Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Orgreave legal submission to be presented to Home Secretary today

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign 
Secretary: Barbara Jackson 


Theresa May Receives The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign Legal 

On  Tuesday 15 December 2015 the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) will hand in its legal submission to the Home Secretary Theresa May, asking her to consider either establishing an Independent Panel, similar to that established in 2009 to investigate the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, or a public inquiry.

This submission, with testimonials from miners and their wives and photographs from Orgreave on the day, will be handed in by Chris Peace and Mike McColgan on behalf of the OTJC.  

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) took over two-and-a-half years to conduct a scoping (initial investigation) exercise. Its report, on 12 June 2015, concluded that it did not have the resources to conduct a full-scale investigation into events at Orgreave coking works near Rotherham on 18 June 1984. 

The IPCC's report did however highlight that it had been unable to locate a series of important documents, including the police operational orders that were drawn up in advance of 18 June 1984. The IPCC report, which cited the historic nature of events as another reason why it was unwilling to conduct a further investigation - also detailed a cover up by senior South Yorkshire Police (SYP) of malpractice which they knew had taken place. 

The IPCC report largely conceded that the organisation was unable to get to the truth of an event that resulted in 95 miners being arrested after thousands of police officers - many 
in riot gear, with others on horseback, and police dogs - brutally assaulted miners participating in a year-long strike aimed at defending jobs and mining communities.

In many former mining communities there still remains, since 1984, a lack of trust in and fear of the police. 

Barbara Jackson, secretary of the OTJC said, ‘“We had a productive meeting with the Home Secretary in July and now that we have completed our legal submission we are looking forward to presenting it to her with the belief that she will look at if fairly and objectively. We remain committed to justice over Orgreave.” 

As part of the submission to Theresa May on 15 December 2015 a short film has been made on behalf of the OTJC. It can be viewed at: - https://vimeo.com/onetoonedevelopment/orgreavejustice


For further information and to arrange interviews in London contact: Chris Peace 07980 650534

Chris Peace and Mike McColgan will be available for interviews on Tuesday 15 December at 2.30pm outside the Home Office, Marsham St, London SW1P 4DF and from 4.00pm at Unite House, 128 Theobald’s Place, Holborn, London WC1X 8TN.

For further information and to arrange interviews in Sheffield contact Kate Flannery 07732783984 

Barbara Jackson, who was on strike in 1984-85, and Kevin Horne, ex miner, arrested at Orgreave, will be available for interviews from 9am on 15 December at the Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1 2BX.    

Friday, 11 December 2015

Bloody Sunday and James McClean

The WBA player James McClean would appear to be the target of an orchestrated campaign by as yet unidentified individuals and organisations for his refusal to wear a Poppy because coming from Derry he would see it as disrespectful to the 14 civil rights demonstrators who were murdered on Bloody Sunday by the British Army's Parachute Regiment.

The 14 people and the situations in which they died on 30 January 1972 were as follows:

John (Jackie) Duddy (17). Shot in the chest in the car park of Rossville flats. Four witnesses stated Duddy was unarmed and running away from the paratroopers when he was killed. Uncle of Irish boxer John Duddy.

Patrick Joseph Doherty (31). Shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety in the forecourt of Rossville flats.

Bernard McGuigan (41). Shot in the back of the head when he went to help Patrick Doherty. He had been waving a white handkerchief.

Hugh Pious Gilmour (17). Shot through his right elbow, the bullet then entering his chest as he ran from the paratroopers on Rossville Street.

Kevin McElhinney (17). Shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety at the front entrance of the Rossville Flats.

Michael Gerald Kelly (17). Shot in the stomach while standing near the rubble barricade in front of Rossville Flats.

John Pius Young (17). Shot in the head while standing at the rubble barricade.

William Noel Nash (19). Shot in the chest near the barricade. Witnesses stated Nash was unarmed and going to the aid of another when killed.

Michael M McDaid (20). Shot in the face at the barricade as he was walking away from the paratroopers.

James Joseph Wray (22). Wounded then shot again at close range while lying on the ground.

Gerald Donaghy (17). Shot in stomach while trying to run to safety between Glenfada Park and Abbey Park.

Gerald (James) McKinney (34). Shot in the chest just after Gerald Donaghy.

William Anthony McKinney (27). Shot from behind as he attempted to aid Gerald McKinney (no relation).

John Johnston (59). Shot in the leg and left shoulder on William Street 15 minutes before the rest of the shooting started. Johnston was not on the march. He died four-and-a-half months later. His death has been attributed to the injuries he received on the day.


Following the shootings the British Army initially sought to claim the IRA were responsible but when that case became untenable it was changed to suggest "those who were shot and injured fully merited what occurred as they were directly or indirectly involved in acts of terror against members of the Parachute regiment."

It took decades of campaigning by families and friends of those killed and injured to confirm that they were innocent of any wrongdoing, there was no justification for shooting them and they were shot deliberately, probably under the direction of the British Government.  

British Government admits responsibility and apologises. 

In 1998 the Bloody Sunday Inquiry was established to provide a definitive version of events in 1972. When the results were published in a 5,000 page report on 15 June 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that the paratroopers had fired without warning the first shot and had fired on unarmed citizens fleeing the scene.

