Friday, 19 November 2010

Unions Need to Show Members Respect

Many are unduly cynical about the trade union movement, jumping to the immediate assumption that unions are nothing more than a campaigning arm of the Labour party, yet there is so much more to the work of trade unions. Of course, the Labour party was born from the movement and that link should be understood and respected. Neither should we ignore the many policy principles that the trade unions have made part of our everyday lives, including several Plaid policies.

You would expect me to say all these things as the Secretary of the party's trade union section Undeb and an active trade unionist for over 20 years, yet there is a dark side. It has been seen in the last few months in Wales, when two Councils chose to serve notice on all their staff, as a crude and unjustified tool to put pressure on trade union negotiators during bargaining on cuts. These two Councils have two things in common: -

  • They are both Labour controlled
  • Neither has been publicly criticised by the trade unions (apart from the GMB branch in RCT)

If a Plaid Cymru controlled Council had taken this action, there would justifiably be wall to wall criticism from the union leaders and I would join in that criticism but for Labour-absolute silence. The unions themselves are indeed affiliated to Labour but this is an issue for the affiliated sections and not the unions as a whole, yet where is the differentiation between the two?

This appalling example of double standards has made me seriously question my future involvement in the trade union movement, as why should I support an organisation that not only acts partially, but appears not to even care about being seen doing so. There are individuals within the trade union movement who see their role as nothing more than a stooge for Labour, whatever the needs of their union members and until such time as the unions refuse to appoint such dinosaurs, their position will always be compromised.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

For Job Insurance, Join a Union

Yesterday's announcement about the proposed change to Legal Aid, was probably one of the best recruiting tools for the trade union movement in recent years. The decision to remove legal aid for almost all Employment Tribunal cases will yet again, drive home the importance of being in a trade union.

What is probably not known by many employees, is that employment law is actually stacked against the individual, even if your workplace has an active trade union. On top of this, there even scumbags out there who are employed at great expense, to advise employers on how to sack workers quickly and cheaply. Consequently, the free legal support that all legitimate trade unions offer is a vital service.

So if you thought that you could get away with not joining a union to save a few pounds, then think again after this Tory proposal. The unions may not be perfect, but they are the best job insurance money can buy!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Unions & a Yes Vote

At a packed Undeb fringe meeting at conference last Thursday, the issue of the role of the trade union movement and a yes vote was discussed. Cynog Dafis and myself looked at the likely scenarios and the requirements of the campaign and almost all in the room appeared to agree with two main arguments: -

  • The trade union movement is crucial in delivering a yes vote
  • They must be allowed to campaign away from any Tory 'yes' campaign
Of course, this was not a problem in 97, as there were about 3 Tories in Wales working for the yes vote, but not this time. Almost all their Assembly group support a yes vote as do several Welsh Tory MPs and they will be sharing platforms with other parties as part of a generic yes campaign. The fact that the unions would rather drink cyanide than work with the Tories is not necessarily a problem, as long as they campaign separately yet still communicate. There were several parallel campaigns in 97 and they largely worked in harmony.

The difficult part will be to motivate the trade unions into motivating their members and that has to be linked to the cuts. Even though a yes vote will not stop the cuts, it will allow new legislation without London interference and also enable a more progressive left wing agenda, at least if you vote Plaid anyway!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Which Labour Candidate has Your Vote?

vote for R.O.N.

On Wednesday of next week, the ballot papers for choosing the new Labour leader will commence their distribution across the UK and by the end of September, the new leader will be chosen. If you are reading this as someone who is not a Labour supporter then you may think that this has nothing to do with you, but think again! If you are a member of a trade union, you could well have a surprise in the post.

When you join a union that permits Labour party affiliation, there are usually two tick boxes on the form, one for a general campaigning fund and another for a Labour affiliated fund-the latter funding and supporting the Labour party. Ahhh you say, but I cannot possibly be affiliated as I did not tick the Labour box. Well guess again, because some unions (all probably do it) have the right in their rules to tick a box for you if you choose to tick neither.

Your union has the right to affiliate you to Labour without your knowledge or consent, using a proportion of your membership fee to fund them.

This will not show up on your payslip nor will they inform you in writing. The only sure way of knowing is when Labour has an internal election, when you get a ballot paper. This is one piece of trade union legislation that I have no problem at all with the ConDems changing, as can you imagine the fuss if Plaid pulled a stunt like this to fund themselves?

