May/June Voice column: All Things Must Pass

“Sunrise doesn’t last all morning. A cloudburst doesn’t last all day…”

The words of a son of bus driver, active trade unionist and shop steward, George Harrison – the deepest thinker of all the fabs‎– seem apposite to me.

It’s been a fantastic privilege to represent CWU people at all levels and for so many years – from representing individual members to taking the collective view of the union to the wider movement or Government. From a committee member of WDO in the Liverpool Amal branch, through to a one-to-one with the Prime Minister. My only aim was to strengthen the collective.

It’s been tough being a full-time official during the last 23 years – but never, and nowhere near, as tough as the jobs of the people we have the honour to serve.

During the last few months I have met many members and activists.  Every meeting I’ve attended, or walk-about I’ve been on, has always left me feeling a bit dewy-eyed that so many people put such faith in our union.

The ability of the common folk to make a difference is much underestimated ‎in our political culture.

Trade unions are still the biggest voluntary movement in Britain today – yet there is hardly a mention of trade unions and the role they play in our 24/7 news culture.

We in the CWU have much to do.

The report, ‘Mapping The Future’, which will be circulated in the next week or so, will show that there are 318,000 workers in our sectors who are not in a trade union. We represent 38.3% in the postal and logistics sector and 31.8% in the telecoms sector. The figure in financial services is harder to ascertain, but tells a similar tale.

What’s clear is that a diverse union helps grow our strength, 24.6% of workers in our sectors are women, 14% are from ethnic minorities and we need shape our response around these facts.

If CWU Conference 2015 agrees the modest rule changes set before it, that will help copper-fasten our initiatives in that regard.

Such work will now be before your new general secretary. I wish Dave and your new leadership the very best for the future.

Thank you to every member who voted in the elections.

Regardless of your choice, in voting you strengthen our union.

My thanks to those who supported me. Everyone at team GS15. Toby Ziegler, C.J, Josh Lyman, Tony Benn, Bill Shankly, Rosa Parks, Dian, Melissa, Niall & Millie. The late Peggy and Billy.

I will be a CWU member until the day I die. Best wishes for the future.

All you need is love.

“A mother is a school. Empower her and you empower a great nation” – Egyptian poet Hafez Ibrahim, 1871-1932

Posted in Voice columns |

CLASS: Labour’s “Business manifesto” – a work in progress?

Published on the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) blog, 1st April 2015

Ed Miliband’s speech to launch Labour’s “Business manifesto” is an important step in strengthening Labour’s economic programme. Inevitably, the pressure of the General Election campaign circumscribed the thinking behind the speech. But in just a few short weeks Labour could be in government, and acting upon its programme. There is no reason to delay our engagement with the issues, even if critically.

The great strength of the speech is in the explanation of the impact of the Tories EU policy upon the country’s economic prospects. Ed rightly lambastes the Tories proposal to waste two years in a referendum campaign, which threatens to “shut UK businesses out of the market that gives them access to the world’s largest trading bloc”.

Should the Tories be returned to government, Cameron would oversee a period when British and foreign companies would not make substantial investment decisions about the British economy. The internal conflicts of the Tories would override the economic development of the country.

This line of divide with the Tories is crucial for Labour’s prospects. We must make no concessions to the anti-EU position of the Tories, or their racist co-thinkers in UKIP.

Much of the speech outlines specific policies which are positive-such as high quality apprenticeships, a British Investment Bank, an independent national infrastructure commission, etc. In different proportions, such policies can contribute to raising living standards and expanding the economy.

However, the speech is less convincing when identifying the central economic problems. We learn that: “our productivity gap is at its highest level for nearly a quarter of a century. This is our biggest economic challenge, as we lose our competitive edge in a world that can’t wait”.

Is the difference in productivity with other G7 countries really our biggest economic challenge? From June 1997 to 2010 the average real GDP growth rate in the UK was 2.1%.  Under the Coalition’s austerity policy, the average real growth rate for the years 2010 to 2014 1.65%.  So much then for the Tories claim of economic success.

Yet the preceding years show that low growth dogs the economy. This is not a simple problem of productivity. It is primarily a problem of lack of investment.

We’re still in the slowest recovery on record. GDP is higher at the end of 2014 than it was at the beginning of 2008, when the recession began. Yet even now, new investment is still £10 billion below its previous peak at the end of 2007. It fell again in the final quarter of 2014. The productivity crisis exists because there is no recovery in investment. Until there is, there will be no robust or sustainable recovery.

The fast-growing Asian economies are characterised by much higher levels of investment. Osborne’s assumptions that shrinking the state will lead to “a march of the manufacturers” and a large raft of private investment, has proven to be false. Experience shows that the state makes a vital contribution in promoting investment.

Alongside this, sustained GDP growth comes from additional capital and labour inputs rather than other factors in productivity. This was borne out by a study of the comparative sources of growth for the period 1990 to 2010. In the developed economies, including Britain, in GDP growth, capital inputs made up 56.9 %, labour inputs made up 32.4% and total factor productivity made up just 10.7% (1).

Once considered, it does not come as a surprise that economic growth first depends upon additional capital investment, secondly upon additional investment in labour, and only finally upon more effective use of productive resources.

A collapse in investment, primarily private investment, led to the recession. Private investors are still reluctant to invest. So hence the faltering recovery.

Ed Miliband rightly said that: “there is no future for Britain as a how-low-can-you-go-economy”.  The preferred option of many employers is to squeeze the workforce like a lemon.  This requires no new investment, but is only productive in a short sighted way.  Lemonade is best made with modern machines and a well trained, well paid workforce.

