Monday, 7 November 2011

National Union of Journalists national executive election results

London seat:
Elected - Pierre Vicary, Tom Davies, Kate Bohdanowicz, Phil Sutcliffe/Fiona O'Cleirigh.

South east of England seat:
Elected - Jim Boumelha, Sian Jones, David Campanale.

Newspapers seat:
Elected - Len Mulholland.

North east of England seat:
Elected - Adam Christie

Thanks to everyone who voted for me in London. I was last-but-one.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fire Brigades Union decides not to ballot over pensions

FBU Executive Council statement (18 October 2011)

The FBU Executive Council today (18 October 2011) considered the latest developments in talks between the union and government on pensions.

As a result of these considerations, the Executive Council agreed at this stage to refrain from initiating an immediate ballot for strike action.

The FBU remains totally opposed to the attacks on public sector pension schemes. The campaign to defend public sector pensions is part of a wider campaign to defend good quality public services. We are opposed to the austerity programme of the coalition government which seeks to make working people pay for an economic crisis they did not cause. The campaign to defeat the attacks of the coalition government needs the maximum unity of the trade union movement as well as the support and involvement of the wider community, including students and young people, pensioners and others. It is a campaign which will involve prolonged political campaigning and industrial action where necessary. The FBU continues to support the campaign of all unions and of the TUC against the various attacks we face, including on our pensions.

Scheme-specific talks

The discussions on pensions have recently moved into a new phase, involving detailed discussions within each scheme. The FBU did not support this move at the time since key principles (retirement age, contribution increases etc) had not been resolved through central talks between the government and the TUC. However, once scheme-specific talks had begun it became our job to ensure the best possible outcome for FBU members. All our activity has been to this end.

The FBU and the wider trade union movement have clearly stated that occupational pension schemes must take account of the needs of the relevant occupation. We believe there are a number of such specific factors in relation to the fire and rescue service, in particular around the physical demands of the profession and the very high contribution rates already paid by firefighters.

The FBU has produced a range of evidence, supported by experts on issues including:
• Contribution rates
• Retirement age
• Control members’ access to the fire service scheme

We have presented this evidence to government Ministers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and sought talks on the issues in each. It is clear that the outcome of this process is largely dependent on the decisions to be made by the Westminster government.

Cost ceilings

The FBU raised concerns at the proposal to introduce ‘cost ceilings’ for each scheme. We argued that these would set a financial straitjacket for discussions. We wrote to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles on 5 August asking for the cost ceiling not to be set, at least until such time as we were able to outline our various concerns and positions and present the evidence we have collated.

The government’s initial position that cost ceilings would be set on 1 October was the trigger which caused the union to register trade disputes in all parts of the UK on 14 September.

However, the Treasury confirmed on 7th October that a cost ceiling for the firefighters’ schemes (excluding the LGPS) would be delayed until later in the autumn. This delay is clear shift in position and is a direct result of the request made by the FBU and the various issues we have raised in relation to our schemes. This does not in any way resolve the challenges we face but is, nevertheless, a welcome move.

The union is now engaged in detailed dialogue with government officials, including government actuaries. In this we seek to expose the flaws and failings in the government figures and claims. We are confident we have very powerful and robust arguments. We are confident that any genuinely open consideration of the issues we have raised would lead to significant changes in the government’s position. It remains to be seen whether such a change will take place.


The move to scheme-specific talks has now highlighted a number of differences regarding timescales in relation to the discussions in the various pension schemes:
• Consultation (for England) on contribution rates for the fire service schemes does not end until December 2.
• Cost ceilings for the firefighters’ schemes will be set considerably later than for other schemes.

Industrial action

The Executive Council remains firmly committed to defending fire service pensions. At branches throughout the UK, FBU members have already voted strongly in favour of strike action if it is necessary. We are confident that if such a call is made it will receive overwhelming support from members.

