Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Four Legal Cases - The Update

The European Court of Human Rights laid down the judgement on the case of the four Christians who had alleged religious discrimination.

The ECHR laid down the sensible and logical decisions under the circumstances.

That Nadia Eweida was discriminated against. There is no logical reason why she should have been barred from wearing an item of jewellry in the first place.

That the other three were not discriminated against. And this is important because it balances the religious beliefs against the reasonable expectations of the public meeting them in the workplace. The private beliefs of Lillian Ladele in particular are all and well. In private.

As a Registrar, she has a job to do which includes performing Civil Partnership ceremonies. If she wants a job where there is no conflict between her beliefs and her duties, then she certainly was in the wrong job.

The wrong job in the same way that a vegetarian taking a job in a butchers would also be in the wrong job. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Mark Serwotka and Justice

Mark Serwotka has waded into the debate about closing down jails and replacing with so-called Titan super jails.

The Public and Commercial Services Union do represent members working for the Ministry of Justice (but not the Prison officers) and at this time, it is a timely revisit of the debate on the point of prisons with the change from Kenneth Clarke to Chris Grayling as the Secretary of State for Justice. Chris Grayling is known to take a more hawkish approach to prisons and sentencing

The debate should centre round whether prison works in terms of punishment and rehabilitation.

We should also be looking at overcrowding and how best to manage young offenders.

We should look at the high levels of suicide in jail and whether prison is the best place for single parents who fail to pay their TV licence fines. 

We should be looking at the current fall in number of prisoners in prison and seeing if that is a blip or a symptom of a longer term decline in recorded crime.

What we should not be doing, is a catch all, simplistic argument against super jails by automatically tacking on arguments against privatisation to every policy proposed by the coalition government.

Even as a PCS member, reading his comment in the Independent, my thought was not, "well argued Mark"; but "what was the point of his intervention?"

Mark with his comments as selectively quoted in the Independent, is giving the impression that prisons should stay open in order to safeguard the jobs of his members which has the irony from completely detracting from his overall message over the impact and extent of the cuts that the government are implementing.

This is not the best approach to the debate on what prison is for, how it should be funded and how to achieve the outcome of reduced offending.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

More Staff Not Less!

Once again, the Public and Commercial Union have sent me a ballot paper.

On this occasion, it is over the issue of the DWP entering initial negotiations to make people compulsory redundant.

These affected 46 Administrative Assistants in a variety of locations across the DWP.

In a previous job, I line managed at various times, between 3-6 people at this grade level. They had to barcode and send to Capita various items of post and forms for different benefits. It so happened that at another two locations, there were some "surplus" staff awaiting redeployment within the department and every so often, we sent them work. Boxes of post from claimants.

I do know more than one of my colleagues worked hard with them to identify suitable redeployment opportunities. But failing to get a promotion and, what is boiled down to, is a can't or won't attitude to moving to where the work is. A 30 minute trip on the train.

Such a person claiming JSA is expected to travel within 90 minutes of their home using any means of transport appropriate.

Much as I have a sympathy for anyone under threat of redundancy, sometimes you reach a position where you cannot do anymore for that person to help them redeploy within the department.

I can see both sides. There is plenty of work for them to do. But, they do need to be where the work is.

I will not be voting in the ballot this time round. I find the issues are far more nuanced then the union with their seventies concept of Industrial Muscle might like it to be.  

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Morality and ethics in War

When you take men and turn them into killers, history shows massacres, abuses and war crimes are inevitable.

Oliver Cromwell sacked Drogheda and Wexford; soldiers carried out the killings of the McDonalds at Glencoe in 1692; William Calley was convicted of the massacre at My Lai during the Vietnam War. There is even an ongoing debate in historical circles about whether the bombing of Dresden in 1945 was justifiable within the context of the war. And lets not forget more recently Lynddie England at Abu Ghraib during the Iraq War.

Five Royal Marines were arrested and charged with murder in Afghanistan.

Details are thus far sketchy. But it appears that they were involved in some way with the death of an insurgent.

There are events in the UK today in support of the 5.

I will not be adding my name to this.

Soldiers have rules of engagements. For very good reasons. Yes, we are at war in Afghanistan, but we still have to uphold the rule of law. For if we start to make exceptions in how we treat other people, we will find ourselves slipping down a moral abyss. The kind of dark hole that Japan slipped into, for example, during the Second World War.

Soldiers should not be above the law and should not be treated as a special case. The MOD has done the right thing, there is an "incident" that requires investigation. If nothing comes of it, fine. If there is something there, then we can nip the slow descent in the bud and soldiers who are psychologically prone to commit abuses will be leaving the army. For the betterment of all.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Future That Works

Today, Trade Unionists from around the country gather in London for "A Future that Works" march ending in Hyde Park.

There are three things guaranteed to happen today. Firebrand TU leaders such as Mark Serwotka will call for a general strike. The police will kettle some protestors and other groups will damage or occupy central London shops such as Topshop or Vodafone.

This unfortunately will distract from the crucial message. That there is a genuine debate to be had over the extent, impact, speed and depth of cuts in the government spending programme.

A year ago, I would have attended and indeed, I did march in London on 26 March 2011. However, in that time, I have come to the conclusion that my union is equally damaging the debate with its own ideological rhetoric. An irony considering the lead the PCS takes in criticising the Coalition for its ideological opposition to the "state".

The PCS has singularly failed to grasp that this is not the seventies. We cannot conduct Industrial Relations or disputes based on an old outdated model that got overturned by Margaret Thatcher.

Instead I will be attending the East Of England Liberal Democrats Regional Conference. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Osbourne's Employee Share Ownership Scheme

As a signatory to this open letter to Vince Cable, I am republishing the letter as published on Lib Dem Voice this morning.

We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned by the employee share ownership policy. We call for this bill to be amended to remove the part where workers have to give up their rights for share-ownership and, rather, for the proposal to mirror that agreed by the Liberal Democrat conference in this document.

The proposal appears to allow for workers to give up their rights in return for company shares, as detailed on the HM Treasury website:
Under the new type of contract, employees will be given between £2,000 and £50,000 of shares that are exempt from capital gains tax. In exchange, they will give up their UK rights on unfair dismissal, redundancy, and the right to request flexible working and time off for training, and will be required provide 16 weeks’ notice of a firm date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual eight.
From this we understand that as few as £2,000-worth of shares will potentially give employers the ability to fire workers at will, where the worker has absolutely no rights and has to sell the shares back to the company when they leave, and where the company can determine the value of those shares.

The model is recommended for start-ups and small companies. Their shares are unlikely to be traded and, so, have no clear value. How is an employee to judge the fairness of the offer, let alone be able to dispose of them with confidence in the value? It seems that the workers would give up significant rights, whereas the employer has nothing to lose – they get rid of an employee they don’t want without any comeback or legal challenge, and also get their shares back at a price they can determine. 

We have been told that employee owner status will be optional. However, it seems that this could be made compulsory for future employees in current and new businesses.
The HM Treasury website continues:
Employee-owner status will be optional for existing employees, but both established companies and new start-ups can choose to offer only this new type of contract for new hires.
The power of an employer, with a job market such as we have today, should not be dismissed lightly. Potential employees do not have the luxury of a wide choice of potential vacancies.

The Liberal Democrat Party Constitution states:
Liberal Democrats are committed to fostering a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with a just distribution of the rewards of success. We want to see democracy, participation and the co-operative principle in industry and commerce…
We believe this policy goes against not only Liberal Democrat principles, but principles of decency and honesty in the workplace. 

With a loss of rights, the employee will be in a more unstable employment situation, which can only decrease confidence and spending, which our economy desperately needs if it is to grow successfully.

This bill appears to be the Conservative party’s way of getting “fire at will” through the back door. After the work to stop this going through via the Beecroft recommendations, isn’t it hypocritical to allow the potential for it in this bill?

There is no doubt that some unscrupulous companies will abuse this and employees will lose hard won rights. What employee would want, voluntarily, to give up these rights, for any amount of money? Please either pull or amend this proposal.

Paul Wild, Walsall, Membership and Communications Officer.
Tracy Connell, Newcastle City Party, Regional Officer and local part Exec.
Kevin White, Liverpool Wavertree. Footsoldier and former Constituency Chair.
Gareth Jones, Maidenhead
Penny Burgess, Cotswold
John Richardson, Newark
Councillor Alasdair Christie, Inverness
Malcolm D Gardner, St Austell & Newquay (formerly Twickenham!)
Natasha Chapman, Lincoln, Chair of Lincoln Liberal Youth
Cllr. Michelle Pearce, Calne, Wiltshire
Gareth Loveridge, West Bromwich and Warley
Joshua Dixon, Hillingdon and London Liberal Youth Vice Chair.
Adam Gillett, Tower Hamlets. Former Chair of London Liberal Youth.
John L Oakes, Former Haringey Councillor, Founder, LibDem Friends of Poland; activist.
Alan Webb , Amber Valley , activist.
Gemma Roulston, Reigate member and also membership secretary of LDDA
Ian Wallace South East Cambs
Fiona White, Guildford Constituency, Deputy Leader Surrey County Council Lib Dem Group.
Richard Hudson, executive member of Derby City
Matt Downey, Cambridge
James King, Southport.
David Parkes, Local Party: Brussels / Treasurer Lib Dems in Spain.
Peter Reisdorf, Wirral West.
Linda Jack, Chair Liberal Left, FPC, PCC Candidate Bedfordshire
James Testro, Derby City.Rory Roberson, Worcester
William Jones, chair of Wythenshawe and Sale East
Andrew Page, Inverclyde
Gareth Epps, Reading
Stephen Glenn, Membership Development Officer Northern Ireland
Kat Dadswell, Liverpool Wavertree
Dimitri Seirlis, Worthing West
Michael Mullaney Cllr and Executive Member for Housing Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council
Alexis Saliou Diouf Alexis S Diouf, Cllr Chesterfield Borough Council
Ian Morton, High Wycombe, Regional Secretary
Cllr Martin Hunt, Deputy Leader, Colchester Borough Council
Dave Harris, Sutton, Surrey
James Moore, Greater Reading
George Potter, Guildford, LDDA Executive
Alex Wasyliw, South Cambridgeshire
Elaine Bagshaw, Chair of Tower Hamlets and Federal Executive member
Nigel Quinton, Chair, Welwyn Hatfield Libdems
Julian Tisi, Windsor
Maria Pretzler, Swansea and Gower
Chris Roberts, London Borough of Havering
Chris Randall Hull and Hessle
Andrew Waller, York Central
Simon Wilson, Broadland
Robert Pitt, Leeds Liberal Youth Secretary
Hannah Bettsworth, Aberdeen Donside, Liberal Youth Scotland Ordinary Executive Member
Aubrey Williams, Thirsk and Malton/Aberystwyth University
Penny Goodman, Leeds North West
Olly Loosemore, Chair of Orpington Liberal Democrats
Louise Shaw, Stockport
James Hackett, Chair of Rhondda Cynon Taff Welsh Liberal Democrats
Leon Duveen, Treasurer Bassetlaw & Sherwood
Marie Jenkins Town Councillor in Devon, Leadership Programme candidate
Jennie Coggles, Exec. Member Nottingham City
Phil Ling, Merton Borough, Exec member, on Leadership Programme
Chris Lucas, Councillor, Three Rivers District Council, Leadership Programme Candidate, South West Herts
Jason J Hunter, Sutton
Angharad Bethan Jones Membership Officer Rhondda Cynon Taff Welsh Liberal Democrats
Daisy Cooper, Parliamentary Candidate (Suffolk Coastal 2010), Lewes
Andrew Hart, Theale
Mario Grana, Theale
Sandra Taylor Altrincham and Sale West with Stretford and Urmston Lib Dems Membership Officer
Dr John Cordwell, County Councillor, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire CC
Alan Marshall, Rotherham & Barnsley
Greg Judge, Coventry, Leadership Candidate Programme
Geoffrey G J Payne, Hackney, events organiserCatherine Wanless, slough
Sarah Durkin, Wolverhampton East, Secretary
Luke Bosman, Preston
Cllr Nigel Ashton, Southport
Rob Parsons, Lewes, foot soldier
Chris Richards, Vice-Chair Camden Lib Dems, Leadership Programme Candidate
Christina Shaw Leeds NW
Suzanne Fletcher, Stockton local party
Tom Snowdon, Amber Valley Lib Dems
Owen Roberts, Swansea and Gower
Max Wilkinson, Cheltenham
Janet King, Chair, Bromsgrove
Martin Horwood, Member of Parliament, Cheltenham
Adam Janiczek Bradford
Stuart Wheatcroft, Carlisle
Scott Collins, South Northamptonshire
Cllr Jon Ball, Ealing local party and FCC member
Cllr Stephen Knight AMLondon Assembly MemberGroup Leader, Richmond upon Thames Council
Mark Blackburn, Westminster Borough
David Grace, Cambridge City
Cllr Lloyd Harris, Regional Secretary – East of England Lib Dems
Cllr Ruth Skelton, Derby City
Nicola Prigg, Ayrshire
Paul Walter, Newbury – Liberal Democrat Voice editorial team
Luke Chapman, Social Liberal Forum – Membership Officer
Cllr Ros Kayes, Dep Leader, Lib Dem Group, West Dorset District Council
Sadie Smith, West Bromwich and Warley
Cllr Hilary Jones, Leader of Derby Liberal Democrats
Cllr Eric Ashburner, Derby City
Cllr Ajit Atwal, Derby City
Clive Lloyd, Cheltenham
Cllr Joe Naitta, Derby City
Cllr Judith Woodman, Leader of Cardiff Liberal Democrats
Cllr Joe Boyle, Cardiff
Ald. Peter Tyzack, Chair Filton & Bradley Stoke LP
Cllr Mike Carr, Derby City
Jonathan McCree, Haringey Lib Dem
C Gordon, Mole Valley
Rae Holmes, Chesterfield
Phil Stevens, Islington – exec member
Caron Lindsay, Treasurer, Scottish Liberal Democrats
Ruth Hopwood, vice chair Wythenshawe and Sale East Liberal Democrats

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Former Archbishop of Canterbury and Godwin's Law

Lord Carey Has Spoken!

Shamefully though, it is to compare supporters of gay marriage with the Third Reich on the rather dubious basis that "Let us remember the Jews in Nazi Germany, what started against them was when they started to be called names. And that was the first stage towards that totalitarian state."

Leaving aside the playground taunt of invoking Godwin's Law and Mister Carey automatically losing the argument, I have yet to find a supporter that will advocate Christians wearing a triangle to mark them out as "The Other"; packing them off en-mass to concentration camps; depriving them of their livelihoods or experimenting on them medically.

Further more, the Church of England, its leaders and members really do not have the moral authority to commentate on the religious/state contribution towards the definition of marriage due to the acquiescence of the church in Henry VIII's manoeuvrings to obtain his divorce from Catherine of Aragon which I have blogged on previously.

Perhaps if I ever were to meet Lord Carey, I would ask him: "Who is a better advert for a loving relationship and commitment to each other? Is it Elton John and David Furnish? Or take your pick from any of these..."