this POA fruit loop was deadly serious - he was not making some subtle joke or trying to be funny - and his ramblings were warmly received. No doubt the POA man was on paid release from his day job in the prison service - to share his crazy ideas on criminal justice with other union delegates - but is this a good use of public money? He had no words of criticism - by the way - for the last Labour government and its role in the current economic

Spotlight on South Lanarkshire

Here's another FOI request to South Lanarkshire Council - asking about the terms on which a senior official left the council a few years ago. South Lanarkshire is behaving very strangely it has to be said - not that long ago the council was blowing its own trumpet - singing its own praises over Single Status - to anyone that would listen. Now the council won't say who created its controversial 555 'in-house' job evaluation scheme - was it the former Executive Director of Corporate Services, for example? And if it was, why was such a senior official allowed to leave the council early - and at what cost to the tax payer? In my view these are matters of public interest and importance - I think a straight question deserves a straight answer. "Archie Strang Chief Executive South Lanarkshire Council BY E-MAIL Dear Mr Strang FOI Request I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002. 1. Did South Lanarkshire Council

Where Has All the Money Gone?

Here's an e-mail from an unhappy reader - and Unison member - from Fife. Council budgets in Scotland more than doubled in the past ten years - s o it's a mystery why redundancies should be necessary in Fife - at this point in 2010. The current talk about 'cuts' in public spending won't have any practical effect until next year - so what is this all about - councils across Scotland have twice the money to spend that they had ten years ago. Where has all the money gone? "Dear Mark, I have just been made redundant from Fife council today and after reading your blog on Scotlands shame I have to say UNISON ARE AS MUCH GOOD AS A CHOCOLATE FIREGUARD , they have done very little for us and have not kept us informed but then they would not want to upset their council masters. JB"

Calling Glasgow

I am trying to get in touch with someone from Glasgow - June Anne Coyle. If any readers know where June is - ask her to send a contact phone number to Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com Many thanks for your help.

Politics of Paranoia

The Times newspaper on Saturday included a review of Chris Mullin's new book - 'Decline and Fall' - a political dairy covering the period 2005 to 2010. The review - written by Phil Collins - included an extract about an incident involving Gordon Brown: "The story about Brown at the Chinese Embassy is worth the price of admission on its own. In June 2008, Brown went to sign the condolence book for victims of the earthquake. While he was there he discovered that David Cameron had arrived, presumably to do something as politically inspired as sign the condolence book himself. Brown goes off like the scary baby in Toy Story 3. He storms back to his car, hits the headrest in front and demands to know which traitor was responsible for him being upstaged. The Tories, the Chinese and the Foreign Office are all out to get him, he says. The story is telling. It is a parable - which is what a good diary entry can be." As the saying goes: just because you're parano

Spoiling the Party

The big set piece debate at the TUC yesterday was about 'cuts' in public spending - the big beasts of the union jungle were all on show - until one chap popped up to spoil the party. Just as Doug Rooney - the conference chair - was about to put things to a vote - 'there's no one opposing' he said out loud - up jumped a delegate from BALPA (the airline pilots union). He wanted to oppose the motion - 'you're not trying to be funny', said Rooney, rather ungraciously - as the BALPA man went to the rostrum. And no he wasn't being funny - he argued that his union couldn't support a motion which said that there could not be any cuts at all in public spending - that it was unrealistic to pretend that every public pound was being wisely spent. Needless to say his contribution wasn't cheered to the rafters - instead it was met with the kind of enthusiasm normally reserved for a bucket of warm spit. But he had a good point - and made it very effect

Who Negotiated the Bonus Schemes?

The TUC kicked off today with an audio visual presentation - highlighting trade union achievements down the years - including the 1970 Equal Pay Act. What the presentation failed to mention is that 40 years on - the trade unions are really not the progressive force they claim to be - because on many occasions the unions have actually been part of the problem. The bonus schemes that ensured more favourable treatment for traditional male jobs - were not imposed by management - they were negotiated and agreed by the trade unions. The 1999 Single Status Agreement was supposed to put an end to widespread pay discrimination amongst council workers in Scotland - but the trade unions sat back and did nothing about it for years - in fact they deliberately kept their women members in the dark. Anyone notice the big, well resourced union campaigns - or strike action - in support of equal pay since 1999? No, of course you didn't - that's because there were none. The truth of th

History Repeating Itself

The annual TUC conference gets underway today. After 13 years of tiptoeing around a Labour government - the unions are having to accustom themselves to a new coalition government - comprised of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. So in a bid to win new friends and influence the government's agenda - TUC bosses did the sensible thing and invited Vince Cable - the new Business Secretary - to address the delegates. But all of a sudden the TUC got cold feet and cancelled the invitation - must have been a backlash from individual union general secretaries - who effectively tell the TUC what to do. Had Vince Cable spoken at the TUC - it would have been the first time union delegates had listened there to any Cabinet minister other than a Labour one. Shock horror - some of the brothers must have broken out in a rash. Now this all brought back memories of the 1980's when the STUC general secretary - Campbell Christie - invited Alex Salmond the SNP leader to address their annual