Discussions continue and the government has agreed to our request to delay the setting of cost ceilings in order to allow us to examine the basis for their proposals and for them to consider our evidence. We are also mindful that members expect industrial action to be taken as a last resort and when further negotiation is futile. Our conclusion at this time is that such a point has not been reached. Therefore the Executive Council has agreed at this stage to refrain from initiating an immediate ballot for strike action.

Should progress not be made in talks, the Executive Council will launch a ballot for strike action as agreed at annual conference 2011. Any such action called will be determined, meaningful and will be coordinated with other unions as appropriate.

TUC Day of Action: November 30

The FBU is fully committed to supporting the TUC day of action and will urge members to join with other workers in protesting against the attacks on pensions and other austerity measures. We urge the government to engage in meaningful negotiations with other unions in their pension scheme-specific talks.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Statement for National Union of Journalists, national executive election, London seats

I am running. There are four seats available. The election is by the single transferable vote. If you are an NUJ member living in London please give me your first preference and ask friends to do the same. Ballot papers were posted today. Candidates are asked to supply a statement of up to 400 words and a list of union offices held.

NUJ members – staff and freelance - across London must stick together.

Not just to defend jobs and journalism – but to seek to improve pay and working conditions.

While paid NUJ officials are over-run fighting job cuts and representing members the rest of us must take responsibility for the union’s outreach work.

Across the capital city there are magazines, broadcasting companies, new media operations, PR consultancies, papers, publishing houses, and news agencies where the union has few members and isn’t recognised.

As NUJ northern organiser in the early 2000s I was the official responsible for dozens of successful union recognition campaigns which – backed by members willing to take industrial action - helped win improved conditions for NUJ members.

If elected I would use that experience to co-ordinate a campaign by activists across London to increase the union’s membership and influence by winning new deals and trying to extend the agreements we have to cover freelances and students on work experience.

It takes patient work, talking to and reassuring isolated and potential members. But these campaigns can be successful.

Spreading NUJ recognition and having strong workplace chapels is the best way to stand up for journalistic ethics and equality.

I would also work to unite NUJ members across the industrial sectors which the union still uses but which the employers have left behind with the convergence of almost all outlets into multi-media, multi-skilled operations.

While recognising the changed landscape I would support campaigns to save the jobs of properly trained professional photographers, designers, sub-editors and others who are vulnerable to the illusion that digital media and equipment make everyone a journalist.

I am a 49-year-old father-of-one. I live in Peckham. I’m a freelance currently doing communications for the Public and Commercial Services Union. I’m a supporter of the NUJ Left – a loose alliance of socialists in the union.

I’m on Facebook and Twitter and you can text or ring me on 07764 614203.

Union offices held:


I am an elected trustee of the NUJ Extra charity and a member of the Press and PR branch recruitment committee.


NUJ northern organiser from 2001-2006 – responsible for membership recruitment, negotiations, representation, campaigning, trade union training, managing the Manchester office and other activities in England, from Coventry northwards, and in north Wales.

I have held various offices in workplace chapels at the Bury Times, BRMB radio in Birmingham, Stourbridge News, Bromsgrove and Redditch Advertisers, Birmingham Daily News group, BBC Hereford and Worcester, and BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.

I have held various offices in the following branches: Bolton, Birmingham and Coventry, Manchester, and Press and PR in London.

I have been an elected member of the national executive council – representing a now defunct seat called ‘Provincial newspapers in the midlands of England and Wales’.

I have been an elected member of the national executive emergency committee, freelance industrial council, provincial newspapers industrial council, public relations and information industrial council, and Journalist editorial board.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Three candidates for NUJ second top job.

The executive of the National Union of Journalists has shortlisted three candidates for the election of a new deputy general secretary.

They are head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick, Birmingham and Coventry branch member Chris Youett, and Calderdale branch member Helen Gavaghan.

