Monday, 2 July 2012

Why I don't think the Labour Representation Committee should adopt Labour Briefing magazine

I don’t see the Labour Representation Committee as another left group trying to sell a paper.
I see it as the confederation that brings together the biggest possible coalition of left groups, socialist individuals and trade unionists – to fight against misery and for hope, both inside and outside the Labour Party.
With six national trade unions affiliated, 70 union branches, 35 other organisations, 23 Labour Party bodies, and 17 local LRC groups we are well on the way.
For this to succeed we must be tolerant – welcoming affiliates and members with whom we agree on most things – but not everything.
I think having a magazine that lays down the line of the LRC national committee would be a block on our ambition – and would work against us having the widest possible cross-section of affiliates.
It would be a better strategy to use the time and effort planned for the magazine to encourage supporting unions and bodies to give more coverage to the activities of the LRC – thus reaching new people, rather than the ones we are already meeting.
If most LRC activists disagree – fair enough.
But please start something fresh – don’t adopt the baggage that comes with Labour Briefing.
If the LRC is to become a mass movement it must appeal to a new generation of activists, mainly outside the Labour Party, and across Britain, in a spirit of co-operation and respect.
Labour Briefing is old fashioned, inward-looking, London-centric and has a reputation for hateful fallings-out among its leading supporters.
The LRC shouldn’t go near this accident that’s already happened.
So, as a regular purchaser of the magazine, I will be going to the Briefing annual meeting which is on Saturday, July 7, from noon, at the University of London union, Malet Street, central London, WC1E 7HY.
Briefing readers, contributors, sellers etc can attend and vote on whether the LRC should adopt the magazine.
I’ll be voting for any resolutions that keep the magazine as far away as possible from LRC.
I hope there will be a big turnout so the decision is taken with the wisdom of the crowd.
And once this diversion is over I hope we will unite and turn our fire on the real enemy who are trying to turn our youth into slaves, our sick into commodities, and our elderly into cheap labour.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Labour and union funding - an explanation

In the early 1900s the trade unions set up the Labour Representation Committee to do what it says on the tin - represent workers in the political arena.
That morphed into the Labour Party.
Without rich supporters the unions started a small levy on their thousands of members to fund their party.
That arrangement is still in place.
Hundreds of thousands of members of affiliated unions still pay what is called the 'political levy'.
For that they get a type of associated membership which gives them a vote in the electoral college that chooses the Labour Party leader and deputy leader.
It's not one big donation - its lot's of tiny membership fees. Union members can opt out of paying.
It's transparent and built into the party's and the unions' democratically decided rules.

It is nothing like the huge donations from super-rich individuals, stitched-up in secret meetings and coming from offshore tax havens, that fund the Conservative Party.

Every time someone repeats Tory spin about Labour and union funding we must point them to these facts.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

It's time for everyone to file a pension grievance

As the public sector pension dispute starts to unravel there is one highly effective tactic that hasn't yet been tried.
Everyone who is facing a change to their pension should take out an individual grievance.
It would cause chaos with employers having to organise millions of hearings - and millions of appeals.
Now is the perfect time as some changes are due to be imposed from April 1.
Changes to individual contracts should only happen after consultation. This has clearly not happened.
DON'T take out collective grievances - that's too easy for managers to deal with.
This is a tried and trusted tactic.
When I was National Union of Journalists' northern organiser we regularly used guerilla grievances to stop or seriosuly modify detrimental contract changes empolyers wanted to impose.
We did it at Sheffield Newspapers, Bradford Newspapers, the Bury Times, Bolton Evening News, Yorkshsire Coast Radio, and the Lancashire Telegraph in Blackburn, to give some examples.
Follow this link for a report on one of these instances - under the heading 'just say no' -
These are smaller groups of workers - imagine the impact if millions of grievances landed on the desk of public sector managers.
Line managers and union reps wouldn't be able to work for weeks - possibly months - as the hearings were held.
This action can be taken by members of unions with leaders that have called off strikes. Even non-union workers can join in.
I hope the March 28 walkout goes ahead with the biggest numbers possible.
Mass grievances - run concurrently - would show the government, and union leaders, that these changes are not acceptable.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Various reports of PCS Left Unity pensions conference

Left Unity is a group of socialists that inludes many leading figures in the Public and Commercial Services union.

Yesterday (Saturday 7 January) they hosted a conference in London for activists in all unions to discuss the dispute over public sector pensions that lead to a strike of two million workers in November.

It was unanimously agreed to oppose the pension proposals currently on the table, to urge the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to call another strike.

It was also agreed that, if the TUC doesn't organise another walkout, those unions that want to fight on should meet as soon as possible to discuss the next stage of the campaign.

Here are some reports of the event:

The Guardian: Public sector pensions dispute at 'pivotal moment', says Serwotka
Workers' Liberty: Meeting calls for NUT to "name day" for future pension strikes
Jon's union blog: Unity against miserablism
Red Pepper blog: Pensions: Keep united and step up the fight
Permanent Revolution: Left Unity conference refuses to name the day for strike action
Morning Star: Unions lay out 'line in the sand' on pensions
Socialist Party: Organising to step up the pensions struggle
National Shop Stewards' Network: Organising the fight back against pensions sell out
The Way I See Things blog: Fair pensions for all, no to any sell outs, reject and carry on the fight
Coventry Socialist Party: Successful meeting to organise the pensions dispute

Union News: Report from the conference in the weekly podcast

VIDEO: PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka's speech to the event

CLARIFICATION: I am currently working for PCS on a freelance basis.