Sunday, 20 May 2012

A Message to All Unite Member in Wales

I hope that the link to the following blog article is understood not as an attack on the trade union movement, but an honest evaluation of comments from the current UNITE Cymru leader Andy Richards. I believe that he has let both his union and the movement down in his attack on Plaid Cymru and our leader Leanne Wood AM.

Please feel free to comment, as Plaid are always happy to talk about what it best for the trade union movement; thousands of our party members also being proud union members. We would also very much welcome a response from Andy Richards, as we believe he owes an explanation.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Regional Pay - Where Plaid Stands

There has been remarkably little comment from the Labour party today on Regional pay, despite there being a debate on this crucial issue in Westminster. Labour MPs from Wales appeared more concerned about what would happen to their constituencies due to boundary commission changes, than they did about their public sector employee constituents.

Fortunately, Wales has Plaid Cymru MPs to represent the nation and speak up for all our communities. Please follow the link below: -

Why not join a party that fights for Wales 365 days a year and not one that does so only when their London boss allows them?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Public Pension Schemes Under Threat from ConDems

Plaid Cymru suspects that the real agenda with the current pension dispute, is the eventual closure of such schemes. Do you think that we are scaremongering? Well, read this link and make your own mind up.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Bridgend Council - You Make Your Own Mind Up

Below, is a link to my blog, in relation to Labour's callous handling of workers in Bridgend Council. Despite the best efforts of the locally recognised trade union branches, the controlling Labour group have 'gone for the cheapest option', creating havoc in the workforce.

I can confirm that the two Plaid controlled Councils have shown a lot more consideration towards their workers in dealing with the thorny issues of single status and job evaluation, as have even Tory administrations in Wales.

How times have changes.
How the Labour party has changed.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Cost of Coal

The loss of four miners' lives in the Gleision Drift has really upset me, but why?

Of course it is a dreadful tragedy for the families and friends and a horrible way to go, but I did not know these people nor do I know the families. Nor did it happen in a community where I live or have lived, so I have no direct connection with the deaths. Yet, to anyone with coal mining in their family history, such terrible disasters send shivers down your spine.

I grew up in a comfortable home in Swansea away from the coal mines, but my mother grew up with mines and poverty in the South and hated the valleys for it - not the people of course but the consequences of mining coal. I was brought up to have great respect for miners and the communities they were from, but not to have any romantic notions about mining itself; an occupation that my brothers and I were the first generation to avoid (my Uncle went down Tower). I was very fortunate to spend a day down a working deep mine in the early 90's (Taff Merthyr) and it is an experience that will be with me forever-it scared the hell out of me. Yet this was a large mine, it was dry (although lots of gas) and relatively unfaulted and folded. They used the latest cutting equipment and the coal seam was 6 feet high; a very rare thing indeed in the South. Yet 4 days after I visited, two 'pitmen' died there.

The four miners who were found dead today worked in a tiny mine, where the coal seam was little more than a foot thick and the face not much bigger in places. The drift opened and closed on the vagaries of the world coal price and was undulating and wet. It takes some guts to work in such an environment.

Much of the south exists almost solely because of coal and the Wales I have grown up in would not exist without it's influence. Most of my life experiences have been moulded by a landscape, cityscape and community driven lifestyle that would not exist without coal extraction, so when a disaster like Gleision happens, I should get upset. I really believed that we had seen the last of coal mine disasters in Wales, but as long as we still mine for coal, it will kill. After all, over 2000 coal miners were killed last year in China alone.

There is a wall in the 'Big Pit' mining museum in Blaenafon, where all the names of the Welsh mining disasters and their victims are numbered. We took our boys there last year when visiting the Ebbw Vale Eisteddfod and tried to explain to our eldest the true cost of coal to the people of Wales. I became upset today when I realised that the list was still an open one and that four more names would have to be added. Of course, this list is small in comparison to the thousands who have suffered premature death through lung disease and other coal mining linked killers. 

Wales has paid a massive price for extracting the coal beneath us and today's awful disaster is a timely reminder, that we should never forget the sacrifices made and lives lost-in the pursuit of coal.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Red Ed Tries to Square the Circle

So crunch time has finally come for Red Ed at the UK TUC conference, where he admits that he has no intention of supporting the unions over their pension dispute. As I have stated before, why should this be a surprise to anyone when the Tory policy on slashing pensions is in fact exactly the same as the Labour policy. Well it would be, when a Labour Lord actually wrote it.