Cameron told MPs: "The conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong....on behalf of the Government - and indeed our country - I am deeply sorry." 

Bloody Sunday led to a long war 

The inquiry itself did not look at the impact of Bloody Sunday but ultimately it meant that it radicalised a generation of nationalists in Ireland and ensured the conflict that followed was long and bloody in which thousands of people were killed by a combination of republicans, loyalists and the British armed forces. 

James McLean 

So, aside from the fact that it is not compulsory to wear a Poppy then why are some football fans at matches involving WBA being encouraged to abuse and hurl anti-Irish and anti-Catholic abuse at James McClean? At the game in October between WBA and Sunderland, McClean was roundly abused by the majority of away fans with neither the police or stewards intervening even when they were themselves abused when they prevented some fans getting on the pitch to possibly attack the WBA player.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Blacklisting costs claim abandoned

From the current issue of the Big Issue North, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 
Carillion will not force Dave Smith to pay up
Building worker still seeks compensation 
Construction giant Carillion has been forced to abandon its plans to recover legal costs from a blacklisted building worker to whom it has apologised. 
Dave Smith was one of a number of workers blacklisted by the construction industry because of their union activities. 
Construction firms did this by providing information on him to the Consulting Association, which for over four decades was paid by 44 companies to vet 3,213 potential recruits in the industry. 
The Consulting Association was forced to close in 2009 after it was raided by the Information Commissioner’s Office. 
Smith, an engineer, could not find work in the industry and saw his income slump from £30,000 a year to £12,000 when he found employment elsewhere. 
The firms are being targeted in the High Court by construction workers, including Smith, who are seeking compensation. Smith worked for Mowlem, which later became part of Carillion. 
‘Full apology’ 
As part of its defence in the case, Carillion is one of eight companies that last month issued a “full and unreserved apology” to blacklisted workers and said: “Ever since the closure of the Consulting Association we have been focusing on trying to do the right thing by affected workers.” 
However, Smith lost in an employment tribunal against Carillion, because he was employed as an agency worker at the time and only direct employees are covered by UK employment law. 
His subsequent request to have the Supreme Court hear his case was refused and Carillion responded by claiming its legal costs, which included £600 for one hour’s work by QC John Bower. The total amounted to £3,494.50. 
‘Moral responsibility’ 
Carillion insisted it was the Supreme Court that made the costs order, not the firm itself. But Smith’s lawyer Declan Owens disputed this, saying: “Carillion’s solicitors wrote to me on 15 October stating the total costs sum that their client is seeking to recover from the appellant Mr Smith is £3,494.50.” 
Smith made publicly clear he had no intention of paying up. Now Carillion has told Big Issue North it will not be seeking to recover the costs. A company spokesperson added: “The issue has no bearing on the statement and apology issued by the eight companies.” 
In a separate “mythbuster” statement issued by Carillion it has claimed Smith helped “organise unlawful, unofficial picketing against Schal”, another company that later became part of Carillion. 
Smith said: “I am very pleased that Carillion has finally seen fit to state that they will not be chasing me for legal costs and it is a huge weight off my shoulders in the run-up to Christmas. 
“But Carillion still refuses to accept their moral responsibility for their blacklisting role and continues to use its corporate website to accuse me of unlawful picketing. 
“The truth is I was peacefully picketing outside their building sites after being sacked after having raised safety issues in my role as a Ucatt safety rep. 

“It was all perfectly legal and officially supported by my union. I was blacklisted as a result.” 

Mary Seacole blue plaque with statue to follow in spring

Mary Seacole - taken from Rebel Road project at Unite the union


There is a blue plaque commemorating Jamaican nurse  - and heroine of the Crimean War - Mary Seacole at 14 Soho Square, London W1, where she lived in 1857. 

Voted the greatest black Briton in 2004, Seacole, who was born in 1805, was of Scottish and Creole descent. Mary's mother was a free black woman who by practising as a 'doctress' was able to pass on her nursing skills and understanding of local herbal remedies to her daughter. 

In her teens Mary travelled to England with relatives and over the following years journeyed regularly between the two countries and in 1836 she married Englishman Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole. Sadly, Edwin died just eight years later and then in 1850, Mary nursed victims of the Kingston cholera epidemic. Three years later, Mary cared for victims of a yellow fever epidemic in Jamaica. Following which she was invited by the medical authorities to supervise nursing services at the headquarters of the British Army in Kingston. 

In 1854, England and France joined forces with Turkey to invade Russia. On 21 October, Florence Nightingale departed to Scutari, accompanied by 38 nurses. Mary began repeatedly offering her services to care for troops in the Crimea, but without success. She was left heartbroken and considered that she might be facing rejection because of the colour of her skin. She put such thoughts aside and decided to fund her own passage to the Crimea and on her arrival she visited Florence Nightingale. By around July 1855 she and a friend of her late husband, Mr Day, had organised the construction at Balaclava of the British Hotel and store for the sale of food and drink to soldiers. This facility was to provide soldiers of all ranks with accommodation, good nourishing food, other provisions and nursing care of a high standard. Testimonies from soldiers, along with independent accounts from journalists, doctors and other visitors, testify to Mary Seacole's great qualities as a nurse and doctress. 

