Friday, 30 September 2011

For the Love of Murdoch, Tony Blair, Carillion & Kieran Quinn:

The Cultivation of Anxiety in Political Leadership
by Brian Bamford

The deals that our political leaders strike-up with powerful forces and outside interests has now been brought into focus on the international, national and local stage by the relationships struck by Tony Blair in Libya with Gadaffi, and earlier with Rupert Murdoch and the Sun newspaper, and now locally in Ashton-under-Lyne between Councillor Kieran Quinn (Labour leader of Tameside Council) and the construction company Carillion, accused by some of blacklisting trade unionists in Ashton-under-Lyne and elsewhere in the UK.

TONY BLAIR'S autobiography 'A Journey' is more revealing than I at first realised and it is noticeable that he has had less to say than Gordon Brown on the recent Murdoch and the News International phone hacking case. On page 96 of this June's paperback edition of his autobiography he writes of his troubled time between 1995 and 1997 as he determined to modernise the Labour Party to achieve 'reconnection' with the British public: 'Members of the Shadow Cabinet would frequently say: "Come on, enough, we are miles ahead".' And, Blair says: 'Each time they said it, I would get hyper-anxious, determined not for a single instant to stop the modernising drive.'

In his very next paragraph, Blair gives away one of the solutions to his political anxieties when he writes: 'In June 1995 we had further outraged sensibilities by accepting an invitation conveyed through the editor of The Times, Peter Stothard, to address Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation conference on Hayman Island, Australia, the next month.' Blair justifies this arguing: '... as I said to Alistair (Campbell), not to go was to say (to Murdoch) carry on and do your worst, and we knew their worst was very bad indeed.' Former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, had suffered the headline 'Nightmare on Kinnock Street' and, as Mathew Parrish said recently, not doing business with Murdoch 'had not done John Major much good'. Blair concluded that either 'you sat down to sup; or not. So we did.'

Do media bosses, like Murdoch, influence elections? It seems here that political leaders, like Blair, think that they do and that was why he went to Hayman Island to see Murdoch. Based on his reading on the evidence in a recent American study by the U.S. Economists Jesse Shapiro and Matthew Gentzkow, Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist in the Financial Times [FT] claims: 'Media barons tell us what we want to hear'. And yet, even if media bosses don't determine elections, if people like Blair mistakenly think they do then may not this in itself influence the political decisions our leaders take? Thus, even if Murdoch is just historically better at backing political winners than at changing the public's mind, he still had serious political clout in the corridors of power because most politicians feared him, as Blair evidently did, according to his autobiography.

The FT's Tim Harford writes: 'The most disturbing aspect of the phone-hacking scandal, it seems to me, is the reluctance of politicians to challenge Murdoch's empire, and in particular its cosy relationship with the police.' This kind of interference in politics is not confined to Murdoch and the media barons, Gillian Tett, the FT's U.S. Managing business editor, in her book 'Fool's Gold' about the bankers, has written of the recent crisis how the bank J.P. Morgan had 'in the early years of the twenty-first century ... watched with awe and envy as (rival bank) Goldman Sachs extended its tentacles into politics and government, often via its powerful network of alumni.' Ms. Tett wrote: 'J.P.Morgan now planned to emulate that strategy'. It set up its own 'alumni' society and began cultivating political allies and she says: ' J.P. Morgan guests nibbled on canapes in the Piano Bar, Al Gore, an adviser to the bank, could be seen mingling in the crowds ... So could Tony Blair, another well-paid adviser.' Business is just politics by other means.

What of Tony Blair's crucial 1995 meeting on the Hayman Island with Rupert Murdoch at which Blair gave a speech? Blair writes of this thus: 'The speech ... went down well ... I could see the executives were in awe (and a little fearful) of Rupert.' Murdoch had introduced Blair 'in glowing terms' and the executives 'all rallied', and Blair says: '... I could fell we were in with a chance of winning the Sun's support.' I would rank this occasion as a kind of 'love test'! In effect, on Hayman Island in 1995, Tony Blair was being invited to declare his love for Rupert Murdoch before the assembled executives in the same way as Shakespeare's King Lear in the play of the same name demanded of his three daughters the love for which he was to be the sole recipient. Only King Lear's youngest daughter, Cordelia, denies him his request and is disinherited. Lear simply wants to divide his kingdom between his three daughters and for this he wants their declaration of' 'true' love. His youngest daughter Cordelia alone denies him this rather than be hypocritical. Murdoch, it seems to me, offered to share his power with Blair and was blessed with Blair's compliance. We do not know what would have occurred if Blair had followed the example of Cordelia rather than the older daughters Goneril and Regan, who understood that Lear required hypocritical proclamations of their love and gushing flattery. Tony Blair writes in his autobiography: 'The speech on Hayman Island went down well.' Or as Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew says: 'To give thee all, and in his waning age / Set foot under thy table' (II,I).

It was not only Tony Blair who got his feet under Rupert Murdoch's table; Margaret Thatcher before him had been there and Gordon Brown, despite his recent attack on Murdoch in the House of Commons, was to follow Blair in his entanglement with Murdoch; in the event only John Major was to play the role of Cordelia when he became Tory Prime Minister. In the recent phone-hacking scandal affecting Murdoch, Tony Blair has been remarkably quiet, unlike Brown and Ed Milliband.

What we are now seeing is the end of a political maintenance agreement. Hence, MPs have cottoned-on to the idea that they are in a looking-glass world and, as Tim Harford writes: 'When once it was politically dangerous not to bend the knee to Murdoch, suddenly it was politically dangerous not to stand up to him instead - and standing up to Murdoch is presumably a lot more fun to boot.' In truth, between the politicians there was no binding 'maintenance agreement' with Murdoch; only a series of love tests conducted over the last few decades between the likes of Thatcher, Blair, Brown and Cameron and the media mogul.