Investment is just not desirable, it is absolutely essential. Investment in our infrastructure, housing, and renewing our public services are preconditions to sustained economic growth. Investment in jobs to bring these projects to life will raise living standards again. The increased tax revenues from such productive investment, and the associated reduction in welfare payments, will close the deficit.

In power, Labour will have to address the issues of stagnation, lower living standards, and the real results of austerity.  Ed Miliband’s speech shows that our economic alternative to the Tories is still a work in progress.

(1) “The Dynamics of Economic Growth”, Vu Minh Khuong (Edward Elgar) p.181

Posted in Articles |

Letter in the Guardian: Austerity policies a disaster for majority

On Tuesday 24 March a letter which I was signatory to was published in the Guardian newspaper. You can read the letter below and see the full list of people who signed it.

Austerity policies a disaster for majority

In what we hope was his last budget, George Osborne made a series of false claims about his economic record (Editorial, 20 March). The reality is that his priority is to raise profits for the corporations, top executive salaries and bonuses, at the expense of ordinary working people. His achievement is the slowest ever “recovery” from recession, while ordinary people suffer increasing hardship during the longest continuous fall in living standards since records began. That is the real Tory record of this parliament. All those who have seen their real wages fall understand the real effects of austerity policies, along with people forced into low-paid or zero-hours contracts, families forced into using food banks and everyone suffering rising A&E waiting lists. Austerity policies have not reduced the public-sector deficit to the level its supporters claimed. The limited fall in the deficit is a result of hugely damaging cuts to government investment as well as the windfall of falling global interest rates, which are a sign of economic weakness.

Austerity policies have failed everyone but the super-rich, bankers and landlords who have benefited from the government’s tax cuts, bonuses and measures to boost house prices, but not home building. We call for an end to austerity policies. We need to invest in a future for the majority of the population. That’s why we’ll be supporting the People’s Assembly Against Austerity national demonstration and festival against austerity on Saturday 20 June.

Len McCluskey Unite
Mark Serwotka PCS
Christine Blower NUT
Mick Whelan Aslef
Sally Hunt UCU
Manuel Cortez TSSA
Billy Hayes CWU
Dave Green FBU
John Smith Musicians Union
Steve Gillan POA
Dianne Abbott MP
John McDonnell MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Katy Clark MP
Dave Anderson MP
Mary Glindon MP
Peter Hain MP
Grahame Morris MP
Kelvin Hopkins MP
Natalie Bennett Leader, Green party
Sam Fairbairn, Steve Turner & Romayne Phoenix The People’s Assembly
Lutfur Rahman Mayor, Tower Hamlets
Maxine Peake Actor
Mark Rylance Actor
Russell Brand Comedian
Shappi Khorsandi Comedian
Rufus Hound Comedian
Francesca Martinez Comedian
Jolyon Rubinstein The Revolution Will be Televised
Owen Jones Journalist & author
Ros Wynne-Jones Mirror journalist
John Rees Counterfire
Rob Griffiths & Liz Payne Communist party
Kate Hudson Left Unity
Prof Judith Heyer Oxford
Prof Malcolm Sawyer Leeds
Michael Burke Economist
Dr Jo Michell Bristol
Dr Diego Sanchez-Ancochea
Prof Mary Mellor Northumbria
Prof Hugo Radice Leeds
Pat Devine Hon fellow, Manchester
Prof George Irvin Soas
Prof Grazia Ietto-Gillies South Bank
Prof Victoria Chick UCL
Dr Jeff Powell Greenwich
Paul Hudson Economist
Dr Daniele Tori Greenwich
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson Warwick
Ozlem Onaran Professor Greenwich
Frances Stewart, professor Oxford

Posted in Other | Tagged |

Speech: Stand Up to Racism and Fascism demonstration

The CWU is proud to be a sponsor of today’s demonstration.

We believe that the trade unions must be part of the broader anti-racist and antifascist movement.

The CWU was one of the founding organisations of Unite Against Fascism.  Today we provide office space for UAF.  Many CWU activists have played a role in the actions against the BNP and the EDL.

These fascist organisations have had their back broken. That’s because we organised broad-based actions across the country, uniting local communities.

We highlighted the fascist nature of these organisations. We stressed the need to fight racism and defend our multicultural society.

Today, we face a different problem – a more widespread rise of racism. UKIP is a big part of this, but it’s not all of it.

UKIP is promoting racism. They want to scapegoat immigrants. They want to destroy all the rights gained by the anti-racist movement.

Farage wants to give employers the right to discriminate. Next he will want to extend that right to landlords, to shopkeepers, and so on.

Farage is following his hero, Enoch Powell. Like Powell, Farage wants to end immigration, get out of the EU and promote contempt of foreigners.

Today, you have shown that you will stand up to such poison. But, we need to use today as a platform to build a massive antiracist movement.

It’s not just UKIP. Austerity economics is creating hardship.  With hardship comes anger, and the search for someone to blame.

Politicians supporting austerity are also using migrant workers as a scapegoat. That is wrong, and we got to speak out against that.

And it’s not just austerity that is making things worse. The non-stop wars against Muslim countries are leading to a siege upon the Muslim community in Britain.

Islamophobia is being promoted by politicians and the media as part of justifying wars abroad.

We’ve got to speak out in defence of Muslims here – and speak out against imperialist wars abroad.