In March 1856 when the war ended suddenly Mary was placed in severe financial difficulties as the stores she had recently purchased were now redundant. On her return to England she was saved from bankruptcy through the donations of well wishers. Thereafter she became increasingly celebrated. Her portrait was painted by Albert Charles Challen in 1869 and when she died in 1881 her estate was valued at over £2,615, which demonstrates that by the time of her death she had recovered from her earlier financial troubles. 

In 1915 when the Crimean War Memorial was erected in London near the junction of Lower Regent Street and Pall Mall it included a Florence Nightingale statue but not one of Mary Seacole. On the centenary of the Crimea War, Jamaica formally recognised Seacole when the Jamaican Nurses' Association named their Kingston headquarters after her. In 1973 her decaying grave at Kensal Green was restored by an association of Jamaican women in London. 

In 1985 the Greater London Council placed a blue plaque on her former home at 157 George Street, London W1 and when this building was demolished the plaque was moved to its present location in Soho Square. 

In 2003 former London MP Clive Soley, now Lord Soley, launched an appeal for funds to erect a statue in central London. In late November 2015 the final funds to make this possible were obtained when the Government made a surprise donation of £240,000 to the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal (MSMSA), which had raised more than half a million pounds before being hampered in their efforts when they were presented with an unexpected huge bill for installation costs. 

The 15-foot plus bronze statue that has been designed by sculptor Martin Jennings will be the first statue of a named black woman in Britain. It will be installed - along with a memorial garden to commemorate health workers killed in conflict zones or combating disease  - in the grounds of St Thomas' hospital, opposite Parliament. It is sure to become a significant London landmark. 

The Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA), which is a section of UNITE, has long campaigned for a Mary Seacole statue. Prominent in this campaign has been Professor Elizabeth Anionwu, CBE, who is vice-chairperson of the MSMSA and vice-president of UNITE/CPHVA, who said, "For all the thousands of people who have donated pennies and pounds to this appeal, for which we raised over £500,000, it is wonderful news that we now finally have all the monies we need. At last we know that by spring next year the statue to this remarkable woman will be on display.” 

For more on Mary Seacole there is a book by Professor Anionwu: A short history of Mary Seacole - a resource for nurses and students. 

Ellen Strange 29 November youtube video now online

Particularly look out for the great speech by Bridget Bell of Women against Pit Closures.


Friday, 27 November 2015

When Easington born Jimmy Trotter of Sheffield Wednesday was top scorer in Division One

Jimmy Trotter was, like myself, born in Easington Colliery, Co Durham and so in the week of his birth (in 1899) here is a reproduced tribute piece on the 1926-27 season from my GOLDEN BOOT co-authored book with Tony Matthews on Football's Top Scorers. 

SEASON: 1926-27
Goals scored: 37 (out of 75) 26 home, 11 away
Percentage: 49% (of Wednesday's goals in the season)
Runner-up: Hughie Gallacher (Newcastle United) 36 
Sheffield Wednesday finished sixteenth 

County Durham-born Trotter’s finest football season was without doubt 1926-27. He’d spearheaded Wednesday’s promotion challenge the previous season, scoring 37 times, twice what he’d notched during the previous three seasons.   Almost a quarter had come from just two September games, with nine goals entering the nets of Preston and Stockport County. Trotter’s five against the latter was the second time he had achieved such a feat as he had scored all his side’s goals in a 5-2 beating of Portsmouth in December 1924.

Pitched against local rivals Sheffield United in the first match of the 1926-27 season, Trotter showed signs that his fine form of the previous campaign was going to continue. He equalised just before half time. Timing his run perfectly he met Jack Wilkinson’s cross, and soon after the restart he put his side ahead with a shot from the edge of the area. The Blades, though, had their own danger man and two goals from Harry Johnson proved just enough to give them a narrow 3-2 victory.

Trotter then scored in the following two away games, but even though Wednesday managed three goals at Spurs and Leicester City, his goal at Filbert Street coming after Wilkinson found him with a fine through ball, it was not enough to collect even a single point in 7-3 and 5-3 defeats. There was therefore real relief when Trotter scored the only goal as West Ham was beaten at Hillsborough. 

Trotter then scored for his fifth consecutive game as Everton went back over the Pennines well-beaten 4-0. With Wednesday already leading 1-0, ‘Trotter received the ball on the left of the penalty area. He was tackled by two men but held on and in spite of Baker rushing out and others closing in the centre-forward scored with a beautiful oblique drive to the far corner.’ Another powerful shot and a late header rounded off the scoring for his first hat-trick in Division One. He might even have had another five, but Ben Howard Baker in the Toffees goal had a fine game and prevented his side being much more heavily beaten.

Having failed to score in the sixth game, a 0-0 draw, Trotter then bagged three in his next two matches. Two came at Ewood Park, a 32nd-minute shot and then one on 56 minutes that seemed certain to give the away side both points. Ted Harper, though, hadn’t finished top scorer in the previous season for nothing, and after scoring a penalty he forced a late Blackburn equaliser. Back at Hillsborough, Trotter hit a well-directed shot out of Huddersfield keeper Billy Mercer’s reach in a 1-1 draw. It meant he had scored ten times in eight games. 