In terms of advising you who to vote for, well RON (re-open nominations) would get my vote every time when faced with a bunch of New Labourites, who between them managed to avoid any suggestion of progressive socialism during 13 years of Government.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Pride of Wales Get Nothing

The 86 former Friction Dynamics workers have finally given up any chance of compensation, after being wrongfully dismissed in the longest and one of the most bitter industrial disputes in the history of the Welsh trade union movement.

They were sacked at the Caernarfon factory in 2001 by the owner Craig Smith and despite winning a wrongful dismissal case in 2003, they have never received a penny of compensation from Smith-who now runs a firm back in his native USA. The TGWU members manned a picket line for an incredible 2 1/2 years and have used all avenues through their union (now UNITE) to take Smith to task, but to no avail.

The vindictive law that allowed their dismissal was based on the fact that a lawful industrial dispute was lawful after 7 weeks, but not after eight weeks. It was a grossly unfair law that New Labour did little to change other than extend it and Smith through his lawyers managed to dance around the current employment law to ensure that he avoided compensation payments, even when he lost the court case proving wrongful dismissal. Labour had 13 years to sort out some of the more odious anti-trade union/employee legislation that had built up over the decades; law that still leaves a far from level playing field for workers - but they did next to nothing.

Now, with a Tory/Lib Dem Government looking to tighten further the already tough legislation, how sickeningly hypocritical it is for the recently deposed Labour Ministers to claim a new zeal for workers rights.

Of course, the real losers here have been the 86 former TGWU members; workers who I was proud to support and march with during the dispute, along with all the local Plaid politicians who did all they could in the face of New Labour's disinterest in the proceedings. How ironic it is that UNITE, the very union that fought so hard for these members who were discarded by New Labour, are now Labour's biggest funder.

Monday, 19 July 2010

'Bullying' Labour council denounced by Unison

Plaid Cymru councillor Alun Llewelyn has today released an internal Unison document that denounces Labour councillors in Neath Port Talbot as bullies. The notice is a report from Unison’s UK-wide National Labour Link forum on July 2. In it the forum, which is responsible for the links between the Labour party and Unison, accuses the Labour-run council of bullying and calls on all Labour elected members to condemn the actions of Neath Port Talbot CBC.

Unison is one of the Labour party’s strongest supporters within the union movement and has donated over £1.75m to the Labour party since January 2009. The reason that the Labour-supporting faction within Unison is so irate is that Neath Port Talbot council has unilaterally decided to “dismiss over 7,000 employees and re-employ them on lower terms, conditions and wages as well as out sourcing 750 to 1,000 job with further cuts to come later.”

The motion is scathing in its criticism of the Labour-run council’s actions, saying:

 “This forum deplores such bullying tactics and calls on al Labour councillors, Labour members of Parliament, Welsh Labour AMs and Labour SMPs to condemn the action of Neath Prot Talbot CBC.”

Plaid Cymru’s Deputy Leader of the Opposition on Neath Port Talbot Council Alun Llewelyn condemned the way that the Labour council has acted:

“Because of the way that the Labour Party and Gordon Brown acted over the last 13 years there is a massive national debt and councils, like everyone else, are going to have to make cuts. I accept that difficult decisions are going to have to be made. But we should work together to make these decisions with politicians, unions and management cooperating to provide the best possible service and to keep redundancies down to a bare minimum.

“The Labour group in the council seems to take pride in the way they are taking on the Union. When the new budget first came to council Plaid proposed that all possible efforts be made to avoid compulsory redundancies. This was refused by the Labour group. Since then they have publicly threatened all staff with dismissal and reemployment on poorer terms and condition.
“I call on the council to come to its senses now and negotiate properly with the union. If they don’t there are serious risks that council staff morale will fall even further and that relations between staff and the council will be destroyed, that would be a disaster for the people of Neath Port Talbot.”

Here is the motion in full:

Friday 2nd July the following motion was passed by the National Labour Link Forum:

This Forum notes the situation at Neath Port Talbot County BC which is a Labour controlled council. As a result of the budget crisis, the Council has served notice on 25th June and received on the 28th June 2010 to UNISON and other Trade Unions that they intend unilaterally to dismiss over 7,000 employees and re-employ them on lower terms, conditions and wages as well as out sourcing 750 to 1,000 job with further cuts to come later.

This forum deplores such bullying tactics and calls on al Labour councillors, Labour members of Parliament, Welsh Labour AMs and Labour SMPs to condemn the action of Neath Prot Talbot CBC.
Further this Forum calls on all Labour councillors, particularly those who are also UNISON members to oppose similar future moves in all local authorities.
Please lobby your AMs MPs and councillors to deplore this terrible action.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Unions Struggle with Devolution

After 11 years of devolved Government in Wales, the trade union movement is I'm afraid falling well short of understanding what it's all about.

What has not been grasped by most unions is that as a result of having a Welsh Government, their Welsh members need and deserve additional recourses in order to have an effective voice in the Senedd. Some unions (particularly the teaching unions) have responded in a more constructive manner and in doing so, are having a lot of success in influencing policy. However, let's look at the 3 big unions to see what difference they have made.


The GMB do not even recognise Wales as a 'region', yet alone a nation-they put Wales in with South West England and call in the 'South West Region'. Their approach to consultation with the Assembly is to talk to the Labour group and no-one else, whoever is in power. Many of their members work in the public sector where most areas are devolved. Consequently, many issues relating to SW England are irrelevant to Wales. Their commitment to the Welsh language is errrrrrrrr.


In fairness to Unite, they do have a 'Wales Region' and a more recognised Welsh structure. As the largest union in the UK, they should be the most influential in Cardiff Bay but again, they appear to believe that just consulting the Labour group is sufficient. Their commitment to the Welsh language is errrrrrrrr.


Unison has the biggest set-up as a 'Welsh region' and does actually lobby beyond the Labour Assembly group, although not with any consistency. They are again in a position of significant influence as the largest public sector union in Wales, but are still to significantly tap into this potential. Their commitment to the Welsh language is improving and they are the only non-teaching union to consistently support the Eisteddfod and produce bilingual literature. However, as with all UK unions, they do not see it as an equality issue and so bilingual services to members do not really exist.

These three unions make up the vast majority of the Welsh trade union membership and so their attitude to devolution matters. It is very worrying that at a time when we face a ConDem British Government determined to shrink the size of the state, that a devolved Government prepared to stand up for the public sector has to work with trade unions who have yet to grasp their true potential in a devolved Wales. After 11 years of opportunities to change, there are no excuses for the mail trade unions to be so sceptical about having a stronger Welsh voice.

North Wales Against Cuts campaign launched

In anticipation of the ConDem cuts being imposed on the public services, a new campaign has been launched by trade unionists and community campaigners in the north.

North Wales Against Cuts looks to unite everyone - whether public sector workers or those who use those public services - against the cutbacks that Cameron and Clegg are promising to deliver for Wales.

They have already produced a tabloid-style news-sheet with hard-hitting arguments as well as planning a large public meeting on September 27 in Wrecsam's Lager Club. Leanne Wood AM has already confirmed her attendance and we're awaiting confirmation from Mark Serwotka of the PCS and Bob Crow (RMT). Local campaigners will also be speaking.

Join their Facebook group and keep in touch with the campaign.

Here's some of their mission statement:

You may be employed in local government, healthcare, emergency services, or one of the many hundreds of jobs covered by term 'public sector'. You may be unemployed and on benefits; self employed; in receipt of state pension or facing redundancy. No one is safe and everyone will be affected if public sector jobs are cut. Private contractors rely on the public sector for work. 
We all hate paying taxes but it is our weekly or monthly contributions that provide those services we all need. Schools for our children; healthcare; care for our parents and grandparents; police, fire and rescue services; local council services etc. Public sector workers are employed to provide all these services and more. 
They live and work in our communities, contribute to the local economy and face the same problems as their neighbours. We are all victims of the economic crisis and will suffer equally if these cuts are allowed to go ahead. It is not a matter of well-paid civil servants or local government officers raking in cash while everyone else pays the price. 
The only people in this position are those high up in Whitehall and their friends in the banks who have repeatedly used and abused the ordinary man or woman in the street. They have taken us for fools and we are paying for the privilege by losing our jobs, our houses and our self respect. 
We say enough is enough. In this country we have £123 billion of uncollected tax through tax avoidance or tax evasion by the rich and super rich (including those in the Cabinet). It is economic suicide to reduce the number of people responsible for collecting these outstanding taxes. 
Those of us who have lost our jobs will face long delays before we receive benefits if there aren't enough staff in the Benefit Offices to process the claims or enough money in the budget to pay them. 
If you are able to look beyond the lies of the ConDem government (and remember that Labour also wanted to make drastic cuts) and want to do something to save our public services then please join North Wales Against Cuts. 

The budget showed the ConDem Government’s plans to deal with the recession the banks and big business caused, by attacking ordinary working-class people. The cuts announced will devastate public services, with 60,000 jobs to go in Wales alone. This will affect us all as people are thrown out of work, have no money to spend, affecting demand and therefore putting private sector workers in manufacturing and shops out of work. 
Pay freezes, cuts in benefits and an increase in VAT means all workers are worse off. Some extremists will blame immigration, it isn’t immigrants that are doing in this but the usual suspects - bosses, bankers and MPs. Let’s put the blame squarely where it belongs. We have more in common with a Polish worker than we do with multi-millionaire public schoolboy David Cameron. 
These cuts doesn’t affect the millionaire toffs in Parliament: THEY evade tax (which we have to pay) THEY claim fraudulent expenses and get away with it, pay themselves massive bonuses , their greed knows no bounds… Now THEY want US to pay for it all. 
We say enough is enough, time to resist and fight back. We need a massive demonstration soon of all union members, community groups, all who are hit by the cuts. We need strike action to protect our pay and conditions, local action to defend communities. 
What can you do? 
• Join a fighting campaigning union 
• Get active in a community group against local cuts 
• Set up an unemployed workers’ group 
• Make your AM and MP know how you feel, make them uncomfortable 
• Same with your boss - strike, go slow, work to rule. 
We have to unite and fight, history shows that we win when we stick together as a class. This shower in London is a coalition of millionaires and hangers-on, it is vulnerable and can be defeated. 

Don’t make the victims pay for this economic crisis 
If you were burgled, how would you feel about having to pay the thief? That’s what’s happening to ordinary people after the bankers robbed us blind in their money-making spree of the last decade. We’ve had to bail them out and now we’re expected to pay with pay freezes, tax rises, cuts in services and job losses. That’s not on! 
North Wales Against Cuts is an independent group of trade unionists and campaigners that want to unite everyone locally against the coming cuts. Get in touch: or 07747 792 441 or join our Facebook group NORTH WALES AGAINST CUTS. 

Come to our public meeting

All welcome: 
Monday, September 27 @ 7.30pm 
Wrexham Lager Social Club 

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Why are Wales NUM Members Missing Out?

There is a current legal case being fought for 'Miner's Knee', effectively Osteoarthritis brought on by the necessary methods of work required for the job. Every other NUM area within England and Scotland are supporting their members in their legal claims, but not Wales who claim that they cannot afford it.

Legal challenges are indeed very expensive but why are the North and South Wales NUM areas singularly incapable of representing their members? Why is their financial position so much worse than the other areas?

This is a very important claim and at least 1000 retired NUM members want to claim in Wales, but will not be able to because their union will not back them. There better be a very good reason for this decision, as these former miners deserve every opportunity to get compensation.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Have You Ever Been on Strike?

ConDems - an anti-union alliance?

As predicted by Plaid weeks ago, The new ConDem coalition is looking to tighten the already tightest trade union legislation in any Western democracy, in order to push through their devastating public sector cuts with greater ease. The CBI (Conservative Brothers Inc.) have called for the Government to act, in a not so subtle media build-up coordinated by their Tory friends. They are painting a picture that all of the UK is about to go on strike like in the 1970's.

As you read this blog, can I ask you two questions: -

Are you in a trade union? (If you are in the public sector, I would join fast, if I were you)
Have you ever been on strike?

I for one have always been in a union and am a senior branch officer in Unison. I am also a member of a branch that is prepared to take industrial action, if all other options have been exhausted. Contrary to what the Tories/CBI think, going on strike is extremely rare, very difficult to do within the current laws, does not make you Mr Popular with your employer and costs you serious money. So in almost all circumstances, people who take lawful strike action do so in desperation and not as part of some political game.

How ironic it is that at a time when the ConDems talk about peeling back laws that have infringed civil liberties, they are at the same time pondering new laws that will effectively make it almost impossible to take industrial action, in the very nations where the trade union movement was created in the first place.

Mr Clegg. Such draconian actions do not sound very Liberal to me.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Protect Frontline Services? Who are You Kidding?

There appears to be some assumption within ConDem Government circles, that massive and very sudden cuts can be made to the public sector without having a detrimental effect on 'frontline' services. Isn't it scary when politicians are either woefully out of touch or are blatantly lying to you?

The cuts we face in Wales will decimate all non-statutory services within Local Government, so maybe they mean these areas of spending? These include parts of Adult Services, Leisure Centres, Transportation Services, Parks and a multitude of others. Maybe, they also mean reducing spend on Children's Services, Education and Housing, all through 'efficiency savings' with no effect on standards.

Mr Cameron also talks of protection to the NHS but how can Wales manage this with massive reductions in the block grant and one third of the WAG budget going on Health? Today, a WLGA sponsored report has started to expose the realities of cuts and how they will affect every single one of us, on an increasing level the lower down you are on the economic indexes. Yet still, the British Government thinks that Trident is a good deal and that we can afford not to tax the super rich, as they will leave our shores for cheaper tax havens.

I will be particularly interested in seeing which MPs vote to slash public sector pensions, when they have voted themselves one of the best pension deals in Western Europe. I can only describe the current situation in Welsh Councils as 'battening down the hatches' and waiting for the storm to hit. The Con Dems know that the cuts will cause a double dip recession but they don't care. These cuts are no longer just about saving the economy but about using this opportunity to dismantle as many public services as they can, knowing that any future Government is unlikely to have backing from an English electorate to re-build them.

You get what you vote for.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Vote BNP? .... Think Again

Below is a link to a video taken of the BNP's top official and candidate in London kicking an opponent in the head, as he lies on the ground. This was filmed a matter of hours ago.


Is this the sort of party you want to have representing you in Westminster? The BNP are racist, they are fascist and they are thugs.

However you vote, please choose hope and not hate today.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Trade Unionists - What's Your Poison?

Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers will be asked to choose which poison they would prefer to consume, as a consequence of corrupt and greedy bankers. None of the options are particularly appetising for them, which may explain the huge number of undecided voters still to be found on all the party's canvassing records.

Labour are once again playing the 'Tories are Evil' card which was not working before the UK leader's debacle and is not working now. This explains Hain's desperate plea for his core support to vote Lib Dem, where it is the only way to beat the 'evil' Tories. This has infuriated Labour activists and goes some way to explaining why Hain was so unpopular in the deputy leader election. They don't like him very much. Fancy calling for your members to take an action that would actually lead to you being expelled from your party?

I am not going to claim that Plaid can stop the cuts in Wales, but I will claim that if we get the chance in a balanced Parliament to raise our baseline of funding by £300 million-then we will lessen the pain of the cuts. We are the only party to support fair funding for Wales and our first and only priority will be essential public services. Now if Labour were the friend of the public sector unions, why can't they match this promise?

Tomorrow's election will commence an attack on the most vunerable people in Wales; led by a London political elite who have left the very richest largely untouched by tax rises. Plaid's roll will be to do all it can to defend these people and the more MPs we get, the more we can do. You can't say that you weren't warned.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Brown Double-Speak on Public Sector Pensions & Services

At a rally of a Nursing Union in England today, Gordon Brown promised to protect the pension rights of nurses. This gained spontaneous applause from the members gathered in the hall. However, have a look at what he was promising, which was actually protection for exisitng nurses. Any new nurses joining the profession get an inferior pension, compliments of Gordon Brown.

In fact, all three main UK parties intend to go after the public sector pensions in order to save cash, with some of the harshest words coming from 'radical' the Lib Dems. With all three main parties also promising a level of protection to the NHS, guess who is really going to get it in the neck?

Local Government is in for an absolute kicking, starting the next financial year and with a further level of protection being given to Education, huge swathes of Council Services could well no longer exist in 2 or 3 years time. The main parties are quite happy to talk about immigration, Afganistan, tax and anything else that diverts them from the cuts agenda they are desperate not to debate.

It's a shame that the public sector unions do not have the bottle to expose Labour and Brown, for their double-speak and shocking hypocrisy.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Look Out Unions. Here Comes Clegg

After the recent UK/English election debate on ITV, you may be under the false impression that the Liberal Democrats are the sort of progressive party that would open their arms to modern trade unions.

Guess again.

When the Unite dispute was on at its height with British Airways and reports came to light of trade union stewards being openly intimidated by BA managers, did the Lib Dems jump to the workers defence? Oh , no. They were too busy calling for an investigation into Gordon Brown's treatment of his staff. How principled.

Guess who wants to slash Local Government pensions as part of their public sector cuts, accepting without question the inaccurate Tory press version of the current state of the public sector pension schemes?

Guess which Wannabe Chancellor said in the recent ' Chancellor debate' that trade unions should be banned from taking industrial action in 'essential services', leaving open the definition of such areas of work? Thanks for that Vince.

When you attempt to be all things to all people, it's inevitable that sometimes you come unstuck.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

May 6th - A Day of Destiny for the Unions?

This election campaign will involve the trade union movement like never before - and all for negative reasons. The Tories will do all they can to paint the current situation as the 1970's re-visited and are already lining up more anti-trade union legislation if they get in. Labour are relying like never before on the main unions to get their core vote out. I anticipate receiving a lot from my union over the coming weeks, even though I am not affiliated (as far as I know!). Unison's policy priorities match Plaid's far more than Labour's, but then they invariably do. Far be it for me to suggest that party politics are getting in the way of members' interests. The Lib Dems will sail very close to the Tory line on unions, as their focus groups are screaming at them to keep to the right-where their leader Clegg feels more comfortable.

The public sector unions have most to lose after May 6th, with all parties threatening cuts and job losses. Even the Lib Dems 'Shadow Shadow' Chancellor Vince Cable has threatened to ban unions from striking in 'essential service areas'. He declined to define what he meant by these. The main threat though is from the Tories. The UK already has the most tightly controlled trade unions in any Western democracy, yet Cameron and co. intend to tighten things further. Did you know that the US has far less stringent trade union legislation that the UK?

All in all, it is not going to be good for unions, whatever the result. Plaid will use its additional seats in a likely hung Parliament to fight for fair funding; giving some level of protection to core public services. It may not sound a lot, but it's a lot more than the British parties are offering Wales.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Plaid AM backs Visteon pension demo

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins is urging support for a demonstration in support of Visteon workers robbed of their pensions:
"These men and women worked for sometimes up to 40 years for their pensions, having believed Ford's promises that their entitlements would be mirrored when Visteon was spun out of its parent company. Now it looks as thought the pensioners will have take Ford to court to get their money. "Ford may argue that it has no obligation towards its former workers but, at the very least, it has a moral obligation, and its executives should be ashamed that they are able to treat, hard-working, diligent employees in this way. "The pensioners must win this case. If they don't, it raises the spectre of other multi-nationals - many of whom have huge holes in their pension plans - dumping poorly performing divisions and staff entitlements on the UK taxpayer. It is a precedent, and it is in everybody's interest to support the Visteon pensioners."
Visteon, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, was spun out of Ford in 2000. By 2004, it employed 70,000 staff at over 200 sites in 27 countries around the world, including the UK, and turned over $18.7 billion in sales. In 2005, Visteon offloaded 17 unprofitable plants and six offices.
 In 2006, Visteon delisted from the New York Stock Exchange after its share price dropped to two cents. On March 31 this year, the company’s UK operation went into administration with debts of £669m. Some 560 staff at plants in Enfield, Belfast and Basildon were given less than an hour’s notice of the redundancies.
 Those workers then occupied their factories, claiming that they had been given guarantees on pay and conditions when Visteon separated from Ford. Several weeks of protest led to assurances from both Ford and Visteon that severance packages would be improved. However, shortly afterwards, the Visteon UK Pension Fund had entered the assessment period for the Pension Protection Fund.
 The PPF had been established by the Government following a long campaign involving Cardiff steel workers and Welsh politicians, after the collapse of Allied Steel and Wire in 2002 left those workers without pensions.
 However, the 3,000 ex-employees of Visteon UK – including 700 in Swansea and workers who have been paying into a Ford pension fund for up to 40 years - have since discovered that they may receive less than half of what they are owed if they are paid through the PPF.
 The Visteon Pension Action Group is now planning to take Ford to court, claiming it was promised safeguards for the fund when Visteon was spun off. It also argues that the PPF may well be unsustainable in the long run. The pensions regulator is also examining the group’s claims. The group is now planning to take Ford to court, after final talks with Ford in New York failed last month. It is now waiting to see whether the union will back its claim in court.
 A mass demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament takes place on 31 March 2010 - transport is going from Swansea.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Unite/Divide & Conquer

Official Picket & 'Evil' Trade Unionist (me), Armed with a Pram & Baby

When was a trade union dispute last such a hot election issue in a Britsh election? The current dispute between Unite and British Airways has really exposed the British parties, when it comes to their true attitudes towards the millions of trade unionists across the British State.

The Tories have perhaps been the most consistent, in fairness. Their absolute hatred for any trade union prepared to challenge an employer has come out loud and clear. Not since the Thatcher period have I seen Tory politicians saying exactly what they think about unions. Can you imagine what they will do to trade union law if they win power in May? They will go way beyond what Thatcher even dreamed of, using the Unite dispute to justify swingeing restrictions in unions' ability to take industrial action, just before unleashing the biggest public sector cuts in living memory. Please remember that the UK already has some of the most restrictive trade union laws in any western democracy-far tighter than even the US.

The Lib Dems have been true to form, desperately trying to take the middle ground and endeavouring to balance the conflict between their membership who want to steer away from the Tories and their focus groups who want the opposite. Such are the joys of being in an ideological free-zone, although there are elements of their party who are pointing in the right direction.

Labour are in a genuine mess and frankly, it is mostly of their own making. Unite have grown not from membership recruitment but union amalgamation. They have been thrown together as the ultimate mix of public sector, traditional private sector, new private sector and a miriad of smaller unions; all of whom have a different agenda relevant to their members. The sheer hypocrisy of taking the member's money with one hand while stabbing them in the back with the other is not something new, but the negative publicity is and that is what is hurting Labour.

I would say that activists such as myself are very much in the minority. Most members are not active within the union or take any active role in any political party. They join largely for a form of 'job insurance', understanding that a good union branch can give them effective representation and still work in partnership with a sensible employer.

This dispute has exposed the hypocrisy of Labour, the anti-union venom of the Tories and the ignorant drift of the Lib Dems when it comes to unions. Sadly, the movement itself is very unlikely to gain from the media frenzy surrounding this story-not that the British parties care. They want power and if it means walking over trade unions to get it, then what's the problem?

Monday, 8 March 2010

PCS pickets success

PCS pickets in Wrecsam reported great success outside the JobCentre, courts and the large HMRC tax office.
 They were joined by Plaid Cymru North Wales AM Janet Ryder (pictured above) and local Plaid councillors, who got a great reception not least because they brought pickets at the Grosvenor Road site bacon butties and mugs of coffee!
 Janet Ryder was also present when a senior tax office manager tried to throw her weight around by questioning the number of pickets. After trying to claim that only six were allowed per entrance by law, she was quickly corrected by pickets. Little did she realise that she was talking to an expert in labour law as well as the regional Assembly Member.
 There was also support from the fast-growing North Wales Shop Stewards Network, which has quickly established itself as a grassroots campaigning group of trade unionists. In the past few months they have shown solidarity with various pickets in Wrecsam including those by the RMT railworkers, CWU posties and UCU lecturers at Glyndwr as well as today's PCS pickets.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Plaid AM calls for PCS picket line to be respected

Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood has urged fellow Welsh Assembly staff and Assembly Members not to cross the Public and Commercial Services union picket line planned for next week.

The South Wales Central AM, who chairs the PCS cross party group in the Assembly, also urged the First Minister to make strong representations to the Westminster Government in order to avert strike action by the PCS Union next week.

Up to 20,000 Welsh civil and public servants are expected to withdraw their labour on Monday and Tuesday in defence of their redundancy rights. The PCS Union is calling for the UK Government to return to the negotiating table and involve ACAS in an attempt to agree a resolution to the dispute.

In questions to the First Minister today, Leanne Wood AM said:
“When I put a question to you on the PCS strike last month you correctly stated that it was not a devolved matter. 
“Now in the light of the fact that staff employed by the Welsh Assembly Government and the Assembly Commission are affected by this dispute and that plenary next Tuesday could end up being cancelled, this is an issue that calls for strong representation from Wales. 
“What measures or representations can you make to urge the Westminster Government to involve ACAS and to get around the negotiating table with the union in order to agree an acceptable resolution to this impasse?” 

Leanne has also called for next Tuesday’s plenary session to be cancelled in solidarity and support with hard working staff who she said provide an “excellent service” to AMs and the Government. She has urged AMs to join PCS members on the picket lines and rallies.

Leanne is also submitting a draft statement of opinion, asking the Assembly to recognise the essential work done by civil servants, expressing deep concern at proposed changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme and support for PCS union members taking industrial action in defence of their redundancy rights.

25 Years Ago

On this day 25 years ago the miner's strike officially ended, followed by the swift closure of most of the remaining pits in Wales. As my uncle had worked down Tower, I was with my brothers the first generation on my mother's side not to go down the pit. As a teenager, I had followed the 12 month dispute with great interest although my life was far removed from the mining valleys of the south that my ancestors had grafted in. Growing up in Swansea, the only evidence of the strike were the collections in town or coverage of the blockade in Port Talbot steel works, where my dad had worked.

I remember clearly one day my mam coming back from shopping announcing that she had given a donation to the miners collecting in town, clarifying what she had told them, 'this is for your families and not for Scargill. She despised him as much as she despised Thatcher for what he did to the miners and I shared her opinions. Scargill refused to start the strike when Lewis Merthyr was closed in Wales, as he wanted to start with a Yorkshire pit. Of course, Thatcher and British Coal knew this and closed a Yorkshire mine when there were more than enough coal reserves to win an industrial war of attrition, also ensuring that the strike would be over one and not two winters. From day one of the dispute, the fate of the miners was sealed and as proud as I was that the only major coalfield to stay solid in the strike was South Wales, what was really gained by their loyalty to the union? The South Wales coal mining communities have suffered more than any other in the UK since the pits closed.