What really wound up the TUC delegates though was the excuse that Red Ed gave. He said that he could not support the dispute while negotiations were taking place. What a pile of bullsxxt. Although both sides met, there were never actually any negotiations as the Government had no intention of budging an inch - despite Red Ed's efforts to 'be neutral' to encourage a settlement!

So tonight, it is now clear that the main affiliated Labour unions will be balloting for strike action in the Autumn, so how is Red Ed going to spin his way out of this one? Maybe he will claim that he was on holiday at the time at a place with no mobile signal? Whatever the excuse, it will be humiliating for him and in my opinion, could hasten his demise.

I find the whole affair particularly cynical as if my union does vote to strike, then I will be on a picket line for a union that supports a party that yet again, stabs them in the back when they need them most. This pension dispute is not about making the pensions sustainable as they already are. It is about paying off the bankers debts and at the same time, crashing the whole public sector pension system in the medium term? You think not? Then, ask what many young Council employees on tight finances will do if a 3-5% cut goes on the salary, to contribute more to their pension. They will pull out in their droves, de-stabalise the system and create a failing pension system where previously there was not one.

On this issue as with so many others, you could not put a cigarette paper between the position of the Tories and Labour.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Undeb Fringe: IT's THE ECONOMY - STUPID !

Undeb are holding a fringe jointly with Friends of the Earth Cymru this Saturday at Conference, in Llandudno. The 12.30pm meeting will look at methods of delivering on the 'Greenprint' document produced by Leanne Wood before the recent National election.

The speakers at the fringe will be Leanne Wood AM and Haf Elgar from FOE Cymru and Nerys Evans will be chairing. All conference attendees are very welcome to attend and as always with Undeb, there will be lots of free thought but no free food!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

How Many Trade Unions Have Language Policies?

This week, a Labour AM has given her committment to the Welsh language being an equality issue for her party. Despite my reservations about this statement, I welcomed her comments in the hope that she could persuade others in her party, so in the interests of language support ask the following questions:-

How many trade unions consider the Welsh language as an equality issue?

How many trade unions have a Welsh language policy?

I will do all I can to establish the answers to these questions, but would welcome any clarity on these issues.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Red Ed Faces the Ides of Autumn

'Red' Ed Showing His Support for Public Sector Pension Cuts

'Red' Ed Miliband no doubt feels revulsion that all politicians do towards the antic of Murdoch and crew at the moment (and has no doubt ripped up his latest meal ticket with the former Australian), but the fuss created by News International has certainly done him and Labour a favour in one respect, as the public sector pension dispute is off the agenda-once again.

The recent industrial action taken by the PCS and some teaching unions was a P.R. disaster for Labour and particularly their damp squib leader, yet the recent unrest was just the warm-up act. In the early Autumn, the three big beasts of the public sectore trade union movement and also the three main Labour funders contemplate balloting their members for action, over threats to their pensions. UNITE, UNISON and the GMB make up millions of public sector workers and the potential attack on their pensions has nothing to do with 'balancing the books'. It's all to do with fleecing the workers.

Take a pension contributor in Cardiff Council for example. Their current fund (covering Cardiff and the Vale) is in surplus and is contributed to by all its members. The changes recenlty made by the last British Labour Government ensured that the scheme is more sustainable for the future, yet the current proposals from Labour's Lord Hutton will mean:-

  • A Council employee taking a 5% pay cut in pension contribution increases
  • A smaller pension at retirement time
  • Worker longer for this smaller pension
  • The additional millions raised going to the Government's coffers and not the pension fund

Now call me a socialist firebrand, but I suspect that Council workers who have had a 3 year pay freeze are not likely to react favourably to this proposal. So what will 'Red' Ed do? Well, he will stick consistently to his party policy which of course is identical to the policies of both the Tories and Lib Dems - to rip off public sector workers. This is where he has a problem and let me illustrate with a very recent comment from Unison leader Dave Prentis:-

"What do we do for Labour?", he asked in Liverpool on 8th July.

"We are rooted in the working lives of public sector workers. We keep the party in touch with our members", he answered.

He added, "We support Labour "week in, week out, in local elections, up and down the country. We've been there for Labour, doing the work on the ground. We are there for Labour, we expect Labour to be there for us."