The winner will replace Michelle Stanistreet, who becomes the NUJ's first female general secretary when she replaces Jeremy Dear on Monday.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

South London journalists strike on June 30

Journalists on the South London Guardian series will stage a four-day strike from Monday to Thursday next week - meaning they wil be taking action on the same days 750,000 other workers on June 30.

Strikers' blog
Report from National Union of Journalists website
Striking journalists could link the private and public sectors - from The Workers United last week

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Striking journalists could link the private and public sectors

This morning I spent some time with pickets outside the South London Guardian office in Sutton.
It was bleak, it was pouring with rain. I was proud of my fellow National Union of Journalists' members battle to save local newspapers from the butchers who own them.
Another round of redundancies had pushed these proud workers over the edge.
The strike was their response - with picket lines in Sutton and Twickenham.
Local papers make money for the corporations that run them - in this case the American-owned Newsquest.
But newspaper bosses have given up trying to provide any sort of service to the communities they milk for cash.
Here's an article I wrote about it in 2005
Journalists at North London and Herts Newspapers, owned by Tindle Newspapers, struck in April because staff numbers had been halved.
Someone else is leaving the Enfiled-based firm. There is no sign of a replacement.
The nine NUJ members left have re-balloted and voted unanimously for more strike action.
So both these chapels - workplace branches - have ballots that would allow them to take lawful strike action on Thursday June 30 when 750,000 other trade unionist are already due to walk out .
The NUJ is a bottom up democracy. These journalists will - rightly - decide their own next move.
But I think it would be brilliant if they joined the June 30 action.
It would strike back at a ruling elite trying to turn private and public sector workers against each other.
It would be a great PR opportunity as the first private sector workers to join the strike.
It would create a massive audience for the campiagn to save local journalism among the members of the other unions already taking part - the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), University and College Union (UCU), and Public and Commercial Services union (PCS).
And it would give an opportunity to argue that local media is a vital service, holding acommunities together by publicising and scrutinising the vital work of the other public servants striking on June 30.

UCU members to walk out over attack on national agreement

Lecturers at London South Bank University are to strike against management plans to take them out of the national agreed working conditions for higher education.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the Elephant and Castle campus voted 70 percent in favour of walking out in a secret ballot.
They will strike on Wednesday July 6 - six days after taking part in the June 30 national strike over pensions involving members of UCU, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS).

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

'If London Transport give him his job back we won't need to go on strike'

Bob Crow was characteristically blunt on BBC London news this evening.

The leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) was passionate in his support for sacked tube train driver Arwyn Thomas.

The equation is simple. If Arwyn isn't reinstated there will be a four day underground strike to coincide with the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

The driver has already been given what's called "interim relief" by a judge who said he was dismissed for supporting the union. That's a very rare victory in courts that usually sing along to the employer's tune.

COMMENT: This is a magnificent stand by the RMT for the basic principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.
This high profile action will strengthen the hand of all union reps trying to persuade colleagues to take collective action to defend an individual.
Good employment laws are nice - but decisive action is better.

Facts about the dispute

Monday, 21 March 2011

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Be inspired by Lorraine on the bus - one last push for March 26

Lorraine from south London tells her fellow bus passengers in Croydon about the Trade Union Congress march for an alternative economic policy taking place in London on Saturday 26 March.

With a week to go there's still time to persuade people to join the march.
Send them the link to Lorraine's video:
Print out some leaflets to hand out where you live
Find transport to the demo from where you live

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Complain about the train in vain

A train company asked passengers for their views about plans to slash jobs and close ticket offices - but gave them unobtainable contact details.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union says it was a sham and the redundancy consultation process should be halted.

London Midland railways want to axe 122 full time jobs, slash the opening hours at 86 out of 90 ticket offices and close nine ticket offices completely.

Posters displayed at London Midland stations asking passengers their views were found to contain incorrect contact information - making it impossible for the public to record their opinions.

The union says information about jobs and grades in the firing line has not been made available, and existing agreements on redeployment are not being followed.

RMT has warned of a ballot for industrial action if the proposals are not withdrawn.