After two matches without a goal Trotter hit his eleventh goal of the season, a rising shot from a Wilkinson pass on 38 minutes that helped Wednesday win a thrilling game 3-2 against WBA. Against Derby County, a fierce cross drive on 74 minutes was enough to see Trotter’s side home in a 2-1 victory.

In early December Wednesday beat leaders Newcastle United 3-2 at home. Trotter got two, heading into an empty net on 12 minutes and then seizing on a mistake by Joe Wilson to push the loose ball beyond the keeper to make it 3-1. At Leeds the following weekend he scored again, his last minute effort reducing the arrears to 1-4. On 28 December he scored his 19th and 20th League goals of the season to ensure Spurs were beaten 3-1 at Hillsborough. It was, though, to be almost two months before he next scored in the League. 

Championship-chasing Sunderland were the side to suffer as Trotter raced to 23 League goals. Wednesday roared into a three-goal lead in just 20 minutes and dominated throughout in a 4-1 success. ‘Their flank men finessed cleverly especially Wilkinson and Trotters leadership was excellent with first-time and accurate shooting’ reported the Newcastle Journal. Trotter’s hat trick goal came ‘with a great shot on the run’ reported the Journal.

Two more flashed into opponents WBA’s net on his next appearance. First, he headed home Hooper’s high dropping cross. Then using every ounce of his 12 stone 6 pound frame he muscled his way to a second to put his side 2-0 up in the second half. However, hopes of a first away victory of the season were dashed as the Baggies rallied to grab a point. 

 On 12 March he scored his third hat-trick of the season as Arsenal were beaten 4-2 at Hillsborough. First, he dived bravely to head home Wilkinson’s cross before then scoring on the rebound after Dan Lewis had saved his shot, adding his third with a close in shot. Goal of the game however, came from Tony Leach, whose shot from 40 yards sailed beyond the ‘keeper and into the net to the tremendous cheers of the 21,252 spectators. 

There were ten thousand fewer spectators for the game against Manchester United, and they missed a rough affair in which a number of players were to be issued with cautions from the referee.  Trotter scored both the goals, hooking home the first as he fell backwards and then, after forcing Alf Steward into making two fine saves, beating the keeper when Wilkinson cut the ball back to him. ‘The irrepressible Trotter gives Wednesday another win,’ reported the Sheffield Saturday Sports paper. 

He got another two against Bolton Wanderers at Burnden Park, but the away side continued to struggle on their travels losing 3-2. Back home, Trotter hit a great drive to open the scoring in a 3-1 success against Aston Villa. He got two more against Villa’s great rivals Birmingham City in a thrilling 4-4 game before hitting his 37th and final goal of the season against Leeds United on the season’s final day. He had hit the crossbar in the first half before scoring the only goal of the game on 77 minutes. The victory was enough to push Wednesday up to sixteenth place 

The Owls had scored seventy-five times, with Trotter getting almost half of his sides efforts. No wonder the local paper, in its review of the season, reported that, ‘Trotter’s goalscoring abilities has been a godsend. This hard and enthusiastic worker is to be complimented on his distinction and his skill.’ 

Wednesday continued to struggle the following season. Trotter did well by scoring sixteen times, but was overtaken as the club’s highest scorer by Mark Hooper with twenty-one. The Owls looked doomed as the season entered March, but a magnificent seventeen points from the last ten matches helped pull off ‘the Great Escape,’ in which Spurs ‘reject’ Jimmy Seed scored in both matches against his former club to help send them down. 

Twice capturing the title, 1928-29 and 1929-30 were to be the best seasons in  Wednesday’s history. Key to the success was the form of Jack Allen, previously an inside forward who took over at centre forward when Trotter was injured for the game at Portsmouth. Having scored at Fratton Park, Allen then hit a hat-trick against Birmingham and four against Bury and after fourteen games in his new position, he had scored twenty-two from it. It was the beginning of the end for Trotter and his final game came in a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United in February 1929. 

After 160 first team appearances from which he scored 114 goals, Trotter moved on to Torquay United, where he continued to regularly hit the net, scoring twenty-six times in his first season. A spell at Watford was ended when a knee injury forced him to retire from playing, after which became trainer at Charlton Athletic for over two decades before taking over for a five-year spell in charge as manager.

Book review: The Greatest Invention: tax and the campaign for a just society

This book will be the book of the month for December at Unite education. It is an excellent book. 

The Greatest Invention: tax and the campaign for a just society 

A Tax Justice Network (TJN) Production

£12.99 ISBN: 978-0-9931616-3-6 

This is an excellent series of short, easy to read essays stretching back over a decade from the Tax Justice Network, the body which has done the most to change attitudes towards tax and the rich and powerful's aim to avoid paying their proper share of it. If you need any persuading, or just want it reaffirmed, that the UK - and even the developing economies - can afford a decent standard of living, and properly resourced public services, for all their citizens then this book is a must read. 

