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Frances O’Grady delivers annual Jimmy Reid Foundation Memorial lecture, 27 Sept 2018

Uncategorized Sep 30, 2018 Add a comment

The Lecture can be viewed via YouTube.

Report of Proceedings and Text of Lecture

The Lecture began with Frances O’Grady introduced to the audience by Lynn Henderson, the vice-chair of the project board of the Foundation. Lynn is also this year’s STUC President and a longstanding national officer of the PCS union. Lynn was preceded by a welcome from the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Eva Bolander.

Jimmy Reid Foundation wishes to thank Glasgow City Council for facilitating the lecture in the Banqueting Hall in the City Chambers and to the numerous unions,  trade union solicitors and other progressive organisations for sponsoring the published programme of the lecture.

“A future after Brexit? Unions and the Scandinavian model of social democracy”

Lynn, Lord Provost, friends . . . comrades.

The phrase “working-class hero” has become something of a cliché. Used and, sometimes, abused.

But tonight, we remember someone worthy of the title.

Jimmy Reid was certainly working-class. He was born in Glasgow and left school at 14.

His father was in and out of work.

One of seven children, three of his siblings died in infancy.

And, as was the way for many of his generation, he was self-educated.

Once, when a somewhat pompous academic asked him which university he’d studied at, quick as a flash, Jimmy replied: “Govan library”.

And for millions of people, Jimmy was also a hero. Not least for the shipyard workers, whose livelihoods and communities he did so much to save.

An engineer by trade, Jimmy was a union organiser by vocation.

And his cause was human dignity: standing up for people facing everyday humiliations and petty tyrannies; borne of an economy rigged in favour of the few.

He was from the school of trades unionism that spoke the language of morality.

And he had faith in working people’s ability to shape our own future.

You could say that Jimmy was the trade union movement’s Steve Biko.

Raising consciousness. Instilling class pride. Building self belief.

 

For Jimmy, class struggle wasn’t just a matter for theoretical debate. It was about how we live our lives.

Fighting for our rights, yes. But also encouraging each other. Looking after each other. Friendship, love and compassion.

As a French socialist once said: the brain works on both sides of the body. But the heart – the heart –  beats only on the left.

The work-in was a case in point.

A magnificent rebuke to the bosses’ age-old tactic of a lock-out.

And an industrial tactic of immense intelligence and imagination, for which, of course, Jimmy Airlie deserves great credit too.

But it was also about an appeal to fellow human feeling.

Solidarity.

And the world was watching.

During the dispute, the situation became so serious that Ted Heath’s press secretary urged him to abandon his yacht race and return to number ten, as he said, “at great inconvenience”.

In fact, he urged the Prime Minister to do so, and I quote, at great “demonstrable” inconvenience. An early example of political spin.

But the public was unimpressed by the grandiose sailor’s sacrifice.

On the contrary, the work-in inspired support for the shipyard workers, far and wide.

And from all walks of life.

At one point, a cheque for £5,000 arrived simply signed “Lennon”. One shop steward remarked: “It canna be Lenin – Vladimir’s dead”.

It was, of course, from John Lennon.

In the trade union movement, Jimmy’s life and times still inspire us.

And that’s why it’s a such huge honour to be here in George Square, in the presence of Jimmy’s family, to deliver this lecture.

And doubly so in a year when the TUC celebrates its 150th birthday.

So I’d like to thank the Jimmy Reid Foundation, for inviting me.

The City Council, for kindly hosting this event.

And all of you, for coming along tonight.

I’m hoping that, in Jimmy’s words, they’ll be no hooliganism or vandalism.

But perhaps, later on, we’ll enjoy some bevvying.

 

Tonight I want to talk about how we can draw on Jimmy’s spirit and insights to win justice for working people.

But I should warn you that this won’t be an exercise in nostalgia.

I believe that would be a disservice to the memory of a man who was so far sighted.

And to the new generation of workers who need unions to solve the problems of today, not yesterday.

Including, those brave strikers at McDonalds and TGI Fridays;

Those leading the brilliant Better than Zero campaign here in Scotland;

And the hundreds of low-paid young workers, helping the TUC to test out new digital models of organising across the UK.

 

Because, of course, capitalism has changed from the model of forty years ago; When huge swathes of the workforce were employed in heavy industries.

That means we must change too.

Just a decade ago, the Lehman Brothers crash exposed the neglect of the real economy and the consequences of the financialisation of capital.

But now it’s changed again.

Today, corporate wealth lists are dominated by tech giants like Amazon and Apple.

Multinational companies that respect no borders and salute no flags.

Accelerating the speed of globalisation.

Combining corporate, social and digital power on an unprecedented scale.

And heralding a period of major disruption – industrially, politically and at work.

 

Jimmy famously spoke of how we are not rats.

Perhaps today we need to assert that we are not robots.

Except that, in my experience as a trade unionist, robots get much better care and maintenance than many workers do.

So let’s say, we refuse to be slaves to an app.

Like Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders.

Or Amazon’s mechanical turks.

Not just alienated but atomised.

The ultimate flexible workforce.

Working tiny bits of time for tiny bits of pay.

….And, our challenge, brothers and sisters, is to organise them.

 

So, I want to focus on prospects for the new working class and the future of work.

 

But first I need to say something about the B- word. Brexit.

Because just over 180 days from now, Britain is due to leave the EU.

The greatest peacetime challenge we have ever faced.

And it’s one almighty mess.

 

While the TUC campaigned hard for a Remain vote, we respect the referendum result to leave the EU.