Regional transport organisation Centro opposes the planned cuts.

Read the RMT press release with comments from Bob Crow

Monday, 7 March 2011

Transport to the TUC March for the Alternative in London on Saturday March 26

The Workers United presents the most comprehensive list of links available for transport to the trade union organised march against cuts and austerity in London on Saturday March 26 2011.

There are 20 trains and 78 coaches from all over Britain - including Benfleet, Birmingham, and Bournemouth - listed on the Public and Commercial Services Union website.

The trade union supported Fale Economy website has a travel map with 215 transport options including 100 from the south west of England.

Unite the union is offering transport for members and their families. There are 11 regional contacts on the union's website.

Coaches and trains from all over the country - including Mansfield, Oxford and Runcorn - are listed on the Right to Work website.

For details of transport organised by the union Unison ring 0845 355 0845.

If transport from where you live is organised by a particular union, and you are not a member - don't worry. Contact them anyway. Don't forget they want as many people to go as possible.

Feel free to add details of transport you are organising in the comments. Don't forget to include contact details.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Mark Serwotka plays left winger for Cardiff

Public and Commercial Services union leader Mark Serwotka is one of the speakers at an anti-cuts rally in Cardiff today (Saturday March 5).
Mark, a keen Cardiff City fan, will join Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones on the platform at Sophia Gardens.
Mark is likely to be the most left-wing speaker on show for the people of Cardiff.
Here are the details

Friday, 4 March 2011

Striking speech therapists save some jobs

Speech therapists in Southwark went on strike for one day in early February over a reorganisation that was leading to job cuts.
This statement - issued on behalf of the strikers earlier today - says the local authority has had "second-thoughts" and some jobs have been saved.
"Dear friends and supporters ,
"Speech and Language Therapists were celebrating in Southwark yesterday when the reduction in funding to SALT services announced by Southwark Council was far less than had been anticipated and Unite members are now well placed to defend jobs and services , following their one day strike against redundancies in February.
"Thanks to a high profile campaign which had fantastic support from parents , schools the local community and trade unions , the local authority has obviously had second thoughts about taking the axe to a popular and essential front-line service for vunerable children.
"Although funding from Southwark Council will be cut by 30 % , this represents a smaller reduction in service than had been predicted, and should allow Southwark Primary Care Trust to create some new SALT posts, which would be prioritised for the eleven Southwark SALTs at risk of redundancy should they wish to apply for them. Where staff at risk of redundancy have found other jobs and wish to move on , Unite will be campaiging to protect their posts and the services they provide.
"Southwark SALTs are linking their campaign with colleagues across the country, and when they met with shadow health minister John Healy this week, he gave his support to Unite's plan to hold an evidence - gathering session at the House of Commons , where SALTs from across the country will be invited to provide information about the impact of cuts on SALT services.
"Unite's campaign to save speech and language therapy jobs and services goes from strength to strength and Southwark SALTs are calling on other NHS staff and service users to join them outside the Department of Health in Whitehall on Wednesday March 9 at 4pm , when Southwark SALTs will hand in over 2,000 petitions against the redundancies.
"Following this we will be joining other NHS staff and the public on the march to defend NHS jobs at the Royal London in Whitechapel at 5pm , going through the City of London and finishing at Barts.
"While we are aware that there is still much to fight for , SALTs in Southwark have shown that if you are prepared to speak up and stand up for your clients and your jobs , it is more than possible to stop the cuts, and are very grateful for the tremendous support we have received.
"Our dispute is not over yet , so please keep sending messages of support to .
Tell your friends join the other two thousand signing the online petition ."
Congratulations to this brave group of speech therapists.
A one-day strike by a small group of workers wins concessions. Just think what a big strike by a big group of workers could do.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Rumble at Southwark council cuts meeting