We have to stand up to every form of racism – every form of bigotry – whether it is racism, Islamophobia, or anti-Semitism.

We must oppose discrimination against women, against the LGBT community, and against the disabled.

Today is a great day. After today, you must continue the struggle by organising in your workplace, at your place of study and in your community.

The racists won’t let up – and neither must we.

Together we can beat the racists.  Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches |

Speech: National Shop Stewards Network, Midlands conference

Thank you for this opportunity to address you.

The CWU supports the promotion of a new shop stewards movement.

The origin of this is a speech by the late Jack Jones, several years ago. He argued that the trade unions could not grow further until they develop a new shop stewards movement.

I very much agree with this analysis. Expansion of the unions after 1945 was based on the work of many thousands of activists who were determined to build a power base in the workplace.

This allowed coordination across shifts; across different sites of the same company, and across an entire industry.

Jack Jones’s own rise to a position of power was based on his support and involvement in this movement.

But this was not some anomaly in history. This is in accord with any widespread extension of union coverage and power.

We cannot envisage systematic growth of the unions without a massive extension of workplace representation and bargaining.

Workers will not renew the unions because on an extension of insurance coverage from a national headquarters.

Workers will join because the union becomes an important and an active part of their daily life.

Our task is to demonstrate to the young workers entering the workforce that unions are powerful organisations for raising living standards.

The young workers will take over by acting as a new generation of workplace leaders. Then we will see real and sustained growth in the unions.

We are some way from this point.  In the meantime our priority is to keep the unions as strong, and active, as possible.

Whatever services the union offers members, we need to keep workplace organisation – shop stewards organisation – at the forefront of all our activity.

We are in the run-up to the General Election. The CWU supports the return of a Labour Government. But that is not our only policy. We are also against austerity.

Since the start of 2012, the Labour leadership has insisted that it will govern with no commitment to overturn Tory cuts, spending limits or wage restraint.

Adapting to the Coalition’s austerity programme was a huge mistake. Labour had been on a steady 10 percent poll lead over the Tories.  That has dropped.

Labour had a critique of the Coalition’s economic policy and its damaging effects. That has been completely compromised.

If this shift was meant to secure business support from Labour then it has failed. As you will have noted, business figures have become more arrogant and obnoxious with the prospect of a Labour government.

If this shift was meant to secure public support for Labour as having a credible economic policy, then it has also failed.

YouGov published a poll of Labour swing voters in January. These are voters who haven’t yet decided who they will vote for, but haven’t ruled out voting Labour.

57 percent of them those polled said they preferred a Labour Party that:

* commits to spending more on the NHS and other public services and does not make the deficit a priority.

51 percent said they preferred a Labour Party that:

* is less subservient to the USA, does not get involved in American wars and instead is more positive about Britain’s role in Europe.

And finally, 56 percent said they preferred a Labour Party that:

* does more to stand up to big business, supporting ordinary people against over-powerful corporations.

So in the end, swing Labour voters prefer a leftist Labour government to a Blairite one.

Adapting to austerity hasn’t worked. That’s because austerity itself hasn’t worked.

Osborne’s key target was to eliminate the public sector deficit by 2015.

It was £153.5 billion in 2010. By the end of this financial year, it will be around £90 billion.

This is the even less impressive when all the factors are taken into account. Of the £63.5 billion reduction, £44 billion comes from an increase in VAT receipts.

Remember, the Coalition put VAT up from 17.5 percent to 20 percent. In reality, then there has been almost the deficit reduction, just a rise in taxes upon consumers.

Meanwhile, public investment has collapsed – supposedly to make way for private investment. Yet there is no substantial increase in private investment.

Why should Labour buy into this failure?

Our view is that we will support the return of a Labour Government. But we will continue to campaign against austerity. We argue for public investment in the economy.

Only investment can create jobs and sustain a recovery.  We need investment in infrastructure, housing, and public services.

And, of course, the CWU wants investment in the communications sector.

This is what the CWU will press for, regardless of who is in government.

I believe discussion about an alternative economic strategy to austerity is a key issue amongst union activists.

It must be part of a new shop stewards movement.

The election result in Greece was very heartening, and shows ever larger numbers of people in the EU are rejecting austerity.

Clearly, we have to defend the Greek government against the continued bullying from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, the European Commission and pro-austerity governments.

Hopefully the victory in Greece will be reinforced by the growth of anti-austerity parties in the forthcoming elections in Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

Now, I would like to finish, by drawing your attention to the UN Anti-Racism Day demonstration in London on March 21st.

Inside the UK, and across the EU, we have witnessed the growth of the right wing, populist and racist parties.

In Britain, we saw UKIP become the largest party in the European elections last May.

Now, UKIP say they are not racist.  Today, even the fascists in the BNP and the EDL say they are not racist.

This is a peculiar tribute to the struggle of black communities, and decades of work by anti-racists.

Unlike his hero, Enoch Powell, Nigel Farage, cannot use explicitly racist language. But the ideas are just the same.

This week Farage said that employers should be free to discriminate by removing legislation. In UKIP Britain, it will be legal to put up the old signs “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish”.

Equally, Farage insists that the never ending queue of UKIP members being expelled for naked racism is just an accident.

Of course, he never explains why those supporting naked racism find UKIP so attractive.

In recent years, the antifascist and antiracist movement have done great work, beating the BNP, and breaking down the EDL movement.

Now it’s crucial that we stand up to the more respectable brand of racism being promoted by UKIP.

