Janine's blog

TUC Women Discuss Abortion Rights

Submitted by Janine on Wed, 03/14/2007 - 20:44

Here I am at TUC Women's Conference in Scarborough. Today, I moved RMT's emergency resolution on abortion rights. Here's my speech, plus a report on the debate that followed.

(Pic: The RMT delegation pose in front of the Conference banner in defence of abortion rights)

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Until now, the political dominance of right-wing parties and the Catholic Church has mean thtat Portugal has had very restrictive abortion laws. Abortion has only been legal if the woman's life is in danger, there is sever fetal disability, or the pregnancy is the result of rape.

RMT Women's Conference: Day Two

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 03/12/2007 - 21:42

Into the second day for only the second time (RMT's women's conference was a one-day affair until year), the Executive reported on progress with last year's resolutions. One had been ruled out of order in a heavy-handed manner, others have been "progressed" or "linked to other files" or what have you. We need to make the Executive somewhat more responsive - but we also need to make our own resolutions include more specific mandates to help ensure that action is taken.

RMT Women's Conference: Day One

Submitted by Janine on Sun, 03/11/2007 - 20:22

RMT's national women's conference took place on Friday and Saturday last week (2nd and 3rd March), in Doncaster. RMT members can watch the whole thing by webcast by logging on to the members' section. There were 25 delegates - that's about average, but less than there could potentially be due to the union notifying the conference via branch secretaries, many of whom do not make much effort to pass on the information to women. Overall, it was very good, and most delegates appeared to come away inspired.

Network Rail: Solid Strike Action Set To Spread

Submitted by Janine on Fri, 03/09/2007 - 21:56

Following the solid and effective strike action over the last couple of days, signallers in Scotland are to step up their action with further strikes and a UK-wide ballot.

RMT signallers and supervisory staff in Scotland will strike between noon next Friday (March 16) and Sunday (March 18), and again between noon on the following Monday (March 19) and Wednesday (March 21).

Immigration: John Reid Plumbs New Depths

Submitted by Janine on Wed, 03/07/2007 - 16:42

John Reid just gets worse every time he opens his mouth.

His latest latest pronouncements on the subject of illegal immigration are notable not just for declaring appalling, repressive policies (we're used to that), but also for the Alf-Garnett-Writes-Guest-Column-For-The-Daily-Mail language he uses. It's all "clampdown", "foreigners", "stealing our benefits" and "throwing out".

RMT Accepts Crap Pay Offer: What To Tell The Members?

Submitted by Janine on Tue, 03/06/2007 - 19:44

Here's an awkward situation. Imagine that you are the union rep for a particular workplace (or group of workplaces). Your union accepts a crap pay offer: you disagree with it doing this. But there is another union in the workplace which is significantly worse, and which accepted the same pay offer when it was marginally even crapper several months ago. Your members are demoralised due to your union's climbdown, and the other union is trying to make hay with this and sign some of them up.

New Labour Denies Rights to Agency Workers

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 03/05/2007 - 14:43

On Friday, the government blocked an attempt to give equal rights to agency workers. A Private Members' Bill (The Temporary and Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill) would have given equality to the thousands upon thousands of agency workers who are denied basic equal rights in areas such as pay and holidays.

Youngsters With Special Needs? Give 'Em An ASBO!

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 02/26/2007 - 15:01

A study commissioned by the BBC has revealed that more than a third of young people given ASBOs have what the report calls a 'brain disorder'. I might prefer to call it a neurological difference, but the point is the same - young people with conditions such as autism, ADHD and Asperger's syndrome are being punished by the criminal justice system instead of being helped with their social development.

Stop British Library Cuts

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 02/05/2007 - 09:43

I love the British Library's Newspaper Archive in Colindale. I discovered it when I first started looking into the Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921, and came away with armfuls of newspaper articles which transported me back eighty years as effectively as a Tardis might. At that time, I could hardly believe such a teasure trove existed. Now, I can barely contemplate it not existing.

TUC: In Loco Parentis?

Submitted by Janine on Sat, 02/03/2007 - 21:41

TUC Women's Conference should be accessible to any woman trade unionist elected to respresent her union. But how can it be, when childcare is provided only during formal conference hours and only for pre-school kids?!

A couple of years back, I circulated a letter around TUC Women's Conference delegates, asking for childcare to be provided for some periods of time out of conference hours, thus enabling women with kids to attend fringe meetings etc. Loads and loads of delegates signed it. The TUC Women's Committee, apparently, endorsed its view.

Annual Leave Increases - Slowly

Submitted by Janine on Thu, 02/01/2007 - 15:18

New Labour has finally decided to increase workers' statutory entitlement to annual leave, to take account of the eight annual public holidays - but the government has made an absurd concession to bosses by giving them over a year and a half to bring in the change.

As previously reported on Jblog, workers in the UK are entitled to a measly 20 days (four weeks) annual leave, and some employers - for example, London Underground's cleaning contractors - could, in effect, give their employees only 12 days off per year.

Packed Meeting Pledges to Defend Hackney Estates

Submitted by Janine on Wed, 01/31/2007 - 21:37

Over 70 Hackney residents packed into a public meeting on Monday evening to protest against Hackney Council's plan to fragment, privatise and over-populate their estates.

I gave the opening speech, largely an updated version on this blog entry from a while back. There was then plenty of discussion, despite some rather heavy-handed chairing.

They Are Not Kids And They Are No Longer United

Submitted by Janine on Sun, 01/28/2007 - 20:05

Shocking news indeed - Sham 69 have split up. Whaddyamean, you had no idea they were still going and assumed they had done the decent thing and split up nearly thirty years ago?! Actually, it was those ageing Hersham Boys who recorded England's official World Cup song last year, which you might not have noticed got to number 10, their first hit since the 70s.

The Police, The Courts And Domestic Violence

Submitted by Janine on Wed, 01/24/2007 - 21:58

When I was first active in feminist politics in the 80s and 90s, we did a lot of campaigning to change the Police's treatment of domestic violence victims. We complained about the Police's habit of dismissing violence as "just a domestic", of belittling the women who suffered it and indulging the men who meted it out. All this campaigning paid off - women won the right to be interviewed by specially-trained female officers, new judicial procedures enabled women to give evidence in a more sensitive way, and the Police changed their attitude and now take domestic violence more seriously.

'Business leaders' to run schools?

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 01/22/2007 - 17:56

A government-commissioned report has recommended that schools be allowed to appoint business leaders in place of qualified head teachers. To run a school, you will no longer need to know anything about teaching, or about children - heaven forbid. A robust knowledge of profit-and-loss will do fine, perhaps with additional 'desirable qualities' of bashing the 'competition' (presumably meaning other schools), bullying staff and attacking unions.

Liberation and the Left

Submitted by Janine on Sat, 01/20/2007 - 17:47

Today, I am feeling guilty at not having written something for the Carnival Of Socialism, this year hosted by Stroppyblog with the theme of Liberation and Socialism. It's a favourite topic of mine, and my excuse is that (a) I didn't understand what the Carnival was until about a week ago, and (b) in that week, I have been up to my proverbials in union stuff (note the paucity of my blog of late!)