Monday, 30 July 2012

"If you're out of your depth, tread water and smile" - Jim's story, part 1

Why has this happened to me?

Well I rang a woman, well to be precise she rang me after I sent her a text wanting to discuss the state of things where I worked. Quite frankly I was stunned at her attitude, considerate, personable and generally chatty. Not quite what I had been led to believe, I was expecting... to be honest, I didn't know what I was expecting. She could have told me to sod off, or even worse ignored me. The woman was Jennie Formby, Unite National Officer for food, drink & tobacco. "She's been on the telly" I thought, and she's pleased to talk to me, that hasn't happened since I rang my mum! Considering she was about to get on a plane and was involved with important stuff I was made to feel like I mattered. My concerns were her concerns, then I was advised to talk to my regional officer Rick Coyle who would get things moving. That's where it was all going to come crashing down surely, some platitudes and faux concern were coming my way. How wrong I was, a feeling I'm comfortable with because I'm married, he was of the same mind as Jennie.
The next thing knew I had been issued with emergency powers before holding a full election and we were "organising", I don't mean planning a birthday party for the wife, organising for solidarity. We were a couple of weeks away from Unilever's first strike action with no shop stewards on site... now I was it. So when people talk about pressure, try becoming acting senior steward, with a disparate membership in need of facts not fiction and the bitter stench of mutiny still in the air.

Never held office before, now all eyes are on me. So what was I to do, what could I get away with, would people take me seriously? One, way to find out I suppose, just get on with it, one day at a time, dodge the flack, soak up the advice, try to sound like I know what I'm talking about.

Rick, my handler, he wasn't what I was expecting, we met in a pub at short notice to inform the membership of the facts. The guy I had been talking to for the last couple of days was here in front of me. We hit it off instantly, best blind date either of us had been on. The promise of support had been fulfilled from national officer down, sound like a fairy tale, but its how it happened. Before we knew it we were standing outside the gate for over 13 hours with over half the membership, and media crawling all over the place. We had representatives from the local constabulary visit us, nice chaps, concerned about our well-being and full of advice on how to stave off the cold. I wasn't that worried about the cold, I was wearing a lovely warm thermal suit, some say it was cheating, I say it was forward planning. Having said that, I could possibly have taken note of which zip allowed instant access to the appropriate area when I needed the toilet.

Boredom was never far away, but I had a cunning plan to keep it at bay until the sun came out. What would you do with a big lotto win? Say 10 million or so, the silence was almost too much to bear, ok, I'll start you off, I filled the air with images of exotic cars, houses by race tracks and toys... remind me never to play that one again with people of a left wing persuasion. Going with the "property is theft" ethos for a moment, how does a big fat lotto win sit then?

It took a lot more than some stirring emails and a couple of posters to open people's eyes and show them they're not alone. I knew it would be difficult winning people's trust and enlightening them, even though I had worked side by side with these people it was going to be a challenge. Trying to convince people to fight for what's right can be difficult, trying to show people what is right is tricky, especially if money is at stake. Especially that they wont see for several years to come, pension are funny things, they don't really matter until you need them to pay out, for many its too late by the time they realise its not enough to live off.

The next instalment is going to be better, but like life, it’s not always what you want first...

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Why all talk of "union fat-cats" is deliberately untrue and perversely misleading

Search “union fat-cats” and there will be plenty of articles to choose from.   

If we go back a generation in the UK, it was the norm for the CEO or leader of an organisation to earn 4, 5 or 6 times the average salary within that organisation.  This was true of the voluntary and charitable sector, banking and the private sector as a whole.

Hardly any organisations or businesses have escaped the pure greed of our leaders.  The old differential of upto 6 times the salary has been lost.  Social inequality had rocketed, and the salary differentials are now so extreme it is hard enough to even comprehend them.

How many times greater is the salary of your CEO compared to you?  Chances are, it will be well into the hundreds, possibly the thousands. Not even the charitable sector has escaped this top-salary exploding madness.

I’m now going to point something out that nobody ever does when these “union fat cat” stories are trotted out.  When it comes to pay for it's officials, Unions have not changed.  Unions have not recently started doing anything different. Unions still do what they always did, which is what everyone else used to do!