UKIP have grown because too much ground has been given to them by mainstream politicians, and by mainstream media.

The public debate about immigration has been so one-sided against migrants that this has created a perfect ground for UKIP’s growth.

Equally, the non-stop wars against Muslim countries abroad has made Islamophobia at home commonplace. The prime beneficiaries of this have been UKIP.

The trade union movement must take an unambiguous stand against racism – in all its forms.

We must build an active movement against racism.  We must ensure that our workplaces and communities are free from the poison of racism.

I hope you will support action against racism next Saturday.  I hope to see some of you at the London demonstration against racism which the CWU has sponsored.

Thanks for listening

Posted in Speeches |

Speech: Mentoring Course for Women in the CWU

It’s fitting that we are holding this course today – the day after we celebrated International Women’s Day.

The theme this year for International Women’s day is Make it Happen.

We are told by the International Labour Organisation that at the current rate of progress it will take 70 years to achieve gender pay equality!

In order to improve things for women every organization has to strive to get more women in positions of power so that they can influence decision making and strategy.

Women make up less that 10% of world leaders.

And globally less than 1 in 5 members of parliament is a woman.

In the UK men outnumber women 4 to 1 in parliament and the number of women MPs has increased by only 4.6 % in 10 years.

In the business world only 20% of directors are women.

In the media only 5% of editors are women.

This has massive implications for democracy, the equality of governance and equality in society as a whole.

In Trade Unions things are not much better.

In our own union we have been having a long hard look at ourselves.

Roughly 1 in 5 of our members are women that is not yet reflected in our representative structures.

We are committed as a union to getting more women into local regional and national leadership roles.

We have passed conference policy to support this work and we are providing additional specialist training to women activists.

You are attending our first mentoring course for women reps through this course we aim to develop self-sustaining networks and support for all women members who want to get involved in the CWU.

In short we want to deploy your skills, knowledge and experience to help support and encourage other women.

Mentoring isn’t new for Trade Unions. A good union rep will also be talent spotting for new activists.

But this course aims to set up a much more systematic approach to matching mentors with those who seek this support.

By putting your name forward and being her today the union applauds you for helping us to “MAKE IT HAPPEN”.

Thank you for listening.

Enjoy the course.

I’m happy to answer any questions.

Posted in Speeches |

Speech:Glasgow and District Branch AGM

Thank you for this opportunity to address your AGM.  I want to makes some observations on the political situation, the unions work on organising, and our work on proportionality.

This year is dominated by the General Election. It looks as though Labour is on course to replace the Coalition Government. But, if the current political situation in Scotland remains unchanged, then Labour is unlikely to achieve an overall majority.

At the start of February Lord Ashcroft’s poll of 16 Labour held constituencies in Scotland indicated that the SNP was ahead in 15. A further poll last Wednesday indicated that the SNP would win a further 6 out of 8 seats currently held by the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour.

Although these polls are snapshots, the Scottish Labour Party has an enormous task to turn this around before May 7th.

Doubtless there will be many different interpretations of the referendum campaign and its outcome. But it does appear that the biggest impact upon Labour’s electoral standing has been the decision of the leadership to support austerity.

In 2012, in opinion polls, Labour was scoring 10 points ahead of the Tories.

In 2013 the Labour leadership endorsed economic austerity. This has been explained as tempered by a fairer approach than the Coalition. Probably true. But working with comparable spending limits leads to comparable cuts in public services.

This was a disappointment, and a blow to Labour’s standing in the polls. The SNP and the Greens have benefited from Labour voters deciding to support a party that opposes austerity.

There is a simple answer for the Labour Party, and for Scottish Labour – drop the failed austerity policy.

An incoming Labour government needs to invest in the economy.  This will stimulate and sustain economic growth.

We need a recovery that increases quality jobs.  This week we learnt that the number of zero-hour contracts has risen to 1.8 million.  Wages and benefits must be lifted to raise living standards.

When they do more tax revenues go to the Chancellor from both employers and workers. Full employment reduces welfare spending. This means the public spending deficit closes.

Rejecting austerity is popular, because it is right.

YouGov published a poll in January of people who were described as swing Labour voters – they’ve not yet made up their minds, but they haven’t ruled out voting Labour.

57 percent said they would prefer a Labour Party that:

*  commits to spend more money on the NHS and other public services and does not make the deficit a priority.

51 percent said they would prefer a Labour Party that:

*  is less subservient to the USA, does not get involved in American wars and instead is more positive about Britain’s role in Europe.

And finally, 56 percent said they would prefer a Labour Party that:

* does more to stand up to big business, supported ordinary people against over powerful corporations.

So, swing voters prefer a leftist Labour Party over a Blairite one.

So it is important that we both elect a Labour government, and keep pressing for change in the economic policy.

Despite this, there is much in Labour’s campaign which we can support. Last year at the National Policy Forum, and Labour Party Conference, the Labour leadership committed to a range of policies that the CWU and other unions argued for.

These include:

  • Closing the loophole in agency workers rights
  • Making superfast broadband available to all parts of the UK
  • Using government contracts to spread the payment of the Living Wage
  • Abolition of exploitative zero-hour contracts
  • Increased public reporting on equal pay to address the gender pay gap
  • Additional resources to the Gangmaster Licensing Authority to ensure recruitment firms comply with employment standards
  • Support for an international Financial Transaction Tax – also known as the Robin Hood Tax
  • Full engagement by the British Government in the Irish Peace Process
  • Equality and justice for the Palestinians.

