Monday, August 04, 2008

Union, are we?

Quoted from Teletext:

“A trade union leader has urged Labour MPs to consider mounting a leadership challenge to Gordon Brown after the Glasgow East by-election "disaster".

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: "There's no point dressing it up. It was an unmitigated disaster.

"The MPs have got to make a strong decision as to whether they want to go into an election with Gordon Brown or have a contest," he said.”

Well let me tell you this about the General and Municipal Boilermakers Union. I was a member of this union for most of the 1980’s. I have always, since my first working day in 1974 been a Trades Unionist. I was in the Amalgamate Union of Engineering Workers until being made redundant in 1980. (I also held down the same job for the same company.) I then joined the GMB after moving and taking another position. I tore up my union card because of their attitude. I didn’t stop being a trade’s unionist. I just didn’t agree with their idea of what a trades union is.

Allow me to elucidate. I had a disagreement with the shop stupid (sorry, I meant shop steward). We discussed the role of a shop steward and the rights of union members. His contention was that if a man (and he meant a man, not a man or woman) had a dispute with his employer or the employers representative then he should argue his case alone and only call in a union representative if the dispute could not be resolved.

My contention was thus:

Any union member has a right to representation by a union official at any stage of a dispute. The official should take the complaint of a union member to the company irrespective of any private discussion. If a union member feels unable or unwilling to argue the case personally, a union official should argue his or her case for them. My grounds for this are that we are in a union and should have representation at any stage of a dispute, and the dispute should be argued by an official even if the case had not been taken up by a member on his own behalf. My reasons for this were and are that firstly we are not all capable of vocalising our disagreement. Secondly, any case argued is for the whole of the union in the first instance, and for the rights of every worker irrespective of their union membership. In essence, the union is what it says it is; a union and what is done to one of us done to us all. Also, the union representative is a witness, so that discussions cannot easily be disputed. That is the strength of a union.

He disagreed and said if you can’t go in and do it for yourself, why should I do it for you? I think I have already covered that.

We didn’t reach an agreement on this issue so I took the case to the branch office. To my dismay, they agreed with him. I asked to speak to an official, a paid representative and was told nobody was available. That was when I tore up my union card. Right there, in the office.

I am still a committed trades unionist. Unfortunately, I have not worked for several years. (Wonder why?)

That is the calibre of the General and Municipal Boilermakers Union. That is why I take the introductory quote with a pinch of salt. You can’t trust or rely on the GMB.


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