Multinational companies dominate the world economy with many firms having bases right across the globe. This has allowed them to avoid paying tax by employing transfer pricing whereby one part of the business that is based where tax levels are highest overpays for a product from another part of the business based in a country where tax levels are low or if it is a tax haven then non existent. These practices result in the latter being the most profitable sector of the business and ensures much less tax being paid than should be. 

When the TJN investigated in 2002/3 they found that plastic buckets from the Czech Republic were costing $973 each, $585 more than the cost of bulldozers from Venezuela. And whilst many national tax authorities treat such tricks as tax evasion the sad fact of the matter is that many others don't have the resources to properly scrutinise companies' books to identify such transactions. 

This drive to avoid tax by multinationals is part of a corporate culture that has seen them ruthlessly exploit many of the countries in which they are based. In Nigeria the oil companies have employed armies of accountants and auditors to effect tax evasion on their huge profits. To facilitate this process, and also secure major construction projects, the multinationals have subverted the political process by paying politicians and public officials to 'look the other way.'

In countries where it's not (regularly) possible to openly operate so corruptly that hasn't prevented cheating by big business and the wealthy who, with most politicians, at best, too afraid to challenge their power, have developed a network of tax havens and tax avoidance and evasion schemes. The sums of money involved are incredible, trillions of £s remain untaxed, resulting in countries slashing the public services their citizens rely on. 

The centre of much of these practices is the City (of London), with its network of investment bankers and the big four accountancy firms that all also operate a revolving door policy that takes politicians into lucrative posts and financiers into governments. Thankfully, the fantastic work of the TJN, which remains massively under resourced, means we now know much more about these problems and the book is packed with examples of the discoveries that this remarkable organisation has made and publicised. 

To help tackle these abuses, morally repugnant actions and crimes, the TJN has worked with an impressive array of human rights activists, environmental groups, economists and politicians - including John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor - to formulate a series of ideas, political and practical objectives that can help chart the way ahead to a more efficient, socially productive and fairer society. 

Widening the terms thus forms the latter part of the book. In the UK, amongst many other needs, it is time to rebalance the economy towards manufacturing and away from state subsidies on the likes of PFI projects that see taxpayers in the North and West overpay for projects that are built by companies largely based in London. Far better to have a publicly funded infrastructure development programme under which revenue streams accrue to the regions around the developments with the subsequent boost to the local economy. 

Internationally there must be greater financial transparency, the abolition of shell companies, automatic exchange of tax information worldwide and a requirement of every multinational company to report their sales, profits and taxes paid in each country in which they operate. This would also prevent the activities of criminals such as terrorists, traffickers and money-launderers. 

Finally, the book appendix includes the Tax Justice Network's various declarations the first of which is dated in March 2003 and signed by nine people. There are no people who signed the latest one emanating from the April 2015 conference in Lima but that's only because they've been replaced by over 100 organisations, some of significant standing. Such a huge increase in support is welcome but more is needed so please read the book, bring it to your fellow Unite members attention and consider supporting the TJN. 

Union Learning Fund under threat

Taken from the current issue of the Big Issue North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller.

Government fund supports millions 

Spending review promises cuts 

A union-led workplace education and training programme with over
1.57 million learners in the last nine years is under the spotlight as this week’s public spending review promises further cuts. 

Stephan Ralph (left), Jola Jodlowwska, Gosia Piasecka and Bob Holt
The Union Learning Fund (ULF) is managed by the Trades Union Congress and provides courses and qualifications in everything from health and safety to communication skills and mentoring apprentices. 

Total ULF funding in 2014-15 was £17.5 million, of which £15.3 million came from central government. 

The ULF is complemented by union learning reps. Elected by colleagues and recognised by their employer, they promote learning in the workforce and identify training needs. 

Onsite learning 

Bob Holt began driving for First Bus UK in Cheetham, Manchester 37 years ago. When one of the First Bus directors proposed to Unite – the union that represents most workers at the company – that it open an onsite learning centre, Holt, a lifelong trade unionist, and his colleague Paul Brown successfully stood for election as union learning reps. 

“I knew that many employees had great potential and just needed some encouragement to get back into learning,” said Holt. “So that I could provide training I undertook many courses myself at various levels including literacy, numeracy and English as a second language (ESOL). ESOL was important as many migrant workers have come to work on the buses and have done jobs that otherwise would remain very difficult to fill. 

“The directors suggested Saturday morning sessions and my colleagues, Paul Brown, Stuart Smith and myself, ran the sessions over many weeks.” 
Among those to benefit were Gosia Piasecka and Jola Jodlowwska who came to Manchester from Poland in the middle of the last decade as they sought to find work at a time of high unemployment at home. 

Both women started as cleaners with First Bus and attended the ESOL classes. Jodlowwska said: “The courses were good fun as the learning environment is very relaxed. I was encouraged
by other workers to do the training as they all stressed how learning is a big part
of workplace activities here and the courses are arranged around your shifts.” 
Piasecka added: “The courses have helped me to integrate into the local community and mean I no longer require a translator at the doctor’s or bank. 

“Bob has helped make the learning centre a place people want to visit, to attend classes, use the computers and improve their skills and education. He has personally helped many people including me.” 