Stephen Greenblatt, the American literary critic and promoter of something called the 'New Historicism', in his essay 'The Cultivation of Anxiety: King Lear & His Heirs' writes: '(King) Lear speaks as if he had actually drawn up a maintenance agreement between Lear and his daughters ... [but] there is no maintenance agreement between Lear and his daughters;' and thus at the end of the play the two older daughters let Lear down. Just as with Lear, so it has been with Rupert Murdoch and the British politicians who had sworn their love: there had been no binding maintenance agreements between Rupert and the politicians but just opportunist hypocrisy and false declarations of 'love' as our MPs turn on Murdoch and even his dearest 'daughter', ethical Rebeka, has had to be cast aside.

But this problem is now systemic in British politics and in the Labour Party, thus even at a local level in Town Councils, companies seem to have come to control politics through unhealthy relationships with councillors: just as it was with Blair, Murdoch and Gadaffi in the national and international arena, so it seems to be with firms like Carillion and Council leader Kieran Quinn in Ashton-under-Lyne and the area that now goes under the name Tameside. In his autobiography, Blair muses about his relationship with Murdoch thus: '... I had a friend called Faust and he cut a deal with some bloke called Satan' ('A Journey', page 97). Over a decade ago, people had some misgivings about the long-term leader of Tameside MBC, Roy Oldham, when he began the transfer of council housing to an arms-length company - New Charter Housing Limited - but the man who oversaw this large-scale transfer was none other than the current Council leader, Keiran Quinn. Councillor Quinn did this knowing that the trade unions were opposed to the policy and he referred to opponents of the scheme, such as the then Lib-Dem councillor Peter Wright as being 'people who live on the margins of society'. Councillor Quinn declares himself to be a sturdy trade unionist, a member of the CWU, and he has successfully sought the help of Tameside TUC for support for post office pickets. Our sources in the Council suggest that Councillor Quinn is very much in favour of privatisation, except when it affects his own trade union at the Post Office.

These days all politicians be they Blair, Brown, Cameron, Roy Oldham or just Keiran Quinn seem to seek some agreement with the likes of powerful forces such as Murdoch or Carillion, which is only the temporary bond of hypocritical 'love' that King Lear embraced they all have what Stephen Greenblatt describes: 'the terror of being turned out of doors or becoming a stranger even in one's own house; ... the dread, particularly strong in a society that adhered to the principle of gerontological hierarchy, of being surplanted by the young.' As I write this I am aware that the global company Carillion was yesterday accused in the Tameside Reporter of being linked to 'The Consulting Association' and the Information Commissioner is quoted as saying: 'Information recovered from the Consulting Association's premises indicated that at some point in time there had been a relationship between Carillion and the Consulting Association.' The Consulting Association has now been closed down following one of its managers pleading guilty to keeping an illegal data base or 'blacklist'. Yet Carillion, while admitting that the Consulting Association operated 'blacklisting services', still denies it was a member. Kieran Quinn, who is yet to reply to a request from Tameside TUC that he should justify the awarding of Council contracts to a company like Carillion, was not able to make a response in time for yesterday's Tameside Reporter. A red-faced Councillor Quinn, after sucking-up to Carillion, must now be feeling like Tony Blair does about his relationship with Murdoch and Gadaffi.


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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Is this the end of the road for Christine Green as C.E.O. of Tameside Hospital?

The senior management at Tameside Hospital certainly know how to stage-manage affairs when it comes to publicity stunts. The events are so naff it's unbelievable! Whitewash by the bucketful, excuses on tap, there's no end to it. Despite severe criticism over the years from patients, relatives, official regulators and hospital action groups about the deficiencies in patient care and being millions of pounds in debt, the management somehow, always manage to bounce back.

On Tuesday the red carpet was rolled out to welcome the Duke of Gloucester who officially opened the £112 million new Hartshead South building. During a guided tour of the new building which includes a 48-bed surgical ward, six new operating theatres, a centralised X-ray department and children's unit, the Duke chatted with staff and patients. He then unveiled a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the building which has been admitting patients since November 2010. The Chairman of the Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust, Rev (timorous) Tim Presswood told the local press:

"We were very proud to welcome His Royal Highness and other dignitaries to help celebrate the opening of a very special building."

Two months ago, Presswood, announced that he would be standing down as Chairman of the Board in October. A local Baptist minister, both he and the C.E.O. Christine Green (pictured above), were criticised in a report by the consultants Korn/Ferry/Whitehead Mann, for lacking leadership qualities and it was claimed that the Board were not discussing urgent clinical matters in depth or conducting rigorous debate on key issues. The official regulator 'Monitor' also gave the hospital a 'Red Rating' for lack of governance and the Board was criticised for "failing to identify, challenge and scrutinise problems." The hospital was also criticised for failing to tell Monitor, that a vote of no confidence ballot in hospital management had been conducted by senior medical staff at the hospital.Responding to the criticism, Presswood, - who receives £40,000 for a minimum three-day week - said he "was no Alan Sugar."

At the hospital AGM which took place on Wednesday, timorous Tim, told the meeting:

"I`ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as Chair of Tameside Hospital despite the undoubted challenges, but I`ve other things to do."

The AGM, yet another highly stage-managed affair, usually lasts for an hour with fifteen minutes allotted for questions. After being told by Presswood that the hospital was the most modern in the country which had the support of the majority of people in Tameside and Glossop, we heard that the hospital had a £1.39 million deficit. Perma-tanned, C.E.O. Christine Green, then told us that £4.2 million savings had already been made by the end of August but this was not affecting patient care, but improving the quality of services. Acknowledging that hospital complaints had gone up, she said:

"I welcome these complaints, they`re learning experiences , but we`re getting more letters of support." This then led into yet another power-point presentation entitled: "I`M WRITING TO THANK YOU", which consisted of a montage of letters and press cuttings or highlighted paragraphs, from grateful patients or relatives thanking the hospital for their treatment. After watching the presentation, timorous Tim, said obsequiously: "I have a lump in my throat after watching this."