That’s right – Union top salaries still tend to be in that area of 4, 5 or 6 times higher than the average in that organisation.  So next time a journalist tries to wind you up and writes “this union fat-cat gets £122,000”, try dividing that salary by 4, 5 or 6.  

Then be re-assured that our Trade Unions remain overwhelmingly decent.

Finally I make one last observation, one that should be obvious.  Taking a rational, sensible view of top bosses salaries, unions are the last organisations in the UK that should be being attacked.  With the possible exception of top-bankers, unions get attacked more than any other group.  The current situation is nothing more, and nothing less, than spiteful union bashing from the political wing of the wealthy.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Are you offended by any of these questions?

Are you offended by any the questions below?

In the UK and in America, the vast majority of private sector employers would crush any employee asking these sorts of questions

1)    What is your job title?

2)    Do you have any children/other dependents)? If so, how many?

3)    Do you have a partner and if so, are they earning? Do they contribute to the household financially?

4)    Do you claim benefits? If so, which ones?

5)    Do you struggle to pay the bills?  

6)    At the end of the month, do you have any disposable income?

7)    How does low pay affect your life?

8)    When did you last take a holiday?

9)    Do you have a second job to subsidise your pay?

10) Do you use credit cards or pay day loans? If so, are you in debt?

11) Over the last five years, have you had to change the way you live your life as a result of low pay?

12)  Is there anything else you want to tell us that you think is relevant?

The freedom to be able to ask these questions - to survey a workforce, to recruit and to unionise, is an essential part of living in a free society.

Because these and other questions are "not allowed" in our private sector, it is impossible to bargain on behalf of workers. Politicians and media often say that "private sector workers have rejected unions".  But this is simply wrong - the truth is that unions have been largely frozen out, and getting in requires enormous effort, usually as part of a concerted campaign , paid for by a national Trade Union such as Unite.   Of course, Unions simply don't have the resources to sort this crises out by themselves.

And it is a crises. I don't just mean the human rights abuse of it being ridiculously difficult to form a union. I mean the wider consequences for our economy.

Perhaps the biggest problem for "the taxpayer" is that the poverty pay of our richest companies is topped up via the benefits system.  The likes of Amazon and Marks & Spencer should not employ full time workers on poverty pay rates. But they do. The rest of us then pick up the price.

The low wages of millions of workers in rich firms causes a stagnating, depressed economy.  A unionised private sector would halt the ever growing differentials of bosses pay compared to workers pay. It would reduce reliance upon the state, and would give people more money to spends on goods and services. It would reduce stress on families, and would almost certainly reduce the number of marriage breakdowns.

And for those of us in the UK who are unionised, what we are allowed to do falls way beneath the minimum of worker rights as spelt out in global human rights international law, see this

We are not free. And it's time we started saying so.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Roger was fairly dismissed. How Unite got him his job back...

I can't complain at the decision to dismiss.

Roger made the classic mistake so many workers make.  He thought "I'll make it as easy for them as possible, I'll be good, I won't argue, I'll just accept I was in the wrong and I'll say sorry".  Although a Unite member for many years, for these reasons he chose not to be represented.

With fourteen years service and a clean record, Roger never imagined his one breach of Health & Safety would result in dismissal.  But it did.  And to be fair, it was a really serious breach.

The worst possible thing anybody can say in a disciplinary hearing is nothing at all.  This means you have nothing in mitigation, ie nothing to say for yourself, no excuses, no good reasons to account for your actions, nothing to be taken into consideration on your behalf. This then gives the green light to the employer to throw the book at you.  A hearing manager makes a decision based on the information in front of him/her.  If you don't say "I've got a clean record of fourteen years", you cannot assume that point will be in front of the decision maker.   In this case, the decision was (legally) reasonable in view of the information the manager had at the time of the decision.

It's much harder to change a decision that's been made rather than influence one that's still hanging in the balance.  But Unite interviewed our member and discovered the points of mitigation that ought to have been raised at the dismissal hearing:

* Severe (and unusual) domestic problems at the time the H&S training was delivered.  Management were already aware of the issues, but these were not raised at the dismissal hearing.
* Critically, the same H&S breach was committed by our members manager - on the same day!  Yet no disciplinary action had been taken against the manager.....