Boosting morale 

First Bus has recognised Holt’s efforts by making him a project worker for lifelong learning, responsible for the oversight of nine union learning centres in its Manchester depots. 
Piasecka has also gone on to do well at her workplace, achieving English and maths Level 2 City and Guilds and an initial teacher training qualification. After qualifying as a driver she has been seconded to providing NVQ training to more than 40 First Bus employees. 

British workers at First Bus have also benefited from the ULF. Stephan Ralph, who left college early and began working at First Bus’s Heywood depot as a driver in 2005, said: “I wanted to earn a living but when I saw the union learning centre that was backed by the company at Bury it encouraged me back into education as it was built around my work and it was easily accessible.” 

Ralph became a union learning rep himself and in 2012 gained a first class degree in education and inclusion from Liverpool Hope University. 

“I believe that if the initial development had not taken place at work I would never have got my degree and improved my career,” said Ralph, who is now employed by First Bus as a performance manager. He said he is “keen to see other employees undertake training both for their own benefit and the company’s, as it increases people’s morale, which must be good for their health, wellbeing and workplace performance”. 

Future unknown 

Clare Quinton, human resources business partner at brewing company Molson Coors (UK) acknowledged the value of union-led workplace learning. She said: “The learning agreement we signed with Unite is a great example of a win-win situation for both the company and the employees. 

The employee benefits from the opportunity to improve their skills, while the company will reap the rewards in terms of engagement and increased confidence.” 

According to Kenny Barron, head of lifelong learning at Unite: “The ULF is crucial
to ensure that thousands of workers and their families can access learning opportunities to embark on a learning journey. It will be a big blow if there are cuts to funding.” 

A spokesperson for the Department for Business and Industry, which funds the Union Learning Fund, said: “We recognise its potential to support employees in the workplace. An exercise to evaluate bids for the 2016-17 funding period has just been concluded and we hope to announce the results by the end of the year. Decisions will be dependent on the outcome of the spending review.” 

Friday, 20 November 2015

One large list of rural museums now up and running

From Aberdeenshire to the Yorkshire Museum of Farming there is now - thanks to the British Agricultural History Society (BAHS) - one list of over 100 rural museums and other fascinating places of interest to visit in Britain and Ireland. Finding the locations is also made easy due to an online  interactive map.

Amongst the places listed is Argyll's Auchindrain Highland Farm Township, open from April to October, and a great example of a small farming settlement that was very important within Scotland's history. 

Cider drinkers can visit Hereford’s Cider Museum and listen to oral history recordings. On 17 and 18 October there is a festival with Morris Dancing, blacksmith demonstrations, children's activities and tutored cider tastings and samplings.

Swath Heritage Museum is a fully restored 17th century Welsh thatched roof cottage located on the beautiful north west Wales coast of Anglesey.

County Mayo's Belcarra Eviction Cottage has been restored to how it was before a family of nine were evicted on Saturday 2 October 1886. 

For more details go to:- www.bahs.org.uk/friends.html

Tony Hall booklet to be formally launched in Brighton on Tuesday

The Unite Education department has just published its fourth short easy-to-read booklet on great men and women who feature prominently in the history of Unite and its predecessor unions. The union hopes these histories will provide not only fascinating reading but inspire the current and future generations of trade unionists to take up the struggle on behalf of working people. 

Tony Hall - Trade unionist, anti-racist and radical cartoonist features a man who was a determined life-long fighter for liberty, justice, equality and socialism. Employed as a newspaper artist at the Evening News and Sun/News of the World, Tony was an active member of his union branch and served as an elected rep on many occasions. Outside of work he risked injury and imprisonment by physically fighting fascism in east London. When Tony was on strike during the Wapping Dispute of the mid 1980s he, and other artists, produced posters, badges and T-shirts in support of the 5,500 sacked print workers. Tony did not get his job back and thereafter continued doing cartoons, graphic designs and photography for trade unions and numerous justice campaigns.

The Great Dock Strike of 1889 is about the London Dock Strike that was the foundation stone on which the modern trade union movement is based. The dock labourer’s achievement - assisted by the magnificent international solidarity from Australia - lay in convincing other unskilled workers that improvements in pay and working conditions could be won through trade union action. Nothing was to ever be the same again. 

Tom Jones - a fighter for freedom and working people, Spanish Civil War and Welsh TGWU general secretary is about a former miner who actively participated in the 1926 General Strike before joining thousands from Britain and Ireland who bravely took up arms in the 1930s on behalf of the Spanish Republic in a battle to defend democracy and crush fascism. He remarkably survived being executed,  a death sentence and years in prison before returning to Britain after a successful labour movement campaign to secure his release.

He became active in the Transport and General Workers Union and was to be appointed as a regional organiser in North Wales and for parts of Merseyside. He later became the first TGWU all-Wales Regional Secretary where by recruiting thousands of workers he helped ensure decent pay and conditions across many industries. 

