November 02, 2013

Unite? the Union

As a member of Unite the Union, I was somewhat appalled at Len McClusky's response to David Cameron's comments about the use of Leveraging in the Commons the other day.

I am no fan of David Cameron and I don't actually care what he said; it was Mr. McClusky's response that appalled me. Rather than justify whatever action the union had taken, he seemed to do what so many people of few eloquent words do - he batted the focus back to the Cameron man.

Leverage - you can read about it on the Unite website here - is:
"a process whereby the Union commits resources and time to making all interested parties aware of the treatment received by Unite members at the hands of an employer. Those interested parties may include shareholders of the employer; competitors of the employer; communities within which the employer operates; customers of the employer and the market place of the employer."
So far, so good. I don't disagree with that. I would go one further and say that anyone receiving unfair treatment at the hands of employers, shareholders, customers and the market place deserves some form of compensation; whether financial or not. There should be policies and processes in place in any company worth its salt whereby employees have some recourse action they can take, whether they belong to a union or not.

The Unite website continues:
"We will ask those who object to the behaviour of an immoral employer to conduct in lawful protest against the actions of the employer. Where Unite members are involved in such lawful protest the union will use its best endeavours to ensure such members are aware of their rights of lawful protest."
Again, all well and good. However, I would question here how moral a protest is outside an interested party's home when his family may be home. Are their wives, husbands and children, as involved in the "treatment received by Unite members at the hands of an employer" as their spouses and fathers are? Probably not.  Consider how bewildering it would be if a group of protestors turned up on your driveway clutching an inflatable rat and waving banners and began chanting about the actions of your spouse or father, or mother.

I don't care how many "landmark victories have been secured" using Leverage. It smacks of the Animal Liberation Front and childish protest.

Len McClusky's response to the Cameron man did not explain or justify any behaviour, as far as I was concerned. Rather than tell Union members that their actions were outside the process, and that they misunderstand the process, he seemed almost to condone it. I'm sure that any union member, armed with knowledge and understanding of a situation, could ensure that those responsible for unfair treatment of an employee were exposed in a way that did not cause distress to their family.

If Leverage is about the democratic right of the Union to ensure that immoral employers cannot hide behind veils of secrecy” I'm sure there are plenty of ways of lifting the veil to reveal the face behind it so that it can be seen by many, and so that the lifter of the veil fades into the background leaving the revealed on show. Wouldn't this be a more intelligent use of time and resources?

Are the interests of members really being represented by the union or is it the interests of a select few?

Antagonistic actions are not part of my vocabulary and I don't expect them to be part of the vocabulary of an organisation that is supposed to represent me.

Now, I need to consider whether (or when) I tear up my own union card.