Trade Union failure
Union charges lawyers referral fees in one set of accounts
& pays them 66p per member peryear in the public account?
2 Which system scored worst-equal among complainants
at employment tribunals?
3 What is the most common complaint to workplace
bullying help lines?
4 Why don't unions respond to disgruntled members?
5 There isn't a question 5. The picture below is to illustrate
the problem of Rachman employers who's tactics aren't the rational
attempts to run a business efficiently which a tribunal tends
to expect, but more of a game in which those who are best at
lying rise to the top of big organisations, including ones who
survive by supplying statistics of success and nods of sage agreement
to ministers who dole-out our taxpayer money to these shits.
By the way this old site attracts more visits in 2015 to this
page than any other. Anyone interested in this page might be
interested in unison-lawyers.html,
quoting published information about a union I have never belonged
to and a member I have never met. It's easier to publish stuff
that way. Less like sour grapes. My own case was against a public
service subcontractor for failure to offer reasonable adjustments
to the needs of a sick staff member, instead of their usual un-believable
levels of triteness, muddle, timewasting, and machiavelliean
plotting of the sort that Andrew Mitchell suffered in Downing
Street. This is common among public-funded organisations. Reasonable
responses would have helped all staff, taxpayers and clients
and voters in whatever order you want to list us in our different
roles (for client read pupil, student, patient, resident, claimant,
policy-holder, borrower, customer, whetever; for taxpayer read
VAT-payer or income tax payer).
6 Where does the money - apart from the political
fund - go?
[There is no answer to this but it isn't members]
7 What happens when union member democracy is
quashed into busy-body democracy?
The Collective Conditional Fee regulations have allowed organisations
like trades unions to use no-win no-fee lawyers for some time,
so, like any other no-win no-fee lawyer, they may put a much
higher priority on personal injury cases like the Miners' Compensation
Scheme claims handled by Beresfords where they can make money
than messy unfair dismissal and employment law cases where they
can't. Or thousand-pound personal injury claims where the lawyer
can add something like a 20% "success fee" to the other
side compared to small claims where expenses are limited to £80.
The union's cartel, the TUC, succeeded in lobbying for the £999.99
limit on small claims to be kept and not increased towards £5,000
because, they argued, that is how cases are paid for. Others
might wonder where union members' subscription goes if it is
not to the claims roundabout scam so derided by backbench labour
MPs - it certainly doesn't go to lawyers and it probably doesn't
go to the salaries of officials or the rents of places they need
to work so that leaves - well: backbench labour MPs and the party
central office that they can't sort-out.
The new Unite union rule book mentions personal injury cases
directly and then employment law as afterthought, just as their
legal director's account of the legal budget tacks employment
law on the end. This is quite different to the old rule book
which was all for worker's responsibility and legal action without
get-out clauses like "we will take profitable cases but
fob you off on the rest" or "we used to be interested
in ownership of firms for their staff but that's a bit unfashionable
now and not on the agenda".
The best example of a union doing this is a motorcyclist's
trade-union set-up by a no-win no-fee personal injury lawyer,
Support Services Club.
Membership was free, including record-keeping, wipe-clean
membership cards and a free magazine called Grunt,
written by the same ghostwriters who write a magazine for Co-Op
members and quite likely for Unite T&G members just before
All of this was funded from the profits of a personal injury
lawyer doing regular high-value claims against bad drivers' insurance
companies. The regularity of the work made it possible to work
out how to do it cheaply and well.
If you or your surviving relatives have a card with the number
of a personal injury lawyer on it, you are more likely to ring
that firm when something goes wrong and enough people did so
to fund the magazine, the membership database, and the membership
cards. Despite a general name - rather like a breakdown service
or a trades union - no employment law help or break-down cover
were provided because these are messy and expensive and take
a long time. Nobody minded because the service was free although
the Law Society have asked the lawyer to be more transparent
now and it's not clear what will happen to the service. At the
last count, the magazine was sent to 35,000 people. The only
difference between this and my impression of Unite is that the
claims handlers in a union are also volunteer co-ordinators to
well-meaning volunteer reps, giving telephone advice and trying
to make reps to as much of the work as possible to collect high
Large well-known trades unions can do just the same as Rider
Support Services and the Collective
Conditional Fee regulations make it clear that they can -
getting commission from specialist lawyers who know how to do
a simple standard case with a high payout like a claim to the
miner's compensation scheme or a claim for an accident at work,
ranging from the vital and important to the "I walked
into a post that was not previously signposted" kind
of claim, and taxpayers pay vast amounts to the Health and Safety
Executive to write regulations making the second kind of claim
easier at all of our expense while judges make case law on stress
cases to make them almost un-arguable. There is a regulation
to say that if you employ someone to climb a ladder without training
in walking up stairs, and they claim to have fallen off, it is
your fault unless you can show that you can show signed evidence
that you trained them how to climb a ladder. Why not just get
everyone to sign "an amount of GDP will go to Labour
party PR in a way that is concealed from all of us"
rather than bother with the ladder/court/insurance thing? In
contrast, the French government doesn't bother with a Health
and Safety Executive that writes obscure regulations telling
people not to take risks and to sue their employers for doing
so. Maybe this is because France doesn't have a major political
party funded neusance claims. Part of the culture that comes
of this scam is that people in power think all claims are neusance
claims. Faced with a problem of too much money being spent on
legal aid to low-income people accused of crime, the government
has recently cut the pay allowable to their new franchised scheme
of legal aid lawyers. The pay is cut below what a qualified lawyer
would work for. The implication is that no legal case is really
complicated, except the ones manufactured to fund the governing
2% of T&G members make claims like this each year and they
pay "from £11 a month" depending on the
branch rather than joining a free magazine subscription list
as RSS members do. Some unions are so keen on this kind of work
("we'll help you fill in a claim form and get a full standard
lawyer's fee from the government") that they allow associate
members to use their help. ASLEF uses the same call-centre legal
firm that works with the Vista print Rewards Scheme that some
people sign-up to by mistake after buying a cheap business card.
It is all legal and above-board.
Meanwhile members of large well-known unions want more than
members of Rider Support Services and think they have paid for
them. "from £11 a month" was nearer £15
in my T&G branch and some unions like Unison have higher
rates for higher-paid employees. Employment rights have mushroomed
over the past decade, but only for those who can enforce the
law - articulate people, people who are on a proper contract,
people who cannot be bullied and so-on. When employers come to
prefer casual staff or staff who are not a threat to their careers,
ways are found to get rid of the established ones just as Mr Rachman
found ways to get rid of controlled-rent tenants in the 1960s,
and the reasons for bullying staff are endless.
- Staff can claim maternity leave which is very expensive and
gets no subsidy out of taxes.
- Staff can be paid higher wages on incremental points for
staying in the same job a few years
- Staff can sue for whistle blowers discrimination
- Staff can sue for trades union members discrimination
- Staff can hired on contracts unrelated to performance, so
rachmanism is condoned as a necessary evil by those running the
organisation - even if the accused are the most productive ones
who happen also to be troublemakers as in the Gerry Robinson
/ NHS program about surgeons.
- Staff can claim reasonable adjustments to a temporary or
permanent disability: embarassing for a feckless employer that
runs on hints and chinese whispers up and down a management line
and which can't do things like "supervision"
that the law requires as it doesn't really know much about what
the job is and how it's been mis-described and adapted over the
years to fit in with government grant criterea.
None of my supervision notes at Alchol Recovery Project where
anything to do with alcohol recovery.
For example a member of staff who cannot concentrate can ask
the employer for reasonable help and be compensated for disability
discrimination of the quango is feckless. If the quango hasn't
a clue what the job is - if a hierachy of over promoted people
communicate by hint and threat and chinese wispers and still
try to look important in order to take their parasitic cut of
a government grant, they can't help. They never did. To admit
this undermines the social fabric of their careers and disability
discrimination claims ought ideally to be a way to make public
- Directors who don't direct ("Chief Executive"
in the jargon) hire more of the their kind to share meetings.
This avoids the need to stand awkwardly with nothing to do, or
pick-up a phone or a voicemail or an email about something controversial,
that needs direction. Such activity is bad for a career because
it risks involvement in controversy.
Some of these chief executives are good at being courtiers -
at knowing how to beg for re-named government grants each year
and give an appearance of newness to existing spending. The Chief
Executive of Rotherham Hospital, featured in Can Gerry Robinson
sort the NHS? wrote "remember I have to manage upwards
and sideways as well as downwards", and even if such
folk aren't any good at all at anything it is easy for them to
pretend that to those above them in the funding chain that they
are responsable for those below and pretend to those below that
they are good at getting grants from above.
Here is an example of how directorship works in the public sector.
A published appeal case against ARP or Foundation 66 by an ex
employee hinges on a human resources person not picking up the
phone or voicemail or email or having anything to do with her
job and knowing nothing about whether an employee was reasonably
tribunal believed she know nothing. That was the appellant's
story. All that's admitted is that she was at a disciplinary
meeting, that she doubtless minuted. It's not admitted that she
did her job on any other occasion and other staff are reported
as filling-in for her by getting medical assessments and trying
to draw the line. Would you hire her as a human resources worker?
Would you buy a second hand car from her? In her position, would
you seek a change of career after the ARP Foundation 66 job ended?
If you were a chief executive of ARP or Foundation 66 would you
give her a reference?
The Royal College of Psychiatrists presumably got a reference
from Foundation 66 to offer a £50,000
job - probably quite hard to fill because of the hype &
jargon and commute to a plush post code and the likelihood of
machiavellianism and (to exaggerate) the need to have experience
in dealing with other corrupt organisations. Any sane human resources
director would have been weeded out of public-funded jobs years
ago. I exaggerate for effect but senior job adverts do of course
requre experience and those who can talk the talk and big-up
their previous careers are the only ones who can be shortlisted;
it is a system that rewards shallowness and vanity. And the amount
is beyond exaggeration - it is so high that people in such jobs
are likely to bid manufacturers and farmers and the rest of us
out of the property market. Of say 25,000,000 working people
in the UK we each paid a two-millionth of a pound towards her
salary and any equivalent posts in Scotland Wales and Northern
Ireland plus employers' funders' and tax collectors' costs. Multiply
by the number of managers round her table and you have a 480,000th
of a pound each in direct salary alone.
a year goes on meetings like this attended by somone who
an employment tribunal believed knew nothing. Hopefully the others
round the table know something about something but if so why
do they waste their time sitting there? There is an organisational
problem that they have to commute into South Kensington to listen
to something about Swine Flu from someone who attended similar
meetings in a previous job about a Millenium Bug policy for the
dodgy gas boilers:
Vanessa Cameron, Chief Executive
Adey Olawande, Deputy IT Manager (CRTU)
Adrian Worrall, Head of CCQI, (NCCMH)
Christine Sealey, Centre Manager (CRTU)
Dave Jago, Head of Publications
Deborah Hart, Head of Communications and Policy
Gordon Malcolm, IT Manager
Lesley Cawthra, Head of Facilities
Marcia Cummings, Head of Human Resources
Paul Taylor, Head of Finance and Operations
Richard Burton/Rep from Divisions, Head of Membership
Sam Holder, Office Manager (CRTU)
Eventually the costs come home - particularly if the directors
don't have the nouse to manage IT or human resources or hiring
plumbers, ordering stationary or more grant-artistry, and need
a director of each round the boardroom table. Possibly they do
hire plumbers and buy tables and computers at home - perhaps
at five times the normal price - but they don't want to do it
at work in case they can be blamed for something that upsets
their career. Much better to have a meeting about the onward
and upward initiative. Human Resources, for example, is a team
with a significant staff turnover of people who are asked to
do jobs like dealing with job applicants and ordering stationary
When the money runs-out, as in any other situation, those at
the bottom of a management line are easiest to blame and modernise
onto lower wages by bulling those at the tops of the pay scales
or who are a threat to the dignity of the management team. You
would expect an organistion that can pay £50,000 to someone
to talk pretensiously about things that might happen to do with
swine flu would be pretty well staffed to do the more important
and essential jobs, but no.
- Staff can be on contracts that don't pay by results. Feckless
directors can tell their trustees that bad staff can't be sacked
except in a rather Machiavellian way (a quote from Gerry Robinson
on the NHS). In the voluntary sector this is combined with a
bit of double-speak: we hire on a care assistant's job description
and person specification but we expect a social worker's and
counciloor's performance alongside. An organisation gets credit
and grants for 1.000 assesments - which are good for grant artists
because there is documentary evidence that they have taken place.
Individuals among the payroll, client group and all taxpayers
take the strain of having to "assess" social problems
without having any solutions to offer.
Trustees or directors get more and more sick of this and eventually
a new regime authorizes a kind of purge after a while or a bogus
restructuring, hoping that most of the people they get rid of
are the ones that never got any results. Maybe they get ride
of their henchmen next, or maybe the henchmen stay-on because
there's no way of getting evidence to sack them, even if they
are terrible managers and half way round the twist. It can become
a rule-of-thumb that the maddest nastiest troublemaker is made
manager in order to control the rest. Obviously this prevents
any kind of service being provided to customers - as at Harringay
Council the Victoria Climbie case - but the customers aren't
the funders so it doesn't matter.
- Staff who have done the job a while may be best, and not
be managers, undermining the social fabric
- Staff can be not part of the new faction, as at Liverpool
Social Services where a staff team had done a perfectly sensible
job for years but a new layer of management decided that they
should be "modernised" onto lower wages to pay for
more management and more credit to the managers.
- Staff can be popular and make managers nervous
- Staff can be unpopular and make managers nervous
- Staff can be neither popular nor unpopular, but just get
on, and make managers nervous
- Staff can need sacking in a hierachy where all decisions
are muddled-up-and-down the line; middle managers make-up simple
lies rather than listen to homilies from top managers who have
half-understood some second-rate legal advice given in response
to their badly-explained version of events.
- Staff can be next on the list after a manager has grown to
like serial bullying
- Rights and wrongs above are about the public-funded sector
that a lot of us work for or use as customers or patients but
it's not much known how many of us use this sector for directorships
and committee work. A minister comissions a think-tank to advise
how to re-slice the existing budget. The budget is spent as before
via intermediaries. Councils, health trusts, The Housing Corporation,
and things we've probably never even heard of like Wildlife Communities
Sport and Heritage for England Monorities Section (which was
closed to fund the Olympic Delivery Authority Millenium edition).
