Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Bury Unite's Ethical Stand

Struggling Against Surveillance & Blacklisting

FROM about 2005, the Bury Unite Commercial Branch became involved in a dispute with Bury Council when the T&G shop-steward at Bradley Fold Waste Disposal Depot, Joe Cleary, was sacked on the pretext of accepting a bribe for the removal of some trade waste:  Bury Council at that time, used a security officer to use a hand-held cam-corder to film a working team of Bury bin-men under the RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act).  The bribe which the sacked bin-men team were alleged to have accepted from an Asian shopkeeper was a bottle of Strawberry Volvic. 

In the end Bury MBC spent a large sum on legal costs fighting to dismiss the men and finally ended-up settling by paying a five-figure sum to Mr. Cleary.  The Bury branch of what is now Unite backed Joe Cleary throughout his fight with the Council, as did the Unite union officer Kathy Rutherford. 

I well remember talking to Kevin Coyne, the then North West regional officer of what is now Unite, and he encouraged me to continue our branch's struggle against surveillance.  He did say something of interest at the time when I told him that Bury Council was under Conservative control, he said 'Oh, that's good for us!' as it doesn't reflect badly on the Labour Party. 

Does party politics influence trade union activism at the top?  Are full time trade union functionaries less likely to oppose if a local Council is ruled by a Labour majority? 

Whatever the case this predilection for party politics didn't impact upon the moral integrity and ethics of the Bury Unite Branch.  After a militant shop steward such as Joe Cleary was dismissed using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, the Bury Unite branch put in a series of Freedom of Information requests to Bury MBC and critical reports followed in the Bury Times written by the journalist Dave Thomson, and another report in the Mail on Sunday.  Because of all the bad publicity arising from the Joe Cleary case it appears that Bury MBC is no longer using this type of crude covert surveillance.   

Because of this traumatic history of involvement in covert surveillance with Bury MBC, Bury Unite Commercial Branch has since taken to supporting the Manchester electricians in their own campaign against the covert surveillance with regard to the blacklist in the British building trade.   Bury Unite branch has done this through its affiliation to Tameside Trade Union Council.  Our latest involvement as a branch has been through the secretary's joint-authorship of the book 'Boys on the Blacklist',  and now the motion on ethical procurement presented to the North West Local Authority Regional Industrial Sector Committee (Risc) on the 5th,  March 2015.   

Unfortunately, for some reason that has yet to be fully explained, the North West Local Authority Risc, under the distinguished chairmanship of Sidney Graves and Deputy Chair Nick Parnell, failed to be able to move the motion.   An investigation into what happened has now been set-up by the North West Finance & General Purpose Committee. 

It seems that in the real world that ethics and politics are not very comfortable companions.

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