Julia Varley - Trade union organiser and fighter for women’s rights is about a Bradford born working class woman who fought all her life for equal and civil rights, decent pay and working conditions. From an early age she understood the power of collectivism and over the rest of her life she recruited many thousands of people to join her in the struggle for VOTES FOR WOMEN and TRADE UNION BARGAINING RIGHTS. As a suffragette she twice suffered spells in prison and then in 1912 she became one of the first women officers of a mixed sex union in Britain, a considerable achievement that changed for the better the face of trade unionism in the country forever. Her unique ability - often combining strike action with political agitation - to organise the low paid, especially women, was possibly without parallel in the second decade of the 20th century. 

The booklets can be download free of charge at:- 

Mark Metcalf is happy to speak at meetings about his work and can be contacted on 07952 801783 and at mark.metcalf@rocketmail.com @markmetcalf07

The next booklet in the series is on Benny Rothman and will be published in April 2016. 

Scottish land up for reform

The following article was left out of the current issue (Autumn 2015) of Landworker due to a lack of space and a delay in the magazine's publishing date.  

The comments by David Cameron's landowning father-in-law Lord Astor that proposed Scottish land reforms are "a Mugabe-style land grab" have been condemned by long standing Scottish Labour MSP Sarah Boyack.

"They are alarmist and exaggerated. Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 we have had an ongoing debate about how use land to create economic opportunities and regenerate, in particular, some of our most fragile rural communities. Land reform is popular." 

Boyack was Minister for the Environment, Planning and Transport in the first year of the Scottish Parliament, subsequently served as Transport Minister, where she introduced free bus travel for over 60s and disabled people, and is now in her sixteenth year as an MSP. 

Sarah was a member of the Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish coalition government that ended the historic legacy of feudal law in Scotland with the passing of the radical 2003 Land Reform Act. This provided unhindered access to open countryside and established for small communities a Community Right to Buy when a landowner put land up for sale. Crofting communities were also given the right to buy their land even without the consent of the landowner.

Crossgates Community Woodland became the first Scottish community to buy land through the first Scottish Land Fund in May 2005. Thousands of trees, a play park, pathways and tracks followed with plenty of local people using it. 

"There’s a long list of community buyouts including some that cost millions. I'm proud that Scottish Labour played a big part in this and the results have been successful with new economic opportunities and jobs being created in areas that had been starved of economic investment because they were owned by one person who perhaps didn't even live in Scotland" said Sarah.

People, of course, such as Oxfordshire's Lord Astor, a Tory Lord since 1973, who, through a Bahamas registered company, owns the 20,000-acre Tarbert Estate on the island of Jura. Astor is amongst the 432 families that own half of Scotland and although the Scots last year voted against independence that does not mean there is no appetite for continuing political reform, especially on land issues. 

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill was passed on 17 June by the Scottish Parliament. It enables certain bodies to buy abandoned buildings or neglected land. Key amendments from Labour's Alex Rowley, which were supported by organisations such as OXFAM and Barnardo's,  ensured a right of appeal for communities refused the opportunity to participate in efforts to improve public services. 

"This was a massive step forward," said Boyack, "and one Labour strongly supports. It will be important in rural communities but it also applies to urban locations. It will mean there can be action in cases where privately owned buildings, such as cinema's, have been unoccupied for over a decade and act as a blockage to community regeneration." 

In June last year the Scottish government-commissioned Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) made 62 recommendations on land ownership. Following which the SNP Government revealed plans for a Land Reform Bill that is to be debated, and almost certainly agreed as only the Tories are opposed, in Holyrood this autumn. Councils should have powers to force the sale of land and there will be an upper limit to how much land one person can own. There are also moves to scrap rates exemptions on shooting estates.  

Yet whilst Nicola Sturgeon's statement that she wants to see a "million acres of land in community ownership by 2020" is welcomed by Boyack, the Labour MSP, is concerned that proposed UK Government reductions in Scotland's budget may hit the Land Fund. "If we are going to pass legalisation then communities must be able to use it as we would not have seen the very big community purchases in Scotland without Holyrood funding. 

"I also hope we will see legislation on the position of tenants farmers (30% of Scotland remains occupied by tenants farmers; whereas most of their European counterparts are owner-occupiers of the land they farmed) as many are living in properties that would be condemned as unfit for purpose if they were in urban areas.

It is clear that we can make much better use of Scotland's land so that it benefits many more people."

Galvanising a generation


Tears for taken comrades

A slightly edited version of this article  is in the Autumn 2015 Landworker magazine 

Unite’s Debi Bell's participation in a Unite delegation to Colombia in June may have reduced her to tears - but it has also confirmed how vital international solidarity is to progressive forces in the South American Republic. 

Debi, who sits on the Unite national food drink and tobacco sector committee, is the unions East Midlands region rep within Sainsburys, where she has worked for 24 years as a commercial assistant. 

Along with eight other Unite activists, Debi travelled to Columbia to discover why it is the most dangerous place anywhere for trade unionists and human rights defenders and how Justice for Columbia is providing essential international support that has led to some improvements. 

The trip coincided with the rural workers union, FENSUAGRO's, 11th annual conference in Bogota and whose 415 delegates had part of their travel costs paid by the agricultural sector of their sister union, UNITE. 

FENSUAGRO has around 80,000 members, but has lost around 1,500 who have been murdered. 