The next tier down discuss how hard they have worked recieve
some grants, how unfair not to recieve others, and then spend
the money as they have always done but under new labels. And
so-on down the funding feudal system. For example I needed a
pick and pack mail order distributor in London, and they are
rare, but I found one via Action for Blind People. He was a redundant
foreman who had previously worked for Action for Bind People.
The grants for the Visage Project, allocating European Union
funding for partially sighted and blind people who want to be
self employed, are partly administered by Action for Blind People.
On the door of the store room was a plaque, comemorating the
funding. "I don't know how that works", he said
when pressed, and just as a lot of recipients of funding don't
knwo the route that the money has taken, so a lot of staff who
administer the work don't follow the detail either. A team of
directors or Executives or whatever they are called can make
the best of this by sacking the bright ones, so nobody in the
world knows how Action for Blind People spent its Visage initiative
grant from the EU except themselves. And even they may be a bit
All of these employment rights have employment wrongs to balance
them like the tendency to hire on short term contracts, on commission,
with frequent assessments or re-organisations. Often private
sector employers simply get around all employment law while public
sector ones operate in more of a mess - where a feckless employee
may be hard to sack on one desk but another good employee is
easier to sack on another because a human resource department
is paid to smooth over the contradictions of an employer's position.
If unions were any good, there should be a wave of trades
union revival and headline cases in which their core membership
of long-term public sector employees fight back with all these
new employment laws against Rachman management. The legal director
of the Transport and General Workers Union says that this has
not happened: that less than 10% of his legal budget is spent
on messy machiavellian employment law claims and ninety percent
is spent on simple health and safety law.
It is not reported that more people are physically hurt at
work than are unfairly dismissed, bullied, harassed or discriminated
against. Obviously they are not, and that's a big reason why
people join unoins rather than relying on no-win no-fee lawyers
who only cover the simple cases with high-payouts. And that is
why we are ripped-ff because it is reported that the
TGWU charged solicitors referral fees. Dispite appearing
to be a trades union that fits the reasons why people want to
join trades unions, Unite the Union is a claims handling agency
with a speciality in co-ordinating volunteer reps. The report
comes from Stoy Hayward accountants, commissioned to write a
report on a proposed merger partner above. The same Executive
Council notes "repudiations" of strikes as a routine
item without saying whether they get a fee for that as well.
One sign of a union trying to divert money away from helping
members is when the solicitor is provided at the very last minute
- late enough to use the member's own work but too late to do
any more and early enough to settle and take a success fee. The
typical scam is that there is no
clear contract about what's available to members, so an official
has to nominate a case to the organisation's solicitor. The T&G
rule book states that there is a Schedule of services available
to members. No such schedule exists, unless it is the membership
leaflet which just says "legal representation".
The member's status is so low in the union hierarchy that s/he
might not even meet the official: rejection
might be passed via a volunteer, even in a case is strong
enough for a private lawyer to win. Or, after pretended misunderstandings
and difficulties getting clear answers, there is a sudden change
of mind and the member is referred to a named solicitor, who
may be junior in the firm or even an unpaid intern. A rep reported
to me that the union would back me if I submitted by own complaint
form to the tribunal. I was given an hours' interview by a solcitor
who appeared to be doing this for free as a favour to his peronal
injury colleagues: he showed no sign of wanting to read evidence
or make-up a bundle from it. I asked for my own choice of lawyer
but was forced to use one on the other side of town that an ex-colleague
had complained about before. This inflexibility meant something,
but I was not sure what it meant and vaguely gave the union the
benefit of my doubt. The union had missed basic time limits,
and during this interview the lawyer did not want the hassle
of reading the disability discrimination questionnaire, the grievance
letter, understanding time limits or looking at the evidence
which I had in bags full. Nor of course did he tell me the the
union had missed basic time limits - he simply advised me not
to attend the pre-hearing review so that I wouldn't see the mess
that the union had got-in to.
It's likely that solicitors firms are pressured
to pretend they can handle employment work cheaply in order to
get the union's personal injury work, leaving their employment
lawyers over-worked & pressured to cut corners. The quote
below shows pressure - resisted - on unqualified union officials
to represent more of their members in tribunals. This pressure
on officials to work beyond available time, qualification, and
inclination when the union has been paid for a proper legal service
may be passed-on-down to volunteer reps and to members themselves,
even when off-sick, over-worked by the employer or on maternity
A Unison document baldly states that union lawyers are paid
for by the loosing side through costs awards and that if the
system were changed there is a "real danger"
that Unison would not even back personal injury cases.
Less than 10%
of the union law budget quoted below goes on employment law;
90% goes on the cases that are easy to fund from costs awards.
This is Mr Whitty, legal director of Unite the Union's Transport
and General section explaining to The Lawyer magazine:
From http://www.TheLawyer.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=77161 (underlining added)
From the glory days of two million members to the doldrums
of the Thatcher years, Fergus Whitty has seen it all during his
time as Transport and General Workers Union legal director. Steve
Hoare finds out where it's at now
"I'd say that the Labour Government has done tremendous
things, states Whitty. ... it introduced the
- collective conditional fee agreement, which
is a very helpful way of funding the personal injury claims...
very helpful to trade unions.
- ...personal injury claims take [...]
Ninety per cent of the departments £5m expenditure
[£6.66 per member per year] [...]. Last year Whitty,
his team and its 60 law firms supported around 15,000 claims
and recovered £74m for people injured [...] [plus
lawyer's costs back from the other side]. [This is 2% of T&G
members using the service a year]
- The T&G
also supports members at employment tribunals. [out of
10% or 66p per member per year]
Generally, the local union official will give the member advice
about the tribunal and take the matter to the employment tribunal.
If the local official is overloaded with claims, or a claim is
particularly complex, the department has an arrangement to use
local solicitors. Last year, £5m was recovered for members
through employment tribunal claims. [plus lawyers costs but nothing
like the true cost of a well-argued employment law case]
- Other issues that Whitty faces include legal challenges
to the way the unions rule book is interpreted from solicitors
acting for disgruntled members." [also
out of the 66p per member per year]
£6 per member per year or 90% of the legal budget is paid
to solicitors who can pay it back again for lucrative personal
injury cases in a way that isn't made clear to you, me, this
web site or the press, but Stoy Hayward accountants tried to
make sense of the books for Amicus before the merger. These are
the minutes of Amicus
National Executive Conference, November 2006:
A summary of the due diligence report from BDO Stoy Hayward
had been circulated. This had reviewed all the available financial
information which had been adjusted to place the information
on a comparable basis. After pension deficits the new union would
have net assets of over £200 million formed equally from
the two sections. Contribution income was also very similar although
Amicus had more paying members. TGWU branch costs were higher.
Staff numbers were similar. Legal procedures were different in
a number of ways - the TGWU charged
solicitors referral fees, for example.
BDO suggested TGWU financial controls needed improving. In the
TGWU membership processing and payroll were decentralised.
So the ratio of personal injury to employment law is very much
like the no-win no-fee lawyer adverts in the column on the right:
mainly personal injury, sometimes simple employment law. The
method of funding is said to be £6.66 per member per year
but accountants report that the lawyers are paying the union
for the privelage of having late claims dumped on their desks.
Accountants also report that the books are hard to make sense
The union advertises membership from £11 a month and the
Branch get it down to £9.35. I have a feeling I was
being charged £15 a month. Taking the union's figure of
£132 a year, £0.66p goes on:
1) employment law.
2) defending the union against disgruntled members.
It isn't said what proportion of each takes more of the £1
annual budget per member, but a clue is that the government's
certification office warns against complaints about "failure
to represent" on its web site and it's own little tribunal
has decided in Foster
v Musician's union that the legal right of a member to see
lawyer's receipts doesn't mean receipts but "an intermediate
- Factual note 1:
"Dear [name of solicitor] Last time I contacted my union's
legal director for details of how their legal service is funded,
>>>The solicitors should send this to your direct.
>>>If you have any difficulties please contact me again.
I got my MP to write to him next (with a reminder) but have had
no response. I've also emailed reception:
Can you confirm that you still do not have authority to let me
know how my branch's legal service is funded?"
"Dear [name of union member and client]We were told categorically
by Mr Whitty that we should not release the documentation to
you.Yours sincerely [name of compliance officer for solicitor]"
My MP has tried writing to him to ask how legal services
are funded, given the bad service, and has had no reply despite
- Background note 1
Without facts from Unite-Transport and General about how they
do their claims-handling, it makes sense to look for ex-panel
solicitors describing other claims handlers for background.
Personal injury lawyer's
campaign hots up to ensure taxi drivers get legal service they
describes the claims handling industry a few years ago, probably
describing a firm that has closed. He describes a naive market
that needs more transparency: nobody is sure who ought to be
paying who and how much. Sometimes even a simple case with a
high payout like a claim on insurers for a road traffic accident
causing an injury can be badly handled because it's thought to
cost a thousand pounds to argue and most of the money has gone
to a claims handling agency. A system that has trouble coping
with simple, high-value cases is likely to have more trouble
coping with the complex, low-value cases of employment law.
of a trade union lawyer by a Mr Bindman in the New Law Journal
...says how unions handled their lawyers and members in the 1960:
badly. It was an informal version of the same thing:
~The claimant's lawyer had a financial interest in only taking
on very strong and straightforward cases. ~Claimants find it
hard to pursue difficult cases, even if the risk of losing is
~Basically the system is for dealing with insurers of injured
people, and unions have never done more.
~It relies on union members not knowing the arithmetic of how
much legal insurance should cost or how much the union costs
to run per member.
- Factual note 2: Unite The
Union Transport and General accounts for the year of the article,
- Factual note 3: The research below does not mention any official
representing at a tribunal.
The full article does not mention any separate panel of employment
law solicitors; the "arrangement to use local solicitors"
may be something expected of those who bid to do the trade-union's
more profitable work as a kind of freebie.
My union's panel solicitor was two hours from me and an hour
away from the tribunal, with London (and its other solicitors)
in the middle or the triangle. The branch was called South London
but the solicitor wasn't in the south of London. His performance
makes me suspect that his boss was the cheapest bidder, not the
best in tribunals and when I asked if he had been to one before
"Oh yes. But usually the Central London"
...and his online CV says that years ago he worked for some
firm closer to the centre of London that handled employment tribunal
If a union-referred case did go to a tribunal, two hours would
be spent commuting for which the solicitor would bill £200.
If his success fee is 20% and he expects to win 50% of cases,
he would have to win £2,000 per successful tribunal case
just to pay travel. According to this
graph, the most common payouts for unfair dismissal cluster
around £1-3,000 with a tail of higher payouts for some
types of well-argued case. Median awards are higher for my type
of case - disability discrimination - but this lawyer wasn't
a specialist in discrimination and of course these costs don't
allow for time reading evidence to put a well-argued case or
prepare a bundle of documents. I expect there were admin workers
at this office but all the notes I saw from the solicitor were
written in longhand: I doubt he had a secretary and I doubt he
could touch-type. I doubt the bid which his employer had made
to get union business was viable and I know that the process
- Factual note 4: There is no way of knowing how much of the
10% of the legal budget is spent on employment law, and how much
on "disgruntled members", but the UnisonLawyers.html
page gives an example at another union of a lot of money being
spent on disgruntlement and none at all on employment law.
- Factual note 5: Small
Claims, Big Deal , Thompsons Solicitors for Unison, 2005
"The problem for those bringing personal injury cases
is that the Small Claims Court does not award costs in cases
brought before it. There is a real possibility that this could
result in fewer cases having legal representation from a trade
union lawyer (who is paid out of costs received from the
employers insurance companies)".
- Factual note 6: I've sometimes been asked what my personal
experience of Unite the Union's
lawyer service was in a case against ARP / Foundation66,
the social work charity. It was a wrecking experience. A loyal
rep informed me at the last minute - or later as it turned out
- that the union would
"back a member if the papers had already been sent to
I had done the work, amassed the evidence dispute disabled concentration,
but I went to see a lawyer called Edwards Duthe near Barking
somewhere since the union refused me any choice, even from their
own panel. Edwards
Duthie is not now listed on Solicitors.info that posts reviews.
The man there told the court that he now "represented"
me, spoke to me for an hour in which he seemed distracted, refused
to go back over vital points like why I didn't claim earlier,
the politics of whether or not to attend a final sacking meeting,
or the nature of the disability (which was concentration caused
by memory loss), and refused to look at any of pile of evidence.
He didn't even accept the file. He then attempted to settle with
the other side for commission. In he tried to be straight forward
with me: "you do realise I am only taking on this case
because the other side have a history of settling",
but without reading web sites like this I had no idea how much
worse than useless the man could be. He advised me not to attend
the pre-hearing review, which is nowadays more of a court case
in itself - neither of us knew this and the lawyer mentioned
that he didn't usually go to Croyden tribunals. The judge Mr
Gumbiti-Zimuto discovered the hopless lawyer and decided that
"the case could not continue" without my turning-up,
adjourning until that afternoon, but he also decided without
any hint to me what points had no prospect of success or no evidence
to back them up; in that sense I think it was a bit of a trick
to make it look as though a fair hearing had taken place and
make appeal difficult. I had no evidence. I had a fluerescent
green courier bag full of files but he showed no interest in
evidence of any kind, preferring to act on his own prejudice
and pressure to reach targets for quick case management. After
a brief show of discussion on a couple of questions he played
a kind of trick in springing all the decisions on me as a judgement.
The other side had a city lawyer looking very reasonable, with
a barrester and a 250 page bundle neatly printed out in a printed
ring binder at the taxpayer's expense. The system hasn't changed.
In 2008 the
same judge wrote this about another case where the representative
"I note also however that the claimant has never in terms
informed the Employment Tribunal that she is no longer represented
by Community Law Project and that correspondence should be addressed
to her. However I do consider that since the 17 October 2008
the Employment Tribunal should have been communicating directly
with the Claimant about her case rather than sending letters
to the Community Law Project address. In this case this failing
does not in my view justify a review of the judgment made"
With a chance of talking about my bag of files to a legally-minded
person, I might have been able to start again or appeal but the
judge made very clear warnings specifically to me (not the other
side) that there was a risk of costs against and I found a private
lawyer to settle and wrote this rambling web site instead: you
can tell by the style of the web site that the evidence was there
somewhere but needed someone with healthy concentration and preferably
legal training to make it clear.
It's a pity because cases about failure to provide supervision
to long-term staff who have suddenly disabled their concentration,
combined with 18 months of machiavellian bullying, do expose
public funded employers for what they are in a way that nothing
much else does. For example, anyone funding using or working
a social work agency would want the staff to be able to get clinical
supervision quite easily, but the management never allow it and
pretend that some kind of matron who they've appointed as team
leader can do the work. Few will take the job of henchman
for a public sector management team and those that take the job
aren't always able to type, let alone supervise social work and
run an office. The very disability that caused the problem was
caused by an NHS consultant who herself nobody to ask in a health
care trust that's been taken to employment tribunals for treatment
of whistleblowers. If anyone wants to get in touch with me personally
about experience of legal cases against ARP, please email j o
h n a t e m p l o y e e s etc. I can dig-out what the judge wrote
in reply to a letter to my MP if it helps. I've still got most
of the evidence.
This from http://www.Britsoc.co.uk/user_doc/Hammersley.pdf p12 about people at employment tribunals /back
There appeared to be a slight differentiation between satisfaction
levels and types of representatives used, with those applicants
using trades union to represent them being the least happy. Several
applicants identified instances of inherent conflict:
I found the union too happy to appease employer to my detriment.
This can possibly be explained by the move to a partnership
approach between employers and employee representative bodies
and may have resulted in individual union members losing out
in terms of the quality of the advice or representation provided
by union officials at local and regional level. There was evidence
of a clear belief that political factors had affected the situation:
I think there was a political agenda because I understand
there were conversations between my union representative, the
head of HR and the Mayors advisor. I did think there was a political
agenda to try and get it stopped. I felt very let down, when
it came to twenty four hours before we were due to go to tribunal
and he phoned me to say he hadnt taken any statements from my
witnesses. He said this offer is on the table. I am going
to see the Councils legal department, I can accept on your behalf
but I would prefer it to come from you. Basically if you don't
accept you are by yourself tomorrow. He told me he could accept
without my authority, he could go in to a meeting and say I am
This applicants experience indicates that the role of a trade
union representative has become that of arbitrator rather than
ensuring employees interests are paramount. This is compounded
by many public sector organisations determination to preserve
their reputations at all costs, thereby applying undue pressure
on the trade union to settle cases prior to a public hearing
wherever possible. For one union member it resulted in a damaged
view of their union:
I would never ever again go to a trade union for assistance,
nor will I ever join a union again.
There was only a marginal difference between these applicants
and those who used a solicitor on a no win no fee basis. In these
cases interviewees had frequently felt pressurised into accepting
Factual note: the reseach quotes union members as giving
the worst feeback against their lawyers as well as quoting some
examples of how members suggested reasons and suspected that
they had been badly treated. It also states that the difference
in badness is not statistically significant between no-win no-fee
lawyers, possibly hired through a claims management agency, and
the same system applying under the false pretence of being a
trade union that pools membership dues to provide legal services
in an emergency. Unions also imply by tradition and vague statements
on application forms that they offer help before a claim reaches
a tribunal; preventative work, collective bargaining, consulation
of members, provision of enough officials to attend recognition-agreement
meetings of members disciplinary and dismissal meetings. In this
sense, most union members have already been let-down before they
reach the tribunal and the fact that their union's lawyer "hadn't
taken any statements from witnesses" for example before
trying to settle adds insult to injury.
Factual note: There are instances of employer's solicitors
advising a settlement if the other side is represented, otherwise
not. This knowledge prevents individuals from benefiting from
ACAS's service, which would
otherwise be a taxpayer-funded settlement service for people
who's claims have already gone to a tribunal.
Factual note: Several unions and the TUC have made statements
about another stream of unprofiable cases. In the small claims
courts winners can only claim £80 expenses from the other
side, or loose £80 expenses if they loose against the other
side. This ought to work in favour of the low-income claimant,
but these courts hear personal injury claims under £1,000.
Unions advertise for the profitable cases. They can't easily
write "over £1,000" on the adverts, just
as they can't easily write "except employment law".
And a recent proposal to raise this limit to £5,000 led
to a TUC campaign for more expensive and legally intensive courts
with greater penalties for costs against people who loose. In
effect they were campaigning against their own members. ASLEF
explains how they pay for small claims as though they were giving
"We, along with our solicitors, essentially absorb
In other words they expect solicitors to take the cases as
a back-hander in exchange for getting the more pofitable claims
referred. It may say on the solicitor's letter to the client
that the union is paying £100 an hour but a law society
investigation found over a third of firms visited to be misleading
clients about who was paying who. No embarrasment is shown about
charging members over ten pounds a month for combined union services
and admitting that a big part of them are got for free and with
back-handers from legal firms, such as offers to represent unprofitable
members cheaply. No wonder the solicitor quoted above used a
dirty trick of phoning the complainant 24 hours before the hearing
to say that he hadn't interviewed witnesses and the complainant
had better settle. This is how lawyers do cases on the cheap.
Factual note: Unison v Jervis
shows an example of what people complain about. A member was
told his case was weak by memo from a volunteer who had "spoken
to" a paid official. Mr Jervis paid for his own case
and won it despite the volunteer and official turning-up as witnesses
for the other side and not thinking to warn him first. When he
and asked for Unison to pay his legal costs again, and complained,
they hired a London city solicitor and a team of two barristers
to fight him at every stage up to an appeal tribunal. Worryingly,
I got the same tribunal chair that had heard Mr Jervis' case
a few months later. The union did so badly that I told him my
case was now against the union and asked if he could bear that
in mind while writing his judgment. The chair replied:
"I cannot do that and I think you know the reason
I guess this means that people in the legal trade like tribunal
chairs know how bad union representation is, but are under political
pressure to say nothing. That's why employer's solicitors often
call union reps as witnesses, knowing that the rep or the official
will be badly-briefed, will not contact the member, and will
possibly have lunch with the employer's side. The case I saw
just to see how the system worked was of a finance clerk from
a housing association who had got the sack after being a bit
"why hasn't the union rep taken your case here?"
The other side asked. It's nasty.
This from someone who believes in the voluntary
side of unions, on
...a few years ago, I spent 3 years working for a solicitors
firm that dealt almost exclusively with employers liability claims
(accidents at work) for one of the largest TU's (which i shall
not name) in the country.
I think in all, the TU's have more good points than bad, and
agree that in an [Employment litigation] claim a union funded
claimant is in a better position than one on a conditional fee
agreement, however the unions have become increasingly aware
of the value of their unique access to claimants and now view
this as an increasingly valuable income stream i.e. by selling
the claims to solicitors.
No problem with this per se, but the union members I always
dealt with had no idea this was happening. If it does happen
it should be transparent to all what is going on. I don't work
there anymore, and cannot be certain if anything has changed,
but the transparency which helps keep everything objective and
honest certainly did not exist with this Union, then.
That said, to anyone at work with problems - Join a Union
- together we're stronger!
For lack of a leak from a lawyer who says how much this scam
effects members' cases - there are none yet on http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Category:United_Kingdom
- but this from Mark Lampkin of RTA110% solicitors http://www.prleap.com/pr/59630/
describes claims management agencies. Similar stories emerged
that have collapsed, and although they are now regulated
by the Financial Services Authority, trades unions are exempted
by a Labour government for obvious reasons.
Road traffic accidents are an occupational hazard for professional
drivers and the risk of being in a non-fault accident increases
every year as roads become busier. An RTA can threaten a taxi
drivers livelihood. Its essential taxi drivers get the best legal
advice they can in such circumstances.
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, according to Personal
Injury Claim Solicitor Mark Lampkin, of RTA110, based near Chester,
UK. He claims that in most cases non-fault drivers are being
palmed off with a cost-cutting service from a solicitor who has
already spent a chunk of the costs allocated to help them.
Most personal injury claim solicitors pay insurers, credit
hire companies, garages and big taxi firms, among others, for
details of drivers who have been involved in an RTA that wasnt
Standardised costs have been worked out by the Law Society
Regulation Board and are paid to solicitors working on RTA cases.
These costs legally belong to the client but most solicitors
pay for referrals out of these costs. This means there will be
less money to pay for their services.
The result, says Lampkin, is a poorer service because a solicitor
is unlikely to spend time for which hes not being paid. Reduced
damages may be the ultimate result of that poor service. Lampkin
recently started a campaign to bring an end to the referral system.
Now, no less a figure than the Lord Chancellor the UKs most senior
lawyer has added his voice to the growing clamour calling for
a review of the situation.
Speaking at the Law Societys annual conference, Lord Falconer
of Thoroton said:
I have a distaste for the financial traffic in personal
injury litigation. He added that he would like to see as
much pressure as possible to get rid of referral fees.
Chief executive of the Law Society Desmond Hudson said the
time was right for the Regulation Board to look again at the
issue of referral fees. It is understood that the board is considering
imposing a ban or toughening up legislation.
Mark Lampkin says he is delighted the issue is now being discussed
at such a high level. He said:
Its important to spread the word about this scandal. The
average costs agreed for handling, say, a simple whiplash injury
case is £1,200. Yet I have heard of incidents where solicitors
have paid up to £825 for a referral, leaving just £375
to fight a case. What sort of service is a client going to get
With referrals banned, says Mark, drivers who have been unlucky
enough to become involved in an RTA will be guaranteed a decent
legal service and value for money.
He stresses, however, that taxi drivers already have it in
their power to avoid the scam.
Please remember you have a choice, he said. You
dont have to let the costs youre entitled to get chopped up by
referral fees. Miss out all the middle men. Dont phone your insurers
first. Get straight on to the solicitor of your choice and get
the service you deserve.
This from BullyOffline.org/WorkBully/Public .htm : [picture © Photogenic
The number one complaint of those contacting my UK National
Workplace Bullying Advice Line [ now closed after a libel action
funded by the NUT ] and Bully Online and similar organisations
including DAWN, OXBOW, Andrea Adams Trust and Freedom to Care
has been the refusal of trade unions to support their members
in cases of bullying and stress.
The trade unions in the UK whose names most commonly crop
1) National Union of
3) Amicus-MSF [now
slowly merging with the Transport and General Workers Union to
become Unite the Union - link is to comments about their service
4) Royal College of Nursing
5) NATFHE [NATFHE joined with the AUT to form the University
and College Union (UCU) - link is to comments about their
service - link to what an established
rep is doing]
6) To a lesser extent, most other trade unions, especially public
Sometimes the local (unpaid) trade union officer is helpful
and supportive, but once the case moves up to a paid union official,
the member finds their case frustrated. Many people report that
their paid trade union official appears indistinguishable from
the management and that their trade union, despite the rhetoric,
appears to be more interested in maintaining its good relationship
with the employer than meeting the legally-binding contractual
obligations to its members. [...] The notion that trade
unions exist to support, protect and fight for the rights of
their members seems to have fallen by the wayside - especially
if bullying and stress are the core issues.
Factual note 1: DearUnite.com:
click "employment tribunals"
One reason for union misbehaviour is that disgruntled members
are often exhausted, sometimes sick, sometimes looking after
new babies, or hoping to keep up appearances at the next employer.
They are as unlikely to sue as people who buy fake viagra, and
unions know this. In commercial terms, these members are often
at the end or their relationship with the union and out of touch
with new recruits. Unions know this too. A vague little implied
contract is all unions need to make it very unlikely they will
So there is little commercial market pressure from members
to make a union do more, hire more and better officials or increase
a legal budget, even for those decision-makers in the union hierarchy
who believe in keeping themselves in business by competing well
with other types of employment law help or providing help to
people still in work. The problem is recognised in the annual-report-TGWU.html article quoted here, but
union decision-makers find it hard for some reason to distinguish
between paying to back-up good volunteer support and paying to
back-up student union politics. They certainly don't want more
good staff: the till is raided enough as it is and the article
warns that "tough choices" are necessary which
won't help "individual" services to members.
The author - Sharon Graham - sees herself as a volunteer co-ordinator
to employees, encouraging them to do ever more unpaid work while
the union gets £15 a month.
In contrast there is plenty of pressure to provide a bad service.
- Union directors can vote money to a political party they
think most favourable to their unasked members, and unions that
do this have chosen the same party for 100 years, suggesting
closeness beyond the public & rational. Those unions which
have tried to break-away from subsidising the same old party
like ASLEF or the Welsh part of Unison have been criticised.
- Most big union's directors met government ministers at the
Warwick University campus a few years ago for a public pact,
boasts of the great things offered by government after the "Warwick
Agreement" like good government, with some surprisingly
detailed twists that look as though they came from hard negotiation
in long committee meetings. Other favours include a cap on damages
that can be claimed against unions in court and an abolition
of an obscure quango, the Commission for the Rights of Trades
Union Members, a small government office that could considered
funding about one request a month by ex-union members wanting
to sue unions. If there was negotiation, delegates from big TUC
unions must have packed detailed concessions in their briefcases
as they went home on the train. Unfortunately these must be on
the back of the leaflet because they don't show on the Unite-Amicus
website, and the TUC claims to migrant workers above that it
is "independent of any political party" but
link above gives good grounds for guesswork including a TUC boast
that 90% of TUC-Union-backed tribunal claims win. So they
don't take cases without 90% chance of success, even with a no-win
no-fee budget and volunteer support from reps according to Unite-T&G
This is a giveaway because my Unite-T&G union official claimed
that they backed claims with a 50% chance of success. My membership
leaflet says the union offers legal help and advice for
money - not highly restricted legal help - and few people would
join a union that said "if your case is 90% certain and
any no-win no-fee lawyer would take it even in employment law,
we'll take it as well and possibly get a kick-back from the lawyer".
If the intention were true, something similar would show in the
statistics of how many union-backed tribunal claims win or loose,
which is a hard fact to research because the tribunal service
library in Bury St Edmonds only allows personal callers to see
the summery data. You would have to have some time and at least
the cost of a train ticket to find how many cases unions win,
but Brendan Barbour, president of the TUC, backed this press
release to the BBC:
Unions won or settled nine out of ten of the 2,619 tribunal
applications recorded in the survey, and won four of five cases
that went all the way to a hearing, compared with a 13 per cent
average for all tribunals. And unions won an estimated £16.2
million in compensation for their members - in unfair dismissal
cases, which still account for over 40 per cent of all claims,
compensation to union members was three times higher than the
At the 2005 Election, Unite-T&G declared
a £20,128.00 donation to the Labour Party's central election
expenses, but there is another explanation. Maybe Unite-T&G
are not failing to represent members and paying money to Labour
instead. Maybe tribunal judges like mine appointed by Labour
ministers have to be biassed towards
the dignity of trades unions - and not their members - to hold
down their jobs. Or not.
As the BullyOffline website notes -
Barber who has recently announced the trade union's achievements
in reducing the number of cases taken to employment tribunal
and how unions are good for you but who must now answer allegations
of why some trade unions appear to limit their interest in cases
to cherry-picking those members with interesting cases which,
if successful, can be used in press releases to trumpet union
achievement. What this means in practice is that any trade union
member with a run-of-the-mill everyday case of bullying and stress
resulting in loss of job, career, income, livelihood, health
and detriment to home and family life will, regardless of how
many years they've being paying subscriptions in expectation
of services in time of need, be rejected in favour of the few
sexy cases. Whatever happened to original trade union principles?
Some people devote their lives to unearthing the history
of trade union principals and they know better than me, but my
guess is that the TUC was always in part a cartel to reduce the
choice of members between different unions and so increase the
power of union central offices to hike the price.
This is a quote from the Amicus National Executive Committee:
The main issue reported on by Deputy General Secretary Tony Dubbins
was that of Labour Party funding. Following the loans for honours
debacle, the Labour Party set up an enquiry into the future of
party funding. The reports from the enquiry recommended extensive
regulation of the funding of political parties by trade unions.
Amicus and other unions have objected to this, as this would
strongly weaken the link between the Labour Paty and trade unions.
Tony Dubbins reported that the debate is moving in the direction
advocated by Amicus and other unions i.e. for continued TU funding
One NEC member commented on the sea of sleaze and corruption
engulfing No 10 on the question of Labour party funding and cash
Another NEC member reported on the successful TUC Speak Up for
Public Services lobby, praising the resources produced by Amicus
and the turnout of Amicus members particularly from Health and
Local Government sectors. However, the meeting with Amicus sponsored
MPs had been disappointing. Only one MP (Lindsay Hoyle) had seemed
to understand the issues around privatisation and financial crisis
in the NHS; the others had showed a profound lack of understanding.
Although Amicus was doing a good job, the message was evidently
not getting through to the Government or MPs.
After the agreement, government ministers have continued to decide
which unions get Union Modernisation Grants from the EU, or make
speeches like the recent one on Remploy to suggest that they
influenced by union contacts. In both cases there may be
no connection, but the suspicion
may effect behaviour by unions and ministers, encouraging unions
to stick to the Warwick Agreement. Since I wrote that, Peter
Hain has resigned as minister. If union directors can give-away
your money, it's hard for them to prevent the next problem.
Activists can propose giving union money away, leaving less
for the rest.
In large TUC unions they think it's normal to give money away.
There is a political fund which takes something over two pounds
from a monthly full-time subscription of eleven to fifteen pounds,
and different unions have more or less off-the books donation.
Several claim that more than 100% of their members subscribe
to the political fund. Mine writes to me personally to urge support
for Labour Ken Livingstone (although not when he was independant,
and they didn't write personally in response to complaint about
bad union service or funding of lawyers - my MP is on her third
reminder). Whether members get about £10-worth of service
is less clear, when the diagram below shows fifteen internal
committees per member and the Unite-T&G region one web site
lists twenty two external organisations that the region one office
funds, alongside a similar overlapping list funded by branch
1/1148. In the middle of the organisation, just as in the branches
there are people who think unions are fund-raising organisations
and that it's normal to give members' money to a campaign. In
an organisation where local committees "may" hold a
ballot for re-election (Rules.html#10.4 b) or just re-elect themselves
on a show of hands it's easy to see why the activists are often
people who give money away without much monitoring.
"a union is not about legal insurance but solidarity",
-said the treasurer of branch 1/1148 when refusing a to provide
a lawyer. The same meeting he OK'd a payment to the Communist
- Employers can also recognise a trade union, recommending
a steady stream of new paying customers for free while membership
generally has declined. At these employers, volunteer reps may
be given paid time-off for union duties and other very small
& proper benefits, like access to speak to directors, that
get them in the habit of seeing the managements' side better
than they see other members' points of view. Mr Jervis on the
night shift above was simply advised "not to get up the
management's nose" by his Unison rep. Unions can become
certified by a government office - the certification office -
as independent of employers but the certificates are not always
worth the cost, as in a 2007 case of the Stable
Lads Association which turned out to be funded entirely by
stable owners. And the closed shop is not yet dead. Employers
can exclude all witnesses from disciplinary meetings except an
union union rep, so solicitors, friends, and reps from other
unions can be denied access while a volunteer rep's expulsion
from the union may make a practical difference to them.
- Public sector employers may be part of the same political
culture as public sector unions, linked by individuals given
time-off to work as counsellors, branches funding
labour MPs, as well as union central budgets subsidising
a political party. For example the
minister for Employment Relations is sponsored by Unite-TGWU.
Culturally, officials may respect hierarchy and "procedure"
more than truth, type with two fingers, be clueless about efficiency
or money, and assume that members are illiterate ("the
learning rep post remains vacant", I read about my own
branch). They may be more like the public sector than the public
sector itself and simply not understand good ideas or valid complaints
that they should be passing-up the management chain. When my
union should have been proposing alternatives to redundancies
and ways of avoiding stress and overwork, the volunteer reps'
quarterly negotiations with management were bogged down in the
small print of the employment contract and the paid official
was not to be seen. The public-funded voluntary organisation
I worked for had wasted its grants on a "development
unit" and too many directors, then exaggerated it's
own faults in order to shed staff. We were expected to attend
seven team meetings a week. It would have been nice if the union
had offered employee-friendly management consultancy, or a quiet
word to the trustees. Unfortunately, union officials may also
think that a "development unit" is a perfectly
good way of spending money and there's nothing wrong with seven
team meetings a week. According to the author Naomi Klein in
her book No Logo, US unions have helped sweat shop employers
upgrade their machines to get a better deal all-round. But UK
unions are the last people who could offer management consultancy
or prevent dramas turning into the crisis of a tribunal case.
An article by a Unite - Transport & General insider on Union
Ideas Network suggests an unspoken
pressure not to rock the boat at recognised employers, a
great article but one that doesn't distinguish money to real
union reps from money to activists. To pay more money to a branch
committee who have a good foreign policy and a cheap lawyers
is, I think, trying to put a fire out with petrol.
Unions take the precaution of avoiding any adult written contract
with members while officials may even avoid face-to-face contact,
preferring to pass messages via volunteer reps as in the Unison v Jervis case above. Instead
of a clear contract there is a tradition of vague little rule
books (available on request) which allow officials to control
access to legal assessment. Even a the strongest, simplest case
can be delayed by an official to save the union face or money.
In an imaginary extreme case, a no-win no-fee lawyer could be
appointed on the last day before a court case is out of time,
speak to the member about the DIY legal work they have done already,
use that information to try and settle with the other side, and
claim a 20% success fee. A "due diligence" report by
Stoy Hayward accountants for Amicus pre-merger suggested that
something like this is going on, which on the face of it is different
from what the union's usual accounts, based at Transport House,
write for the government's Certification Officer and so to members.
Organisations that used to be unions turning into dodgy claims
handling agencies in return for funding a political party may
sound like an extreme theoretical xample but it looks almost
identical to the example quoted in a Coventry University research
As Mr Whitty of the T&G explains, there is very little money
in employment law, with only £1 of damages won for every
£15 of damages for personal injury, but even the worst
and most cheapskate service makes it less likely that a member
will join his third expenditure category of "disgruntled
Insurance companies are now bound by the Legal Services Bill
to register with the Financial Services Authority, which asks
them to develop the familiar A4 contracts with key facts made
clear at the start. They cannot appoint a volunteer to tell you
"I have spoken to the manager and he says that you
do not have a claim", or
"the purpose of an insurance company is not payment on
events but solidarity", or
"you do not understand: you paid all the money to me
by mistake. What a pity I forgot to tell you earlier".
The law applies so mutuals just as to PLCs, and trades unions
have no difficulty registering
for their side-line businesses of selling pensions and insurance
to members. But Trade Unions' legal services have been exempted
both times this act has been passed by the trades-union funded
government, despite the House of Lords sending the bill back
for more debate.
Despite the vague rule books, some people do still take unions
to a county court to ask for their membership fees back under
an implied contract.
Joanne Sherry's story from Pam
McClounie of Coventry News and Star, 16.2.2006
NUT failed to support teacher in dispute
A CARLISLE teacher who sued the National Union of Teachers
(NUT) for failing to give her legal advice when she ran into
difficulties at her school has won her case. Joanne Sherry, 48,
paid £3,000 over 23 years to be a member of the countrys
largest teaching union, but when she sought help from its officers
they failed to act on her behalf. Miss Sherry, who taught at
Trinity School, asked for help from her union in 2000 when she
felt she was being bullied and intimidated by former head teacher
She successfully fought her case at Newcastle County Court
yesterday in what is believed to be the first of its kind in
With a mounting workload and a breakdown in communication
between Miss Sherry and the schools management, she began to
suffer from work related stress. NUT officers, Mike McDonald
and Bryan Griffiths, advised her to stay off work until Mr Gibbons
left the school in October 2001. The school also issued Miss
Sherry with a letter in December 2001 outlining six allegations
against her. She was suspended from school for a year. Miss Sherry
says these allegations were designed to cause her undue stress
and anxiety and force her to resign. She refused to do so and
continued to battle for an investigation into the allegations
But, despite continuing to plead for assistance from
the NUT, nothing happened. Union reps failed
to accompany her to meetings, did not return her phone calls
and e-mails and refused to give her proper advice.
Eventually, in 2002 she reached a compromise agreement with her
employers and left the school due to ill health.
District Judge Alderson said:
The NUT had Miss Sherry over a barrel. They basically told
her if she didn't accept their advice then that was it. They
washed their hands of her.
After the case Miss Sherry told the News & Star:
I feel justice has been done. The NUT refused to give me advice
on the procedures of my employers and refused to accompany me
to disciplinary hearings. It failed to pursue my grievances."
The NUT must now pay Miss Sherry £3,800.
Factual note 1: Joanne Sherry discovered
cheap legal insurance bundled with her home contents insurance
after the National Union of Teachers refused to help her, so
she used that instead and won her case.
Her next job was for the county court service.
She sued the National Union of Teachers for her wasted subscription.
Factual note 2: NUT fought the case and threatened Joanne Sherry
with extra-ordinary costs if she lost.
The NUT then refused to pay without a bailiff visit.
Factual note 3: Hamilton
v GMB is a case of a long-serving volunteer
rep badly treated by his union because officials believed he
told members of another legal deal available at Stefan Cross
solicitors, who were no-win no-fee, during negotiations on equal
pay. The union held that their second-rate
pay negotiation was better for members in the long term than
a short-term victory by a no-win no-fee lawyer about equal pay.
cases in the appeal tribunal have been about disgruntled ex-GMB
staff, rather than the GMB making case law for its members.
Factual note 4: NUT did back one member's case - a libel
action against someone who criticised the union's actions
while the member was union rep.
An alternative world exists, little publicised even on
the net, in which union activists back causes.
This is convenient to those who run messed-up, failing, close-to-suable
and derelict unions, because these few activists provide the
illusion that something is being done. It is almost as good as
the union leader's other usual line, that other people such as
government or employers should do something.
Decentralised unions don't exist - only their ghosts, and
their self-election committees of three, two, or one minute-taker
who is willing to take a bet that nobody else turned-up to the
meeting either. Some branches like Manufacturing and Science
Federation's "MSF Daxo" and "MSF Guildhall"
branches don't exist but were used as "shell accounts"
for making payments to the General Secretary for which records
should not be kept, according to the secretary of the finance
Nowadays it's probably easy for the two or three activists to
get the four or six half-activists or even the fourty or sixty
vague members into a consultation system online, but those who
can don't do. They could. They don't. Maybe they don't know how
and nobody from central office wants to tell them. More likely
they could have a go, probably failing the first few times, but
don't want to rock the boat that floats them a budget a banner
and a position in the world.
This is a pity because what the inhabitors of this strange
pretendedly-elected world try to do is rather good. It is to
force MPs and journalists to recognise real issues in the world
and not to concentrate on those few percent of the electorate
who want a letter forwarded on a hopeless issue, who in politemess
to their neighbours indulge in a kind of bullying and mobbing
process of complaint against something like houses, aeroplanes,
mobile phones or people of a different age. The people who mistake
their MP for a local counsellor and indulge in vague complaint
against council staff. All these constituents should be deported
to a desert island so that the rest of us and our MPs can live
in piece. Some MPs simply wouldn't know what to do with their
£80,000 salaries, three secretaries and right to vote in
the house of commons.
"Vote?" - they might say;
"Disobey the whip that gets us £80,000 &
"Even if I could think for myself, how can I find
a special interest & speak to constituents from all-over
the UK about it?"
"We don't have a system for referring consituents between
each other & to the party spokesperson."
"Most of us never get invited to talk on TV. On the radio
it's hard: people listen. Some of us would have trouble finding
any subject to sound sharp & intersting about. The few constituent
listeners might know something about their subjects".
"Why can't my employee and trades union member constituents
be like the campaigners against mobile phone masts who ring me
on their mobile phones, get a letter of support from my secretary
and give a sympathy vote? Or the people who are against shops,
housing and air travel while using all three?"
That is a fictional quote. This is a real one, more or less,
from Sue Kramer, thick XMP for Richmond:
"I mainly deal with local issues because most
of the issues that people bring to me are local issues"
She was also "a strong voice for local people",
who reduced her majority from about 3,000 to minus 3,000
while an MP for the neighbouring constituency in the same party
increased his majority by talking to national people about national
issues, which is his job. Clearly MPs should not always
agree with party
HQ advisors, nor the cartoon
characters amongst their constituents who are only interested
in a mobile phone mast or hedge regulation or grafitti outside
the local school, or who read the local paper while lining the
kitchen bin and see something about the MP on those subjects.
MPs need to find a way to be national political representatives
who can ask questions of ministries and ministers and get careful
replies because they are known to be informed and consistent,
rather than the sarcastic replies that Kramer's secretary got
while writing letters for a cynical boss.
The difficulty with political activists in trades unions is
that they do not pay for their political hobbies as other fringe
activists do, nor do they find free or cheap ways to consult
membership on issues where membership might want to be consulted,
so the bases of marching down the street with a union branch
banner in support of one thing or another is nothing to do with
the name of the unnion the banner - it is simply a statment that
you are willing to march with it, and a perk of the job for people
who may possibly do depressing rep work in a union where so few
vuluteer that there is no need for election.
This from http://ShirazSocialist.blogspot.com/2006/12/bringing-union-into-disrepute.html
backed by The Worker Spring
the union into disrepute
Trade unions are often accused of corruption: sometimes it's
But as well as blatant hand-in-the-till corruption, there
is also "let's give our friends some money" corruption.
It's less blatant than simple stealing and bribery, but it's
no less dishonest; and it goes-on very widely. Unfortunately,
the "left" are the worst offenders.
Until 1989, the Soviet Union and other Stalinist states in
Eastern Europe subsidised the British Communist Party's paper,
the Morning Star.
With the collapse of the Stalinist empire, it looked like the
Star was finished; but no! It managed to survive, mainly
because of massive donations
from British trade unions - none of which consulted their
members on this matter. The Transport and General Workers Union
was probably the biggest donor.
Now that scion of leading British
Communist Party family, Anita Halpern has come into at least
£20 million as a result of inheriting art stolen from her
family by the Nazis, you might be forgiven for thinking that
the Star aught now to be self-sufficient. But no: they are still
at their old game of screwing the trade union movement (with
no reference to the membership),
in order to keep their Stalinist lying-sheet in business.
Region 1 (London) Committee of the Transport and General Workers
The Morning Star is unique in
being the only daily national newspaper published in the UK,
which is co-operatively owned by is readers. The Morning Star has been a voice for
trade Unions, anti-fascists, progressive causes and peace for
seventy-six years and played a vital role in the working class
movement and despite set backs continues to be a bright independent
beacon in a capitalist dominated press.
This branch notes the importance
of the Morning Star continuing to defend and represent the workers
of this country. That it
has been the only paper to provide coverage of the Trade Union
Freedom [sic-JR] Bill and the current attacks on Trade Unions
and Shop Stewards. Its articles
and news coverage reflect a wide range of progressive views in
a non-sectarian way.
This branch believes that the
organisation for defence and advancement of ordinary people's
rights is the trade union movement ; therefore Trade Unions [sic]
should have a voice in the running of the paper. This branch notes that the TGWU Region
1 is a major share holder in the PPPS [Peoples Press Printing
Society] and believes that our union should increase its share
holding to be entitled to a seat and be represented on the PPPS
and believes that our Union should increase its share holding
to be entitled to to a seat and be represented on the PPPS Committee. This Branch notes that FBU [Fire Brigades
Union] London and RMT [Rail Maritime Transport Union] already
have a seat on the PPS Committee.
- This branch calls upon the Region
to increase its shares in the PPPS to £20, 000,
which will give entitlement for a seat on the PPPS Committee
- That the Region take-up [sic
- JD] the seat and play an active role on the committee.
In recognition of the vital role
that the paper plays for Trade Union Rights we call upon the
- Send out an appeal to all Region
1 branches for the Morning Star
- Request the national Union website
has a link to the Morning Star web site.
PASSED - TGWU 1/1148 branch -
14th November 2004.
...And, as I understand it, the fake-left-dominated
Region 1 committee has passed this, so that £20,000
of T&G members' subscriptions will be spent on subsidising
Stalinism. What a disgrace! No wonder Trade Unionism in Britain
is held in contempt, even by the membership! This is corruption:
and we should say so."
This from T&G 1/1148
Branch News ("The Worker") Spring 2007 p2
suggests a second wad of worthless shares bought after the £20,000
We have also been able to support
the regeneration the Morning Star Readers & Supporters Group
in Region 1 [...].
A motion submitted by our branch calling on the Region to increase
their share holding in the paper and to promote readership was
passed by the Region 1 ACTS Trade Group. The ACTS Trade Group
will now send the motion to the Regional Council.
This happens to be the group of cheer-leaders for the T&G
who helped dupe me into believing that I had got fair value for
my £11+ a month and so would get legal insurance if sacked
in a cack-handed way. I was stupid. They were wrong as well,
with less excuse and less willingness to change their minds.
At the end of the year they all turned-up unpaid to meet the
taxpayer-funded industrial organiser, who seems to have got a
flipchart out and listed their pretensions such as meeting nearly
once a month. (action point: persuade real reps to attend. next
month's action point: acknowledge that real reps have a lot of
real things to do and don't want to come to these stupid meetings
even for the money).
In exchange for decieving colleagues into believing that a
union did still exist in any useful form, these activists got
wads of money for political hobbies. Maybe this site made a difference
though, becase all Unite The Union branches will get next to
no money from next year according to the new rule book. I'd advise
them to put all branch accounts into Zopa or somwhere that pays
decent interest and to donate it to another organisation for
the purpose, because money earmarked for branches in any grabbable
account may be un-ear-marked. This means that branches which
have been doing great things for no money will also be ruled-out,
and if that is the fault of this site: sorry. The problem is
that local initiatives with a lot of democratic support should
get a lot of membership money (the idea that they could change
unions or go it alone is a good one) while local initiatives
that elect each other on a show of each others hands deserve
no money. Maybe many branches are in the middle: genuinely trying
to do the right thing for their membes, but without any way of
consulting members who don't want to turn-up at a monthly meeting
at the town centre with no coffee available. Unions do not make
it a priority to help activists consult members - they do not
ask their IT managers to dream something up, nor send cards to
all members saying "this is what you do to be consulted".
Feudal past is the start of a series of reports in recent Morning
Star editions. Those who subscribe know what the articles
are about. A paper that supported the invasion of Czechoslovakia
by Russian tanks (and known as "Tankies" by
other left wing groups ever since - a pun on their dress sense
because they look like geography teachers and are might sport
a knitted tank top) can still provoke a response by advocating
invasions. The only good part of the article is the last line,
which could be directed at Labour party taking away money from
trades unions and allowing dodgy voting systems for the people
who sign the cheques:
"those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".
Daft though it seems for an old relic of a political group
to syphon money out of trades unions, the mainstream labour party
is also based on the principal of rigging meetings, discouraging
online votes or power to the people who do the work. According
to the Independent in 2003, a union official called Brian Pemberton
made this public enough to get in the papers; usually it is too
dull and too concealed to be noticed
- Morning Star accounts show
a £292,000 loss - after sale of uneconomic adverts and
ever-more non-dividend shares to trade unions - to be met somehow.
(The Central office of the union buys shares in Tribune).
- Communist Party
of Britain accounts and report read..
"There are criticisms of Amicus but its continuing record
of support for the Morning Star is an indication that it will,
along with other unions continue to play a valuable and progressive
- Peoples Press
Printing Society rules allow one vote per one pound share, regardless
of who reads or writes for the paper, very much like other newspaper
PLCs except for the small, politically-charged nature of the
trade union shareholders and the lack of dividend on the shares.
"They won't pay a dividend till hell freezes over"
said the tankie who took money from my branch account and refused
to fund a proper lawyer. To claim that it's different from Mirror
Group Newpapers - a co-operative of shareholders including many
shares owned by the Maxewell family - or Northern and Shell that's
another shareholder co-operative of opinionated folk - is a statement
of editorial line. It is not a statement about financial structure.
The Morning Star is no more or less a co-op of one pound shareholders
than any other tabloid.
- The Unite T&G Region One for London and the South East
likes to affiliate
to organisations even though some of the branches in the
region are also affiliating and donating to the same ones. Other
regions don't keep similar lists. Despite subscribing to Labour
Research Department, Institute of Employment Rights and Emplaw,
they weren't able to give me any information about how to sue
a dodgy employer, presumably because they didn't want to start
a job without paid back-up. These subscriptions are for officials,
not members, and if there are not enough officials to use them
for members then members cannot use them directly. I had to join
Labour Research myself to find out if it was any use to me, which
it wasn't. Unite don't contribute towards Bailii.org , which
was useful. They didn't even tell me about it when refusing to
let me use their Emplaw subscription. I contacted Emplaw about
this who referred me to the T&G. My official said "There's
another one that's easier to use - I've forgotten what it is"
after an interview that began "I'm too busy to read
- A Guardian interview with the Morning Star editor reads
"But what I don't understand is, if there are 38,000
shareholders, why aren't there 38,000 readers?"
"Well, some of the shareholders are trade union organisations"
[including trades groups]
"...some of them are dead" [meaning that the
shares have never paid dividends so there's no way of knowing].
- Unite-T&G Branch 1/1148 account headings and amounts
were given to me at their annual general meeting.
Morning Star contributions were a significant amount, with the
rest donated to other organisations. Subsidies to the regional
office's "hopeless" lawyers were nil, and discussion
of what the branch official was doing was nil.
- At about the same time as the motion quoted above, someone's
career was hitting the rocks at my employer. The person was the
boss who I planned to return-to after illness, who had a duty
of care to make reasonable adjustments to disabled concentration.
She had no idea how to do this. Her appointment had been dangerous
in itself, but instead of being sacked for a fair reason she
complained of bullying by her boss. My boss walked out of a meeting
with her boss at one point, which was about how a colleague who
took maternity leave and myself (about to return from sick leave)
were to be managed. No official to come with her to meet a director
about it. She managed to get a rep from our former employer who
was a friend of hers. The director who heard her complaint had
little to say in the minutes about bullying or the reason she
had walked out of a meeting - in fact he asked for "tighter
management" of the two staff. Nor did he seem very specific
about what the job was meant to be, and allowed her to remain
in post for a few more months to bully and be bullied and be
berated for vague things like "leadership" when the
point was whether I got supervision. Anyone who has worked in
voluntary sector social work has opinions about what a decent
union should be doing, and probably none of those opinions is
that they should have a duff lawyer, and absent official, and
leave the budget to hobbyists who give it away. In contrast to
the Morning Star writing about Tibet's Feudal past, Indymedia
of staff sue Alcohol Recovery Project in one year: is this a
record?" about one of the firms where Unite T&G
Branch 1/1148 is the recognised union (others are Shortstop,
part of Centrepoint, and CAFOD).
- Personal note: I'm not always for or against the places where
the money goes.
I am against a bad union service which is so much worse than
the employer's human resources staff and legal insurer's panel.
I'm against gaps in the union budget left when money and time
is given-away by busybodies. The Labourandcapitalblogspot,
noticed just the same problem with my Fidelity stocks and shares
ISA, which has lost a few hundred pounds in value recently but
is lightened even more by donations to causes its customers don't
all support. I'm not against oddballs and odd parties either,
but committees with budgets should contain a majority of people
who are sane enough not to give money away, and preferably be
sane enough to monitor the daily grind of union business. They
should be elected on the broadest cheap balloting system, not
a self-election by show-of-hands (rule 10.4b) that the
union's rule 10 clause 2 says is invalid if most of the members
don't attend branch meetings. For the past few years the equivalent
of the show of hands in the union rule book has been ballotbin.com and branches should
start experimenting with it now.
- An envelope has just come through my letter box with candidates
names for the General Executive Council. I've never heard of
any chance to stand in this election and don't know any of the
people, but had added a hustings.html
Indented paragraphs are an update since 2008/9
When I tried to get services off Unite T&G they hankered
after lay branches and paid several percent of membership fees
to branch volunteers. Different branches paid up to half as much
more than each other per month - about £9.35 - £15
- depending on the cut to the branch. A branch with functional
democratica backing and an appeal procedure to somone outside
the circus might be a great idea, but this needn't be a rep in
the place where you work or anything to do with all of the reps
at local employers They could be like the South London Branch
of Unite T&G.
In some branches this meant that volunteers did all the work
for the T&G for free. The hustings.html
page links to comments from one of the Irish branch secretaries
of a trucker branch who has probably been trying to do a good
job for members for no money for a long time. Otherwise branches
probably withered away if they weren't connected to an employer
or a trade where people were in touch with each other.
Most branches probably had a few hangers-on who liked donating
the money to various causes: the election system of a show of
hands was so out-of-date as to allow self election in practice
and keen committee attenders could simply donate all the union
budget to their choice of causes, such as charities and policitical
campaigns which choose not to keep public accounts. Obviously
you have to keep-up appearances. Voters and causes have to look
like part of the labour movement. But T&G decisions were
taken at regional offices and the London and South East Office
put a handy list on their web site of labour movement political
causes and charities which did not keep accounts.
The South London Branch of the T&G seemed to have been allocated
to a group for historical reasons, a group who were always willing
to help pretend that elections had been contested in return for
a few of the seats - for example at the last T&G general
secretary election, a man physically unfit for a tiring job stood
against the main candidate, and favours are returned. It's an
odd relationship, because the union also breaks employment law
by stating that it will not employ communists in certain jobs,
but both sides somehow co-exist and this puts people like Opus Dei or the Chistian
Socialist movement in charge of a £20,000 branch bank
account. They are called the Communist
Party of Britain. I only know this because as people who
like to meet monthly they can end-up answering complaints from
members who have been fobbed-off by the paid staff with un-answered
letters, and this is why I met a volunteer for the Communist
Party of Britain to tell me that "It is true that
the union web site says they provide legal insurance but this
is a mistake. We are not the fifth emergency service! A union
is about solidarity."
This is changing at the end of 2008 with an imposed rule book:
good branches that did all the work for now pay are now excluded
from the budget altogother. Branches that were in it for the
money like this one have ceased to add pages to their web site
since the bad news. The last one was about a meeting with an
"industrial co-ordinator" paid for from taxpayers'
Union Modernisation Grants. They listed their strengths as meeting
eleven times in the year (note: try to meet twelve times next
year), recruiting new members to their bogus union and producing
an edition of "The Worker" magazine which shows
committee members marching down Whitehall for greater union shits
rights. Since the money has been cut off there have been no new
sets of meeting minutes posted on the union branch web site.
For the record, if you have a bogus branch that is the only
part of the union willing to listen to your complaint, this is
what you might find.
At the time I was working for a firm that was attached to
this budget-holding volunteer branch, but had no way of knowing
it. The union administration had allocated me to something called
branch one in region one, and my file was only moved to branch
48 region one and their lawyer when I asked for help. Neither
branch had ever got in touch.
This is not unusual. Members of Unite-T&G are not polled
about anything but the legal minimum: a choice between unknown
candidates on a list which comes through the letter box every
few years. "Branch Membership" on the T&G
diagram means "branch committee membership" unless
there is some broad and inclusive method of election which I
have never seen. The committees act as exclusion committees.
They may be public in theory but there's little point in going
unless you want to share a table with the self-appointed while
they give money away, and their other function is to exclude
ordinary members from electing senior officials at delegates
conference. They do the deligating. Few people could hope to
win a vote on this kind of committee unless they are part of
a political hobby group.
My interest in my employer and my colleagues had been channelled
through an entirely different, un-funded group of people loosely
called a shop who had never had any help from paid union staff
even when asked. Those of us who belonged to the union were spread
across different parts of a firm. Some were reps and met each
other at quarterly meetings. I think someone tried to use their
right under the union recognition agreement to meet directors
quarterly with concerns, but this wasn't something that worked
in practice for whistle blowing or negotiation.
There was a paid official who did not attend quarterly meetings
with directors in order to pass on concerns about stress levels
or bullying, nor did even attend my bosses disciplinary meeting
or mine. He has now taken early retirement.
The system at Unite-T&G since the 1980s has been that
"branch" means volunteer committee with a budget and
a name like "South London branch" or "Vauxhall
Branch" and "region" means one of thirteen office
blocks with paid officials hired from job advertisements and
a paid regional general secretary chosen - I think - by the sector
biennial... No: I'm not sure. Anyway the official was
employed by Transport & General at region one, but the staff
/ member ratios, the quality and pay of the staff and the intricacies
of how he was employed remain a mystery, to me and to a smaller
extent to the branch. I know that his remit included voluntary
sector social work staff, Sainsbury's staff and Stagecoach bus
drivers (who have a "steering committee") and so he
knew about as much about my trade as I knew about his.
When I did discover the existence of my new branch committee,
I was refused any kind of online vote or a postal ballot. I asked
if they could use a free online system for elections, because
I was beginning to smell a rat. "The
region would probably not allow it" I was told, of online
votes or elections; "the purpose of a union is to bring
people together" and accounts aren't sent to members either
by post or online so there is little to vote about. When this
organisation was several months late in providing a lawyer I
decided that I had better go personally to the annual general
meeting which brought together about five people who elected
themselves on a show of five hands to represent the other
thousand branch members. There were other people in the room,
but I think most of them were there to receive donations for
causes. The meeting was held at the back of the Bread & Roses
pub in Clapham and if you're ever there at the beginning of December
you might see a branch committee that you can join-in. They don't
expect many of the thousand-odd members to turn-up because this
year's meetings have moved to somone's office.
This year, since my complaints, the branch secretary has forgotten
to invite me back so I don't know when and where meetings are
held but in my short acquaintance I never saw any great interest
in the technical side of running a union. Perhaps that was the
job of one of the other committees on the flow diagram above
(found on the internet from an activist's site), but I have never
had any communication from them so your guess, looking at the
diagram, is as good as mine. I am still a Unite member and according
to the Unite T&G website they have been having elections
since December. I have heard nothing about any election from
them directly. When I was a more regular member of the union,
brown envelopes would arrive every year or more inviting postal
votes for printed lists of candidates for obscure committees.
Each candidate's name had a paragraph of rhetoric next to it
but nothing very concrete except the names of nominating branches:
by branch had a turnout of about from perhaps a thousand members
to elect five office holders; this
web post and this
one claim 10% turnout for senior officials' elections, and
the surprising fact that they're elected like politicians. Mr
Camfield, the outgoing regional general secretary and Mr King,
the incoming one, have both written me letters of pretended misunderstanding
about complaints and lack of legal help. Both seemed indistinguishable
from each other or the employer which also specialised in pretended
misunderstandings, but apparently they are from different political
Curiouser, for committees so distant from other union members,
they know members' thoughts. They know what causes members want
to pay for. I was too polite to say "Causes that don't
give receipts" when I attended the annual general meeting,
and the branch account was "no longer frozen by the branch"
that year so I suppose someone else had asked, an
accountant had been called-in and declared everything OK.
I would be interested to know what a receipt from the people
of Cuba, Palestine and Venezuela looks like. Do they give receipts
separately or together? Maybe there is a company called Overseas
Solidarity Services which streamlines the process and collates
feedback about how much the campaign effects people in these
countries. Do the outbound payments from branch 1/1148
match the inbound payments to the Morning
Star? Or is there some legal and unspoken exchange of favours,
such as a Communist seat among the trustees of each organisation?
This from The Worker, T&G
1/1148 Branch News Spring 2007
In November the Branch sponsored the Southern & Eastern
TUC [...] conference, which saw two of our members elected to
officer posts. Julia Brandreth is one of the Co-Chairs and Anton
Johnson is Secretary.
Most unionised workplaces have the odd notice or bulletin
email like the one above, suggesting business as usual: a deception
which it has to be hoped is not deliberate. Many of the people
who read this site will know someone who is listed in union publicity
or be quoted themselves. The Worker does not say whether
Anton Johnson and Julia Brandreth are on the committee to raid
the petty cash for the Communist Party or whether they think
that keeping-up appearances for a scam of a trades union is useful
voluntary work, or whether like most of use they'd like to think
that the union can't quite be a complete scam and are more persuaded
that helping the union is a good use for their time than that
founding an honest union would be. A pity, because this little
site that you're reading gets quite a few readers and one targeted
at an organisation would probably get most members of that organisation.
Those names happened to be linked to the branch and employer
I belonged to, so I presume they've read this site before letting
their names be used again and although I don't know them it seems
fair game to quote their name or pictures here, because, to put
harsh facts harshly, they are promoting a fraud.
One of them has let her photo be used on the organisations' web
site and she doesn't look crooked or stupid: she looks like someone
doing a middling-paid, high-stress, low-status, self-taught,
low-reward job in an expensive part of the UK who should not
be discouraged by having her photo attached here. So why does she attach her name
to a bogus union? The same question could be put to people who
join committees of trustees or become local councillors for a
year or two until they realise that there's nothing they can
do to make the system work, and of course most people are very
busy doing their day jobs and trying to lead their lives; this
sort if thing is a once-a-month commitment. Those who aren't
the most critically-minded may take more than a year to drop-out,
and maybe it seems to them unlikely that a more-honest, small
union could be formed than the doubtfully-honest, big union they
belong to. Employment is about loosing self-confidence in business
in exchange for getting a monthly wage in a workplace. It could
almost be designed to make you think you can't set-up thinks
for yourself, even if you know you could do better than a web
site like this one.
In the trades where workplace bullying is worst - higher education,
ambulence services, arts, councils, quango social work or supported
housing, NHS trusts, the chance of an individual or a small clique
getting a grant are about zero, so the pressure to believe that
only big old organisations can achieve things even if they are
duff is greater than it is for stallholders or couriers or people
who are close to self-employment.
exchanging self-confidence in business a garanteed wage from
people who make-out that they are the tops and those who are
keen trades unionists often know what it's like to be at the
bottom: they are the least likely to set something up themselves.
From what I remember of that employer they were quite capable
of putting somone on the web site as a good example while plotting
unfar dismissals for months as a bad example, so I might be showing
the picture of a fellow victim in which case it's even more bizarre.
But even after all the excuses it's a puzzle to know why people
front-up bogus unions.Why?
As Hitler's secretary said "I didn't know all
of what happened but I could have found out. I could have
asked. All I can say is that I was very slow to grow-up and a
lot of other people were taken-in as well". They, you,
or anybody who keeps-up appearances for a bogus union could add
"this is a different degree of wrongdoing", which
is true, "I am shocked", which I hope is true
because nothing else will stop them backing-up a system that
inflicts so much harm on their colleagues, and "those
who are ripped-off must have been taken-in as well", which
is partly true but many people who need unions in a crisis do
not join because of a vague and justified sense of rip-off. Finally,
someone who is wrapped-up in their own rightnousness can say
something as stupid as "it can't be as bad as this site
makes-out, maybe the person had a bad case", which is
why this site is on the net. So that people can print it out,
show it to a union activist and point to detail before asking:
"are you still not advising all members to take out private legal insurance?",
because if they know all the facts, and they still don't advise
proper legal insurance to members, they are either very stupid
or very crooked. Offence is justified and intentional. It is
far smaller than the offence caused by these people to others
who they mislead. If any journalist or reasearcher is reading
this, incidentally, and wonders why insurance brokers and PLC
board members who rip people off in specific ways end-up in prison
while this lot don't, I have to admit I don't know either. Please
get in touch
if you want to compare notes because I am still puzzled.
Getting back to activists who raid the petty cash, stories about
Anita Halpin have got the technique into the
What she does is the grindingly boring meetings that are
the lifeblood of the left wing, said a trade union activist who
The modus operandi is to attend every single meeting and get
yourself into positions where you control the agenda. Shes done
that very well.
Her firm's accounts to the electoral
commission include thousands of words in house style - all
exhortation of other volunteers to do more and more and to be
ear-bashed at ever-more regular meetings. Volunteer party members
should buy the Executive Committee's opinions with an extra subscription
on top of their membership, and then sell- them-on to local left-wing
bookshops. The pressure is so remorseless that a couple of CPB
members lost their health in the build-up to the Pensioners Advisory
Committee meeting. With people like this on the trustees of an
organisation, it's easy to see why some of the other trustees
would melt away, the remainder be side-lined while the organisation
and its budget, buildings, mailing list, trust-funds, money-laundering
potential and good name taken-over.
I expect that payments match receipts of charities in most
branches, but transparency would help a lot at the Register of
Friendly Societies (who charge £15) and the Co-Op bank
which runs low-interest bank accounts for clubs and societies.
It would be great if a bank could launch a club account which
allowed anyone to see the online bank statement, but the only
difference between other
accounts and these Co-Op managed Unity-Trust-owned ones is
the ratio of interest
The most transparent system was at the Morning
Star itself, which sends accounts to anyone who buys some shares.
I've transcribed them as accounts-ppps.html.
If you are a union accountant or staff auditor, I suggest you
buy ten shares in the Morning Star and use your right to go to
their office and check payments inwards.
There is a special section in the special law that governs
unions, the Trades Unions and Labour Relations Act, about members
who would like to see a receipt. Mr King of a neighbouring cab
driver's branch (also newspaper publishers) took this literally
and tried to use his statutory right: accounts-tgwu.html
. Mr King never did get to see the accounts.
There the newspaper was Cab Trade News rather than Morning
Star and the same need for subsidy was acknowledged by a committee.
A special court exists to hear complaints under this special
law, called the tribunal at the Certification Office. Personally
I would prefer a proper county court, but Mr King trusted this
one and the civil servant paid by you and me who heard the case
agreed that in a small union, a member might very well want to
see the actual receipts. But in a small informal branch of a
large union that would
"give members the
ability to conduct their own audit of a unions affairs. I respectfully agree that Parliament
is unlikely to have had that intention". "I respectfully
believe that the governing parties who pay my wages treat union
members as scum"
Some of this quotation is fanciful.
To distinguish anything from politics is impossible but you would
expect a point to be reached were (as for Fidelity
unit trusts and the Conservative Party) shareholders or members
are consulted. I don't know what happens at my unit trust management
company's board meetings, but at my union branch's meetings there
is no attempt to separate business from politics or consult members
on a political fund. There is no mention of union business anyway.
I heard no mention of political funds or general funds in my
two committee attendance, nor read of any in the one set of branch
accounts I got, but the distinction is vital to deciding how
much a lawyer or an official is paid, how much is sent to Cuba,
and whether the Certification
Office account of the political fund is true. From the layout
of the account it appears not to be true, as branch money is
shown as separate from the political fund.
I would expect a branch to be interested in these, because
minutes showed that the month before an ex-colleague from my
old employer had been to the same group with a similer complaint
of bogus lawyers after the union had failed to do anything about
a round of bullying and redundancies there. The minutes describe
how she was told that she had a case, lent a lot of papers to
the branch lawyer, who at the last minute changed his mind and
did not return the papers, so she could not argue the tribunal
case herself. The branch committee had gone through the motions
of calling on the regional office to do something, so I would
have expected the entire meeting this month to be about the result.
I would have expected them to be resigning from the union, telling
all members why they had done so, and setting up a proper one.
I would have expected them to be a little embarrassed to get
a second complainant from the same employer the next month while
they exercised their right under rule#10.4b to re-elect themselves on a show
of hands and pass a set of accounts to themselves that are not
shown to other members.
Legal services were mentioned by chance because I was there
and put my hand up to interrupt an ask about them.
The accounts also showed that they had paid a large amount
of money out of the branch budget to Bindman
and Partners to support "a member" in a
legal dispute. Usually another firm is used and paid from another
budget, so things had gone wrong before, but for some reason
on my second complaint to the committee I was refused anything
similar and the paid official who had dropped in said "I
wash my hands of this".
It is odd to write about this and read it because I would
have expected a branch committee, given a zero-budget lawyer
by the branch office, to become experts in what they are meant
to be doing. It is odd to write and then read what a disgusting
act this committee commited, because the tone at the time was
like the old Harvey's Bristol Cream advertisements:
"one instinctively knows when something is right",
and this unanimity helped the five hands to take money out
of the branch bank account. As with the Olympics the Millennium
Dome, the Private Finance Initiative or the most recent daft
reorganisation of the NHS, the most blatant vanity and removal
of scarce money is so blatant that you don't know what to say
"Good morning Madam I have come to steal your video".
"Oh: right you are then. Go ahead. Would you like a cup
"No thank you madam: I always like to make my exit before
the shock has worn off".
"Good morning Mr Union director: I am offering legal services
at below the market rate."
"Well: that sounds too good to be true but start on those
bloody goody-goody communists who never hold proper elections
and are scared to complain whatever I do. If it goes well I'll
give you a proper branch and if not I'm retiring anyway. You'll
deserve each other. I'll be in Blackpool".
If my local union branch were taken-over by the womens' institute
they would be setting-up a rival union or picketing the regional
office or both, but communists are more like contestants on Ms
World, Eurovision or the XFactor, so happy to have been short
listed at all that they will never question the process as though
it were real.
Donations to Cuba, Palestine, Venezuela or other causes -
which I often agree with - work very much like Dragons Den
on drugs. The tone is pious, like a church congregation near
a free faith school funded by the taxpayer. But this is the branch
that likes to say "yes". Dispite the complaint
in the minutes the month before and the clearly bogus nature
of the whole fraud, they are going to keep-up appearances, elect
each other on a show of hands and approve their budget. Whatever
you think of exotic political parties, they certainly fill a
gap where union democracy should be.
£250 for printing local leaflets? "yes", [foot
£2,000 for a sponsored march to Westminster from University
of London Students Union? "yes"
Thousands of pounds for more non-dividend hard-to-sell newspaper
A three hundred pound advert wishing the newspaper staff a happy
A speech about the branch's foreign policy?""yes"
A donation to an overseas solidarity campaign? "yes"
A donation to the London Socialist Film Co-op? "yes"
A donation to the Marx
Memorial Library? "yes"
A payment to the comminist party's landlord? "yes"
A payment to Lambeth
Trades Union Council? "Does it exist?", someone
"It meets. A bit inward-looking but it meets.", says
a calm voice from the Morning Star proposer.
The paper is also funded by Lambeth Trades Union Council and
which is funded by Lambeth Trades Union Council and branch 1/1148"yes"
The response to motions about bad services to members such as
the need to pay for legal insurance is different. The tone and
language sound well-worn and habitual. The treasurer of the Communist
Party of Britain who happened to be on the committee along with
others from the same 37-strong party said:
"A trades union is not about legal insurance but solidarity"
"It is true that the union web site says that
we offer legal insurance, but that is
The purpose of a union is solidarity.
We are not the fifth emergency service!"
I would have expected the branch to have higher priorities
but in that wood-grain veneer meeting room in Holborn where the
unclubbable clubbed together the priorities were various &
different. They weren't bad - there is nothing wrong with Black
History Month or the introduction of the new official or pledging
of money for accountable causes - but those should have been
a lower priority than whether to rip-off members for a load of
un-accountable cack or performing the functions that the law
says they took money for, just as any other person should be
accountable for the things they take money for. It is just a
rigging of the rules by a union-funded political party that postpones
reality for such folk. To be fair some supporters of the other
big political party are so fixed in their hatred of trades unions
that detailed debate about unions doesn't often happen on the
website of the Daily Express or the Telegraph or the Evening
Standard and opposition politicians would rather let the problem
Eventually the agenda of item of union work is reached. As
the chair explains, I have
"come to complain about lack of help from the union after
bullying by Caroline
Sharp, and last month [one of the team leaders] came to complain
about lack of help from the union after bullying by Caroline Sharp
I forget if he said union of solicitor, but the previous month,
according to minutes, an ex-colleague from the same firm had
visited them with a similar complaint about the employer and
about the same union
solicitor too. Solicitors.info
records no reviews of any kind about this firm of solicitors,
who have been removed from the panels of Unite and RMT. The minutes
record a slightly different experience, with the same lawyer accepting my colleague's papers
(he refused to take mine) and stating that she had a food case,
then stating that there was no case, but then not returning them.
He did not think to combine the two similar cases on his desk.
It's recorded that the same firm and the same individual were
business with trades unions as late as 2010 although the
individual is no longer a member of the law society.
It looked to me from the minuted complaint as though the lawyer
was deliberately trying to loose cases where the other side doesn't
settle before the hearing. Later, speaking to the someone else
on the committee, I discovered that he too had given up on union's
panel lawyer as hopeless against the same solicitor - Devonshires
- that my ex employer uses. The chances of Devonshires being
bluffed again when they have refused before are nill. Clearly
the branch had to give-up on the union hirachy and hire their
own lawyer or even break away from the whole fraud or not. They
I would have expected this month's meeting to be about whether
the same lawyer was still on the panel, if so why so, how much
he was paid, how much the union officials were paid, why there
are only 400 paid union staff per 800,000 members: under £10
a year each leaving the rest for a black hole in the accounts.
I would have expected this meeting to be a kind of melt-down
at which the farce of feckless unions began to unravel. But this
lot were terrible goody-goodies and mainly interested in who
they could give money to. They were like school governors who
"Mrs Parent: you don't understand. The purpose of
a school is not to pay teachers but solidarity.
May we get-on with our garden party now?"
If the governors of a school blew the money I guess they would
end-up in prison, but these union branch people are still leading
relatively normal lives and I guess wreaking havoc on others'.
I would also have expected a Tribunal chair to warn me that
something was up. The lawyer had asked me not to attend but the
chair had stopped the hearing and insist I come. He had done
cases for the T&G as a barrister and had worked in South
London for some time, so I would have expected him to warn me
that most of the case had been discussed with no evidence behind
my back and help me to sue the union when writing his written
"I cannot do that and I think you know the reason
The people who were
nothing to do with anything at my employer were something to
do with another South London employer. Two of the current committee
claim to work for a firm called "CPB" and share names
with officials [source]
according to the accounts of a Croydon employer, Communist
Party of Britain. The office is at Ruskin
House, also a charity which branch 1/1148 donates to, which
is convenient because CPB have just increased the amount of rent
they pay and taken over a full floor of a Georgian house, which
is expensive for an organisation of between 36 and 1,000 members
(depending on the counting method). Other communist parties with
thirty six members are not so wealthy. Their rival CPBG trades
from a PO box and a second hand printing machine which has just
broken down. The difference in wealth is so great that it must
be coming from somewhere other than membership subscriptions.
CPB's slogan is a favourite sign-off of another committee member,
the branch secretary at branch 1/1148 who is mentioned on the
CPB web site. I would have expected the paid officials to notice
a problem too, but at my second complaint meeting with the branch
the new branch official turned-up to say
"I wash my hands of this" of my need for
a new lawyer and in a follow-up email to all members
"The branch works exactly as it is supposed to work,
making donations to working class charities. A gem."
He remains a paid regional official, employed by the Regional
General Secretary who was elected on a 10% turnout at the sector
biennial delegate conference after discussions of foreign policy.
Comments & suggestions to disagree
Occasionally, student-union style people contact me after
glancing at this web page and tell me that I should "get
involved"; that a £15 - a - month organisation
that doesn't even have a contract is "like all organisations",
"imperfect" rather than bogus, and might want
my unpaid help and advice to become like a £15 a year commercial
equivalent. They are like me and most of us, but unlike volunteer
union reps and trades unionists of previous generations. They
do not want to do something embarrassing, hard and thankless
like run a regional union with a funny name or going with someone
who has a hopeless case to a dismissal meeting. If I have been
let-down by a union then the same correspondents know it's my
fault without asking for detail. The current generation tend
to be rather shrill and quick to form the opinion that I "do
not understand", using vague words like "solidarity"
when they think they are being businesslike and other vague words
from the students union when they're not. Luckily hardly any
people get in touch directly, but one did, objected to my press
release on Indymedia an started a thread on a message board called
urban75, so I got to know the arguments that people use.
I suspect that these people's hands are in the till: they
or their employers or some cause they approve of are doing very
nicely from the current system and they do not want your advice
or mine about how to make it fit for purpose. They are nothing
to do with colleagues who help each other at work and nothing
to do with the productivity and thrift of past generation's mutuals
I suspect that student unionist's hobbies are gesture politics
& evening committees and they have no more interest in helping
union members than the people I met at branch 48. They may believe
that all political causes join together in some sort of jumble
which only they know how to interpret on members' behalf. They
do not dare do real concrete difficult things like
- re-fill their own ink or toner
cartridges to print leaflets. Tonertopup
offer very reasonable rates.
- sell their their favourite newspaper at a station (or give
away samples). They might have trouble selling the one that justifies
invading Tibet though.
- buy shares in employers, or buy failing employers off the
receiver, or set-up rival employers like The
Workers Beer Company.
- ask awkward questions like "does it exist?"
more often. Cuba
Solidarity Campaign (against US Cuban sanctions) solidifies
in Seven Sisters Road, North London where it has four staff and
has just advertised in the Morning Star for a fifth employee
on £22,000 (this is the
job description). It is an un-incorporated society with five
members of staff, one of which works full-time on soliciting
donations from trades unions. Staff are encouraged to join branches
in the ACTS trade group of Unite-T&G.
Student unionists do not want to end the system in which they
talk about other people and spend other peoples' money. Talking
is, after all, difficult enough. Few of us in our right minds
would commute monthly to a beige-painted room in a town centre
to discuss motions, grumbles, and perhaps sincerely-held beliefs
of other people we do not choose to hear from and have probably
come to the meeting because nobody else wants to hear from them.
The places they meet probably don't even offer a cup of coffee. These who do go to meetings may feel
they have done enough and deserve the perk of voting donations
to favourite causes, even at the expense of a union doing its
job, and in time the perks of being able to talk politics and
give away money become much much more important than checking
the efficiency of the rest of the union. And once you claim £650
for leaflets you can't mention a word like efficiency. Best not
to draw attention. Leave it unsaid. Pretend that the organisation
would be legal under an ordinary legal system and is not a scam
run against members.
This is why I think of these grant-artists as student unionists:
like students they are quick to jump to conclusions, they live
in expectation of grants and are not used to being judged by
the service they provide. I've been a student myself and don't
mind their behaviour on University Challenge or a debating club
("fingers on buzzers: Is Iraq good or bad? No opinion?
Over to you Maudlin") but it belongs strictly at the
end of an agenda, after business.
Organisations with a 5 out of 1,000 election turnout and committee
structures like the Freemasons don't happen by accident. They
are designed to allow cynical people and over-idealistic people
to take other peoples' money while preventing proper trades union
services from being provided. When a more down-to-earth group
of people would be picketing the union office, setting-up a new
union or lobbying MPs for a clearer law, this
political bunch - communist, Labour or anything - keep-up appearances
as though nothing was the matter and carry-on raiding the
till for their political hobbies. It doesn't matter whether they're
the small minority of communists or the large majority of Labour-types;
they are nothing to do with union members.
Polical unionists are allowed to take all this money in a
legal framework set-up by a parliament where the majority party's
central office declared over £200,000 from the Transport
and General at the last election. Some MP's local expenses are
funded by Unite-T&G branches including the most vehement
in opposing the Legal Services Bill where it could have applied
to Trades Unions. For example one of the ministers of employment
- the one who answers MP's letters complaining about unions and
allocates Union Modernisation Grants - is also a T&G sponsored
MP. His letter said that he believed union rule books formed
a contract between members and their organisations and like his
party he voted that Unions should be exempt from having to register
with the financial services authority.
They believe in tight expensive bureaucratic and powerful
regulators for insurance companies but not unions. They would
Comments & suggestions to agree with.
One good point that critics have made is that a unions are
more likely to start from the ground-up - from a conversation
in a tea brake - than from an online insurance deal like mine
- members are dispersed & not encouraged to help each other,
for example by asking for a recognition agreement, acting witness
in disciplinary meetings, or passing ideas up the management
line; they are certainly not encouraged to strike
- officials & human resources workers are probably not
part of the deal, or, if they are, they will at first be used
to working for the employers' side and not used to building-up
volunteer effort. They will be offering advice to individuals
all over the place, mainly on the phone, rather than knowing
one trade or helping people at one workplace. I've only seen
one human resources web
site that mentions the employees side, and this presumably
isn't the firm that legal insurers like this
one would use if they wrote a policy that included human
So, I've changed this web site to say that I don't think trades
unions and legal insurance are exclusive; if unions are bad,
you should have both, if they are non-existent, you should have
legal insurance, and if they are good: well we should make that
happen. Many small unions may already be doing good things and
perhaps I should writing a website called "Which Union?"
to discover a really good union that people should join, rather
than the one recommended by an employer, or following
an employer's campaign not to have a union. People click
on the union parts of this page despite DIY legal links being
at the top, so there's certainly interest in good unions and
any branch that gets bad value from its regional office should
simply set one up.
Another option is for lots of people to set-up lots of trades
unions from scratch. I have not looked-though all the ones at
the Certification Office, but there is one new small union beginning
with A called the Associated
Train Crew Union. There was another attempt next to my T&G
union's accounts called the Twenty First Century Aircrew, which
was a union of ten people to buy proper legal insurance and that
is more than the millions of members of big unions get. There
is no need to be big enough to hire staff or offices. Human resources
workers might be available by the day or the hour and legal
insurance might be available wherever there is a clearly-definable
risk. Only this year the General
Union of Loom Overlookers and its retired membership merged
with the GMB, the hundred and forty-four members of the Union
& Federation of Employed Door Supervisors and Security
transferred their overdraft to Unite - T&G. There is a list
of defunct unions on the Certification Office web site and
dwindling lists of small unions on the rest of the site and on
their trades association, the General
Federation of Trades Unions. These lists ought to be growing,
Footnote about BECTU / Back
The chair of my Unite T&G union branch had an employment
dispute himself that he felt so strongly about that he wanted
to take legal action - maybe something
to do with this and this.