These are commitment that the CWU was directly involved in securing. In addition, and of particular interest to branch members will be the commitment we secured on Royal Mail.

These include:

  • a recognition that privatisation was wrong in principle
  • a commitment not to sell the 30 percent shares still in public ownership
  • support for a staff led trust for the 10 percent staff share
  • ruling nothing out, an examination of the privatisation process, and its impact on the workforce
  • secure the USO for the next Parliament and foreseeable future
  • ensure delivery competition does not undermine the USO by introducing protection for Royal Mail from cherry picking
  • protect the post office network by pushing for a substantial extension of the Inter-Business Agreement between Royal Mail and POL
  • establish a suitable price
  • investigate whether competition is creating the need for protection against deteriorating conditions in employment and remuneration for the postal workforce.

That is a good set of commitments from an incoming Labour Government. We will have to provide appropriate lobbying to ensure that they are delivered.

Labour Conference – as you probably know-had previously agreed with the union that Royal Mail should be renationalised.

We do not have that agreement from the Labour leadership, but it remains our policy and we will continue to pursue in an appropriate manner.

The communications sector as a whole is changing and we are having to change the manner in which we approach organising as a union.

Royal Mail is changing fast. But then, so too is the whole post and courier sector. Parcels and courier deliveries have been highly competitive for many years. Recently we’ve seen Whistl launch a competitive letter delivery service in a number of cities.

Overall the total number of jobs in the whole industry is about the same as 10 years ago. But now Royal Mail represents a smaller part of the industry.

This has an impact upon the union’s bargaining position.

There are around 150,000 non-unionised workers in the Post and Courier sector.  That means only around 50 percent of post and courier workers are in a union.

CWU members, covered by collective agreements, have better terms and conditions than non-unionised workers.

Yet firms without a union exert downward pressure on your terms and conditions. This is because Royal Mail shareholders, and the regulator, draw comparisons between Royal Mail’s wages bill and those of the competitors.

The gap can be very large. Whistl workers are supposed to be unionised by Community. When you look at the condition of Whistl workers you have to question what coverage Community actually has achieved.

According to figures Whistl provided to the House of Commons BIS Select Committee, they currently employ 48 percent of their staff on zero hour contracts.

The basic wage of a Whistl delivery worker in Inner London is £7.37 an hour. That is well below the London Living Wage of £9.15.

A Royal Mail delivery worker in Inner London has an hourly rate of £12.35.

So the union has to develop a way of overcoming the weakening of its bargaining position.

In future, we spend much more time organising in other post and courier firms.

In future we must make a serious drive to establish minimum terms and conditions for the whole sector. This starts with the Living Wage.

We must organise and campaign to ensure that every post and courier company pays the Living Wage.  This is mostly a task of directly organising in the industry. But we must also seek protective legislation from an incoming Labour Government.

I noticed that the Scottish TUC is in disagreement with the SNP on the delay on the introduction of statutory Scottish Government Guidance on the Living Wage.  The idea is for the inclusion of a legal commitment that anyone delivering services to the Scottish government has to pay the Living Wage.

The SNP is missing a trick, given the contribution that government can make to promote living wage through contract compliance.

Now, the union has been engaged in an extended reform to try and achieve a more proportional leadership. By this, we mean a leadership that more closely represents the actual make up of the membership – particularly the proportion of women and members of ethnic minority communities.

We are making progress on this. The NEC has a number of rule changes going to conference to improve this at the national and regional level.

So the proposal is to seat all the chairs of the equality advisory committees at the NEC.  Equally, the NEC is proposing to introduce a reserved seat for women amongst the three principal offices in each region.

These are small steps to take – but each one helps to overcome the under-representation of women and black and minority ethnic members in leading positions.

We want every branch to become more conscious of these issues, and ensure an improvement in the balance of branch leadership. In general, branches are responding positively to this.

The vast majority of union activists recognise that the make-up of the workforce is changing, and that the union must adapt to this too. 87 percent of the new jobs created in Scotland in the past two years have gone to women.

The Glasgow and District Branch has a membership of 4,389.

615 of your members are women – that’s one in seven members of your branch.

We don’t have full details of the ethnic origins of the membership. In your branch, we only have records of the ethnicity of 1,898 members.

We are preparing the full UK wide census of the membership from CWU headquarters.  We need to encourage all members to provide these details.

Of your Branch members who have provided details, we know that 82 are from black and ethnic minorities.  That means around four percent of your branch members are from ethnic minorities.

These details matter.  The more the union leadership reflects the diverse membership of the members, the stronger the union is for everyone.

By way of interest, 335 branch members are under 30 years old – that is around eight percent. You have 349 retired members – that is 84 percent.

We have very little information on disability – only 7 branch members defined themselves as having a disability.

As I said, we are looking at ways to carry out a membership census. Such information will contribute to refining and improving our policy and representation.

I am happy to answer questions on any matters I’ve raised, or haven’t raised.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches |

Speech: Joint meeting of Women’s Advisory Committee/Regional Women’s Committee

Thanks for the opportunity to address you.

The old wisdom in the labour movement used to be that women would be expelled from work during recessions. We now know this to be untrue.

Women’s employment has reached record levels today.  Recessions reduce the number of women in work, but only temporarily and in comparable levels to men.  This is a tribute to numberless women who have stood up for the right to work.

But it’s clear that women coming into the workforce are being subjected to a different discrimination. The most obvious is by employment status.

Women are completely disproportionately represented in the use of insecure contracts, particularly zero-hour contracts and bogus forms of self-employment.