The employer ( a midlands based FTSE top 100 company ) accepted our argument that the business had not been consistent and that our member had received "less favourable treatment" than his manager. Also, that there were mitigating factors our member experienced, and there was good reason to believe that trust in this worker could be restored with refresher training and appropriate support.

So three weeks after having been sacked, our member got the job that he loves back again, complete with back pay to the date of dismissal.


* Always be Union
* Always take advice when facing a difficult or disciplinary situation at work
* Always insist upon representation, and never have nothing to say for yourself !

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Why it is naive, bordering on stupid, not to be represented in a disciplinary hearing

Emma has worked in a major supermarket since leaving school 19 years ago.  After 18 years without any sickness absence, life became very sad last year following the death of one close family member, and the serious illness of another. Emma has become depressed and has had four periods of sickness during - as our employers put it - " a rolling twelve month period".

Back in March this year, a disciplinary hearing was held to discuss absence as the "trigger points had been exceeded".  A first written warning was issued, which was later overturned on appeal.  The reason? Depression is covered under the Equalities Act, and the grocer had a legal responsibility to consider what "reasonable adjustments" it could make. They'd failed to consider this. It was agreed that monthly meetings would take place to support Emma, and the warning was binned.

Fast forward to last week.  Emma had been unlucky enough to suffer an accident at work and needed a few days off while the swelling died down.  Now the manager is very clearly pushing for a formal warning to be issued. and is not being pleasant.  Rumour has it that the manager is still smarting that the warning she'd issued in March was overturned....

I point out that while it is very good that the employer has identified the "reasonable adjustments" Emma needs, it is at best unfortunate that these have not yet been implemented (not one monthly meeting ever took place, despite many efforts from Emma to sort them out).  I point out the obvious - that it would be unreasonable to discipline Emma for absence in these circumstances - that the important thing is that we get the reasonable adjustments implemented and trust that this will have the desired effect of improving attendance

The grumpy manager then calls an adjournment.  I smile drinking my coffee with the smug satisfaction that a manager who ten minutes ago knew exactly what she was going to do - no longer does!

Ten minutes later we have our decision - no action to be taken


* This is a typical example of how the Equalities Act can be used to help workers
* Workers cannot rely on laws to help them.  In this case, having a representative present forced the employer to consider the law.  The law is usually pointless unless there is somebody there enforcing it for you
* It is naive bordering upon stupid not to be represented in any disciplinary situation

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The myths surrounding industrial action and public opinion

 Here are some points about "union power" and "winter of discontent" that seldom get made:

* Unions that are "too powerful" would never need to strike.  A period of lots of strikes is an indication of workers having hard times.  The media prefer to describe "union militancy".

* The media succeeded in convincing the public that unions were "too powerful" and so needed to be curbed.  Millions of people still believe this.  It was never true.  It was true that the public were fed up with the inconvenience of strikes and wanted something to be done. This was ruthlessly exploited by the Right, and continues to be milked for all it's worth to this day.

* Yes, there were masses and masses of strikes in 1979. They were very much a symptom of the economic crises of the times.  They were never the cause!  The media very cleverly painted unions as the "british disease" - the cause of economic woes.   At that time, politicians wrongly believed that collective bargaining caused inflation. Now "wage inflation" is never mentioned and is discredited by economists.  Unions in 1979 did not cause hyper-inflation or stagflation, but did respond to those desperate economic circumstances to protect people.

* The strikes were the fault of the then Labour government.  Labour put in a pay increase cap of 5% at a time when inflation was wild and out of control, sometimes as high as 29%    So yes, one group of grave diggers in one city went on strike - something that makes people feel sick. But what were they to do?  Many were struggling to feed their children.  It was Labour's incomes policy - and that alone, that caused the strikes - strikes that usually featured workers who had never taken action before.  Labour's incomes policy was a well intentioned attempt to get inflation down, but it was so unrealistic it made tens of thousands of people feel compelled to go and stand at the gates of their workplace.   Despite the reported chaos, of 14.5 million union members in 1979, more than 13 million of them took no industrial action that year whatsoever.

* It was astute and ideological of the Tories to blame the Unions.  They knew the mess - and it was a mess -
was Labour's fault. Labour had no political option but to also blame the unions.   Yes there were too many strikes.  But mostly it was weak workers whose pay was getting hammered that took a stand.   Cheered on by a poorly informed, massively manipulated public, workers rights and unions were systematically hammered by successive Tory governments.

* New Labour decided it was pointless trying to convince the public they were wrong about unions. The public had made up it's mind, so go with the script and keep all the anti-union laws.  That way less chance of negative headlines in the Tory press.

* The effects of all the Tory laws are trumpeted by the media as a triumph.  Strike action is massively reduced.  What doesn't get mentioned is that the graph above is very similar in other countries, eg Ireland, despite the fact that union laws remain largely unchanged in those countries.  In other words, the number of strikes was always going to reduce massively as the economic outlook improved.

The main effect of the Tory laws has not been to reduce conflict.  What is has done is massively reduce people's ability to resist profound cuts in occupational pensions, sickness pay, job security and many other important things.  Exploitation is rife again across the private sector. Insecure work is becoming the norm, placing huge strain upon family life.  UK union laws are so bad they breach our minimum treaty obligations under the ILO - just another fact that doesn't get printed in our press

The public have been wrong - dangerously wrong, about unions and union power.  It's time that more of us came out and said so.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The silent scandal of how Amazon is making us all poorer

An "Old Labour" poster....

But the message remains capitalism working for us, or are we working for capitalism?

Consider Amazon, who pay no corporation tax in the UK, despite annual sales over £3 billion.  It is well reported that this unfair advantage is killing our local book shops.

It's difficult to understand why there isn't a huge scandal that Amazon pay no tax in the UK, and have not paid any for over three years.  Only one UK newspaper has bothered to report the story

What is never reported is how Amazon are making the British people poorer.  Let me explain...

Traditional retailers such as Argos are struggling to compete with Amazon.  This is because Amazon have massively lower costs because they don't pay tax.

But other retailers don't complain about the tax.. Instead, in a futile effort to compete with Amazon, they cut costs by driving down pay and conditions for their own workers.  Amazon, who in value are worth ten Marks and Spencers, are such a dominant retailer that they are able to have this massive influence in driving down pay.  Many people don't realise that Amazon is a major employer in the UK, housing seven giant Warehouses. Law-abiding retailers barely stand a chance. After all, reputable British retailers pay corporation tax.  The silence of our tax-abiding companies is the only aspect of this scandal I find difficult to fathom...

The consequences are literally depressing.

This downward pressure on wages reduces tax receipts and job security, and leaves countless workers with less money to spend. Amazon are fuelling recession.

Because it's "online", many people don't realise that Amazon is a major employer in the UK, housing seven giant Warehouses.   It's minimum wage approach to pay is pushing downward pressure onto Warehousing wages across all sectors of the UK economy.  In short, the British people are buying cheap goods from Amazon, at a great cost to society.

But the scandal - and it is a scandal, of corporate tax avoidance means that we simply don't have a model of capitalism that is working for us.

What we have is a model of capitalism that is driving millions of us to the bottom.   Amazon is the main culprit in the retail sector. Most sectors of the economy have a culprit of their own.

Next up for me is what some call "mission impossible" - organising Amazon workers.  I will face extreme aggression in the face of hysterical union avoidance tactics. But like most things Trade Unions do, my work will very much be in the public interest

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Why "open source" is so important to people power and Trade Unionism

Many people assume that we live in a new golden age of communications. In some ways we do. But from a Union perspective, I'd say the golden age of communications was probably the 1950's.

With many thousands of people working together in massive factories, there was a captive audience for Unions. The media was far less fragmented than now.  The nation came together to watch the same things and share the same experiences. In the UK we are now very fragmented in terms of where we live compared to our extended families and work colleagues. Media fragmentation is just another example of a wider social fragmentation.

The new difficulty in bringing people together gives an advantage to the Right.  When I grew up in the 70's and 80's, unemployment was very political and hugely unpopular.  It's not now. This is lazily explained as "politics has moved to the right" - but not because values have changed or because the Right won support.  It's because local communities were tighter knit than the relative fragmentation of today. The devastation of unemployment was felt strongly by a better connected community via stronger Trade Unionism, social clubs and also the simple fact that Tory "de-industrialisation" in the 80's hit large pockets of workers who lived more closely together.  A factory closing today quietly devastates one household on a quiet close - multiplied by the number of workers getting laid off.