He continued, "The party needs to stop bickering and looking back, he said – we need it "now, campaigning for us, for our members and for our public services."

He then said, "We need it to be "on the same side of the street as those being harmed by the coalition."

and then, "Labour needs to work with the unions in these campaigns, but "as respected partners."

He then asked Labour Councillors (please note Neath Port Talbot & R.C.T.) to,  "support public services, that's what their priority has got to be."

On the economy, he challenged Labour to "say that there is an alternative," calling on the shadow cabinet to back a financial transaction tax and an end to Trident as an alternative to their line that Osborne's deficit reduction policy is "too far, too fast."

Adding, "If this didn't happen the party would be "hollowed-out ... A superficially different version than the Tories in dealing with cuts and privatisation."

He went onto say that, "It wasn’t you or me who decided [the Labour leader], it was our members."

'Red' Ed Miliband was crowned Labour leader directly because of the support of the three big public sector unions, yet at a time when they need him and his party most, their cries are being ignored. I cannot see how the Labour group in the British Parliament can stay loyal to their leader, when the unions who sponsor them are being stabbed in the back by old 'Red'.

So I predict that if Ed does take the Tory line and turn his back on public sector workers in the Autumn, he will be out of a job by Christmas. The only way that he would be able to get away with it is if he had the personality and charisma to persuade the party support that he was worth the hypocrisy if it meant beating the Tories, and I think that we all know the answer to that one.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Only Plaid Support the Unions

As I publish this blog article, the start of a huge campaign to defend the very existence of the public sector pensions has started. The trade unions taking part in Thursday's industrial action are not doing so to play politics. Many of these trade union members have never taken strike action in their lives, and their unions are not affiliated to Labour. This is about defending their future; a future with a dignified retirement instead of a poorer one. Is that really unreasonable to stand up for?

I am proud that my party will on the first strike day, refuse to cross a picket line either at the seat of the Welsh or British Government. It is admitedly no more than a gesture but an important one, as we will be the only party represented in Wales to do so. Needless to say, the Tories and Libs will happily hop and skip over the picket lines, safe in the knowledge that all the media attention will be turned on Labour MPs. I will be interested to see how many Welsh Labour MPs will cross the PCS picket line tomorrow, just a year after sucking up to the trade union movement to fund their re-election.

I hope that the action tomorrow is successful and that there is a marked change in the attitude of the British Government to the public sector, but what really concerns me is the ability of the Labour party to so blatantly ignore their core support, in an embarrassing attempt to win over the Tory soft vote that they need, to win back Middle England. The Plaid leadership have made their position clear in the statement below, so please feel free to compare it to Red Ed's thoughts on this matter.

The UK government’s ill-thought-out actions could threaten the very future of the public sector pension scheme according to Plaid Cymru.

The party said that proposed changes to the scheme are in danger of undermining efforts to attract new members, cutting off essential income for the scheme in future years. Plaid Cymru AMs and MPs have expressed their support for public sector workers protesting against the level of cuts to public sector finances including the threat to workers’ pension funds. Civil Servants and teaching unions will hold a full day’s strike action on Thursday (30/6/2011).

Plaid Cymru Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones AM said:-

“The scale of the cuts announced has clearly not been thought through by the Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition in Westminster. But to target public sector pension funds is a cynical move which will punish ordinary working people for the sins of the financial sector in the City of London.

“The UK government’s plans could undermine the existence of public sector pension schemes, by eroding the incentive for workers to join it. Such a prospect is extremely concerning for workers throughout the public sector.

“In Wales, our teachers and other public sector workers are being threatened by decisions that still lie in the hands of the UK government. Pay and conditions should be the responsibility of the Welsh government, so that the people of Wales can hold the government to account for decision made about these issues.”

Plaid Cymru MPs have all lent their support to a parliamentary EDM supporting the protest.

Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams MP said:-

“In Plaid Cymru we support the right of committed public sector employees to withdraw their labour in industrial action if their working terms and conditions are being undermined without agreement.

“Public sector workers traditionally earn far less than colleagues in the private sector, and an adequate pension is a key element in enticing high quality individuals into professions like teaching, when they could earn far more in other sectors of the economy.”

Monday, 27 June 2011

Who's For a P.T.A. Punch-Up?

I have to admit not being a massive fan of the current British Government, but even this cynical soul was shocked by the sheer vindictiveness of current British Education Minister Michael Gove. This diplomatic genius thinks that is would be a 'spiffing wheeze' to get parents to break the lawful teachers strike on Thursday, encouraging a direct conflict between the two groups that need to work more closely together, if education standards are to improve.

Of course, Gove and co are not after a deal, for they have smelt the blood of unions not having public support and an opposition in Labour, actually backing the Tory position. They want capitulation from the unions leading to the eventual collapse of the main public sector pensions, or victory through failed strikes and carte blanche to do what they like, as well as the same collapse of the public sector pensions.

So what are Labour doing to defend their union friends you may well ask? Well to quote the bard, bugger all. In fact they are doing worse than this and criticising any strike action so to avoid upsetting the Sun readership, as well as 'having an internal review'. I wait with interest to see what the big union leaders do, when 'their party' turns on them in their hour of need in the coming months. Just how will they spin that to their members?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Pension Dispute - The Affiliates are Coming

Look Out Affiliates, Here Come Labour

I am constantly impressed by the bare faced cheek in which the Labour party have pretended to be on the side of the unions in the current public sector pension dispute, when they would have taken almost identical action to the Lib Cons. They were even using advice from the same political adviser, who is also still a Labour Lord in the British Parliament. Yet to date, they have managed to avoid any public criticism from the unions.

However, they have a problem on the horizon, as their main affiliated unions are also likely to ballot their public sector members and will expect support after the funding they give to Labour. Unison, Unite and the GMB have millions of members in the public sector who are all facing pension cuts, so how is Red Ed Miliband going to handle this one? This of course is one of the main reasons why the Lib Cons are deliberately ramping up the dispute, as nothing would give them greater pleasure than to see Red Ed have a public spat with the unions, on an issue that currently the public are at best agnostic on.

Of course, in the middle are the public sector workers, many of whom work in manual or semi-manual low paid jobs and with a salary, pension and life expectancy far less than the London politicians squabbling over how to take 'deferred pay' off them. The plot thickens.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Tories-Labour-Libs & Pensions. The Difference Being?

The Three Stooges

So finally, Labour have come out and given an opinion on the public sector pension dispute and surprise, surprise, they are sitting on the fence. They are correct in stating that the LibCons have set a trap in terms of encouraging industrial action, but the trap was set as much for Labour as it was the trade unions. There was absolutely no way that Red Ed Miliband was going to be seen on a picket line during the current economic circumstances, as the New Labour focus groups will have been screaming at him not to do it.

So, where does that leave the unions and what will be their reaction to Labour's response? To an extent all three British parties are correct in encouraging negotiation rather than strike action but of course at the same time, the LibCons have also been goading the unions into strike action, hoping to trap both them and the Labour party. So far, all the unions who have voted for strike action are non-affiliated and so have no financial tie to Labour. However, the vast majority of their leadership are Labour members and will quietly be furious that their party has once again, stepped away from supporting them.

What surprises me is that anyone is remotely surprised that Labour are ducking the issue. After all, they were planning to do exactly the same thing with public sector pensions and even the man advising the LibCons is a former Labour Minister. As someone who works in Local Government and pays into a public sector pension, I am prepared to accept that there will have to be some changes, but we have already accepted changes in the last few years and what is being proposed, is well beyond what is required to 'balance the books'.

I have said before and repeat the accusation now, that this has nothing to do with sustaining the public sector pension system, but all about managing the collapse of it. For all these drastic changes will do, is to discourage new membership of the pension schemes and encourage people to leave. It does not matter if the revised schemes are still better than what is on offer in the private sector, as many workers are very sceptical about the whole pension system anyway, after the banking collapse.

So in conclusion, all three British parties are standing as one in what they want from the pension changes, with two trying to goad unions into action and the other sitting well and truly on the fence. There is no sign of any sensible compromises as all three British parties have allowed for savage public sector pension cuts in their figures to 'save the economy'. In other words, they want some of the poorest paid workers in the UK to sacrifice some of their 'deferred pay' to save the bankers' blushes.

On a point of information, did you know that British MPs have one of the best pension schemes in Europe? Please feel free to curse.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Labour Want Your Money, Your Vote and Your Terms & Conditions of Employment

Is this Transport House?