According to a recent study from the Fawcett Society:

“Female under-employment … is nearly twice the level it was at the start of the crisis in 2008, and the phenomenon of “zero-hour contracts is ushering in a new era of insecure work amongst substantial minority of the low-paid – the majority of whom are women.”

This is presumably one of the reasons why gender pay gap widened in 2013. The most recent report from the Office of National Statistics shows that women clawed a little back in 2014. But after that adjustment, the fact is that the gender gap is only back to where it was previously.

In 2014 the gender gap was 9.4 percent for a woman working full time, compared to 9.5 percent in 2012.

How should we approach this? I think we must position our contribution as a union across the sector, rather than just in our recognised companies.

Defending wages and conditions in BT, Royal Mail, Santander, etc., is vital.  But the downward pressure on wages and conditions comes from the non-unionised companies in the sector.

One way to overcome this is through a long and patient drive to unionise the unorganised workers.

We’re preparing a new edition of the document “Mapping the Future”.  This will give a fuller picture of the communications industry, and the union’s place within it.  Let me share some of the research.

In the Post and Courier sector only 50 percent of the workforce is unionised.

In the Telecoms sector, only 27 percent of the workforce is unionised.

Currently we do not have comparable figures for financial services.

In the Post and Courier sector, 19.1 percent of the workforce are women.

In the Telecoms sector 27.8 percent are women.

If we were able to secure the Living Wage for all communication workers it would make a substantial contribution to lifting wages for all workers in unrecognised companies.  It would also strengthen the bargaining position of the union in recognised companies.

But it would, I believe, have a big impact on closing the gender pay gap within the sector.

So in future, we’re going to have to direct more resources to organising in the whole communications sector, and campaign for the Living Wage for all communication workers.

I also believe that we will have to look at cross-sectoral bargaining to establish minimum standards on issues such as employment security and contract status.

Moving on – we are continuing with our work on proportionality in the national and local union.

Immediately I would draw your attention to some rule changes which will be presented by the NEC at this years Conference. Although the Conference agenda is not yet published, I understand that these proposals are in order, so will be available for debate.

The first is the proposal to seat all the Chairs of the Advisory Committees as ex-officio members of the NEC. This means they will be able to speak on issues which arise from the advisory committees remit. They will not be able to vote – but neither can National Officers, including myself.

I regard this as a major step which should ensure a much more direct connection between the work of the Advisory Committee and the national leadership.

The Advisory Committees will also be able to get material placed on the NEC agenda -if they have the agreement of the Equalities Officer to prepare a document for decision by the NEC.

I hope you, and your branch, will see what an important step this is.

The second rule change is not so significant, but it is still valuable. This is to place in rule the obligation for one of the three principal Regional Officers to be a woman.

Currently most, but not all, Regions have a woman amongst the leading three Officers. The rule change will ensure that, in future, every Region has to achieve this minimum position.

The fact is we’re making some progress.  But we’re still a long way from achieving a leadership that reflects the actual proportion of women and black and ethnic minority members.  This requires many steps.  This rule change on Regional Officers is one of them.

We are continuing to tour branches to discuss proportionality. Earlier on this year Linda Roy, Trish Lavelle and I visited branches in Cornwall and Devon. Further visits are being planned.

We also have another couple of important initiatives underway – albeit a little behind schedule. These are, a study of Branch attendance at Equality Conferences – and the introduction of a branch census.

The study of Branch attendance at the Equality Conferences is very important. At its December meeting last year, the NEC has set itself the task of doubling the attendance at these Conferences by 2018.

The first priority is to find out why Branches don’t send delegations, hence the report. Once we have the feedback, the NEC will be able to consider how best to encourage the Branches to increase attendance.

I must remind you, that at last years Annual Conference we put into the rules an obligation upon Branches to set aside financial provision for attendance at Equality Conferences. I hope you make sure your Branch Committee carries out this obligation.

The NEC is also committed to undertaking a Branch census.  This is being done by degrees.

We have introduced a very good online tool called “OLS3”, On Line Services 3, which Branch Secretaries can access. This allows the Branch Secretary to see a mini-census with details of the number of women, BAME, and members under 30 as a proportion of reps, and members in general in the Branch.

We are planning further steps to achieve much more comprehensive monitoring figures.  Such measurement is crucial. It doesn’t create proportionality. But it does allow us to more clearly assess the size of the problem. Solutions are found by those who recognise there is a problem.

I am happy to answer any questions on issues I have  raised, and those I haven’t.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches |

Speech: Scotland No 2 Branch AGM

Thank you for this opportunity to address your AGM.  I want to makes some observations on the political situation, the unions work on organising, and our work on proportionality.

This year is dominated by the General Election. It looks as though Labour is on course to replace the Coalition Government.

But, if the current political situation in Scotland remains unchanged, then Labour is unlikely to achieve an overall majority.

At the start of February Lord Ashcroft’s poll of 16 Labour held constituencies in Scotland indicated that the SNP was ahead in 15.

Although this was a snapshot the Scottish Labour Party has an enormous task to turn this around before May 7th.

Doubtless there will be many different interpretations of the referendum campaign and its outcome.

But it does appear that the biggest impact upon Labour’s electoral standing has been the decision of the leadership to support austerity.

In 2012, in opinion polls, Labour was scoring 10 points ahead of the Tories.

In 2013 the Labour leadership endorsed economic austerity. This has been explained as tempered by a fairer approach than the Coalition.