Transparent Rule Breaking

The Independent newspaper had an interesting piece at the weekend about the childish anctics of those in charge of Unite - Britain's biggest union. Here's an extract of what Andrew Grice had to say: "Britain's biggest union has been accused of ignoring Labour rules in the way it is urging its members to back Ed Miliband in the party's leadership election. Unite included a leaflet pledging its support for Mr Miliband along with the ballot papers for the contest it sent to its 950,000 members eligible to vote. "He understands the Labour Party needs to change and he is the best candidate to reconnect Labour with the concerns of ordinary working people," Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, Unite's joint general secretaries, say in the leaflet. The mailshot has angered supporters of David Miliband, who believe it breaks the spirit of Labour's rulebook. "This is sailing very close to the wind," said one Labour MP. After Gordon Brown resigned,

Beast of Bolsover

Dennis Skinner MP - also known as the Beast of Bolsover - has surprised many of his colleagues by coming out in favour of David Miliband in the Labour leadership race. The famously left wing MP had been expected to vote for Diane Abbott - the left candidate and fellow Campaign Group member - because Dennis actually nominated Diane when she was struggling to get enough support to throw her hat into the ring. But Dennis has decided that David Miliband is the candidate best placed to beat the Tories - and to take on the coalition government. Ed Miliband has also received an unexpected boost - with an opinion poll in today's Sunday Times - predicting he will win a narrow victory over his brother, David, once second preference votes are transferred. So it looks to close to call - and may go right down to the wire - although one thing is clear: Labour's next leader will be one of the Miliband brothers.

Murder in Manhattan

Nine years ago on 9/11 - I watched the terrible events at the Twin Towers unfold on live television - like countless others around the globe. I also wrote down my feelings at the time - here's what came out: Murder in Manhattan Death came unseen one morning Out of a beautiful clear blue sky On friendly wings Innocent lives snuffed out by fanatics Kill and be killed Fundamentalism Alien to humanity or common sense Brutal and wicked beyond belief Shocking, horrible to behold Beamed live to homes across the world Loved ones consumed by fireballs Never to say goodbye Lost in the rubble or jumping for their lives Desperate and fearful How much did they suffer? Only loss and despair for those left behind And terrible anger At the waste of so many lives Can hope and dignity survive? To triumph over such barbarism Provocation and restraint Honour your dead Protect your people Yes, but refuse to become like your enemies 09/11/2001

Scotland's Shame

In a previous post I said that low paid council workers in Scotland have lost out big time in pay negotiations - compared to their colleagues in England and Wales. Down south the government has introduced a public sector pay policy which means a two year pay freeze will be introduced from 2011- 2113 for all public sector workforces Except for those earning £21,000 or less - who will receive an increase of at least £250 a year. Now this looks similar to what has happened in Scotland - but the government backed deal in England and Wales is very different - because it goes out of its way to protect the lowest paid. Consider what difference a £250 increase a year over two years would mean: 67% of the workforce would receive an increase - because they earn less than £21,000 a year - which just goes to show how many council workers are low paid (most of them women) The percentage rise on Spinal Column Point 4 would be 2.06% in year 1 - or 4.1% over two years The average increase in both

More Kind Words

More kind words from a regular reader in North Lanarkshire - it's a pleasure to have been of service: "Dear Action 4 Equality Scotland Thank you very much for all your hard work regarding our North Lanarkshire Council equal pay claim. When we first heard from you in Janaury 2006 we were a bit doubtful and thought - surely we couldn't be due all that? As the months dragged into 4.5 years we began to wonder how and when it would all end. We are pleased to announce the period up to Janaury 2007 ended very happily last week - when cash was paid into our accounts. Without you that wouldn't have happened. Thank you very, very much - and best wishes. BJ"

Good Bye and Good Luck

My old colleague Matt Smith - regional secretary of Unison in Scotland is due to retire shortly. Matt announced his plans earlier this year - he will be leaving the union after a lifetime of service to Unison and one of its founding unions - NALGO. So, I would like to take this opportunity of wishing Matt well - and all the best for the future. Because Matt and his friend Dave Prentis - the union's current general secretary - were instrumental in helping me to decide it was time to move on from Unison in 1999. The fact is that I owe Matt and Dave a great debt - if I were a religious person, I would definitely remember them in my prayers every night. With some regrets I moved on for the trade union movement - after twenty years of working with NUPE, the STUC and Unison - but I've never looked back since. In fact I can honestly say that I've achieved much more on equal pay - working with Action 4 Equality Scotland - than would ever have been possible had I stayed with U