Union vice-president Huber Ballesteros and over 100 other members are in jail, often without any charges against them. The union helped lead the 2013 mass strike that mobilised over a million people on street protests against the devastating impact of free-trade agreements, privatisation and inequality-driven poverty. 

The Unite delegation later met human rights and prisoners support groups as well as trade unionists from the private and public sectors. Debi was subsequently amongst the guests of the Mothers of Soacha, whose sons were killed by paramilitary forces including two 19 year olds studying as engineers. “My son is studying engineering and is 19. I was tears.” 

There was additional upset in Cauca when Debi listened to a young farmer who the paramilitaries had targeted for assassination after they told him, without any evidence, they considered him a member of the FARC rebels, who have been fighting the government for fifty years. "His family had lived on the land he owned for generations and as he did not want to appear a coward he was staying put. I don't know if he remains alive. 

“He told his tale because he wants to alert people from abroad and believes that international pressure and solidarity is vital in creating the conditions for ending human rights abuses in Columbia.

"Paramilitaries gain financial rewards, including holidays, for killing peasant farmers and young Columbian males they declare as terrorists. Foreign multinationals, particularly companies involved in oil exploration, benefit by being able to appropriate land that becomes vacant," she added.  

Having familiarised herself with the situation in Columbia, Debi was part of the Unite delegation that met the British Ambassador in Bogota and then had meetings with the High Commissioner and Ministry of Defence from the Columbian Government. 

“We presented them with our findings. This included the desire from everyone we met for the Government to respond positively to any fresh FARC ceasefire, which has since been announced and welcomed by 29 British MPs from four different parties after the Columbian Government said they would also be taking steps to de-escalate the armed conflict.

“I felt we were listened to. I certainly hope so and the Columbian Ambassador has agreed to meet us when he visits Britain and that will be an opportunity to see if progress is being made. 

“But there is still plenty to do. I would appeal to all Unite branches to affiliate to Justice for Columbia, which is doing marvellous work,” said Debi, who is happy to speak about her Columbian visit at Unite branch meetings across the East Midlands. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

'We Are United: The Story of MUDSA' - a documentary commissioned to celebrate the organisation's 25th anniversary

Issued by MUDSA

Press release - New book and documentary film launched 

MUDSA is the oldest disabled supporters association in the world and is 25 years old this year. 

We have celebrated by putting together a MUDSA 25th anniversary book, which is enclosed, charting our achievements and ongoing ambitions. 

The book looks back to why and how MUDSA was formed including, of course, the vital role played by Phil Downs MBE. It illustrates how we have worked with the club - during a period of massive expansion at Old Trafford - to ensure improved facilities for disabled fans. It shows how disabled fans have democratically decided that they prefer in the main to be seated next to one another at Old Trafford. 

The book fondly remembers the marvellous trips abroad to European Cup finals, particularly Barcelona in 1999 and Moscow in 2008. The launch of the Ability Suite in 2003 is celebrated and for those that don’t know we issued a 10th anniversary book on this in 2013 and it remains available online at http://www.mudsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/abilitysuite10.pdf

There is a marvellous selection of photographs new and old - many thanks to Julie and Jackie Hall in particular on this - and the book is packed with interviews with members, some of whom are sadly no longer with us. The book also includes interviews with former Manchester United  captains Gary Neville and Steve Bruce and they demonstrate a mutual respect and genuine friendship. Finally, the book highlights how important MUDSA is in the lives of many disabled fans. 

MUDSA would like to author Mark Metcalf, photographer Mark Harvey and designer Jamie Leeming for making this book possible.   

'We Are United: The Story of MUDSA' - a documentary commissioned to celebrate the organisation's 25th anniversary - premieres on Manchester United TV Channel MUTV on Thursday next week (November 12).

Produced and directed by independent filmmaker John Gubba, the one hour special tells the story of Mudsa through the eyes of its inspirational leader Phil Downs MBE and a strong supporting cast including Chas Banks, Stephanie Bisceglia, Kevin Peek and eight years-old Alex Nield.

Said Gubba: "I have cried more than once filming and watching some gut-wrenching scenes. We took Phil Downs back to the gymnasium at Hendon Police Training Academy where he broke his neck as an 18-year-old in the mid seventies. It was the first time Phil had been back in that room. 

"When young Alex Nield was born with cerebral palsy, his parents were told he would never walk or talk. Watching him learn to walk has been another emotional experience. In this film I have focused on the incredible abilities and achievements of a remarkable group of characters. And I hope that viewers will have a better understanding of what Mudsa is all about by sharing their stories."

Sir Alex Ferguson, whose PA Lyn Laffin helped get Mudsa started back in 1989, contributes some fascinating insights and talks passionately about the achievements of the organisation. There are also appearances by Wayne Rooney, David de Gea, Juan Mata, Bryan Robson, Martin Buchan and David Gill. 

Further information from Mark Metcalf on 07952 801783 and markcmetcalf@me.com
Further information from John Gubba on 07802 482602 and john@vsitv.net 

Please contact MUDSA on 0161 868 8552 to discuss the book and/or documentary film.
MUDSA is happy to facilitate visits by journalists and political representatives to Old Trafford to view the facilities for disabled fans.