Probably true. But working with comparable spending limits leads to comparable cuts in public services.

This was a disappointment, and a blow to Labour’s standing in the polls. The SNP and the Greens have benefited from Labour voters deciding to support a party that opposes austerity.

There is a simple answer for the Labour Party, and for Scottish Labour – drop the failed austerity policy.

An incoming Labour government needs to invest in the economy.  This will stimulate and sustain economic growth.

We need a recovery that increases quality jobs.  This week we learnt that the number of zero-hour contracts has risen to 1.8 million.  Wages and benefits must be lifted to raise living standards.

When they do more tax revenues go to the Chancellor from both employers and workers. Full employment reduces welfare spending. This means the public spending deficit closes.

Rejecting austerity is popular, because it is right.

YouGov published a poll in January of people who were described as swing Labour voters – they’ve not yet made up their minds, but they haven’t ruled out voting Labour.

57 percent said they would prefer a Labour Party that:

*  commits to spend more money on the NHS and other public services and does not make the deficit a priority.

51 percent said they would prefer a Labour Party that:

*  is less subservient to the USA, does not get involved in American wars and instead is more positive about Britain’s role in Europe.

And finally, 56 percent said they would prefer a Labour Party that:

* does more to stand up to big business, supported ordinary people against over powerful corporations.

So, swing voters prefer a leftist Labour Party over a Blairite one.

It is important that we both elect a Labour government, and keep pressing for change in the economic policy.

Despite this, there is much in Labour’s campaign which we can support. Last year at the National Policy Forum, and Labour Party Conference, the Labour leadership committed to a range of policies that the CWU and other unions argued for.

These include:

  • Closing the loophole in agency workers rights
  • Making superfast broadband available to all parts of the UK
  • Using government contracts to spread the payment of the Living Wage
  • Abolition of exploitative zero-hour contracts
  • Increased public reporting on equal pay to address the gender pay gap
  • Additional resources to the Gangmaster Licensing Authority to ensure recruitment firms comply with employment standards
  • Support for an international Financial Transaction Tax – also known as the Robin Hood Tax
  • Full engagement by the British Government in the Irish Peace Process
  • Equality and justice for the Palestinians.

These are commitment that the CWU was directly involved in securing. In addition, and of particular interest to branch members will be the commitment we secured on Royal Mail.

These include:

  • a recognition that privatisation was wrong in principle
  • a commitment not to sell the 30 percent shares still in public ownership
  • support for a staff led trust for the 10 percent staff share
  • ruling nothing out, an examination of the privatisation process, and its impact on the workforce
  • secure the USO for the next Parliament and foreseeable future
  • ensure delivery competition does not undermine the USO by introducing protection for Royal Mail from cherry picking
  • protect the post office network by pushing for a substantial extension of the Inter-Business Agreement between Royal Mail and POL
  • establish a suitable price control
  • investigate whether competition is creating the need for protection against deteriorating conditions in employment and remuneration for the postal workforce.

That is a good set of commitments from an incoming Labour Government. We will have to provide appropriate lobbying to ensure that they are delivered.

Labour Conference – as you probably know – had previously agreed with the union that Royal Mail should be renationalised.

We do not have that agreement from the Labour leadership, but it remains our policy and we will continue to pursue in an appropriate manner.

The communications sector as a whole is changing and we are having to change the manner in which we approach organising as a union.

Royal Mail is changing fast. But then, so too is the whole post and courier sector. Parcels and courier deliveries have been highly competitive for many years.

Recently we’ve seen Whistl launch a competitive letter delivery service in a number of cities.

Overall the total number of jobs in the whole industry is about the same as 10 years ago.

But now Royal Mail represents a smaller part of the industry.

This has an impact upon the union’s bargaining position.

There are around 150,000 nonunionised workers in the Post and Courier sector.

That means only around 50 percent of post and courier workers are in a union.

CWU members, covered by collective agreements, have better terms and conditions than nonunionised workers.

Yet firms without a union exert downward pressure on your terms and conditions.

This is because Royal Mail shareholders, and the regulator, draw comparisons between Royal Mail’s wages bill and those of the competitors.

The gap can be very large. Whistl workers are supposed to be unionised by Community.

When you look at the condition of Whistl workers you have to question what coverage Community actually has achieved.

According to figures Whistl provided to the House of Commons BIS Select Committee, they currently employ 48 percent of their staff on zero hour contracts.

The basic wage of a Whistl delivery worker in Inner London is £7.37 a hour. That is well below the London Living Wage of £9.15,

A Royal Mail delivery worker in Inner London has an hourly rate of £12.35.

So the union has to develop a way of overcoming the weakening of its bargaining position.

In future, we must spend much more time organising in other post and courier firms.

In future, we must make a serious drive to establish minimum terms and conditions for the whole sector. This starts with the Living Wage.

We must organise and campaign to ensure that every post and courier company pays the Living Wage.

This is mostly a task of directly organising in the industry. But we must also seek protective legislation from an incoming Labour Government.

I noticed that the Scottish TUC is in disagreement with the SNP on the delay on the introduction of statutory Scottish Government Guidance on the Living Wage.

The idea is for the inclusion of a legal commitment that anyone delivering services to the Scottish government has to pay the Living Wage.

The SNP is missing a trick, given the contribution that government can make to promote living wage through contract compliance.

Now, the union has been engaged in an extended reform to try and achieve a more proportional leadership.

By this, we mean a leadership that more closely represents the actual make up of the membership – particularly the proportion of women and members of ethnic minority communities.