I've started taking an interest in "social media", as potentially they are a glue that can help bring us better together. This is why I've started experimenting with blogging, such as this site, Twitter and Pinterest.

Many people think we already have this via Facebook. Unfortunately, we know that the likes of Twitter and Facebook cannot be relied upon to allow people to express themselves when real power is challenged.

I'm discovering that "open source"  alternatives such as Diaspora are so important. As I understand it, these online tools cannot be bought or controlled by capital.  I can post to Twitter and/or Facebook from Diaspora.  More needs to be done to promote the open source alternatives to a Plc world that people cannot trust.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

My clash with the Daily Mail - what happened next

Back in September I wrote this article about the way Unite members and I had been disgracefully misrepresented by the Daily Mail

Nobody encouraged me with my decision to take a complaint to the PCC, a typical comment being that there was no point, it was a toothless organisation, and that it's impossible to stop the Mail distorting the truth to suit it's own agenda.

Well, I can't claim a glorious victory.  But the process - which took five months (!), involved many exchanges of letters between myself, the PCC and the Editor of the paper.  I certainly put them to a lot of time, trouble, and ( I suspect ) cash.

I did eventually manage to extract a virtually meaningless form of apology from the Daily Mail, which they printed in their corrections column.  They were..."Very happy to confirm that the use of "Human Rights abuse" in quotation marks was not something that anybody had said, but rather had been used to summarize the story"

The Mail insist I was wrong to say they invented the "Human Rights abuse" angle.  They claim that they bought the story from Cavendish.  If this is true, then there is an issue of press agencies twisting the news so that newspapers will want to buy the story from them.  My response - that the Mail had a journalistic duty to check it's own sources and not simply take what Cavendish said at face value - was brushed aside.

The reason I pushed the complaint all the way to the PCC full committee stage was that I object to this paper routinely using quotation marks in headlines, and prominently in the opening paragraph of a story, when nobody at all has said the quote, and where no source is given or could be given as none exists.

The PCC decision on this point was to defend the Daily Mail. The PCC agree that it is reasonable for quotation marks to be used to summarize a story.  I can't accept that the public would agree with this - most people expect that if something appears in quotes, it means that somebody has actually said it!

But I'm glad I pursued the complaint.   For me the positive outcome is that it's highlighted a major journalistic tool of distortion used by the paper to twist the news to suit it's political agenda. This tool is just one of many. But it's also something of a favourite, and is used every day by the paper.  The more readers are educated to spot it, the more difficult it becomes for them to use it.

This is what I was getting at back in September when I argued we need to start nailing these distortions.

The next thing we need to do is to figure out each of the tactics used to twist and distort, then educate people about them.  Once people are wise to these tactics and can see them for themselves, more people will start filing formal complaints or use social media to highlight the distortion.   The Mail's journalism is far from reputable, and once more people start to realise this and start to complain, it could damage the brand and force them into a more balanced direction....

Thursday, 26 April 2012

How Trade Unionism can defeat recession, deliver social justice and grow the economy

Over 90% of housing benefit recipients are in work. It is a Tory myth that the answer to "making work pay" is something to do with the benefits system.

Multi-billion profit making employers ALL pay poverty wages to a proportion of the workforce. Those workers then get propped up by the state. The scale of the problem varies from company to company, with cleaners, security and catering staff topping the list of most likely to be exploited.  In retail, call-sector and service sectors, the vast majority of the workforce are under-paid.  The fact that hundreds of thousands of full-time workers in the banking and finance sector live in poverty underlines my point.

Who can argue that it is in the best interests of taxpayers that we all pay towards the welfare of poverty-paid full-time workers from Tesco, Vodafone or Barclays Bank?

Unions have been truly battered within the private sector, and membership is about 15%.   Collective bargaining has been systematically attacked both by government and by employers since 1979.   The share of the national wealth given to wages has plummeted as a result, inequality has soared, and the burden upon society has become huge in propping up the poverty pay of the richest companies.    Anyone remember "wage inflation" ?  Economists in the 70's wrongly believed that unions caused inflation, and this was part of the political narrative to justify the destruction of industry wide collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining across the private sector would solve the problem of poverty pay in wealthy organisations. Pay would also improve for millions of other workers. But Unions don't have the resources to achieve this themselves.  Collective bargaining needs to be championed by government as a major instrument of pay policy. I passionately believe that this is a direction of policy that Labour should adopt.

The reason employers resist union organising drives so aggressively is that they understand very well that Unions work.  They know that unions push pay and other conditions up. They also fear - quite legitimately, that this could make them less competitive compared to non-union competitors.

The taxpayer - and the government, have a responsibility not to be neutral in this.   The more people earn, the more tax they pay and the more the government has in revenue.  Less is then needed for welfare.  And the more people have to spend, the more they do spend, thus stimulating recovery, economic growth and job creation.

To give an example, in my "patch" in Burton and Uttoxeter, I have one recognition agreement with a major warehouse for a blue-chip company.  Union pay rates are £9.50 per hour.  In the non-union warehouses in Burton on Trent, hardly anybody is paid more than £6.50 per hour.   Unions work.

My suggestions are not a quick fix - that rate of £9.50 has taken ten years of annual pay negotiations to get to where we are, from a starting point of minimum wage.

If the private sector becomes unionised, over time we will have a happier population....a more equal society.  The pressure on the state will reduce, and over time, tax receipts will rise, probably by something like 25%  from private sector workers.  The intense pressure upon family life will be eased, our children will be happier and there will be a boom in our leisure industry.  So what's not to like?

The Trade Unions, far from being the problem depicted by a hostile media, are the solution

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Unite Pinterest Board!

Here it is !

I'm hoping to use it to show the massive variety of wonderful things that the Union does.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

CEO of UK Plc explains the proper process behind his pay rise....

Step 1. We value our team of Directors, we could not make profits without them, and we certainly cannot afford to lose any of us. We aim to be an upper quartile player within the market for our top people, and this way we can keep them. To check we are where we want to be, we've asked Potts&Fryatt to benchmark our pay against the market. We cannot remember how long ago we last did this.

Step 2. Jolly good job we did that benchmarking exercise. We are only in the mid quartile, and we will require a 57% uplift in directors salary in order to stop us all from leaving. This is why we get paid so much, because we have to make all these difficult decisions.  Good, now we are upper quartile where we belong...

Step 3. Clearly it would be unfair not to benchmark more junior staff. Benchmark them against the smaller competitors that are undercutting the business. After all, they are the ones we need to compete with. A constant challenge is explaining to the junior staff that they need to match the market be competitive is to safeguard their own job.

Step 4. Summon the departmental managers. Explain the benchmarking went really well. In fact it shows they are paid over the market mid point, and so is everybody below them. We must be competitive, so we should - at most, be a market mid point player. Tell them to be happy and grateful they've been getting over the odds for all this time. Tell them the Board will sombrely consider the difficult decisions we now face. There is a recession on. Explain that the cuts they and the junior staff now face are essential in the current environment. 

Step 5. Is it really eight months since we benchmarked? Our last modest uplift feels like a good while ago now. For the sake of our company, we need to go back to Potts&Fryatt - a loyal director has a responsibility to ensure we remain not only within - but comfortably within - the upper quartile. 

Step 6. Rats!! This is so unfair. We are back to being mid-quartile again! Damn this market, it really is highly competitive out there. Unless we agree to a further uplift of our own salary of 54%, we will be pegged back to the mid-quartile again, which obviously would be simply dreadful.   

Obviously, every board aspires to be in the upper-quartile for board pay, and our business plan will be ruined if we fail to achieve. Naturally, we don't feel at all comfortable with having to do this. Our jobs are filled with difficult decisions, they really are. Have I mentioned that this is why I must be paid so well?

Step 7. We at UK Plc & Co are a decent bunch, and it's only reasonable that we expect total adherence to our core values. Infact, we've put our values across the workplace via posters, as the plebs wouldn't know any values at all if it wasn't for our moral lead. We are pillars of the community and know it. Discretion and confidentiality are decent values and we will police them robustly. All pay, conditions and bonus arrangements, paid out of the kindness of the company purse, are wholly confidential. Any employee wanting to discuss the bonus of others is obviously some sort of left-wing bully - who would probably benefit from robust performance management.

Step 8. Set up an account with Potts&Fryatt to ensure regular benchmarking for director salary. Yes, I know…I know….but this is the only way we can keep moving with the market. Early signs are that this year we will only need an uplift of some 36%, so it's clear that UK directors can and do show restraint, and that benchmarking is the reputable, reliable and cutting edge way to ensure fair pay for directors going forward. 

General advice for implementation:

A HR Director with belief in benchmarking is essential. Since 2003, our HR Directors salary has gone from 54k to 284k. I am totally impressed with his sincere commitment to the principles of Benchmarking - he really does seem to believe in it. I am reassured by that belief. We pay for the best, and I'm sure he must be the best. His salary now indicates he is the best. My salary? I'm not going to answer that - you really shouldn't embarrass a gentleman with a question like that. Leftie types from the BBC may occasionally ask questions, this is just "the politics of envy" from people who don't understand basic market principles. Put them in their place as robustly as you like.

Most company boards aspire to be in the upper quartile for directors pay, so life's a constant struggle to keep it there. Last year we needed to absorb a further 54% increase to keep up. The kindest way, if possible, is not to tell anyone outside of the Board. There is no reason to forever trouble lesser mortals with all of the difficult decisions we are paid to grapple with.

The main thing to remember in these difficult times is this - shareholders and investors do read the papers, so it's very important not to be seen to be soft on pay. Make sure your workers know just how lucky they are to be working at all, ensure they are reminded of this daily. The decency of the core company values can make us all proud, so any breaches from these standards must be taken as gross misconduct. Good management is the delivery of workers smiling through the austerity ahead. 

Now go back to Step 1 and repeat.  It's fine if you want to pay hefty fees to consultants to ensure you get all this right - after all, top tier pay for top tier people is a complex and essential business. Good luck.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Nasty politics this Easter from the Nasty Party

On Good Friday, a shameful charter for bad employers came into effect - the right to unfairly sack people without legal consequence for two years.  All workers employed from Good Friday onwards will be covered by the new law.

Shameful timing from the clever Tories, burying the change while most families tuck into family meals and treats.

No employer needs two years to decide if somebody is upto the job or not.  I've never met an employer that thought they needed more than six months.  Even with full employment rights from day one in the job, it would still be lawful and relatively easy for an employer to dismiss somebody at any time on grounds of "capability" - all they need to do is follow a procedure.  The new law saves them that bother.

Rather than help the economy, this will stagnate it.  Right-wingers love to talk about risk-taking. But people with full-employment rights are now less likely to take those risks and move into new opportunities.  This will be as true of professional people as it will everyone else. A new job is a leap into the unknown.  As for everyone employed from Easter Friday onwards, they will have two years of feeling extremely insecure.  They will be even less likely to spend money and help the recovery.

This is a change in the law that works against natural justice, against the interests of the economy, but does serve the brutal ideological agenda of a new breed of super-rich, reactionary Tories who are intent on rolling-back every single social advance of the last 150 years.

So we could be forgiven for thinking this would be controversial.  A quick google search reveals two pages of firms of Solicitors reporting these changes for clients.  Search deeper, and it's clear that Unions have issued press statements but they have not been reported.  There are very few references to this assault on working people in mainstream media.

Depressingly, I was unable to find any comment from a politician.   Labour seem to be very reluctant to issue regular press statements that comment upon Government policy - a strange strategy for an opposition party...

This is not the end of the Employment Tribunal issue - the coalition is now "consulting" as to it's next steps - likely to include up-front fees for sacked workers before any claim can be registered. Consistent with other aspects of Tory thinking, this will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Champagne will be popped this Easter by our millionaire masters.  One of the many things they will be celebrating is just how easy it has been for them to attack the security of people in their work. This will provide them with great encouragement to go further...

I wish I hadn't put breakfast TV on this morning - now the public is being softened up over the "cost" of Britain having bank holidays!

It's obvious the media cannot be relied upon to alert the public to the nasty agenda of the nasty party. Now, as ever, it's down to ordinary people to do that. And without doubt, we have to up our game...and fast.