EU referendum result breaks the law

EU ref results as percentage of whole electorateYes, the result does break the law. However, it is not a law that invalidates the result, but it is one rather ironically, that has the word “union” in it.

The EU referendum result gave a 51.9% Leave to 48.1% Remain result on a 72.2% turnout.

The graph here shows that when you look at the whole electorate (not just those voting) you will see only 37.4% of the whole electorate voted Leave and 34.7% voted Remain, with 27.8% of the electorate not bothering to vote.

Why does this matter? Only a few weeks ago the Trade Union Act 2016 came into law and this has impacted upon me and millions of other trade unionists. The government have “modernised” (a euphemism for “massively restricted “) the way strike ballots work as follows (taken from the government website):

The Trade Union Act will ensure industrial action only ever goes ahead when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50%.

In important public services, including in the health, education, transport, border security and fire sectors, an additional threshold of 40% of support to take industrial action from all eligible members must be met for action to be legal.

As a country we can  take the massive decision to withdraw from the EU based upon 37.4% of the electorate voting for it but cleaners in a school who want to take strike action need to have a 50% turnout and meet an additional threshold of 40% of support from all eligible members to take strike action.

It would not be enough to get a simple majority as with the EU referendum.

So there you have it, the EU referendum results breaks the law: the law relating to trade union strike ballots.

By the way, I am not posting this because I think the referendum result is invalid; I voted Remain but I do accept the result. I am posting this to make the point workers have had a second class democracy imposed upon them. 

Holding power to account

I don’t often post about things directly related to what I do in my day job as Regional Secertary for UNISON in the West Midlands, but after an event I was involved with this week I think a few words might be worthwhile.

Trade unionists want to see justice not only in the workplace, but also in wider society. A key part of trade unionism is that by coming together workers can build the power to get the workplace justice they deserve. The voice of many is far more powerful than a few.

Similarly, if trade unions want to see social justice across the wider community, if we work with other civil society institutions then our voice is louder.

My union is part of the Birmingham chapter of Citizens UK which is an alliance of civil society institutions who have come together on a joint social justice agenda. We have faith groups, schools, trade unions, universities, colleges and community groups in our alliance.

On  Thursday I had the privilege of co-chairing am assembly of over 400 people where we heard testimony from people with serious issues around asylum, the Living Wage and community safety. And we them made specific and public asks on these issues of politicians and political candidates, including the John Clancy leader of Birmingham City Council and David Jamieson the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.

We heard very moving testimony from a Syrian refugee who had recently been resettled in Brum, a low-paid worker about what the Living Wage would mean to her, and a woman who told her story about the community safety issues she and her family face.

The testimony from the people affected by these issues was incredibly moving and we put the politicians on the spot and secured pledges on:

  • Agreement to resettle 500 more Syrians refugees in Birmingham.
  • Moving to ensuring the Living Wage is paid to care workers employed by private contractors used by Birmingham City Council.
  • West Midlands Police becoming a Living Wage employer and becoming accredited.
  • A commitment for Housing Officers and Police Officers to hold termly surgeries at the schools of who are part of Citizens UK so that families can get proper support and advice on housing and community safety matters.

Readers of this blog will know that numbers feature regularly – and this post is about numbers too. The power of civil society to secure these pledges was directly related to the number of people involved in the campaigns and attending the assembly.

As the US community organiser Saul Alinsky said “Power goes to one of two poles: those who’ve got the money, or those who’ve got the people.” We in civil society have relatively little money, but if we organise our people, we can build the power to change things.

Trade unions improve workers’ life expectancy

1459093819050.jpg I recently blogged with a graph (reproduced on the left) that showed how life expectancy was closely to the government’s own “Index of Multiple Deprivation” or IMD.

The IMD is actually a combined index made up of several “domain indices.”

This got me wondering if any of the domain indices were particularly strongly correlated with life expectancy. I went back to the data and did a scatter plot for each of them.

The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is made up from seven domain indices as follows:

  • Income – 22.5% of IMD
  • Employment – 22.5% of IMD
  • Education – 13.5% of IMD
  • Health – 13.5% of IMD
  • Crime – 9.3% of IMD
  • Barriers to housing – 9.3% of IMD
  • Living environment – 9.3% of IMD

Note the first of the graphs is the combined Index of Multiple Deprivation itself, so it can be seen as a comparison.

Unsurprisingly the Heath and Disability index has a strong correlation, but the Income index and the Employment index both show strong correlations too. Which for me as a trade unionist, confirms that by securing workers’ jobs and improving their pay and conditions, trade unions not only improve workers’ lives today, they also increase workers’ life expectancy over the longer term.

IMD lots of graphs

This brought a tear to my eye today

At teatime today I did one of several live national TV interviews in Birmingham Grand Central shopping centre on UNISON’s reaction to the spending review.

As I was walking away a Pakistani man came to chat to me to ask who I was and what I’d done. I told him I was a union official and I’d been talking about the spending review.

He asked about my heritage and I told him my dad was Indian.  He was made up and said he was proud that someone of Asian heritage was speaking up for disadvantaged people.  He was absolutely made up about this and he shook my hand and his pride was so obvious.

I always feel privileged that I have a platform to speak up on behalf of UNISON members.  But the very human reaction from this man who felt people who looked like him had no voice really humbled me.

I’m not too proud to say that as I walked away I had a few tears in my eyes.

The Kochi Tourism Meghala Liaison Workers Union

imageThe Kochi Tourism Meghala Liaison Workers Union.  If you look at the top of the sign it says STU which usually means this is a larger union or union umbrella organisation the union is affiliated to.

From my digging the STU are the Swathanthra Thozhilali Union. Who they? Well from a bit of internet searching I’ve found this Kerala High Court decision on a case between the STU and the Kerala Headload Workers Board.

From one of my recent posts and the Kerala High Court decision linked to above you will see that the Headload Workers do loading and unloading jobs.

Cochin Thuramugha Thozhilali Union (CTTU)

imageThis one of the many upright metal poles with a trade union acronym that can be found dotted around Keralan streets.

This is for the CTTU – Cochin Thuramugha Thozhilali Union (CTTU).  Note the old spelling of “Cochin” – it is now spelled Kochi.

From the location of the sign (next to the harbour) and a rating of the logo (see close up below) I’m guessing this is a harbour workers union of some sort.

image