He approached the branch lawyers. "They're hopeless",
he said; "they don't read anything". He was
also a member of BECTU.
Their lawyers did read his evidence and BECTU paid for legal
action, with enough budget, enough help and advice from officials,
a good enough lawyer and an early enough assessment for the case
to work. I don't know any other way of telling which unions are
good and which are bad except for anecdotes like this.
Footnote about Law / Back
It is unreal to base employment law on the idea of two equal
contractors who have fallen-out and need persuasive clarity to
In the public-funded sector where many trades unionists work,
it is the front-line staff who have to bluff through the day
and teach themselves what they are meant to be doing, while the
hierarchy does the same. Except the upper levels of the hierarchy
don't have to worry so much about what real live customers want,
and can absent themselves into a parallel world of grant proposals
and relations with funding bodies and departmental re-organisations.
They don't even have to visit the place they are meant to be
directing - in the case above they sent security - but in the
law's eyes and many trades union official's eyes it is them who
own the job and you who have to prove that you followed procedure
on the day of the allegations.
Reality is more like this.
A thief mugs you and steals your video. You know there is a problem
of thieving and track the boy down because there is no crown
prosecution service or police force for employment law. You have
to prosecute the thief privately, thinking "the stress
is bad for my health and career, but someone has to do this".
Then the judge says "what efforts have you made to watch
other channels and reduce your losses caused by the thief's removal
of your video?". In the judge's eyes, the video belonged
to the thief all along. "Anyway, it is all a long time
ago and the boy has moved-on to armed robbery and extortion.
The fact that you were in hospital after being mugged can hardly
excuse your late prosecution, and the fact that you managed to
prosecute makes me wonder whether you were ill at all".
Footnote about the
cost of ink and paper / Back
This is another quote about the branch's donations to a federation
of trades councils:
"Branch agrees to cover the costs for the production
of leaflets to advertise GLATUC
public meeting [...] to which there will be a speaker from our
Region. Cost £650-700.
This pays for 10,000 double-sided A4 sheets on a leased photocopier,
refilled toner cartridges
" The Branch pay GLATUC affiliation to the United
Campaign for the Repeal of Anti Trade Union Laws
GLUTUC isn't yet shown on the website
of that organisation as a sponsor
" The Branch through its delegates sends a motion
to Trade Councils on make up of delegations from TUCs to GLATUC.
" The Branch encourages its delegates to Trade Union Councils
to be delegates to GLATUC.
" The Branch through the correct channels asks the Region
to advertise GLATUC events and send out an appeal to London branches.
If photocopies cost 2½p that's up to 26,000 leaflets
for paid officials to do something with. That's if paid officials
have a slack period in which none of their members have any need
for advice, no disciplinary or recognition-agreement meetings
fall due, and if none of them are the sort of people who would
have things to get-on with on their own initiative. When I tried
to see my official (Mr Green who took early retirement) to say
I needed someone to sanity-check and organise DIY legal paperwork
because I had disabled short-term memory and couldn't concentrate,
"You've found him. But I'm to busy to read a case.
What I get is two or three pages at the most with bullet points.
The most I've had is a ring-binder"
Maybe he was stuffing envelopes. He showed me out before I'd
opened the case or read a single page.
" The Branch Committee agreed that the Branch funds an
advert for the 14th October meeting in the Morning Star."
Previous Morning Star adverts have cost £300-£600.
£500 is 5p a reader on a very generous guess of 10,000
readers, and several-times more for a realistic guess of genuine
readers near London. Maybe the space is so valuable because so
many un-sold or trade-union-bought copies of the Morning Star
lie around Transport House where the meeting was held. But there
was probably a notice stuck on the door anyway so I still don't
see the value for money.
Getting back to the cost of ink and paper, the treasurer,
Dr Graham, knows the cheapness of photocopying with a leased
copier because he's also treasurer of another organisation where
accounts p17 read
"In November 2004 ... leasing agreement for a digital
printing machine. This has revolutionised our capacity to produce
leaflets, broad sheets, posters and stickers including in full
...and an office volunteer at that organisation has
taken a turn as press officer for Unite T&G Branch 1/1148.
You would think Dr Graham would say
"I've got an idea: why don't we print you a months'
worth of leaflets at a time, at cost?
I'll bring them in next time we meet. There's an employee of
SERTUC who happens to be press officer for branch 1/1148 meetings
and one of my bosses at CPB is also her boss at SERTUC, so we
can do the leaflets without it costing a thing in postage. By
the way, if her boss is Anita Halpin of the Communist Party she'd
be lucky to get a good service off the T&G in a dispute because
it all seems so in-bred, and even people who we've never heard
of before come-in to complain when they try to use the branch
lawyer: it's so embarrassing fobbing them off. She'd do better
with the Society
of Union Employees - but we all make mistakes like this.
Look at me: I joined the union to protect my volunteer job and
quite by accident I got landed with a second volunteer job."
"I've never understood why we spend so much on things
that are hard to verify, like sponsored walks, solidarity campaigns
& printing. I very nearly said something when we spent £250
Crane Disaster leaflets. At 2½p a copy that's 20 reams.
They'll need another crane to lift 20 reams. There's about a
hundred thousand people who live in Battersea but we never heard
anything about distributing the 20 reams of leaflets. I bet they're
just sitting in a garage somewhere".
Footnote about "functions
exactly as a branch is meant to function, making donations to
working class charities"
When I visited the Communist Party of Britain / Transport
and General Branch 1/1148 meeting I wanted a good lawyer, as
paid-for with 12 years' subscriptions, to be provided according
to contract law. Not one who had been complained about before
but was willing to help conceal a hole in the budget.
I was past caring about how these people chose charities except
to notice a strident student-union tinge.
A number of charities cluster around the Communist Party of
Britain. I doubt they are cash back-communists and suspect that
any hoped-for favours are best known to those in the movement.
Maybe a tendency to avoid criticism of the Communist Party of
Britain, the allocation of a committee post, or a bulk subscription
to the Morning Star with occasional advertisements like the Cuba
Solidarity Campaign's recent job advertisement there. Maybe no
favours are received. After all, if you've giving-away someone
else's money there's no cost to being generous. If you have trouble
finding a political or charitable donation that can be given
to an oganisation without public accounts - these organisations
must be rare - Unite's London office for the T&G section
publishes a handly list. Not all keep their accounts to members
only. Labour Party branches and the central office have to publish
their accounts to the Electoral Commission, although a recent
scandle in which they filled-in the wrong figure on the form
by a few million lead to the establishment of a committee to
investigate the relationship between the parties including impartial
figures like Jack
Dromey, the finance director of Unite - T&G, who said
he didn't know there were massive soft loans made to Labour.
This lead to disussions with the next most over-funded political
party, the Conservatives to halt what politicians call the "arms
race" of policital funding. Talks have broken down. Some
unions and government-funded charities still use Unity Trust
Bank, a vehicle set-up to fund UK manufacturing but which goes
at least to the legal limits to make more soft loans to the labour
party while paying zero interest to the charities that first
invested in it.
The charities themselves are vague about their funding:
"SPONSORS: Cuba Solidarity Campaign does not currently
have a sponsor. If you are interested please contact us."
Doesn't the big donation from Unite-T&G branch 1/1148 deserve
a thank you, like with grants from region one?
Here is the Region One list
South & East Region (SERTUC)
Institute of Employment Rights;
the labour movement employment law think tank. Usual branch subscription
Labour Research Department;
the trade union funded and supported research and information
service (misnamed: it didn't provide me with any useful information
when trying to research my case; emplaw and Bailii are better
bets. US unions should fund Altlaw.org.org,
a similar project there)
London Hazards Centre Trust
Labour Party: (doesn't present regional accounts to the electoral
commission but does present local
South East Region
Eastern Region Labour
description of one of the five staff)
Justice for Colombia
with no amount stated)
Venezuela Information Centre
War on Want (history)
Action for Southern Africa
the Movement for Colonial Freedom
Assembly Against Racism
(one that I agree with)
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting
Freedom (one that I agree with)
Library for books, pamphlets and other writing on Marxism,
the science of socialism and history of working-class movements
- see The
Independent and Workers
Liberty. Name to note: Rosser.
Trade Union Disability
Alliance - an odd choice for a union which doesn't help disabled
Some other causes chosen by branch 1/1148 but not the regional
House, Croydon office block housing the communist party.
The house is "itself a co-op run by major shareholders"
no obvious accounts
Socialist Film Co-Op "Industrial and Provident Society
register 29459R" £15 charge to see accounts. They
invite online requests for socialist films but have not responded
to my online request for accounts.
Council no obvious accounts but a note that they are
- Defend Council Housing
- GLATUC (below)
- Labour Representation Committee (above)
- Lambeth LGBT Forum - doesn't look as though it costs any
money; if it did I'd donate a little. Part of the farce of donations-on-behalf
is that the forum is in Lambeth but I live in the next borough,
so I'd be more likely to help with a different LGBT forum if
there was a proper direct system of donations.
- Lambeth SOS
- London Socialist Film Co-op (above)
- Morning Star (above)
- SERTUC (above)
- Socialist Campaign
Group of MPs who have forgotten how to cash their pay cheques
and need more cash. I haven't looked but these are quite likely
the rabid ones who spoke out vehemently against union members
rights during the passing of the legal services bill.
- Stop the War Coalition
- no accounts but you can download resolutions passed at their
general meeting. The address is a conference room at the former
offices now merged with University
and College Union, so maybe there's a bit of office space
free since the merger where officials and lawyers used to work.
Battersea and Wandsworth
Trades Council - which looks worth donating money to . "Unfortunately
Battersea & Wandsworth TUC accounts are not publicly available.
They are circulated to members of the BWTUC General Council (comprised
of delegates from union branches affiliated to BWTUC) at the
"Our accounts are registered with Companies House - if
you go to their website
you should be able to find details of how to get copies (though
I believe there might be a small fee involved)". There's
also a photo of the donation cheque on the Battersea web site
- £74,000 towards in a good cause towards 14 union organisers
in anti-union regimes. The £74,000 doesn't even seem to
have been taken without permission from unions: volunteers were
given free tickets to Glastonbury but in exchange for staffing
the Workers Beer Company tent, which funded the £74,000.
Association of Trades Union Councils no obvious accounts
Payment to Secretary
Large payments to Bindman
and Partners for un identified court case of a member - possibly
the chair - when the union's panel lawyer proved "hopeless".
Footnote about the cost
of office space / Back
Dr Graham's other volunteer treasurer job involves renting
the £11,000 a year
top floor of the Georgian Ruskin
House in Croydon which is used for offices, meetings, and
University of Britain. Like McDonalds, his Communist
Party of Britain also describes itself as a University. But
this is a lot to pay for a 1,000-member organisation of which
half the members are unwaged. On one count it only has 37 members
and the previous office in Camden Road only cost £5,000
It must have been a relief for Dr Graham to think that, if
all else failed after talking to the landlord, he could mention
that his union branch had made a donation to them on behalf of
the thousand Unite-T&G 1/1148 members and quite independently
of any need to call-in favours should things go wrong: simply
because the thousand T&G members wanted to support Croydon
landlords so much that there was not point asking them: it could
be done on the nod at a branch meeting. I don't know if my union
subscriptions were diverted from helping reps and paying lawyers
to the business gamble of the Communist
University of Britain, because the accounts do not tell me,
but anyone can guess the relief it must have been for the gambling
tenant Dr Graham to pass-on a charitable donation (made independently
by another organisation) to his landlord. Did he win any favours
such as a seat among the trustees? I don't know, any more than
I know if he has taken money off the Co-Operative Party's Croydon
branch who were the tenants downstairs until their domain name
was abandoned. I know the Co-Op isn't a Co-Op, Co-Op MPs call
themselves Labour and the "principals" of co-operation
defined by the party look like an invite to entryism, designed
by the "sister party", either Labour or the tenants
upstairs, to sit on committees for no very clear reason.
Credit to Dr Graham and his volunteer associates like Ben
Stevenson, also of branch 1/1148, at CPB for keeping the firm
afloat. They have got a lot out of a small budget. For example
they do their own printing and they don't bother with silly affiliations
and donations, except to their own shared platform at the 2005
election. They don't even show a massive donation to the Morning
Star on their accounts, although they do have an expenditure
line for advertising. You would expect the treasurer to say at
"I've got another idea. Why don't we stop making all
these donations and concentrate on services members want? It
works at my other job and we're very successful. We sell loads
of publications that not even left wing bookshops are willing
Again Dr Graham hasn't transferred all the frugal ideas used
at Communist Party of Britain
to himself in his other role as treasurer of branch 1/1148. For
organisations about the same size, it's odd that one can afford
offices and pay a couple of staff while the other seems to do
nothing but give money away. But we've all been in jobs where
things haven't turned out well or looked-good, and maybe that
was just Dr Graham's motive for joining the Unite's Transport
and General Workers' Union. With his colleagues.
Footnote about six people electing themselves in a back
room: what their party handouts say:
Our campaigns should take account of the widespread concern
about the erosion of democracy. Parliament is by-passed and decisions
are taken by New Labour ministers and their un elected advisors.
When supporting Blairs legislation on anti-terrorist measures,
educational changes, ID cards, and other matters, many Labour
MPs are defying the views of the people who elected them and
the trade unions which sponsor them. Privatisation, public-private
partnerships and competition for resources undermine the freedom
and independence of local councils and reduce accountability,
resulting in fewer and fewer people using their votes.
More recently one of them - Ben
Stevenson - has been interviewed in defence of frauds which
McShane MP admits. The defences were that the frauds were
not a criminal offence (they were frauds), and they were first
exposed by bad people, which is probably true but not relevant.
Footnote about coffee in meetings /
There are exceptions. But if the meeting is held in a cafe
or a pub, it is harder to tell who has wondered-in out of curiosity,
who has come to ask for money and who is member of the branch.
Some system of cards or checking might get around this. Meeting
in a pub or a cafe is easy to ridicule, as are small trades unions
with funny names, high interest bank accounts in the treasurer's
name, and online votes held on a Yahoo Group, but the issue in
all cases isn't just what's easy to ridicule, but what's bogus,
what fails, and what works.
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