Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Blacklist & My Part In Its Downfall by Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside TUC

Overshadowed by the DAF dispute and the findings of the Manchester Employment Tribunal; in 2005, at the National Conference of Trade Union Councils (TUCs) in Liverpool, Alec McFadden, North West Rep. of the TUC Joint Consultative Committee, moved an emergency motion against the blacklist, which he argued was mainly being perpetuated by employers in the private sector. I, as the delegate of Tameside Trade Union Council, seconded this motion pointing out that one of the DAF managers, Michael Fahey, had stated under oath to the Tribunal that an officer in what was then Amicus had been involved in deliberations about the blacklisting of certain Manchester electricians. These were subsequently dismissed and took part in a picket against DAF in Piccadilly and later in Crown Square. The motion before the National Conference was overwhelmingly supported and it was referred to the Trade Union Congress in London for its consideration.

At the next National Conference of TUCs in Torquay, in 2006, the Trade Union Congress replied, as I recall, to the effect that since evidence for a blacklist in the UK was only 'anecdotal' the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), as it then was, would not act. About that time in 2006, Alan Wainwright, a former manager in the British building trade who had by then become a whistle-blower, had published a blog showing over a thousand names of individuals in UK construction, who, he claimed, had been on a national blacklist. Construction News had just run a front page article on the issue Mr Wainwright had exposed. Late Pat McFadden, of BERR which replaced the DTI, was to argue in a letter to a MP for one of the blacklisted Manchester electricians that though the Government was aware of Mr Wainwright's allegations and his use of the list to exclude people from employment, it seemed that he couldn't define the criteria used to by the firms to put people on the list. Hence nothing further was done.

It was only this year, with the raid of the Information Commissioner in February, that Ian Kerr was caught with a smoking gun and a list of 3,213 names on an illegal database held by the Consulting Association that things started to happen. Confronted with this evidence the Government at last had to act and Lord Mandelson issued a statement to this effect soon afterwards. Last Wednesday (2nd December 2009), the Government issued its response to its consultation on the outlawing of blacklisting in the UK. A week later Employment law pundit Professor Keith Ewing has given his verdict that the Government's proposed new regulations are not much to write home about.

Is this just another Government fudge? Just more cosmetic laws to cover up inaction against the bosses' discrimination against safety reps. and shop-floor activists?

Free-lance journalist, Phil Chamberlain, claimed on his blog [December 8th, 2009]: 'In fact the Government's consultation document appears to give the green light to employers to blacklist in certain circumstances.'

Chamberlain argues: 'The difference is clearest in event of workers stopping work due to serious safety concerns. This is considered to be unofficial industrial action. Such unofficial action, which is legal, would not be covered by the proposed regulations and companies could continue to discriminate [against] workers who took part in such a stoppage.' Mr Chamberlain thinks the Government doesn't do anything to discourage such blacklisting when it says: 'The Government believes such [unofficial] industrial action is especially disruptive and injurious to orderly industrial relations because, by definition, the trade union has not endorsed and controlled it.'

Alan Ritchie, General Secretary of the union UCATT, said of the proposed new regulations: 'Not only are these regulations entirely inadequate, the Government's consultation response favours the continuation of blacklisting in certain circumstances.'

It seems the Government's 54-page document fails to deal with the everyday blacklisting of safety reps. and activists; and Phil Chamberlain says: '[this] was a notable feature of the Consulting Association's blacklisting practices.' UCATT is anxious about the proposed law's failure to protect safety representatives and its allowance of 'vetting' by bosses for activities other than trade union matters, meaning that workers who the boss considers to be troublemakers will still be blacklisted.

Maybe I'll just have to wait a bit before I can blow my own trumpet about my part in the downfall of the UK blacklist.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Keystone Kops in Clean-up Bury Campaign

Terry Nieland and other managers from the Bradley Fold Depot, Bury, Lancashire, have been running round like blue-arsed flies in an effort to clear up rubbish left as a result of Bury Council's introduction of a new scheme for waste collections thought up by Waste management supremo Glenn Stuart. It all started last month when Councillor Dorothy Gunther, Bury's Executive Member for Environment & Transport, justifying the new changes in refuse collection, declared: 'We all know about the threat of climate change. These changes will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we release into the environment and improve recycling opportunities for more residents.'

Two weeks into the new scheme the benefits to the environment and the taxpayers are far from clear; with the local binmen struggling to complete their new rounds on time and bin wagons having to be tipped on Saturday morning by specially employed Agency workers instead of Friday night by the regular crews. The Head of Waste Management in Bury, Glenn Stuart, had promised:
'... the crews are making sure they are up to speed by familiarising themselves with the new more effective routes' and reassuring 'local residents that we will be working hard to make sure the changes take place smoothly ...'
Two days ago, it is reported, a Bury binman chipped a tooth while emptying an overfull bin whose lid was raised so that it blew into his face. We must wonder if in the anxiety to bring in new schemes designed to run the waste service more cheaply, but sold under the guise of a greener service with a reduced 'carbon footprint', the council is putting the safety of its workforce at risk: especially with management chasing round like Keystone Kops. Meanwhile in nearby Bolton, a new scheme of waste collection introduced in September, has brought claims that there is a risk of rat infestation owing to rubbish being left around. An enterprising company called GSD Pest Repeller is already advertising its services in Bolton based on the claim that Leeds residents suffered through the refuse collectors' strike, which, they say, has 'led to a marked increase in the area's rat control problems'.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

One Of The Great Blues Guitarists - Check This Out

Chumbawamba eat your heart out! This is blues music at its best. Walter Trout playing his version of the Elmore James song Dust My Broom. I saw Walter Trout a while ago when he was playing a gig at Manchester University. He`s without doubt one of the best blues guitarists of all time having played with the Father of British blues John Mayall, Canned Heat, and the legendary, John Lee Hooker. The next time he comes to Manchester, go and see him.