Ruling Labour councillors in Southwark provoked protests in the public gallery this evening by voting down a Tory-Lib Dem motion to allow unions and groups facing cuts to address the budget meeting.
Shouts of "shame", "where's the democracy" and "why should we listen to you if you won't listen to us" rang out.
I was on the front row with a friend from the trade union-backed Southwark Save Our Services campaign.
We had intended to unfurl our "No to all cuts" banner during the budget vote. But this seemed like the moment so we lowered it over the balcony.
After a minute or so it was grabbed by security.
There was a tug of war with police and council security. We let them have the banner when they threatened to clear the whole balcony - which was packed with people from local voluntary groups and statutory bodies facing big cuts.
At this point the mayor ordered the removal of a black female local Unison officer from the council chamber.
Most of the shouting and unfurling had been done by white people.
We left in solidarity and nicked back our banner on the way out.
Later a small group tried to push into the building and some of us got in but security reinforcements were summoned to chuck us out.
Earlier a rally of about 100 people had heard speakers from Unison, PCS, Southwark Trade Union Council and speech therapists in the Unite union who were on strike earlier this month over job cuts.
Cut will devastate services in the poor south east London borough.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Support for the cabin crew dispute is crucial for the anti-cuts campaign

As predicted two months ago on The Workers United British Airways cabin crew were in position to carry on their strike action by the end of January.
Eight days ago their union Unite announced a 78 percent vote for action from a 75 percent turnout in the secret ballot required by UK law.
The cabin crews have been fighting the latest changes to their working conditions since 2009.
In March 2010 there were strikes.
I visited the picket lines and wrote two articles for Red Pepper magazine's website - although I used a pseudonym as I was trying to get work in the mainstream media at the time.
I found fantastic spirit on the first day of the strike and discovered a few days later that the dispute was causing more problems than BA admitted.
Despite the latest big strike vote no action has been declared.
There is no evidence of a campaign to raise money from the Labour movement to support these largely-female workers who have achieved cult status among trade union activists for standing up to their bullying boss.
There is no evidence of spreading the action to Unite members in other parts of BA - where local disputes within the terms of UK strike law could no doubt be found.
New Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has been talking about supporting strikes.
But he was part the negotiating team that came up with a deal cabin crew rejected.
What happens next in the cabin crew dispute will be crucial for the reputation of the new Unite regime.
A blog by Duncan Holley - the secretary of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) branch of Unite - says "nothing is ruled in or out".
Support for action and solidarity would be a big boost to the confidence of Unite and other trade union activists trying to organise the fight to stop cuts and improve working conditions.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Wapping commemorations as NUJ discusses widening its remit

Twenty-five years ago today was the start of Wapping dispute - when Rupert Muroch sacked 5,000 workers from News International overnight.
Before this setback - and the Conservative anti-union laws that helped it happen - the print unons were incredibly strong
They had pre-entry closed shops and recruitment was often done via the union branch rather than via the employer.
Organisation in the sector is now much weaker and all of the old print unions are now a sector of Unite.
Two events have been organised to commemorate the anniversay.
A number of leading trade union speakers will address the a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday January 25) from 7pm to 9pm) at St Bride’s Institute, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ.
Later this year a multimedia exhibition will offer dramatic images and accounts of the dispute. It will open on Mayday at the Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU.
More information about the dispute and the events can be found at the websites of the organisers - the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Unite.
In response to the weakness of union organisation in some media companies this year's NUJ delegate conference will discuss a resolution which would widen its rules to allow the recruitment of printers and other newspaper workers traditionally in Unite.
Motion 127 on the preliminary agenda says "This Delegate Meeting believes that, in the context of the mass redundancies in the industry and the consequent decline in membership, that the union’s membership restrictions limit potential recruitment and our industrial strength.
"DM notes that the rules can create unnecessary divisions in the workplace whereby, for example, support or technical staff must join another union or remain unrepresented. This DM believes that the NUJ should become the union for mediaworkers and open membership up to all working in the media who wish to join.
"DM therefore instructs the NEC to amend the rules to give effect to the principle that anyone working for a media company or in the media departments of other companies should qualify for membership, regardless of their role.
"DM instructs the NEC to seek meetings with relevant other unions in the media sector to seek to ensure that this does not bring us into dispute with them."
The motion is proposed by the NUJ's national executive council.
It is not certain to be passed by the delegate conference.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Shop stewards network splits over anti-cuts tactics