Some argue that one of the results of the strike was a realisation that Wales needed its own voice to stand up for itself, leading to a growth in demand for devolution. I would certainly accept that the despair at continual Tory London Governments foisted on an unwilling Wales did much to turn around the result of 1979, but what a price to pay. I went down Taff Merthyr on a working day once, rode a coal conveyor, worked a coal cutter and was spooked at by a couple of pitmen working above me in the pitch black as we walked towards the face. Two of the pitmen were killed 3 days later, when they took their safety lines off to reach for tools, slipped and fell down the half mile shaft. I'm proud of my mining heritage, but glad that I never had to work down a mine. 

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Labour v Tories & Cuts. The Difference Is?

As far as I can see, the only difference between the Tories and Labour in terms of cuts to the public sector, is that the Tories will start earlier. The savage nature of the cuts appear to be similar-it's just about the timing.

Both intend to keep Trident
Both are letting off the banks without too much interference (no change there then)
Both intend to savage the Civil Service
Both intend to savage Local Government
Both are refusing to give Wales a fair funding formula
Both intend to stay in Afghanistan for years
Both intend to remain over-reliant on the financial sector for economic growth
Both refuse to sign up to employment legislation currently protecting all other EU states
Both are wriggling out of rail investment in Wales; either electrification or rolling stock

It is very convenient for Labour to paint the Tories as the bogeymen, as it diverts attention away from their own cuts agenda. There are debts to be paid and no-one questions that in the global market we live in. However, do they really need to be paid off so fast and why are so many billions wasted in tax avoidance and on pointless 'offence' systems like Trident?

As with our family budgets, shouldn't they be cutting the luxuries before the basic needs?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Unite Members Threatened by BA

There are widespread reports of Unite trade union members being intimidated by management in British Airways. This has been one of the main factors in creating such staunch support for industrial action against one of the UK's most high profile companies.

Yet, in a week when this dreadful behaviour has been highlighted, the Tories and Lib Dems have instead concentrated on the percieved behaviour of a senior public servant based in London (Downing Street). I am not for a moment condoning any behaviour appearing to be bullying and harrassment, but surely if these parties are serious about bullying in the workplace, then they would also highlight what is going on in British Airways?

To be so inconsistent, does not exactly help their cause when claiming the moral high ground with the public servant in Question. In fact, the handling by the British parties of this whole shoddy affair has done nothing to highlight the problem of workplace bullying and everything to further demean the name of Westminster politics.

Trade union leader backs hung parliament

Leading trade unionist Mark Serwotka has spoken out against the pro-cuts consensus amongst the main London parties, backing calls for a hung parliament to enable Plaid to push a more progressive line.
He made his call at a fringe meeting at Plaid's pre-election conference in Cardiff, stating that:
 "the idea you can have painless cuts in public services is absurd".
Mr Serwotka, who leads the PCS civil servants' union and is from Aberdare, congratulated Plaid Cymru for its distinctive position on public services. He said: 
"In England you cannot vote for a pro-public services party. It's really a case of the least worst option. We have to look to parties like Plaid Cymru and the trade union movement to make the arguments that 30 years ago would have been made by Labour."
He pointed out that 26% of Welsh workers are employed in the public sector and that a great many of them - 83% of PCS members - work for below the average wage.
His call was echoed by Plaid's candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Jonathan Edwards, who explained that Plaid was offering a distinctively different line from the big London parties:
"The election is being fought on a false premise - a dutch auction amongst the London parties about who can cut the most. What this election should be about is how do we deal with the human cost of the recession, how do we re-balance the economy to be less reliant on the financial sector and how do we create a more equal society and redress 30 years of Tory-Labour wealth polarisation. In failing to tackle these key issues the London parties are failing the people of Wales."
Chairing the meeting, which was organised by Plaid's trade union section Undeb, was Leanne Wood AM. She chairs the PCS Assembly group and was delighted that a senior trade unionist like Mark Serwotka had taken part in the Plaid meeting. She said: 
"The PCS is leading the way among public sector unions and I hope we can continue to cooperate with trade unionists."

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Croeso i Undeb - Welcome to Undeb

Undeb yw mudiad undebau llafur Plaid Cymru ac mae'n ymgyrchu dros hawliau gweithwyr yng Nghymru a'r byd.

Undeb is Plaid Cymru's trade union movement and campaigns for workers' rights in Wales and across the world.