Had it not been for the awkward squad who turn up at every AGM, it`s doubtful anyone would have asked a critical question. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Milton Pena, pointed out that a post in the Radiology Department had been disestablished even though the Head of Radiology had opposed it and added, that consultant levels were at their 1999 levels. LINk member, Paul Broadhurst, thanked Mrs. Green for the letter he`d received from the hospital solicitor "warning me off" and when Rod McCord, from the Tameside Hospital Action Group (THAG), asked Ms. Green if she could confirm or deny reports that an interim C.E.O., was about to take over from her, this elicited canned laughter from the claque, a group of nurses at the back of the hall, but no comment from Mrs. Green, who deftly avoided the question.

After being reassured by one nurse that patient care was not being affected by the hospital cuts, Anne, a hospital employee, pleaded with the hospital's critics to stop 'scaremongering'. Tearful and emotional at times, she said:

"Members of the public who write to the press are scaremongering. You disparage the staff which tends to lower morale. People at my church express fear and ask me if it is safe to go into Tameside Hospital."

Though Anne received applause from some in the audience, one couldn`t help but feel rather sorry for her. Even she must have been aware that most criticism over the years has been directed at the senior management who run the hospital and not as she would have us believe, the staff who work within the hospital. And this criticism has come not just from the public, but from the local coroner, the press and media, regulatory bodies like the CQC and Monitor as well as from local MP's and councillor's.

In a recent report, Mr. Pena, as Chairman of the Senior Medical Staff Committee at the hospital, wrote of a "culture of bullying and intimidation that pervades the Trust" and of hospital employees being afraid to ask critical questions. He also accused the Board and senior management of lacking capability and leadership and of failing to provide integrated governance. With the departure of the Chairman of the Board Tim Presswood and Adrian Griffiths, the Director of Clinical Services, is this now the end of the road for the hospital's C.E.O. Christine Green?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Letter to Councillor Kieran Quinn


Kieran Quinn,
Leader of Tameside Council,
Council Offices,
Warrington Street,

3rd, August 2011.

Dear Kieran Quinn,

We are aware that contracts have been awarded by Tameside MBC to the construction company Carillion. We are also aware that the Information Commissioner raided the office of the Consulting Association and confiscated documents and data in connection with the alleged blacklisting of construction workers in the British building trade: many of the workers listed in these data files were active trade unionists. It was found that Carillion was one of more than forty firms affiliated to the Consulting Association managed by a Mr. Ian Kerr in the Midland town of Droitwich. The office of the Consulting Association was then closed down at the insistence of the Information Commissioner. Mr. Kerr was later found guilty of keeping an illegal database and being without a licence for collection of such material under the Data Protection Act in Knutsford Crown Court. We understand that last Wednesday a group of local electricians, members of a branch of Unite the Union who claim to have been blacklisted, began picketing a site, Denton Community College, at which Carillion is the main contractor ... and that the Council security police arrived at the site at 8.30am at the picket last Thursday; complaining about the protester's banners with messages objecting to the blacklist.

At the last meeting of Tameside TUC concern was expressed that a Labour Council is awarding contracts to a company such as Carillion that has been named as being involved with an organisation illegally collecting data such as the Consulting Association. Tameside Trade Union Council awaits your response to these concerns and your justification for awarding contracts to Carillion?

Yours sincerely,

Brian Bamford: Secretary of Tameside TUC.


Told To Shut Up!

Message from Carlisle...



A community group has accused a Carlisle city councillor of gagging it to stop it representing its members, it was revealed today.

A complaint has been made to the city council by the group, Carlisle and Rural Tenants' Federation. The Federation complaint says that Councillor Nan Farmer refused to allow a Federation representative to speak at a meeting called to discuss a dispute between Riverside Housing Association and its Carlisle leaseholders.

The Federation representative had been asked to attend the meeting by some leaseholders who are members of the Federation. But the Federation representative was not allowed to say a word and in a dictatorial fashion was ordered to leave the meeting.

The Federation complaint says that following that meeting it was also gagged a second time - this time by the city council. The second gagging came after Councillor Farmer made incorrect and unsubstantiated complaints about the Federation to the council.

As a result of these complaints the council blocked all emails from the Federation to the council.

The Federation complaint says that at another meeting of leaseholders Councillor Farmer tried four times to get the Federation to leave. But this time the representative refused.

A Federation spokesman said today: 'The Federation has represented former council house tenants and leaseholders for dozens of years - long before Riverside appeared on the scene - and this is the first time we have been gagged at a public meeting.

'We are used to Riverside`s deplorable ways of shutting us up .They have done it in the past and continue to do so because they don`t like us representing our members.

'But it now appears that Councillor Farmer is doing Riverside`s work for it and she also is trying to keep out the Federation.

'Councillor Farmer is leader of the city council's Liberal Democrats. If she really believes in Lib Dem values she shouldn't be in the gagging business'

Issued by Carlisle and Rural Tenants` Federation

Thursday, 22 September 2011



THEY say up North that 'where there is no sense there is no feeling' and Bernard McAuley's (National Officer for Construction in Unite the Union) email below to his colleague Gail Cartmail seems to lack all sense, sensibility and feeling for his members, and any intelligent grasp whatsoever of what is happening in the construction industry today. An eruption is taking place in industrial terms something similar to the rising of the Spanish Generals in the Spanish Civil War of July 1936, when Spain's Generals engaged in military sedition against their own legally elected government. The eight construction companies that have pulled out of the Joint Industry Board (JIB) are bent on the sabotage of what passes for a kind of civilisation in the British building trade. Faced with this attack from the eight global companies on the procedures of the status quo in British construction, Mr McAuley has shown himself to be at the very least inept, silly and lacking in foresight or prudence. At the time of writing Northern Voices understands that Mr McAuley has issued a grovelling apology about his email, which we publish below and urge our readers to judge for themselves the words of wisdom therein:

Good Morning Gail,

Reference to our telephone conversation last night on the above, could l kindly refer you to the attached correspondence. As your aware the construction section is likely to be engaged in a major industrial dispute going into the autumn, due to a decision taken by the Eight Major employers in the Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical sector of the industry.