MSPs and Equal Pay

A number of readers have been in touch to say that their local MSP is not being very helpful - in response to a request for support on equal pay. Well, I've said before that MSPs (and MPs for that matter) are often reluctant to criticise a council - if it's led or controlled by their own party locally. For example, one Labour MP in Edinburgh was keen to avoid taking a stick to Edinburgh city council - until is the Lib Dems and SNP wrested control away from Labour at the last elections. Soon afterwards the MP was up for a fight - but that's politics for you - politicians are party animals and some of them are none to brave to boot. But the good news is that if your local MSP won't stand up for your interests - you may well find a champion among the List MSPs for your area. For example, contact details for of all MSPs in South Lanarkshire - both Constituency and List MPSs - has already been published on the blog site. See post dated 15 July 2010 .

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

An important tenet of natural justice - at least in terms of the criminal law - is that people remain innocent of charges until their guilt is proven in court. So far, so good - but sometimes things can be taken to ridiculous extremes. Take all this hullabaloo about cricketers bowling 'no balls' to order - which means that out of perhaps several hundred balls bowled in a day - it becomes possible to say with certainty that ball number 534 will be a 'no ball'. A 'no ball' is cricket means that the ball doesn't count and has to be bowled again - with the batting side being awarded an extra point. So it's something that no self-respecting bowler would do - because it's letting his own side down. But in the recent match that's caused all the fuss - this happened not once but twice - in the same match. And someone not directly connected with the cricket team was filmed undercover saying that - for a large sum of money - he could arrange precise

Bigots and Book Burners

Terry Jones is the book burning bigot who plans to set fire to copies of the Koran - Islam's holy book - on his church lawn this Saturday. His aim - apart from drawing attention to himself - is to commemorate the terrorist attacks on 9/11. But being vehemently anti-Islamic is not his only prejudice - he is also an nasty homophobe. Apparently, TJ put a sign outside his church in Florida - to protest at the decision of a local gay politician to run for the post of mayor. "No homo mayor", said the sign - which at least had the virtue of being short and to the point. But when it was pointed out to the pastor that his involvement in a political campaign could violate the church's tax exempt status - he had a vision. So, he quickly changed the sign to read: "No homo" - which only goes to show that while he is clearly barking mad - he's not completely stupid. But Terry Jones has got what he wanted - radical Muslims hopping mad and threatening violence ag

People and Parliaments

I have never supported independence in Scotland - and probably never will. But I have no problem with being asked to express my point of view in a referendum - after listening to the debate and different points of view. To me that's what democracy is all about - and sometimes it's good for the people to have their say in a referendum - instead of elected politicians deciding what's good for the rest of us. Generally speaking, I think it would be a good thing for the country - for citizens to be more involved in making decisions. How about a popular vote to put the council tax up - now that would put the cat amongst the pigeons? A referendum on independence could easily be held on the same day another vote was taking place - to keep down the cost. Say on the same day as the local council elections - the Holyrood or Westminster elections - or even elections to the European Parliament. Surely in this day and age it should be possible to devise secure ways of voting by e

Turning a Blind Eye

What I know about phone hacking you could write on the back of a postage stamp . But what I also know about phone hacking is that it's more common than you think - allegedly. Journalists I've met in the past have been happy to share the darker secrets of their trade - the argument goes that the ends justify the means - if you're trying to expose some real wrongdoing. The counter argument is - of course - that two wrongs don't make a right - so you pay your money and take your choice. But there is always an unwritten rule - if you get caught, you're on your own - because no editor or newspaper would ever take the rap. While those at the top might be well aware of what's going on - they would never accept any responsibility for encouraging such practices. Goes on in all walks of life I suppose - people turning a blind eye to something they know to be wrong - but who take the easy option and just walk on. Pay discrimination springs to mind - treating some jo

Back from the Dead

Scotland's last gasp winner against Liechtenstein at Hampden last night just goes to prove the old adage - about the importance of playing to the final whistle. The changes made a half-time injected a much needed sense of urgency into our play - but for most of the game we played like a pub team - giving the ball away needlessly and carelessly. After the 'Fricking' goal early in the second half we looked completely dead and buried - until Miller's strike brought us back into the game. The only saving grace was that the team never gave up - despite tackles that came straight out of a horror movie - which in truth deserved the attention of Strathclyde police and not the referee. Yet Scotland had players booked - simply for protesting about the GBH being visited on their team mates - what a joke. Hutton in particular is lucky not to have his leg in plaster this morning - although to be fair for long periods he did look like he was actually playing in a 'stookie&#