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) voted by a big majority at today's conference in London to set up its own national anti-cuts campaign.
The vote was 325 to 89 - with those in the majority organised around the Socialist Party.
Those in favour argued that other organisations were not committed to fighting all cuts.
Supporters of the Coalition of Resistance and the Right to Work group insisted they were opposed to all cuts and that no further campaigns were needed.
An 11 person committee was elected to run the new anti-cuts campaign - including Alex Gordon, president of the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
The conference was held at a school in Camden, London.
Afterwards many of the delegates who voted against the new anti-cuts campaign met in a nearby pub.
Members of the NSSN steering committee who were present agreed to stand down.
There was a proposal to start another network of activists based around a website.
I attended the conference as a delegate for the branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) representing public relations workers in London. I was mandated to vote against the new anti-cuts campaign.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The armed wing of the trades union congress

Here's the text of a leaflet I picked up in London yesterday.

Saturday March 26 2011
(195os style picture of two children at their father's knee)
'What did YOU do on that day. Daddy?'

The TUC are calling a huge march for SATURDAY MARCH 26.
They're calling it "March for the Alternative".

But what is the alternative? Hundreds of thousands of us want to be HEARD not herded to Hyde Park for bureaucratic speechifying before everyone goes home. We're constructing an interactive map of direct action targets - media, education, local and national government buildings, bank branches, courts, police station, libraries - to be recycled and put to use as People's Assemblies on the day.

Contact us:

Printed and published by The Armed Wing of The Trades Union Congress

That's the end of the leaflet - these are my links:
Transport - trains and coaches - to the demo in London on March 26
TUC webpage on the demo
There is an alternative

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Union campaign saves 50 telecom jobs in Cumbria

A community-based campaign by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has persuaded British Telecom to keep 50 call centre jobs in Barrow.
The company is transfering fresh work to the site - rather than pushing ahead with planned redundancies.
The campaign was backed by the local Labour MP and the town's development agency.
CWU statement on the victory
I worked for the CWU in December and did this story on the campaign.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Unite organises to fight cuts and support sacked shop stewards at Greenwich council

Members of Unite who work for a south London council will meet next week to discuss their campaign to win reinstatement for two sacked shop stewards.
On December 15 around 70 people - including the union's general secretary-elect Len McCluskey - demonstrated outside Greenwich council to support the dismissed workers.
There was talk of organising an industrial action ballot for Unite members across the borough.
Now a meeting has been called for Tuesday January 11 at 6.15pm in the Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich, SE18 6PW, to discuss the next move.
It is billed as for Unite members and people interested in joining.
The Greenwich Save Our Services campaign says the council has agreed £27 million of cuts - involving 240 job losses.
Campaigners say the youth service will be outsourced, mother and toddler groups will disappear, waiting times for services to the disabled will grow and charges for services to the elderly will rise.
Council workers think the freezing of incremental pay, and cuts to car mileage and parking allowances are the start of attacks on pay and conditions.
In October last year 8,000 Greenwich council workers were sent notice of possible dismisal - as reported in the News Shopper local paper.
Earlier in 2010 the borough's branch of Unison - the biggest local government union - was taken under the supervision of regional officials.
Branch secretary Onay Kasab was suspended from holding office in Unison for two years. He and three activists from other branches of the Union were accused of producing an offensive leaflet featuring the three wise monkeys.
Kasab, his colleagues, and supporters say they were witch-hunted because they support the Socialist Party.
Kasab has said on Facebook that he will be attending Tuesday's Unite branch meeting.