On the 17th August the national shop stewards forum met and agreed a way forward by developing our campaign strategy on a regional basis working in conjunction with the appropriate Unite Regional Officer. Initially a group of activist decided to form a Rank and File campaign committee nominating Gerry Hicks to be there (sic) Chairman, resulting in Gerry travelling the country addressing meetings attacking not only the Employers but more importantly our Union's leadership and the capability of the Unite Officers.

The constant scurrilous attacks on officials by this small fringe group does have an impact on our campaign, as this cancerous group are simply opportunist's and extremely divisive when making there contribution at meetings, especially when fellow colleagues and members challenge these individuals, results in these individuals submitting unnecessary and frivolous complaints to the General Secretary, resulting in officers been investigated and tied up in preparing reports to defend themselves, which is time consuming and a unnecessary waste of an officers time.

My colleague Bill Green is working extremely hard in the Newcastle and l find the circular by the Newcastle Branch to be another unwarranted attack by individuals who have no intentions of working and supporting Unite in this campaign as they seek publicist which is a an unwarranted distraction at this moment in time.

My colleagues will not throw away this wonderful opportunity the employers have given us to re engage with the workers in the industry as opposed to becoming involved in this poisonous campaign by these mindless individuals who will simply hide by the Union's Equality policy.

Kind regards,

Bernard McAuley
National Officer for Construction

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

MET. Sword of Damocles hangs over The Guardian


LAST night
the Metropolitan police stopped its legal bid to get the Guardian to give up confidential sources for their reports into the phone hacking scandal by the News of the World. This follows an intervention by the Crown Prosecution Service and widespread anger about what appeared to be a vindictive approach by the Scotland Yard. The MET had claimed that one of the Guardian reporters, Amelia Hill, might have incited a source to break the Official Secrets Act.

But the statement put out by the MET announcing its climbdown left open the chance that they could apply again. It looks like this attempt by the MET to have a go at the Guardian journalists had stirred up a hornets nest and one police source said: 'Obviously, the last thing we want to do is to get into a big fight with the media.'

However, if the police can come back again at a later stage then this means that the Guardian will still be in a position were it has the 'Sword of Damocles' hanging over it. We've always said that perhaps the Guardian should follow News International's example and hand out a few 'Bobbies Jobs' to the boys in blue and employ some retired coppers as crap columnists. That should humour them up a bit.


TEXT MESSAGE at 8.39 a.m.:

300 electricians have invaded Cross Rail Farringdon site against the eight companies who have pulled out of the JIB.

Tyne Tunnel Blockade by sparks in Newcastle.

Demos in both Liverpool and Manchester. The Manchester one started at 6.30 a.m. outside Manchester Town Hall and was expected to transfer to Media City on Salford Quays at 10 a.m.

Next London demo will be at Kings Cross next Wednesday.

Monday, 19 September 2011

More Organised Vengence?

THIS last weekend the Met have been after a court order under the Official Secrets Act to try to make Guardian reporters disclose their sources about the phone hacking scandal. Scotland Yard claims the Act could have been breached last July, when Guardian reporters Nick Davies and Amelia Hill exposed the hacking of murder victim Milly Dowler's mobile phone by an investigator acting for the News of the World.

It seems that the police plonkers in London who failed to pursue the News of the World are now reaching for the Official Secrets Act to deal with the journalists who showed them all up. Geoffrey Robertson QC writes in last Saturday's Guardian: 'That coverage has exposed not only the hackers but also the incompetence of the police, and it is no doubt for that reason that Scotland Yard is overzealous in its attempts to uncover the sources.'

The Guardian in an editorial argues: 'It beggars belief that the Metropolitan police - who, for years, declined to lift a finger against News International journalists despite voluminous evidence of criminal behaviour - should now be using the Official secrets Act to pursue the Guardian, which uncovered the story.'

Perhaps the Guardian should follow News International's example and get agate employing a few retired coppers from the Met. as staff columnists. That might help to keep Scotland Yard off their backs.

Siteworker News Report: JIB Disputes

THEY have thrown down the gauntlet and Grangemouth shoved it down their throat!

In the battle to protect the JIB agreement from being ripped up five of the eight have upped the stakes. Balfour Beatty, Crown House Technologies, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services and NG Bailey have issued Unite with legal notice of their intention to dismiss, by giving the legally required 90 day notice to thousands of employees before re-engaging them on inferior contracts on December 7th.

So answering the TUC’s call this week for 'Civil Disobedience' against the cuts, on Wednesday we obliged, and the action kicked off across the country.

At the Grangemouth site in Scotland sparks and Pipe-fitters working for BBES voted to walk off the job marking a major advance in our struggle against de-skilling and the vicious attacks on JIB agreement. Also in Scotland, sparks protested at the Faslane site.

In London, 150 protested at Olympic site blocked the main gate and then marched to the A12 main road and blocked the highway in to Stratford for 20 mins causing a major traffic jam eventually PC plod moved us on but it certainly caught the public attention which is great.

Manchester chipped in with a protest at the BBES Papermill site. It all amounted to another fantastic day of rank n file activity but, the 8 have declared war and 5 of them are going for a rout by issuing the December 7th deadline letters. The rank n file workers on these site must respond by downing tools and walking off site.

Unite are slowly getting involved 2 officials were at Olympic protest, while we welcome the support let’s be wary of a takeover followed by sell outs. This is a rank n file dispute and it’s our futures that at are at stake.