We are making progress on this. The NEC has a number of rule changes going to conference to improve this at the national and regional level.

One proposal is to seat all the chairs of the equality advisory committees at the NEC.

Equally, the NEC is proposing to introduce a reserved seat for women amongst the three principal officers in each region.

These are small steps to take – but each one helps to overcome the under-representation of women and black and minority ethnic members in leading positions.

We want every branch to become more conscious of these issues, and ensure an improvement in the balance of branch leadership. In general, branches are responding positively to this.

The vast majority of union activists recognise that the make-up of the workforce is changing, and that the union must adapt to this too.

87 percent of the new jobs created in Scotland in the past two years have gone to women.

The Scotland No2 Branch has a membership of 3240.

440 of your members are women – that’s one in seven members of your branch.

We don’t have full details of the ethnic origins of the membership. In Scotland No 2, we only have records of the ethnicity of 1429 members.

We are preparing the full UK wide census of the membership from CWU headquarters.  We need to encourage all members to provide these details.

Of your Branch members who have provided details, we know that 54 are from black and ethnic minorities.

That means around four percent of your branch members are from ethnic minorities.

These details matter.  The more the union leadership reflects the diverse membership of the members, the stronger the union is for everyone.

By way of interest, 215 branch members are under 30 years old – that is around seven percent.

You have 129 retired members – that is around four percent.

We have very little information on disability – only 3 branch members defined themselves as having a disability.

As I said, we are looking at ways to carry out a membership census. Such information will contribute to refining and improving our policy and representation.

I am happy to answer questions on any matters I’ve raised, or haven’t raised.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches |

Speech: Campaign for Labour Party Democracy AGM

It is a privilege to address your AGM.  CLPD gives coherence to everything the left stands for inside the Party – to be practical, effective and principled.

There is no difference amongst us, I’m sure, on the need to return a  majority Labour Government on May 7th.

At present, if the situation in Scotland remains unchanged, the best we may be seeing is Labour as the largest party.

It didn’t have to be this way. Let’s recall that during 2012, Labour was scoring 10 points above the Tories. Then Ed Miliband and Ed Balls announced their decision to adopt austerity as a Labour policy.

This can be dressed up as a fairer policy approach than the Coalition. And no doubt it could be.

But with comparable spending limits come comparable cuts. That was a disappointment, and a tremendous blow to Labour’s standing in the polls.

The SNP and the Greens have benefited from Labour voters deciding to support a party that opposes austerity.

If we can’t convince the Labour leadership at present then we must keep pressing for the future.

The victory of Syriza in Greece is very important for the future of the EU. The failure of any other government in the EU to stand up against austerity means the new Greek government is isolated, in the short term.

But the movement throughout Europe is changing fast, notably in Spain and Ireland.

Given the current stagnation in the Eurozone, it’s hard to believe that people will accept further austerity which will only deepen the economic stagnation.

Our task is still to deliver a Labour Government, despite the leadership’s current support for austerity.

Only with a Labour government do we have the chance of a better more progressive, economic policy.

Since CLPD’s last AGM, we’ve had the findings of the Collins Review endorsed at Labour’s Spring Conference last year.

It is then appropriate to consider how this is likely to affect our future work.

The introduction of the affiliated supporters category is likely to lead to a reduction in union subscriptions. Each union will be using the five-year period to try and maximise the number of affiliated supporters.

The CWU is preparing its first exercise in offering members the choice of opting in or out. I envisage the union having to engage in this exercise a number of times.

None of us can be certain what percentage of levy payers are likely to become affiliated supporters.

All of us, I would guess, believe that it is likely to be considerably less than the current affiliated levels.

Certainly there are incentives to organise and argue for take up. Immediately after the General Election we face the important contest for Labour’s nominee for London mayor.

Given that this is being decided through a primary, the unions will have to put a lot of effort into signing up members, if they want to have an influence in the contest.

We will have to use every argument possible. We will have to deploy every type of communication – traditional and social media – in order to get the maximum support.

Of course, I believe it is essential for progressive politics that the unions remain affiliated to the Party.

Yet it is hard to believe that there will not be a change in the weight of the unions in the Party.

Here too, I believe that a major danger facing us is that a Labour government, or a Labour led government, would be tempted to extend the state funding of parties.

There is likely to be a big drop in finance coming from levy payers. Inevitably, there will be pressure to make donations proportionate to those affiliation levels.

It is hard to see how the Party is not going to take a financial hit. State funding will then be suggested as the real solution to any shortfall. I think this is a strong likelihood.

You can imagine that  Progress and allies will favour this solution.  It would further remove the elected politicians from dependency upon a mass membership.

State funding will make the leadership less sensitive and accountable to membership needs. In the other direction, it will hollow out the activist base of the party.

State funding will strengthen the tendency towards making politics the preserve of a small number of professional politicians.

It will also strengthen the hand of those who see politics as a matter of simply providing the best administration – with very little difference in policy.

So, this is a big threat, and I know CLPD is alert to this.

We do have five years to define and stabilise the union’s affiliation levels to the party. So must prepare for a prolonged campaign.

But I wanted to talk to about some of the immediate problems, because CLPD has never been afraid to face up to difficulties.

I’m sure we all miss the presence of Vladimir Derer today. The best way to demonstrate this is to recommit ourselves to the work of CLPD.

On behalf of the CWU, thank you for your contribution to the movement. The CWU is proud to be affiliated.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches |