Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

2014 is nearly at an end (unless you are reading this in the morning) so I would like to wish you all a


And a little song from when Top of the Pops was at least worth watching.....

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Bans on freedom, then, now and back to Saudi Arabia again

This is a quiet time of year for bloggers and even where stories do afford an opportunity, others are ready to write before one hits the key board. Take the new film Exodus for example. A growing number of Muslim countries including Morocco  and Egypt have decided to ban it. Not much of a surprise really as Andrew Coates points out:

Bible criticised by religious authorities for inaccuracies.


Can't have Hollywood upsetting peoples beliefs in imaginary friends can we?

Meanwhile the Government has released some papers from the Thatcher years. Forget her secret plans to use the army to break the miners strike or build a chemical weapons arsenal, its her thoughts on banning sex toys that seems to have caught peoples attention. The Independent reports:

Margaret Thatcher considered banning sex toys using an anti-pornography law as part of a drive to clean up public decency in the 1980s.

Documents released by the National Archives reveal that the former prime minister was persuaded to consider a change in the law by the anti-obscenity campaigner Mary Whitehouse, whom she met on two occasions.

Leon Brittan, the home secretary at the time, wrote to Mrs Thatcher noting that there was a “strong case” to be made for banning sex toys under obscenity laws.

In September 1986 he wrote: “Some of the items in circulation are most objectionable, including some which can cause physical injury,” according to a report in The Times (£).

I am bemused at the thought of going on a demonstration to defend the right to use dildo's. I wonder what slogan the various Trotskyist groups would have come up with?

Thoughts anyone?

Finally on a serious note the news that two women are to be prosecuted under laws designed to prosecute terrorists continues to raise concerns. Their crime?

Driving their cars into the Saudi Arabia from neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving.

An international campaign is needed to draw attention to and defend Lujain al-Hathlool (25) and Mayasa al-Amoudi (33) from this barbaric regime.

Fight back against Gender Apartheid!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Roberta Leigh, creator of Space Patrol 1926 - 2014

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Roberta Leigh in an obituary in The Times today. A well known TV producer in the sixties she created one of my favourite shows Space Patrol which for younger readers was a sci-fi puppet show in the same genre as Gerry Anderson, whose career she helped to launch.

Roberta also created Twizzle another character that had some mileage on ITV, but given the books were published in 1958 when I was one year old that isn't one I recall!

Born as Rita Shulman, child of Russian Jewish immigrants  she changed her name to Roberta Leigh for publishing purposes, though did use other pseudonyms. In total Roberta sold 25 million copies of romantic novels ( she wrote 160 in total) but her creation Space Patrol now has a cult following.

Here's an episode to enjoy.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

PCS attacks Margie Rathbone and her reply.


The main focus of members of the PCS union has rightfully been on the sudden admission of the depth of the unions into financial crisis. The suspension of next years internal group and national elections has led to considerable outrage inside the union.

Meanwhile I have been sent a copy of a circular issued on December 12th in the PCS HMRC Group which was intended for "reps only" according to the circulars brief.

The issuing of any public comment on internal union disciplinary procedures is unusual enough, but given what else is going on this episode shows that the crisis is more than just fiancial. 

In the interest of open debate I have published the Official PCS circular written by Peter Middleton the HMRC Group Secretary followed by a public reply from the subject of this circular, Margie Rathbone.


We are taking the unusual step of explaining the background to the removal from office of a former PCS representative following a breach of the union's rules.

Margie Rathbone

Branches have previously been informed that Margi Rathbone no longer holds the post of Deputy Group Secretary. We have not commented on the reasons for that due to the need to maintain a level of confidentiality while the union’s rules concerning disciplinary action were being followed. We have now been authorised by the national union to release the following statement.

It has become apparent that Margi is attempting to establish a staff association in HMRC in competition to PCS. Some individuals in HMRC have been approached by Margi and asked to join the association. Quite rightly, very few people, if any, have joined. However, in these communications Margi has made inaccurate statements about the reason she is no longer a PCS rep.

Margi’s actions go far beyond the usual debate and discussion that occurs in a democratic union such as ours. A former, disgruntled rep is attempting to undermine PCS as a union. It is surely no coincidence that the recently leaked ‘ExCom’ paper refers to management forming “new alliances” in order to marginalise PCS at the same time as Margi is making an attempt to set up her staff association.

Even though the staff association is tiny and unlikely to grow, the union has an overriding responsibility to defend your interests. Therefore, despite our wish to maintain Margi’s privacy and keep the details of the disciplinary action that was taken against her confidential, she has left the union with no option but to set the record straight.

The General Secretary received complaints under this rule from three HMRC reps that Margi Rathbone had attempted to use management processes, which could lead to disciplinary action by the employer, against them. This was done despite a full investigation by the union into Margi’s complaint that the reps had made untrue claims about her in the course of a discussion on a PCS facebook page, which led to remedial action taken by the union. Margi had specifically raised with management the possibility of removing the reps’ facility time.

The national executive committee agreed that the complaints from the reps should be investigated. Subsequently an independent disciplinary committee which is made up of experienced current and former members of the union found that Margi Rathbone’s actions had seriously prejudiced the interests of PCS.

As a result Margi Rathbone was disqualified from holding union positions in PCS for a period of three years. Margi appealed against this decision to our independent National Appeals Committee which is an elected body. The NAC dismissed her appeal unanimously.

Our disciplinary procedure is fair and robust. Margi Rathbone was given every opportunity to present her case and justify her actions. The NEC, the members of the Disciplinary Committee and the members of the National Appeals Committee all agreed that for a senior union official to report other PCS reps to the employer over a union matter, and ask the employer to remove their facility time, was fundamentally wrong.

It is an important principle that a union must deal with complaints such as Margi’s within the union and not allow the employer to use them against us. Holding fast to that principle is even more important at this challenging time when unity is vital to our defence of members’ jobs.

Margie Rathbone - A Personal Statement

In a frankly amazing and shameless breach of trust and confidence, PCS in HMRC has published a briefing entitled “Margi Rathbone” and sent it to all their Branch secretaries, Branch Chairs and Equalities leads. This briefing is riddled with lies, inaccuracies but most of all; it is an act of personal spite and retribution by the General Secretary Mark Serwotka and his cohorts against me for having the temerity to offer an alternative trade union structure within Revenue and Customs. Yes, a vicious and malicious attempt to destroy my reputation and dissuade PCS reps from coming over to Revenue and Customs Trade Union. This cannot and will not work – 3,500+ PCS members voted for me to be their lead negotiator in May 2014 – I am still their lead negotiator, but PCS decided long ago that I was persona non grata, due to my stance of negotiations before opposition, engagement before industrial action. They have admitted that their reps bullied abused and threatened me on Facebook. 
Those reps apologized; so admitting they had done what they were accused of. But that’s not the point according to PCS. Their point is this; If you are an employee of HMRC and look to your employer for support when threatened and abused by a PCS representative is “crossing a line”- and you have brought the union into serious disrepute. This clearly and obviously sets all PCS reps above the ordinary members like you – no surprise there, given the brazen way the General Secretary and his acolytes have blithely set aside elections, sold off the members assets and are making PCS employees redundant at Christmas. A bold move? Oh yes, worthy of Tory Chancellor George Osborne himself.

Most PCS members don’t know who runs the union. Most don’t care as their loyalty is to the union movement and they trust that those they vote for have higher motives and the union work is a vocation. Sadly this is not so, PCS is run by a group of ultra left (I hesitate to call them) socialists, who have gained control of the hierarchy of PCS through their splinter group Left Unity. Left Unity has infiltrated the Branches and with its tactics of command and control of its members (all 2000 of them) this minority group has corrupted PCS and is now destroying it.

But why would they do this? Because their agenda is not one that a true trade union will follow. A true trade union does what’s best for its members to improve their working life, preserve their jobs and get better pay and pensions. PCS NEC wants power within Parliament. It’s the stated aim of the General Secretary and he makes no secret of it in his frequent appearances in public forums and his latest magazine article where he claims he was re-elected (he wasn’t, he was unopposed) and that he supports proportional representation – so does UKIP. In HMRC Left Unity is King, they make all the decisions, they have been the majority on the Group Executive since merger – a constituency of reps who control the Branches elects them. They have worked hard to ignore and marginalize the membership, so successfully that only 9% voted in the last elections. This small turnout suits them as it ensures their survival. 
They have successfully alienated HMRC SOs and HOs to the extent that 7.5% resigned from PCS in summer 2014 and 15% left overall – far in excess of the job losses that PCS blames for its ever declining membership. Clearly people want an alternative to PCS and that’s what I am offering by forming Revenue and Customs trade union – yes trade union, not staff association as PCS labeled us. PCS is petrified of our challenge to their closed shop – that’s why they malign me and try to discredit RCTU. PCS can no longer claim to be a members led union – that’s the Myth of the Week, Month and year.

RCTU will launch formally in February or earlier if our website is functional, we have an application for Certification to the list of trade unions lodged, and we have an official logo and are ready to accept members to join via direct debit. Look out for us in your workplace as we will be recruiting and sharing our vision of what a 21st century trade union can do for you.

Go to: Revenue & Customs Union  for further information.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Fox Hunting: What if it was you?

From the League Against Cruel Sports

To coincide with Boxing Day, a major date in the hunting calendar, the League Against Cruel Sports is launching a new national ad campaign to portray the cruelty of hunting with dogs for sport.

The hard-hitting film asks the question; what if it was you? and shows the terror and cruelty of hunting from the hunted animal's perspective.

Say NO to Fox Hunting. Say NO to Blood Sports!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Seasons Greetings - Merry Christmas 2014

I may be an atheist, but .....

Seasons Greetings to all my readers.

And a cute video for your entertainment.

Now how long does the turkey need to cook.....

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Remember persecuted Christians this Christmas

The most persecuted of religious minorities these days seems to be the Christians, particularly within the Muslim world. The horrific stories of rape, slavery and genocide by the ISIS criminals is well know. Other news has included the the continual abuse of the so-called  "Blasphemy Laws" in Pakistan.

Unfortunately it doesn't end there.

One of the major problems still facing the world today is slavery. 

In some countries it is described as "bonded labour". It's still slavery.

What happens when people resist?

Just read this story from the Christian Post:

Thirteen Christian families in a small village located in the Punjab province of Pakistan are now homeless after the local municipal government demolished their homes because the families refused to work for no pay and become bonded laborers.

Members of the Christian families, who all worked at a local brick kiln in the village of Samundri, refused to continue working unless they received fair compensation for their labor. Pakistan Christian Post reports that the village's municipal government carried out the destruction of their homes last week after being pressured to do so by the "influential" Muslims who owned the brick kiln operation.

"Houses of 13 Christian families have been demolished by the Town Municipal Administration Samundri under the pressure of the influential people of the village just because they refused to bonded labour without any penny," the news report stated.

The owners of the brick kiln behind the demolition of the homes successfully lobbied the town administration and claimed that the homes needed to be demolished in order to make room for a new village hospital, since the village's old hospital that was built about 20 years ago has been "non-functional since its beginning."

With about 72 Christian families living in the majority Muslim village, all the Christian families in the town are forced to live in a segregated corner of the town because "they may not be mixed with the people of the majority religion."

Professor Anjum James Paul, chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers Association, chastised the municipality for destroying the Christian homes. He said these families are now living without shelter and now have to cope with the cold winter nights.

The real blasphemy being carried out is one against basic humanity.

Meanwhile as the Christians of the Middle East face extinction the anti-imperialist brigade remains silent.

The left should be ashamed of itself.

The need for a world wide secular movement to promote tolerance for all faiths and none has never been greater.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Clegg and Serwotka: Facing the Abyss

I had to laugh when I picked up this mornings copy of The Times. They reported that:

Labour is secretly targeting Nick Clegg's seat in a decapitation strategy to scupper future coalition negotiations between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Neither a surprise nor secret now it's front page news. I understand that one of Lord Ashdown's "private polls" has indicated old Cleggy is down to a 3% lead.

That much?

There's a lot of students in Sheffield who might hold just a wee bit of a grudge over student fees. And not a few locals pissed of about him failing to intervene over Sheffield Forgemasters (see here).

There's a lot of hostility to him on the doorstep we are informed.

No shit, really?

The Liberal Democrats have proved themselves to be worthless.

Talking of  the inept and useless.....

The PCS controversy continues to cause a stir on the Internet.

The cancellation of the elections and their handling of the unions financial crisis was furiously defended by the Left Unity ruling faction (an alliance of the Socialist Party, SWP and other malcontents for the benefit of outsiders). Their statement proudly proclaims that:

PCS is the best organised and most effectively administered union in Britain

Stop laughing at the back.

An anarchist summed up the current "debate" quite nicely:

..... a favoured gambit of NEC members is to avoid engaging with the actual arguments made by trying to discredit the very right of other people to disagree. The PCS Left Unity website even goes so far as to create the false dichotomy between members and activists who will understand and right wingers who will criticise out of sheer devilment. But, if you can’t defeat an argument and instead attack the person making it, there’s a high likelihood that you’re talking out of your arse.


Monday, 22 December 2014

Joe Cocker: A tribute to a great singer

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Joe Cocker. The media will cover the story in greater depth, I just wanted to post a tune that will remind you all of the great talent he was.

This is one of my favourite numbers from the album Cocker.

Rest in Peace Joe.

Two men and a blog form a faction

Marxist World – Faction of the CWI

Oh well it is the season to be merry I suppose, so the news that two individuals have formed an open faction within the "Committee for a Workers International" (CWI) should provide brief entertainment for the trot spotters out there.

The CWI is of the course run by the Socialist Party (nee Militant Tendency) which will be familiar to readers active in the trade unions and Labour Movement. They're the ones who bankrupted Liverpool Council back in the eighties and have shafted the PCS union to near extinction this year.

So whats this lot about then?

Economic theory it seems. They claim the CWI/SP leadership know sweet FA about about economics and Marxist theory (that explains a lot), but lets hear what they have to say for themselves in the grandly titled:

Marxist World Faction declared

A struggle within the Socialist Party of England and Wales and Socialist Party Scotland (both part of the Committee for a Workers International) started nearly two years ago over Marxist theory, which soon led to a questioning of the ideas held by the leadership.

Two members, Steve Dobbs and Bruce Wallace, were declared “indefinitely suspended” by the CWI leadership in 2014 for spurious apolitical reasons, but in reality were expelled (in all but name) for raising Marxist ideas and challenging the wisdom of the Socialist Party EC- namely Peter Taaffe and Lynn Walsh.

Throughout the period prior to suspension, Steve and Bruce continuously enquired about the right to form a faction, which, according to the constitutions of both respective parties, is the right of all members. These requests were completely ignored and, in one case, facetiously rejected outright.

As members of the CWI, we have therefore been given no choice but to form a faction to defend the genuine ideas of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky from centrist and reformist distortion. At the present time, our other supporters cannot identify themselves for fear that organisational measures will be taken against them.

This is a totally undemocratic response by the leadership of the CWI and utterly against the methods of Marxism in relation to party building which the CWI is supposed to uphold. We stand by the principles of democratic centralism and declare the leadership of the CWI in breach of these principles...........

In other words the usual Trotskyist crap then.

Other than Steve and Brucie, the other members of this faction are not revealing their identities.

Oh deary me.

I wonder what the working class they claim to really represent will make of all this?

Nothing I would imagine as everyone wraps their presents and sinks another ale or two in preparation for the capitalist festival that used to be known as Christmas.

Bruce Wallace has been writing a navel gazing website for some time which you can find here.


Hat Tip: Kevin Higgins

Sunday, 21 December 2014

PCS: Around the web

A couple of articles have come to my attention that may be of interest. The first was published a couple of days back on the Civil Service World website. The introduction reads:

Facing the coalition, the civil service’s labour movement is split between outright opposition and constructive engagement. Matt Ross examines the tensions between – and within – Whitehall’s unions

The article goes on to demonstrate the fallacies of the approach taken by PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka and his Socialist Party allies along with outlining the different approach taken by the two other main civil service unions Prospect and the FDA.

Whilst trade unionists may not be impressed with the thoughts of Francis Maude, much of what has been outlined in this piece will be familiar to PCS members, especially those who are on my e-mail list and/or are readers of this blog.

You can find the article here: Disunion in the unions.

Unsurprisingly when I posted this the the PCS union's Face Book Page the PCS Press Office responded in a rather authoritarian manner:

"I've asked the CSW newsdesk what remedy they suggest for this misrepresentative and unbalanced feature, including unchallenged claims by Maude that are either untrue and potentially libellous (allegations about Mark that weren't put to us before publication) or illogical (CSCS would have been unchanged if we hadn't taken the govt to court), among other things."

Not sure how it's "libellous" in any manner, but the author did interview one PCS official Paul O'Connor for what is was worth.

However it does seem a highly accurate assessment of the state of affairs in the main civil service union.

A second and quite bizarre claim appeared in an article published by the rather shouty crowd who form the Independent Left faction in the PCS union.

Their activists have been at the forefront of complaining about the cancelling of election by the National Executive Committee due the "sudden" financial crisis that has come to the fore just before Christmas when no one is around to challenge the decision.

The IL claim that:

Just a few weeks ago a senior member of the NEC/Left Unity/Socialist Party approached the PCS Independent Left for discussions about a joint electoral slate. Our National Secretary said he thought agreement to such arrangement would be unlikely but IL representatives would meet with the comrade to hear his proposals but we would need to do so before our impending AGM if we were to report there a detailed proposal.

Why Left Unity would need to do this, given there is no longer any opposition in the union is very strange. As is the decision by the IL to publish this "news" only now.

Finally the saga of the cancellation of the elections has led some reps to thinking of calling for  the intervention of the Trade Union Certification Officer. 

One activist has already set up a website to outline the case against the cancellation of the elections.

You can find that one here: PCS Democracy Deferred.

It seems some activists will be busier over the holiday period than they expected.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

PCS: Is this how a union ends?

On Thursday rumours began circulating of some drastic decisions being taken by the PCS National Executive Committee including the cancellation of all internal elections. This has now been confirmed on the website, though the title of the article posted may not have attracted the due attention from members that it should. The report states:

....the NEC has agreed to suspend NEC and group elections in 2015 for a maximum of 12 months. It was also agreed that this decision, and the NEC’s other decisions on measures taken to stabilise the union’s finances, would be put to ADC for endorsement.

No elections indeed. And taken at a time of the year most members will be heading off for their Christmas holidays and too distracted by festivities to bother with reading the PCS website. By the time everyone returns it will be too late to begin the normal processes and given that 90% of ballot papers are consigned to the bin will allow the leadership a breathing space to re-assert their control over the union.

The reaction to this news has been mixed. NEC members and their supporters are doing their best to justify this decision but considerable disquiet and outright disgust has been expressed on the PCS's Face Book page. Matters are not helped by idiotic suggestions by the likes of Clara Paillard who claimed "We're not skint" in one of her contributions.

Yeah right.

Some activists have finally joined the dots and realised that the attempt to merge PCS with Unite at the beginning of the year was down to financial difficulties.

The union has had a major deficit in it's Pension Fund dating back god knows how long.

During the summer the leadership quietly applied for planning permission so that HQ could be sold off.

Chris Baugh the Assistant General Secretary has in the past claimed there was no "crisis" and despite the proclaimed emergency has not commented himself leaving it to his "beau" Clara.

The end of "check off" was bound to cause problems but what the leadership obviously didn't realise was how unwilling so many members would be in re-signing up for membership. The Home Office Group managed barely half before their department removed the facility. In the HMRC where the union will shortly face a challenge from a new union only 20% have signed up. This despite the "leaked document" from Management about dealing with PCS.

It is the political stance of the far-left run PCS that has led to it's downfall.

Serwotka, the Socialist Party and the rest of the Trots have no idea about negotiation or compromise. They are as a friend of mine Rick Johansen wrote on Face Book "absolutists".

That is ideological motivation comes before all else.

This is how a union ends.

No elections, no headquarters, few staff and a political programme based on the ideology of long dead Russians.

In the New Year members will need to look for new solutions, probably elsewhere.

PCS really has had it.

The only people to blame are the far-left leadership.

The members deserve better and can't even vote them out.

This is how a union ends.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Comedy Interlude with Dave Allen

It's Friday night and I'm now on holiday until next year! Only a few days but putting it that way sounds so much better.

It's late and in lieu of a political or anti-theological rant I thought I'd post a quick sketch from one of my all time favourite comedians the late great Dave Allen.


Also new posts on Captain Stone is Missing and Solitary over at my other blog Howie's World of Comics if you're interested.



By Christina McCormack & Liam Sharp

The world's first and only superhero has disappeared after undergoing a cataclysmic fall from grace in the eyes of the world. Middle-aged and unable to support his operations he had made a preposterous claim that the world was in danger, a notion derided by the media and the public at large. 

But what if the claim is true? 

Outcast writer and infamous murderess Charlie Chance, AKA The Pet, finds herself searching for the one man who was able to bring her to justice-- Captain Stone.

Get yours today!Solitary

Thursday, 18 December 2014

PCS suspends internal democracy as financial crisis deepens

The breaking news tonight is the (as yet not officially confirmed) report that an emergency meeting of the unions National Executive Committee has suspended next years internal elections. 

This shows how far the unions financial crisis has deepened with little to no information about the true state of affairs being given to the members by Mark Serwotka and the unions far left leadership.

Debate has been raging on the unions Face Book page for over two hours as I write without any response from members of the NEC or their supporters despite at least a couple of them known to have viewed the discussion.

That in itself is a disgrace.

According to emerging reports the other measures being taken include:

* Conference to be bi-annual

* The number of delegates cut

* Headquarters staff to be reduced

* Headquarters building has been sold for £25 million

The NEC has yet to make a statement on the outcome of it's meeting today and there seems little desire on the part of the Grandees to comment given the extremely serious nature of their decisions.

The decision to suspend democracy in the union is shameful.

Members are being denied a say in the way the union has been run. Run into the ground by Serwotka along with the Socialist Party and it's other far-left allies.

The fact that this has taken place at a time when members and reps are preparing to go on leave for Christmas is disgraceful and reminiscent of the underhanded way they decided to get planning permission for Falcon Road (PCS Headquarters) and not telling anyone they were thinking of selling up.

Or should it be selling out?

No wonder members have lost confidence in the union.

So much has obviously been kept from us.

PCS obviously does not belong to it's members any more.

No wonder the campaign for direct debit subscriptions is faltering.

What the hell are we signing up to?

An update will appear in due course. Watch this space. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Taliban justify murder through "Hadith".

Came across this disgusting statement on Face Book.

Savages. No other word for them.

This just says it all about these people.

And yes it made me angry, as it should make you all.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Islamist savages murder children

Terrorist attacks are not uncommon in Pakistan, or indeed much of the Muslim world where reports emerge daily of atrocities carried out by Islamists not only against other Muslims, but other minorities as the barbarism of ISIS has highlighted.

This morning like every other civilised person in the world who heard the news I was horrified by the murder of children, in a school by a group of militants who claim to be part of a religion of so-called peace. This evening the numbers of dead have been reported as 140 including several teachers.

Indiscriminate murder of children, militants going from classroom to classroom just killing.

The Taliban justified their attack by saying the Pakistani military had "targeted their families". Even if that were true that does not justify their action at all and further have people forgotten these are the people who tried to kill Malala Yousafzai for the perceived "crime" of wanting to be educated.

Educated as a woman along with other girls?

She survived  and has been an inspiration to us all in the fight for women's rights, not just in Pakistan but across the world.

Neither she, nor any of her school friends ever harmed them or their families.

Thing is these scum do not need an excuse to kill.

The Taliban are worse than medieval and like their co-thinkers in ISIS, Boko Harem and those in Chechnya  who you recall committed a seemingly forgotten atrocity in Beslan where some 300 people, mostly children were killed in 2004.

There is no justification for the deliberate targeting of children.

The Taliban and their Islamist allies and co-thinkers around the world are a danger to us all.

They must be stopped.


Monday, 15 December 2014

IHEU report reveals extent of global discrimination against non-believers

Cross-post from the National Secular Society

IHEU report reveals extent of global discrimination against non-believers

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has released its second annual report on the global state of human rights for non-believers, atheists and agnostics. The report found a "trend towards targeting 'atheists'" across the world, and concluded that "the overwhelming majority of countries fail to respect the rights of atheists and freethinkers."

The report draws attention to "hate campaigns against the non-religious" in 13 Muslim-majority countries, and examples of legislation and hate speech designed to curtail the rights of non-believers. These include a law in Saudi Arabia which equates atheism with terrorism and which prohibits "calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion."

The report also singles out Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who branded secularism, humanism and liberalism as "deviant" and who dismissed human rights as a danger to Islam.

The Egyptian Ministry of Youth is also cited in the report, for their campaign to warn Egyptians about "the dangers of atheism".

Although the IHEU 'Freedom of Thought' study paints a grim picture of human rights across the globe, the authors do make a case for some positive trends. They write that, "if 2014 has seen something of a surge in hate directed at atheists, it is at least a backlash against a steadily globalising conception of non-religious identities."

"The non-religious are also recognising themselves more, stumbling upon new terms and new arguments through international media and the internet, coming together online, talking, in some countries meeting in secret. The non-religious are raising their heads above the parapet. There is a backlash, but it's a backlash that is a response to a surge of new ideas and new connections, and we can hold onto that."

The report gave every country in the world a "Freedom of Thought" status, with rankings ranging from "free and equal" to "grave violations."

Countries ranked as "free and equal" include Sierra Leone, Taiwan, Estonia, Kosovo, Belgium, The Netherlands and Fiji.

Nations with "grave violations" against the human rights of the non-religious include Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, China, North Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report notes that "19 countries punish their citizens for apostasy, and in 12 of those countries it is punishable by death. Pakistan doesn't have a death sentence for apostasy but it does for blasphemy, and the threshold for 'blasphemy' can very low; so in effect you can be put to death for expressing atheism in 13 countries."

The United Kingdom is rated as having "system discrimination." The IHEU report finds that "religion has little unwanted influence over most people in daily life, and the number identifying as non-religious in the most recent census has increased dramatically; however some education reforms in the past few years including in 2014 have increased the influence of religion in schools and removed secular options from some courses."

The report cites a number of "systemic issues" in the UK, including "systematic religious privilege" like the control of "some public or social services" by religious groups and the existence of an established church. The research also notes that "religious schools have powers to discriminate in admissions or employment."

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Howie's Corner: Two years on!

In some ways it still seems like yesterday that I first started blogging and in others it feels like I've been doing this much longer, but in fact Howie's Corner is now two years old. When I started I didn't really have much of an idea of where I was going but this blog seems to have found an audience for which I am grateful. So thank you to all my readers, regular occasional and new!

There is so much competition out there and I'm no academic or journalist, just an individual with a point of view trying to make sense of the world and commenting on those issues which interest me along with a few pieces just for entertainment.

The prime reason for going on line was the attempt by Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the PCS union in conjunction with the Socialist Party trying to censor my e-mail list. I mention this because as regular readers will know there was a recurrence of this recently when I published a guest post by Margie Rathbone promoting a new union in the HMRC which Serwotka and his cronies took umbrage with and demanded (unsuccessfully) that I take it down. I refused, see here and here.

The defence of free speech is very central to political discourse at the moment. The main threats come not just from the state but very much from the left and the religious, particularly over the question of the criticism of Islam(ism) which usually results in accusations of "Islamophobia" or worse "racism" which of course is utter nonsense since theology of any type is not a race. It is simply a set of man-made ideas masquerading as the word of some imaginary "God" or "Gods".

Fighting back against religious extremism has also been a major theme on this blog, even more so since the rise of the ISIS fascists and their mass murder, rape and enslavement of Christians, Yazadi's, Kurds and other minorities that have the misfortune to fall under their control.

The left has remained mostly silent or dismissive of this and still panders to some ridiculous notion of "anti-imperialism" by claiming the West is the real enemy. Utter and complete bollocks. No other word for it.

PCS the union to which I belong has also been at the centre of numerous posts and my view has changed over two tears to the point whereby I no longer see it as a viable union.

PCS has been hi-jacked by the far-left who use the union as a platform for their outlandish and unworkable Marxist agenda. It is now ins serious decline and I am not alone in wondering about alternatives. (see post below).

Trade unions are essential in a fully functioning democracy and the fight for trade union rights is as central as the fight for Free Speech, Human rights, women's rights and gay rights. All of which are under attack from one quarter or another everywhere. These must be defended.

People have lost faith in politicians and political parties which is probably why there has been the rise of nationalism in UKIP and the SNP, neither of which are suitable for the modern age.

As a free thinker and independent I refuse to be beholden to any ideology or theology. The prime focus must be on the rights of the individual. Of course there must be social responsibility, but rights come with responsibilities, a point over looked by many, both on the left, the right and the religious.

The journey to a better world will be a long and difficult one. I do not claim to have the answers but will continue to blog for freedom and attack those who would take it away from us.

But blogging isn't just about politics. Humanity needs humour, music and entertainment. That's why I occasionally publish Musical or (albeit once in a while) comedy interludes.

This year also saw the launch of my second blog: Howie's World of Comics which is where I write about my hobby. Some people like sport or fishing. I enjoy relaxing with a comic book or two.

Heck I even got around to going on Face Book this year. 

Meanwhile I hope you choose to stay with me in the coming year.

Thanks for reading.


And now a completely random piece of music. Just really like the song and the video that goes with it!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

End of check off hastens the decline of PCS

On Friday afternoon the PCS union announced that the "check off" system to collect subscriptions in the DWP section would come to an end in March 2015. Since this facility has already ended in the Home Office and is under threat elsewhere this decision by management comes as no surprise.

It also comes at a time when the union has decided to sell it's main financial asset in Clapham Junction and is entering renewed talks with a view to merge (or more likely be taken over) with the Unite union (see here).

PCS has been running a very panicked campaign to get members to sign up by Direct Debit, but progress has been slow and the vast majority of people have not done so yet. The end of check off in the Home Office did not see anything like the majority resign via dd before it actually ended and there are signs that the same may happen in not just the DWP, but other sections as "check off" ends.

Thing is we really do need a union at the moment but members may well be asking what PCS membership has actually achieved and they would be right to do so.

During the "merger" debate earlier this year we were assured the unions finances were secure, and the National Executive had taken into account the loss of around 10% of the membership as check-off came to end. Given that a large scale voluntary exit scheme (VES) is taking place in the DWP with 3,500 staff to go of which a large proportion would be PCS members, the problem is worse than the leadership realise.

However it has become clear, though not exactly publicised by the unions useless leaders that there is more of a financial problem than they care to admit. We know there is a £7.5 million deficit in the unions pension fund, which is why the unions staff have been offered a worse pension deal than the one PCS rejected from the government.

How long the balance from the sale of the Falcon Road site will last given there will be a need to rent new premises for the Grandees to run their delusional political campaigns from (with a reduced staff no doubt) is questionable.

Once sold. That's it. 

Given PCS has made much of it's so-called Alternative to Austerity campaign members need to ask how come the leadership says it knows how to fix the economy when it can't even balance the books of it's organisation.

The credibility gap has widened and members are gradually wising up to the real situation that exists in PCS.

The vast majority of members remain in PCS because on an individual level reps can still help on personal case work. PCS membership has been an insurance policy.

On other matters particularly the unions continual political campaigning members have disengaged as the low level of participation in internal elections and ballots clearly shows. Members are not taken in by the inflated claims of support for action the union takes.

As demands arrive on our desks from the far left political activist caste who have brought PCS to it's knees over the years they have been in control for us to sign up for direct debit they will meet a level of cynicism in many quarters.

We need a union, but is PCS the right vehicle for our needs and aspirations?

Not from where I'm sitting.

The legacy of Mark Serwotka and his Socialist Party/SWP allies is one of complete and abject failure.

Perhaps the time has come to move on.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Millie Taint on Question Time

One of the programmes that I used to watch on a regular basis was Question Time, but the show hasn't appealed for some time and the thought of seeing the two buffoons Russell Brand and Nigel Farage trying to out gross each other with their banal popularism certainly did not appeal.

But the show might have been watching just for this little clip of one time member of the Socialist Workers Party, now part of the International Socialist Network making a prat of herself.

This is the archetypal shouty revolutionary.

Students would not want her defiling their safe spaces.

Not that anyone else would either!

Power to the people!

Think I prefer Wolfie, don't you?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Maoist cult leader charged


Just over a year ago it was reported that a couple associated with an extreme Maoist group had been arrested on "slavery" charges. (See here). The BBC has now reports:

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 74, has been charged with one count of cruelty to a person under 16, four counts of rape and 19 counts of indecent assault.

The suspected offences relate to three women. No further action is being taken regarding his wife arrested last year.

Mr Balakrishnan, who was arrested in Lambeth in November 2013, is due before Westminster magistrates on 17 December.

Anthony Connell, senior prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said there was "insufficient evidence" for the prospect of conviction relating to Mr Balakrishnan's wife, who was arrested at the same time.

The three alleged victims - a Briton in her 30s, an Irish woman in her 50s and a Malaysian woman in her 70s - had lived at an address in Brixton until October 2013.

A false imprisonment charge against Mr Balakrishnan relates to a 14-year period between January 1999 and October 2013.

The four rape charges span periods from 1980 to 1983, and the indecent assault charges cover periods from 1980 to 1992.
The organisation to which Balakrishnan belonged was called the The Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and was much derided, even by other Maoists as a lunatic group. Their leaflets were considered comedic giving all of us a good laugh.
However none of us are laughing now.
It's one thing to deride a group for being nutters, but there was a more sinister element that has now come to light. 
Slavery, child abuse and rape are no laughing matter.
The affair has highlighted yet again the problems that exist within small political organisations that develop a cult like behaviour to insulate themselves from the outside world.
The Socialist Workers Party have torn themselves apart not only over the widely publicised "comrade delta" affair (which is never likely to go to court), but also other allegations of several other incidents of rape.
Then there's the well known decades of abuse that occurred in the Workers Revolutionary Party until it's leader Gerry Healy was exposed in the 1980s. He died without any charges ever being made.
Of course left-wing organisations are not alone in having these kinds of problems. The Liberals had Cyril Smith and there remains much to be exposed in other areas of the establishment, particularly around child abuse.
No matter what the politics, religion or philosophy of an organisation of any type the danger that leading members will abuse their authority will always be a threat. 
All of us must remain vigilant to ensure such depravity is exposed and those responsible are brought to justice.
No one is above the law.
No one is above common decency.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A quick musical interlude

I've left it a bit late tonight, so here's a quick toon from 1964.

Normal service will resume tomorrow!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Civil Service Union banned by Palestinian Authority

Disturbing news from Palestine that should worry all free trade unionists is the decision of the Palestinian Authority to ban not only a trade union, but the union that represents it's own staff. The following report was published on the Ma'an News website:

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Head of the former union of civil servants, Bassam Zakarneh, said Monday that the union will appeal to the Palestinian High Court of Justice to overturn a decision to close its' offices and dissolve the movement.

The union has delivered all necessary documents to a lawyer who will submit them to the high court next week.

The court will investigate the decision by the Palestinian unity government to dissolve the union of civil servants and label it an illegal organization.

The court will also look into allegations that the PA arbitrarily moved employees in the union to different positions and deducted one days' wages from civil servants.

Zakarneh said he would accept the ruling of the high court and is ready for public dialogue with the PA.

The secretary of the civil servants union, Mohamed al-Araj, and union chief Bassam Zakarneh, were detained in early November after handing themselves in to PA authorities after receiving arrest warrants.

President Mahmoud Abbas' bureau said in a statement at the time of their detention that the union of civil servants was an illegal body established without legal basis.

The presidential statement said that the union continued to operate despite warnings, which "resulted in harm to state properties and to the interests of homeland and citizens."

Zakarneh and the union had recently called for strikes to protest the government's "failure to meet the union's demands."

The official is frequently at odds with the Ramallah-based authorities over labor disputes.

This comes at a time when countries like the UK are recognising the "state" of Palestine.

This report was posted to the main civil service union PCS Face Book page and managed to attract just the one comment when I looked earlier.

Where is the solidarity with our co-workers in the Palestine Authority.

It must be more than a political inconvenience for the anti-imperialist brigade that normally jump up and down over the Palestinian issue at every opportunity.

Problem is they can't blame Israel.

The culprits are the somewhat authoritarian Palestinian "Government themselves.

The PCS union used to claim that "Palestine was at the centre of their international work". I always disagreed with that and not just because my views on a solution to the conflict in the Middle east differ from the so-called "anti-Zionists" on the far left who control the union.

Solidarity with other trade unions should be at the centre of every trade unions "international work". Unions should bring together working people regardless of ethnicity race or gender.

They exist to protect ordinary working folk from exploitation by bad bosses or governments.

But then the lack of free trade unions in Cuba (and the suppression of those that try to form them) has never bothered most comrades. Supporting the Communist dictatorship always comes first for them.

It'll be interesting to see who, if any of the trade unionists who put Palestine high on their agendas react to this news.

I won't hold my breath.

The anti-imperialists are not interested in workers rights.

Workers whether in Palestine or Britain are just pawns in their Marxist games.

That's why free trade unions need to be defended.

Not just from the bosses, but the dictatorial left that seek to use them for their own nefarious purposes.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Monday Review

proxima stephen baxter gollancz

Proxima by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz)

Waking up in a strange environment Yuri thinks he's back on Earth, but soon finds out he couldn't be further from home than possible. He like many others on board are off to a new world in another solar system light years from ours.

And they don't go willingly.

Stephen Baxter's novel of exploration takes from the pits of humanity to new worlds, alien technologies and more in this superb science fiction novel that will keep you gripped from beginning to end.

Yuri will not be the first (or the last) human to make this journey but will be central to a voyage of exploration that will take you from a world that revolves around a dwarf red star to mercury and back again.

The machine stirs.

Meanwhile back on Earth things are not quite right. The world is divided. The solar system is divided. Humanity struggles between two social and economic power blocks. The "United Nations" and China.

Australia being part of the Chinese "sphere of influence" or rule.

Meanwhile dumped in small groups on Proxima with a robotic helper small groups of humans struggle to survive in a hostile environment.

But they are not alone.

A space opera begins.......

And the discovery of a new technology on Mercury upsets the balance.

Mystery In White: A Christmas Crime Story by J.Jefferson Farjeon (British Library Classics)

Six passengers stuck in a train in a snowdrift go off in search of a way to complete their journey. They arrive in a house fully prepared for guests. Fires burning, tea ready to be served and a locked room that becomes unlocked.

A strange cockney fellow.

A murder on the train they left behind.

The storm worsens.

What mystery awaits?

This excellent little novel by J.Jefferson Farjeon hails from 1937 and is republished for the modern reader. Kept me gripped since I picked it up.

A classic indeed.

Meanwhile over at my other blog:

Two new comics reviewed. The Secret Six (DC) and an important story in the continuity of the original Battlestar Galactica TV series; The Death of Apollo.

All this and more if you haven't tried it out over at: Howie's World of Comics

Sunday, 7 December 2014

How much are we denied free speech?

Censorship has been with us in one form or another throughout history, but in the is country we have become used to the idea of free speech as a basic human right (from which all others inevitably flow) and subject only to libel laws in the main.

Nevertheless censorship and suppression of free speech still persists in many forms in society and a new You Gov poll tells us that a third of Britons feel they are denied free speech, particularly in the workplace.

The issues that worry people the most are Immigration, religion, moral and ethical issues and party political preferences which is rather a worry. Of course they are not talking about imposing ones opinions on those around them, particularly if dealing with the general public, but simply being afraid to express a view.

A rather unhealthy state of affairs, but not an unfamiliar one as we have seen the growth of censorship in our universities whereby these so-called "safe spaces" are created to avoid the poor things of being subject to listen to views that may differ from their own and hence "oppress" them.

Then of course there is the social pressure from the left which precludes any discussion about immigration as its all "racist" and of course the "religion of peace" is beyond criticism as any critique is automatically "Islamophobic", not that such logic is ever afforded to any other group or religion in society.

Jews are "fair game" to many of the anti-imperialist brigade. And gay rights or women's rights cannot be raised if it offends..... (add "victim" of choice here).

Even in trade union, well especially some trade unions like my own the PCS censorship abounds on their Face Book page and if admin don't delete your views you'll be shouted down or complained about by some harridan or another like the one who insisted my post on supporting the Kurds was taken down.

Her reason? I'm a near fascist, apparently.

The post was taken down, though I dispute who was really the "near fascist" in this instance. When challenged our intrepid comrade was not ashamed.

So long as only her views are allowed, she and others like her are happy.

No wonder people back off from expressing themselves. The biggest censors are on the left, not the right, not even the state these days.

Interestingly the You Gov poll tells us 17% of respondents were afraid they'd be abused verbally.

Got that right!

The point is to stand up to these bullies, because that's all they are.

Expressing a concern about immigration levels is not inherently racist and we could never have an open borders policy like some of the comrades want, so there's always going to be the need for controls of one sort or another.

As for Islam? It's just another bloody religion. Nobody talks about "christianophobia" (if there even is such a word) and it's subject to open criticism and satire.

The difference is nobody threatens to chop your bleeding head off.

Which in itself says a lot.

Nothing and no body of thought, theological or otherwise can be above criticism or even ridicule if necessary.

The day that happens democracy dies.

Stand up for free speech!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

What do we pay subscriptions to PCS for?

The PCS National Executive Committee has finally announced that it has "authorised" the sale of the unions headquarters building in Falcon Road.  The PCS website reports:

The NEC authorised the sale of the union’s Clapham Junction building and relocation of London-based staff if a suitable deal can be reached. Substantial bids for the building have been received. Realising a large sum of this order would provide us with a reserve to deal with any financial problems in the short term and would form a platform on which we will go forward in the medium term to build the union and grow into new areas. There would be full consultation with the PCS staff union.

The unions biggest financial asset is to go, without any consultation at the behest of the very people who have got the union into a mess in the first place.

But the problem doesn't end there.

At the bottom of the NEC report is this little nugget of information:

In July and September the NEC had considered the implementation of an annual delegate conference motion on discussions with Unite on joining forces. The motion established a policy to continue talks in the first instance based on attempting to secure certain demands in the motion. The general secretary reported to the NEC that he had written to Len McCluskey, GS of Unite, outlining the PCS policy and he had met with Len in November. Mark will update the NEC on any developments at the next meeting in January.

So despite selling off the unions assets, there may still be no independent civil service trade union. Yes there was some lee-way for the PCS to continue negatiations but most people thought it had been kicked into the long grass following Len Mcluskey's outburst at Unite conference.

The Morning Star reported back in July:

UNITE general secretary Len McCluskey poured cold water on plans yesterday to build a super-union with civil servants’ union PCS.

Union leaders have been in talks about PCS joining Unite — in plans that Mr McCluskey explained would be a transfer of undertakings rather than a merger.

But he revealed: “There’ll be no further progress with PCS going into the future.”

Hinting at the reasons for the breakdown, he told delegates “our rules don’t change, our structures don’t change” in any transfer of undertakings.

His comment comes after PCS members insisted they would not throw their lot in with Unite if their subs contributed to Labour Party coffers.

A motion passed at PCS conference in May made a separate political fund for civil servants within Unite.

Given the pressing need for a Labour victory to not only slow down the cuts, but end the continued attacks on trade union rights, the sectarian position of the activist caste in PCS who want to stand candidates against Labour in the general election is very much contrary to Unites position.

Mark Serwotka, the Socialist Party and their far-left allies will only help the Tories with their nonsensical plans.

All this begs the question what on earth are we paying subscriptions for as PCS members.

Yes "check off" is under threat (thanks in part to Serwotka's bloody minded behaviour) and "membership decline (which includes the departure of members in SOCA and very soon the HMRC, thanks to..guess who), one has to ask why the unions finances are in such a mess.

We have previously been assured more than once that "all is fine".  Yet PCS is clearly in serious trouble and if the leadership get their way won't even exist any more.

Perhaps Mr Baugh would like to clarify the unions finances for us. There's a comments box underneath this article.

I notice that on the unions Face Book page one member has commented more than once about being "bored" by the direct debit campaign.

Some of us might go further than "being bored".

Lots of members are holding off filling in direct debit forms.

All the evidence points to PCS having an uncertain future, if indeed it has one at all.

Other options for members are or will be available.

PCS is the sixth largest union in the country. How the hell has it got to this point.

What exactly went wrong with the unions spending?

Open the Books!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Jeremy Thorpe protected by the establishment to the end

Embedded image permalink
Image: Nick Cohen (Twitter)

The BBC reported the death of Jeremy Thorpe the former leader of the Liberal Party aged 85 today. In his hey day he was a popular politician and led the beginning of what was seen as the revival of the Liberal Party throughout the 1970s.

Then came his downfall...

One male model claiming a homosexual affair (and remember this was the seventies and prejudice was still very widespread), a shot dog and a conspiracy to murder case and his career came to an end.

The actual trial was delayed to enable Thorpe to contest his parliamentary seat.

He lost, badly and intervening in the election was one Auberon Waugh.....


There will be more than enough coverage of the rise and fall of Jeremy Thorpe in tomorrows papers and on-line with which I do not intend to compete, but what really sticks in my memory of the whole sordid affair was the way the establishment rallied around Thorpe.

Peter Cooks biased sketch sums up the way a lot of us saw the outcome of the (cough) trial and is probably still relevant today!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

PCS HQ: On sale for a song!

Image: google+

The news that the main civil service union PCS is in deep shit financial trouble is not new despite previous denials by amongst others Chris Baugh, the more than useless Assistant General Secretary. Earlier this year an attempt was made to allow Unite to simply takeover the union, something which for once led to the Serwotka/Socialist Party leadership being left with eggs on their faces.

With a large pensions deficit and a declining membership base the leadership have seemingly been forced into the position whereby the only way they can see their way out of the current mess (of mainly their own making it has to be said) is to sell off the Falcon Road Headquarters building which is owned by PCS outright and was purpose built by one of their predecessor unions, the CPSA.

Apparently staff working in HQ have been told that the union are "hoping" for £20 million as the sale price of which £7 million has to go to the pension fund.

Given the prime location of the building adjacent to Clapham Junction railway station and at the nexus of a large number of bus routes plus the fact it has a lot of parking space that figure sounds remarkably low.

There seems some ungainly urgency in this impending sale as April 2015 appears to be a key date involving the planning permission sought by the union without telling anyone.

A move to Croydon has been mooted by the Grandees.

Problem is that this is a major decision that has not been put to the membership who should have a say. The trouble with any deadline before May is that Conference will be presented with a "fait accompli".

The time has come for the PCS (who's National Executive Committee is currently meeting in err.. Falcon Road) to actually tell the members the situation the union is really in.

After all with PCS pushing everybody into paying dues by direct debit, they both deserve and have a right to know what is going on.

Enough of the prevarication already.

Open the Books!

That's what Trotsky would have demanded "comrades"!!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Victimised PCS reps abandoned by "militant " union.

The main civil service union PCS is regarded by both it's leaders and outsiders as very much a left-wing union with the General Secretary Mark Serwotka designated as one of the "awkward squad" by the press for some years. Led by the far-left Socialist Party one would expect that defending it's reps from victimisation by management would be a priority.

This has not been the case with John Pearson and Sofia Azam who have seemingly been left out in the cold by the union. In the case of John Pearson it has been suggested that this is due to his brand of left-wing politics which is not to the leaderships liking. No way of proving this of course, though supporters have claimed there has been a smear campaign against him.

Times are hard in the civil service and life for reps has never been more difficult, more so in some departments than others. Phil Dickens writes:

John was sacked by Hewlett Packard for sharing information passed to him in his capacity as an elected union official with the members he was elected to represent, and then refused support from the union and tried to claim that he had brought his situation on himself.

Since then, John paid his own legal fees to take the case to an Employment Tribunal. In a damning indictment of the PCS decision, he won his case. The tribunal ruled that he was unfairly dismissed for carrying out his union duties, and that the information he shared could not reasonably have been assumed to have been in confidence.

However, rather than admit that it was wrong and offer support for John in retrospect, the union dug in its heels. Even after an open letter to General Secretary Mark Serwotka that received a huge amount of signatures and publicity, the union leadership's response was to repeat a number of false assertions and insist that it was right to refuse John support.

Why cannot the leadership admit they made a mistake? It is the least they could do in the circumstances no one, not even the failed messiah Serwotka is infallible.

In similar circumstances (the sharing of information), PCS backed Sofia Azam and lost. They are now refusing to support her appeal.

There is to be a lobby of the PCS National Executive Committee tomorrow.

John and Sofia have issued the following statement:
We will send a request to NEC members in advance, to come out and talk to us, instead of just accepting what they are spoon fed by General Secretary Mark Serwotka and the union’s full time officials.

We were both sacked for directly carrying out duties as union branch officers, on the instructions of our Branch Executive Committees. John sent to union members details of the information on proposed redundancies that his employer was statutorily obliged to supply to the union for the purposes of consultation. Sofia was sacked for sending details of the grading of posts following a staffing restructure. In both cases, the employers tried to block union involvement by improperly attaching a ‘confidential’ stamp to industrial relations data which the union members affected had a right and an interest in being presented to them by their elected union representatives.

After hearing 3 days of sworn evidence, including testimony from 5 of John’s witnesses and 3 of the employer’s witnesses, the Tribunal decided that John was carrying out a legitimate union duty and, crucially, that the information, “provided for consultation purposes, could not be properly considered to be confidential“. Had the union instructed its solicitors to fight Sofia’s Tribunal case on the same basis, she would in all probability have won. Instead, they fought Sofia’s case on the grounds that she was contritious for having mistakenly circulated the material. In John’s case, the union full time official (FTO) would not contest the employer’s assertion that it had a right to decide what information supplied to the union is or is not ‘confidential’. The FTO wanted to accompany John to disciplinary hearings to plead for clemency. John’s approach has been proven to have been absolutely correct. His dismissal was unlawful because, despite all the attacks that have been made on union organisation, there is still legal protection against suffering dismissal, or detriment short of dismissal, for carrying out union activities.

PCS is a union which is led by left-wingers, including members of the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party. It used to have a perspective of rank and file control. The notion that the union will only represent elected officers and reps who agree with the full time officer’s advice flies in the face of such a perspective. The contrasting cases of John and Sofia show which approach is correct.

One does not need to share the political perspective outlined in the final paragraph to realise that something is more than wrong at the heart of PCS.

PCS is in trouble enough at the moment if they fail to give the necessary support to the lay reps on the ground when conducting legitimate trade union duties, what does this say to the wider membership?

The union must reconsider its position on the cases of both individuals and ensure that reps are not abandoned in this way in future.

Lobby of PCS in support of victimised reps
PCS HQ, 160 Falcon Road, London, SW11 2BR
(5 minutes from Clapham Junction train station)
12.30pm Tuesday 2 December