As someone who has worked in Local Government for over 20 years and mostly as a trade union steward, I can honestly say that the current cuts being passed onto Councils from London are huge. I spent 12 months as a Senior Officer negotiating many cuts with managers and it has been as difficult for them as it has for us. In fact, it was quite a 'team-building' exercise at times.

Looking at all 22 Welsh Authorities, they have all managed the cuts in different ways, but have been given a sensible steer by the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA). Then, there are the Labour controlled Councils. Both Rhondda Cynon Taf and Neath Port Talbot (they only control 2 outright) chose not to follow the advice of the WLGA and instead followed the advice of the Local Government Association (LGA). The LGA is controlled and dominated by right wing Tory English Councils and they have been advising Councils not to bother negotiating cuts, but just serving notice on their staff to force them through. This is what was done by the Labour Councils in Wales.

The Council staff have effectively had a gun held to their head and have been told, 'sign your new contract or you are out of a job.' This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of the public sector unions.

So why is it that the very same unions are asking their members to vote for these charlatans?

So maybe you think I'm just giving half the story. Have Plaid Councils treated their staff the same? Well, no they have not. In fact, even the only Tory controlled Council in Wales (Monmouth) has not treated their staff with such utter contempt. This may explain the Labour First Minster recently making a panic visit to RCT to try to resolve the dispute between the staff and Labour Councillors. His visit appears to have made matters worse, so his negotiating skills do not seem to be up to much.

To add to Labour's shameful actions, the Labour group in Carmarthenshire Council have supported the Council in cutting the facilities times for Unite trade union activists. This work time is given to employees to represent their members and these volunteers are currently absolutely flat out dealing with job evaluation, enormous cuts and single status negotiations.

The statements above are not accusations but facts supported by the public sector unions; the very same unions who not only give money to Labour but also are calling on Council workers to vote for them.

What you have to ask yourself, is do you want to vote for a party that takes your cash with one hand and stabs you in the back with the other?

I don't, so I'm not voting for them. Are you?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Apologies for Not Attending London

As a trade unionist in Local Government, I wanted to attend the rally in London this Saturday but it did clash with our conference in Cardiff. However, I wish all the marchers well and hope (rather than expect) that the LibCons realise that the cuts are actually damaging the economy and not saving it.

However, any thoughts I mighty have had about skipping conference were soon forgotten after receiving a mailing from my union this week from my Wales union boss, inviting me to join the Labour party. Not only was this rather annoying, but the rest of the literature then linked directly the march this weekend to supporting Labour. Hang on a minute I asked myself, but wasn't it this lot in charge when the economy got in such a mess in the first place?

Well, not according to the junk mail in front of me. They also neglected to mention that if they had won the British election last year, that their cuts on Wales would have been almost identical to what the LibCons are foisting on us. You better get used to this nonsense, as Labour will repeat it again and again over the coming weeks, in the hope that you actually believe it.

I for one have no intention of attending a rally hijacked by Labour as a recruitment campaign, courtesy of my own union.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Still No Mood to Protest

Undeb at Last Saturday's anti-Cuts Rally

The current cuts that the UK public sector are facing, are the biggest for generations and are having a massive effect on public services. The size and speed of the cuts are way beyond any justification based on the deficit and in nations like Wales, there is a clear double dip localised recession taking place-particularly in the areas most reliant on public sector jobs.

Yet, where are the protests?

The fact is that most public sector workers have been brainwashed into believing that what is coming their way, is the only way. The irony of course is that the very party who are riding on the anti-Tory backlash, not only helped to create the current mess, but also planned savage cuts of their own - if they has won last May. Labour preached the cuts agenda prior to the last British election with such effect, that even their core support while despising the LibCons for the cuts' severity, still believe in their heart of hearts that much of it is necessary.

Then you have people like me out side the Labour party, who are disgusted by the hypocrisy of a party who would have forced through cuts almost as severe in many areas and whose attacks on public sector pensions would be no different from today's announcement. Lord Hutton is after all Labour and not a Tory.

So, my union wants me to take a day travelling to London on the 26th March, to listen to predominately Labour supporting trade union speakers slagging off the Tories and creating a platform for 'their party' to rebuild-very much like what happened in Cardiff last Saturday. I have yet to make up my mind if I will go on this march, as I am not at all clear if I want to take part in a campaigning day for a party that created this mess in the first place.