Unite has told employers that these bullying tactics will lead to a sharp deterioration in industrial relations on major sites up and down the country, putting into jeopardy the ability of companies to deliver projects on time and within budget. Unite has called on eight break-away construction companies, who are imposing semi-skilled grades into the mechanical and electrical sector, to ‘pull back from the brink’ before industrial relations deteriorates to harmful levels. Bernard McAulay, the National Officer has said: 'These rogue employers should pull back from the brink as their attack on workers' skills, pay and terms and conditions is causing widespread anger among workers.'

Words are fine but Unite needs to be put under pressure to negotiate a proper deal for us. A ballot for strike action of all electricians, pipe-fitters and other trades would make that more likely. So inundate Bernard McAulay with emails demanding a date for the ballot. And don’t wait until the end of December, Mr McAuley.

Of course we want a ballot but we can’t afford to sit back and wait or it will be too late and we will be on £10.50 an hour. So we must force the issue and spread these actions across the country Lets step it up a gear blockades, occupations traffic jams, until an agreement has been reached.

Rank and File meetings...........

Newcastle: Friday16th September 7pm in the Labour club.

Scotland: Saturday 17th Grangemouth September 10.00am

Scotland: Saturday 24th September Edinburgh time and place to follow.

Liverpool: Thursday 29th September 7pm-9pm Friends meeting House, 22 School Lane LI 3BT
Manchester : Saturday October 1st 12.00- 3pm Mechanics Institute 103 Princess Street M6 DD
Rank and File protests planned so far:

Manchester: Wednesday 21st September 6.30am Manchester town hall & Baileys site BBC Media City at 10am.

London: 21st September 6.30am-8.30am Farringdon Station, Crown House site.
  • It is imperative that everyone joins Unite and elect stewards.
  • Make sure stewards off the sites once elected meet area officials from unite before any meeting with your employer.
  • Unite officers only meet with the employers when all stewards are present. None of this ‘we meet the employer, sort out a deal and tell you to accept it’ crap.
  • That set up must come to and end, its totally undemocratic it may have been Hardacres style but he’s gone. Democracy is vital, a settlement on the rank and files terms is the only honourable settlement.
We are fighting for our futures and the future generations. Demand these basic trade union principals from unite no sell-outs we can and will win this dispute. Unity is strength !Email us with ideas and let us know if you have actions planned

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Council transfers jobs & services to construction company accused of 'Blacklisting'!

Labour controlled Tameside Council in Greater Manchester, have transferred council jobs and services to a construction company - which has been accused of blacklisting workers - in a bid to save money.

This week a local newspaper reported that council employees from estates and facilities management, which includes caretaking, cleaning, building management, and the helpdesk, are now to be employed by the multinational construction company Carillion, as part of the Tameside Investment Partnership (TIP). Although staff and services are to be transferred to Carillion, the council point out that assets will be retained by the council.

Councillor David Sweeton, executive member for business and community development, told the paper:
"There is nothing to fear from these new arrangements. The TIP does not determine council policy or strategy nor do they carry out work on any projects or services, unless it is formally requested to do so by the council. It`s also important to stress that any staff transferring to the partnership will have their pay, conditions, Trade Union and pension rights fully protected."
Although councillor Sweeton sees this as a 'landmark decision for the council' that will "help to ensure that in future we can meet our savings targets, protect jobs and continue to deliver high quality value for money services", others remain highly sceptical about the future of jobs, the savings to be made, and the future of council services.

The report says that Carillion`s own annual report, reveals that "more than 3,000 people lost their jobs in the support services section of the business in the 2009/10 financial year." It is also claimed that though Carillion plan to deliver services in each department around £20,000 below the expected budget to return a profit, more severe cost cutting will be necessary, for the company to make a profit and for the council to start saving money.

Many council employees in Tameside will no doubt, be highly suspicious, when they hear the council talking about guaranteeing pay and conditions to those employees being transferred to the partnership.

In 1990, the council transferred 12 council-run elderly people`s homes to an arms-length company called Tameside Enterprises Limited (TEL). Though the 484 council staff who transferred to TEL were told that if the company failed, their employment and the homes would return to full council ownership, this did not happen when in 1993, the company was found to have incurred debts of £2.2 million and the worker`s were forced into accepting wage cuts in order to keep their jobs.

The Conservative leader on the council, John Bell, is angry that his party wasn't consulted more but believes that if the scheme saves money and makes services more efficient, it has to be looked at. He told the paper:
"It seems to be a tactic to hive off our town halls and corporate buildings to save money. We must make sure that hire fees don`t become out of reach - they are the people's towns halls. If you want to change a light bulb in the town hall, they'll come and do it, but they`ll charge you a lot of money."
Earlier this year a former council employee, told Northern Voices that as part of the Local Education Parnership (LEP), Carillion did not have to tender for work with the council and was also sub-contracting work, to firms such as Baxter Storey to deliver catering contracts. We also understand that Carillion, have expressed an interest in turning Dukinfield Town Hall into a hotel, which would among other things, provide wedding functions.

In the last two years, Carillion, has come under a great deal of criticism for its involvement with a secretive blacklisting organisation known as 'The Consulting Association' (TCA). In 2009, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), raided the premises of the TCA in Droitwich and discovered files on over 3,000 construction workers which contained, both personal details and details about trade union activities. The ICO reported that the TCA had operated on behalf of 44 UK major building companies and had illegally shared this information among subscribing firms who paid an affiliation fee and a payment for every name checked by TCA. One of the firms implicated in this blacklisting scandal was Carillion. Ian Kerr of the TCA was later fined £5,000 after admitting breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA).

One of the workers who found himself on the blacklist, was Dave Smith (46) from Essex. In August, Mr. Smith, told the Central London Employment Tribunal that he was victimised by Carillion, after becoming a safety rep during the 1990's. Papers submitted to the tribunal showed that senior managers from the company supplied information about Mr. Smith to TCA. Mr. Smith who is suing Carillion for £175,000 in lost wages, says that because of the blacklist he lost work and suffered unemployment. Dave Clancy from the ICO, who uncovered the blacklist, gave evidence to the court and stated that the people carrying out the blacklisting, were very senior industrial relations or human resources managers, often at director level.

Although lawyers for the company sought to have Mr. Smith's claim against them struck out, Judge Pearl, found in favour of Mr. Smith and a full hearing is now set to take place in January. After the hearing, Mr. Smith, said:
"Carillion have been caught red handed: the evidence against them is damning. Senior managers from the Carillion group participated in secret and systematic abuse of human rights for decades. But to date, we have not heard one word of apology."
Already, picketing has been taking place by blacklisted workers at sites run by Carillion or their sub-contractors in Tameside and further action is being considered. The local Trades Union Council in Tameside, have also written to the leader of Tameside Council, Cllr. Kieran Quinn, about the council`s involvement with Carillion. At the time of writing, we understand they have yet to receive a reply from him.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Call from Newcastle Central 1901, Unite the Union Branch


to our September Branch meeting on Friday the 16th, September at the Labour Club in Newcastle start 7pm.

The meeting will be chaired by Jimmy Warne, a spark, ex-EC member, and 'victimised' former Unite employee.

Guest speaker: Jerry Hicks, member of the Rank & File Committee (elected at the mass meeting in Conway Hall) who will update the meeting.

The purpose of the meeting is to get your opinions and thoughts as to the best way forward and to decide 'what to do next'.

Here's an idea:

'Organise as big a demo as is possible out side Balfour Beatty on Percy Street, at 6.30am on Wednesday the 21st, September 2011 until 8.30am. Then how about a march to the Union office round the corner on John Dobson Street to demand immediate action, no waiting till December!'






From the Blacklist Support  Group:

1. European Parliament
There is a debate on blacklisting taking place in the European Parliament next week. Now would be a great time to contact your MEP and apply some pressure to make sure they participate in the debate and vote the right way.

2. European Court of Human Rights
UCATT is taking the case of Terry Brough from Liverpool to the ECHR - John Hendy is representing.
We expect the paperwork to be submitted within the next few days

3. TUC Fringe meeting

TUC Fringe Meeting
13th September 2011 - 6.30pm to 830pm
Room 2B
University of London Union (ULU)
Malet Street,

Speakers from:
  • Blacklist Support Group - representing workers blacklisted by multi-national building firms for their trade union activities
  • UNITE Construction rank & file - electricians campaign against the 35% pay cut proposed by major employers
  • Justice for Shrewsbury Pickets - campaign for judicial review into the imprisonment of Des Warren & Ricky Tomlinson in 1973
  • London Hazards Centre - there has been a spate of serious accidents on major projects in the last few days

Film: BLACKLISTED - by Reel News.

4. Campaigning
Fighting against the Blacklist has been a central demand of all the electricians rank and file action over the past few weeks. 8 major electrical contractors (most of them also part of the Consulting Association blacklist conspiracy) are pulling out of the J.I.B. national agreement. The propose to deskill electrical work and cut electricians pay by 35%. Blacklisted workers have spoken at every meeting, demonstration and protest - taking the message to the building sites.

5. Recent Press coverage:
These might come in handy if you're contacting your MEP etc:

Steve Acheson on BBC

Smith v Carillion in Daily Mirror

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Organised Vengence Called Justice?

On Wednesday the Guardian reported that 'Magistrates and crown court judges could be asked to dock benefits from convicted criminals under preliminary proposals being drawn up by the government in response to the riots ...'

Under these proposals anyone convicted of a crime could be punished by a magistrates court and then by the benefit office. In a hectic attempt to meet an October deadline, Whitehall is rushing through plans to publish its post-riot response: such as withdrawal of child maintenance or child benefit from parents who let their children truant, or repeatably let them stay out on the streets late at night. Some councils already have plans to evict families of convicted rioters from social housing and other court action and ideas such as parenting orders and care proceedings are now in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, a Northern Voices' contact in Bristol reports:
'I have just started voluntary work at The Methodist Centre which is a Drop-In Centre for homelessness people' and last Sunday 'I witnessed a blatant incident of Police Harassment ... I went to a small community festival in a Park. About a dozen stalls including Palestine Solidarity, Energy Awareness, Craft stalls etc. A band was playing Irish music on a small stage. A homeless guy of about 35 & his dog sat on the grass near the centre of the stage.He was doing nothing wrong but he had a can of drink in his hand. Four Police Officers (three hefty males & one female) took him behind a Food Stall - nearly out of sight. They stop-searched him. He kept his cool. I watched to see the Police behaved themselves. The Police seemed to have finished with him and I spoke to him. He was not drunk just fed up with being picked on. The three police then came over and served him a 12 hour exclusion notice to keep him out of the park. Very heavy handed tactics. I tried to keep him calm as they were on the edge of arresting him. One also provoked him with a few comments. He had to leave the park in the end.'
Bristol was caught up in the riots last month but certain areas have had a history of local riots for some time, particularly last May with the campaign against a branch of TESCOs in one district. In that case the riot was provoked after police intervention in a squat. Our reporter says:
'What I think is happening is the police are singling out people they think may have been involved in the recent rioting' and he concludes, 'at these small festivals you only usually get the soft cops - the PCSO's ... the three large police officers at this event were bullyboys looking for trouble.'
There are unique localised aspects to the recent riots that don't fit any single-factor explanation. The riots received some scrutiny this week in the Guardian: 'Different kinds of disorder erupted in different towns towns and cities - Birmingham, Manchester, Wolverhampton, even Gloucester ... [i]n each, we will doubtlessly find, the dynamic was different.' Yet, in Tottenham, where the riots started on Saturday the 6th, August, there was a clear pattern to the events beginning with what seemed like a sloppy response by the local police

Likewise, Northern Voices' correspondent in Bristol also suggests some over-reaction and provocation by the police now:
'I think individuals are at risk at present following the riots if they show any signs of dissent. What I saw on Sunday was intimidation tactics. The event was Mina Road Park Community Festival, St Werburghs, Bristol and was meant to bring the community together!!! Drinkers use that same park every day of the week without causing problems because its very near a privately owned hostel and its their back garden in effect. Apart from which St Werburghs is a very tolerant area and I am sure the community copes very well with those members unfortunate enough to suffer from homelessness & alcoholism.'
In Tottenham, local 'socialist historian' and convenor of Tottenham Trades' Council, Keith Flett, who witnessed the start of the riots there, told the Guardian: 'we struggle to know why these things turn into riots ... to can put the same elements together and 99 times out of 100 it won't happen' but 'then something happens ... and that proves to be a spark.' Now, the Guardian and the London School of Economics is preparing to do a study of this, the most serious bout of civil unrest in a generation entitled 'Reading the Riots'.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bury Binmen & New Technology

'Binmen get iPads to save on paper' (see headline in the METRO 30th, August 2011)

BURY Town Council has had a history of dedication to new technology. In 2006, it used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to allow it to send a security officer to film a team of three binmen emptying some trade waste in the district of Whitefield: this was done using a hand-held camcorder in an unmarked council vehicle. The plan was to prove the binmen were taking bribes to empty the waste of an Asian shopkeeper and they were accused of 'using a council vehicle for pecuniary gain' and the three binmen were sacked. They had been accused of accepting a bribe - a bottle of Strawberry Volvic water. But the case never went to the Employment Tribunal because Bury MBC, in an out-of-Court settlement, paid compensation to the binmen days before the case was to be heard. It was estimated that the case cost Bury Council about £100,000 in legal fees and the money paid to the binmen in final settlement of the matter.

Later, Northern Voices was approached by the security guard who had filmed the binmen. It seems that he was disappointed that the case had not been processed through the police and the courts but he was more concerned that Bury MBC had used audio recording gear in one on Bury Council's own vehicles to record some of Bury MBC's security guards going about their business. It seems it was being used to prove that security guards on the night shift were not conducting themselves properly and had accepted unofficial brews in some care home. This security guard was a member of Unison and it is rumoured that he was later made 'redundant' and got a similar settlement to the three binmen who he had been involved in monitoring using the hand-held camcorder. No doubt Bury MBC insisted on a gagging clause.

One wonders how much Bury MBC's addiction to new technology has cost it thus far?

It must come as no surprise to the Tax Payers' Alliance and the troubled citizens of Bury, that last week Bury Council announced that they were going to buy iPads for their binmen to 'save on paperwork'. This will be costing about £9,000. Glenn Stuart, head of waste management at Bury MBC, has said: 'The scheme is replacing paperwork which can get lost in cabs or get wet.' Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: 'It beggars belief that a council making huge savings can find this money to splash out on iPads. Residents want bin services that are reliable and efficient, not council staff monitoring what they're throwing out.'

Meanwhile, Bury MBC is proposing to cut back on its waste collection service by going from weekly collections to fortnightly and moving some of its binmen to street cleansing.

Press release from Blacklist Support Group:

The fight is gaining momentum and we are hearing that the employers and their clients are beginning to get a ‘little edgy’, Keep on keeping on, in solidarity....................Jerry Hicks.

Veteran of the Labour movement Tony Benn addressed over 150 electricians in Stratford East London today 31 August 2011. Benn spoke to the electricians who were demonstrating against the move by a breakaway group of electrical contractors who want to set up an alternative negotiating body which may undermine the preferred terms of the Joint Industry Board, the current national negotiations body. Many of the breakaway electrical contractors are the same ones who are prominent in Blacklisting workers, Balfour Beatty, Crown House Technologies, N G Bailey and SPIE (Matthew Hall). However this is not deterring the demonstrators.

Electricians angry at the move to deskill their trade & undermine their bargaining position have hit back. The sparks in London have decided on a series of demonstrations outside major high profile sites in the hope of building momentum and support from other workers.

Speaking to the workers Benn told them that the essence of trade unionism was joining to together to become stronger using an analogy of a child stuck in a well who asks his rescuers to join their ropes together to get him from the bottom of the well.

Other speakers included Michael Dooley who is a candidate in the current UCATT General Secretary election, Steve Headley from the RMT and other supporters.

Alan Keys a spokesperson for the sparks said “this is a fight we will need to win if we want to maintain our bargaining position. We only hope that our union UNITE will move quickly in support of the sparks, but we will proceed with our plans and future activities”.

The next demonstration will be outside of the tallest tower being built in Europe,

Wednesday the 7th September 2011 at the Shard in London Bridge, from 6.30 a.m.

There are also plans for simultaneous demos in other parts of the country.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

D'Ya Wanna Be In My Gang? Erm, No Thanks!

It’s been suggested elsewhere on the blog that the ‘organisers of discontent’ are no longer charismatic militants - maybe so. Perhaps there’s also a grain of truth in the comment that the ‘deeply conservative and reactionary’ responses to the recent riots are ‘rooted in the culture, history and politics of this country’.

However, in putting forward the case for militancy, Bammy seems to have forgotten a point he himself made a while ago when commenting on the NUM, i.e. that militancy is not necessarily radical in its intent, often seeking to protect very narrow interests. Indeed, history can offer us many examples of militancy that is itself conservative in its aims or, at least, seeks to establish a state of affairs where conservatism will inevitably prevail.

A good example would be the case of the Suffragettes led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel, who are widely offered up as the militant faction of the female emancipation movement and thus too readily associated with universal female liberation. Scratch even a little beneath the surface, however, and you find that their militancy in smashing windows, etc was largely undertaken to achieve a property-based vote for their comfortably middle-class sorority. In fact, after a remarkably brief time spent with working class women in Manchester, Christabel Pankhurst branded them ‘too handicapped by poverty and lacking in prestige to be of any practical use’.

But let’s not pretend that this ‘conservative militancy’ was a middle-class affliction. In the period of jingoistic hysteria around the time of WWI (when, incidentally, Mrs Pankhurst abandoned the ‘votes for women’ campaign to support the war effort), the syndicalist Wilf McCartney said of his fellow workers:
‘Realising that this war had given workers better conditions for a short while (and saved capitalism) the workers would not tolerate anybody opposing the war or asking for peace. Harmless German shopkeepers had their shops wrecked, their goods thrown into the street, their homes ruined, and endured personal injury, all in the cause of smashing Prussian militarism. For the first time in my life I was ashamed of my class.’
Of course, it could be argued here that in the wider class struggle it was not the nationality of the ‘harmless Germans’ that was relevant, rather the fact that they were shopkeepers, but that was not the reason they were targeted, nor was that the case in Britain’s cities a few weeks ago. Later, during WWII, a dachshund was stoned to death by a mob because it was German, even though there was no evidence that it held petit-bourgeois aspirations of any kind!

Today, it’s more than depressing that so many young people are so desperate to ‘belong’ that the vacuous culture of celebrity and consumerism holds so much sway over them, more so that they will fight and/or kill one another to forge an identity - whether as part of street gangs or in the better equipped military gangs that, for some reason, are deemed more socially acceptable, even admirable. When we then have to listen to Cameron et al telling us about ‘broken Britain’ whilst unleashing what is by far the country’s biggest (and most corrupt) organised gang to restore order, the situation is even more grim.

But what have working class youths supposed ‘homeboys’ in the trade union gang done to make young people, or anyone for that matter, think that there’s something more to life than being trodden under foot? Yes, they’ve sometimes been militant but rarely radical and their aims are usually specific to their own narrow world view. Ultimately, they’ve achieved the right to work all their lives but feel good about doing it because they might have secured a few extra crumbs from the master’s table. The Daily Mail reader is certainly ripe for contempt with their whining about the ‘nanny state’ whilst expecting the government to defend everything that their spurious middle class morality holds dear but perhaps they are also too easy a target here. Personally, I’m equally worried by those who see cradle-to-grave wage slaving as a badge of honour and look on those who reject this with contempt. These people might have the ability to be militant when their own situation is threatened but most don’t actually want to change things in any truly radical way.

Mainstream historians certainly have a penchant for airbrushing out genuine radicals but let’s not be too quick to convince ourselves that the left’s pantheon is therefore populated by those excluded elsewhere. Charismatic militants may make the headlines and, in the wake of the rise of ‘social history’, university textbooks, but they don’t necessarily represent a radical world view, in fact, they generally seek to uphold authoritarian and hierarchical social structures but with themselves in charge. If you want a strategy and agenda that offers real alternatives, it has to be one that acknowledges this, as well as also offering something more contemporary and familiar by way of example than the Lord of Misrule, or, dare I say it, the Spanish Civil War.

Given the current circumstances, this will undoubtedly be a ‘hard sell’ but it’s not like the ‘charismatic militant’ line is being eagerly consumed (or even looted) either.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Blacklisted builder wins round one in his fight against Carrillion!

(From the Blacklist Blog). Last week, Dave Smith (46), a building and construction worker from Goldhanger, Essex, appeared before the Central London Employment Tribunal in a legal case he has brought against the construction company Carillion for 'detriment'. He is one of 3,200 construction workers who were on a secret blacklist operated by the 'Consulting Association' on behalf of 44 construction firms including Carrillion.

Mr. Smith (pictured), who is claiming £175,000 in lost wages, says that he was put on the blacklist because of his trade union safety campaigning. The following report of the Tribunal hearing, has been taken from the 'Blacklist blog' set up by the campaigners.

"Former site worker Dave Smith has won the latest stage of his legal battle against construction multinational Carillion.

Mr Smith told a Central London Employment Tribunal this week he was victimised by the construction giant after becoming a trade union safety rep during the 1990s. Papers submitted to the employment tribunal present evidence that senior managers from Carillion supplied information about Mr Smith to a secret blacklist run by an organisation called the Consulting Association on behalf of 44 major firms in the UK building industry.

The information on his blacklist file, which included over 3,000 workers, was then illegally shared amongst the subscribing firms in order to prevent union activists gaining work on major construction projects.

Carillion argued that the blacklisting claim against them should be struck out by the court because it was out of time as the events happened in 1998-2000 and that it had “no reasonable prospect of success.”

But on 31 August, Employment Judge Pearl found in favour of Mr Smith on both legal issues, with Carillion withdrawing most of their case as the hearing progressed.

Dave Smith is not arguing unfair dismissal or “failure to appoint” but “detriment” as a result of the company placing information his trade union and safety activities about him onto a blacklist file. Being on the blacklist caused him prolonged periods of unemployment before he was finally forced to leave the industry and retrain as a further education teacher.

David Clancy from the Information Commissioner’s Office – who uncovered the blacklist after a raid in 2009 – gave evidence in court and said that the people carrying out the blacklisting were very senior industrial relations or human resources managers, often at director level.

Commenting after the hearing, Mr Smith said: “Carillion have been caught red handed: the evidence against them is damning. Senior managers from the Carillion Group participated in secret and systematic abuse of human rights for decades. But to date, we have not heard a single word of apology.

“Until such time that the multinational blacklisting firms show some kind of corporate responsibility, we will continue to chase them through the courts: all the way to Strasbourg if necessary.”

Dave Smith was represented by counsel David Renton and solicitor Declan Owens from the Free Representation Unit.

The decision means that a Full Merits Employment Tribunal is now set forJanuary 2012."