As always, now our task is to unite workers. And that’s true, whichever way they voted.

So the TUC has argued for a Brexit deal that puts working people first.

That secures the trade, investment and growth on which livelihoods depend.

That guarantees a level playing field on rights at work with our friends in Europe.

And one that safeguards peace and the Good Friday Agreement, that trade unionists on both sides of the Water, worked hard for together.

 

The TUC has looked at all the options and we believe that workers’ interests would be best served by what some call Norway plus the Customs Union.

Because, if we trade from outside, expensive red tape and tariffs will: hike prices, hit pay and hurt jobs.

Because it would avoid the current contortions over the border in Ireland.

And because, the safety net of rights we fought for, from consultation rights to holiday pay, can’t be unpicked by any Tory government, as long as we have to stick by single market rules.

If anyone’s got a better idea, then we’re open to ideas.

But, so far, we haven’t heard any.

And we reject the Hobson’s choice of a bad deal or no deal. If Mrs May’s proposals would hit working people hard; Boris Johnson’s no deal nonsense could break us.

And even if Brussels agreed Mrs May’s withdrawal proposals, it’s unclear whether Westminster will.

As we all know,  the governing party in Westminster is at war with itself.

Many Conservatives seem more interested in who’s going to get their own top job, than saving anyone else’s.

So it seems a little unfair for Mrs May to accuse Brussels of showing her no respect, when her own colleagues have made no secret of the fact that they’re busy collecting signatures to dump her.

Meanwhile, many people are watching this spectacle with dismay. They’re worried about their own livelihoods, and in particular, job prospects for their kids.

It’s little comfort that the Prime Minister finally understands what it’s like to be on a zero hours contract.

 

The hard Brexiteers on the back benches are ready to pounce.

The likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg.

I confess that, in the past, I’ve likened them to Lord Snooty and his pals from The Beano.

But they are not just harmless English eccentrics.

 

What the hard Brexiteers really want is a low-tax, low-regulation, free-for all.

Carving up our NHS and weakening workers’ rights.

A dose of capitalist creative destruction.

Shock and awe.

All under the guise of shaking up an Establishment, of which they are the top brass.

 

These are dangerous times.

And the rise of right wing nationalism should worry all democrats.

Inspired by Trump in the West and Putin in the East, across Europe, the new far right is gaining traction.

President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon has set up office in Brussels.

And the far right’s campaign strategies are getting more sophisticated.

Their anti-immigration, anti-Muslim message mobilises thousands on the streets, but millions more online.

They have big money and are globally networked.

Grooming right-wing politicians in mainstream political parties.

Targeting blue collar workers who are rightly angry about an economic system that is failing them.

And using Brexit as an opportunity to destabilise a model that, while far from perfect, has kept the peace in Europe for nearly seventy years.

 

So as we count down to March next year, the stakes could not be higher.

Not least here in Scotland, where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to remain in the EU.

And where communities that are already struggling will pay the highest price.

Like the TUC, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has rightly called for an extension to Article 50.

To give us a chance to negotiate a deal on new terms. A deal that protects jobs, rights and peace in Ireland.

But the truth is most people don’t trust the Westminster government to get that deal.

And we’re running out of road.

So I have been taking the same message to all politicians.

This is not the time to keep your head down.

We need to hear more voices speaking up for working people, wherever they live.

I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will join me in putting the Prime Minister on notice.

And warn Mrs May that if we don’t get the terms working people need, we will mobilise for a popular vote on the final deal.

People deserve the final say.

After all, trade unionists are required to put the outcome of a negotiation to a ballot of members.

Why shouldn’t the Conservative government have to put the terms of their deal to the vote too.

 

But whatever happens with Brexit, we must all get to grips with the way he world of work is changing.

A capitalism which is more global, more mobile and more ruthless than ever before.

But also more digital too, reshaping power, politics and work in profound ways.

In the late twentieth century, finance capital called the shots.

Markets were deregulated. Banks began to gamble. Private equity, hedge funds and shadow banking became more powerful.

Trillions of pounds could be moved at the flick of a switch. Financial investments began to crowd out productive investment. And exotic new derivatives products were invented.

As workers’ bargaining power was attacked, cheap debt took the place of wages as a driver of growth. And the inevitable result was the meltdown of 2008.

But today’s capitalism is different.

The new masters of the universe make their money from information.

Data is the new oil.

And, by the way those companies are taking much of that data from us, for free.

The tech giants’ ambition is not just to drive down wages and drive up profits, but to redefine work itself.

As adept at sidestepping labour standards as they are at avoiding tax, they are uprooting the lives of millions of workers.

Reducing employment to a digital platform. Replacing jobs with gigs. And in the process, stripping out even our most basic rights.

Uber is a transport firm but owns no vehicles and employs no drivers.

Amazon likes to call its warehouses ‘fulfilment centres’. But it tags staff like cattle. To time and track workers too afraid to take sick leave, or even a toilet break.

And Deliveroo has ordained that its digital army of riders are self employed. So there’s no right to the minimum wage, no right to holiday pay and no right to be accompanied by a union rep.

Workers without a workplace. Hired and fired by smart phone. No boss to negotiate with. On the go for twelve hour shifts. Relying on food banks to feed their children and loan sharks to get through the week.

Britain today.

But we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Artificial intelligence, automation and algorithms will transform work.

The Bank of England tells us that 15 million jobs could be vulnerable to new technology.

Not just the likes of cooking, cleaning and driving.

But white collar and professional jobs too.

And the Westminster government’s message?

Be grateful for having a job. Any job.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose to do things differently.

And forge a fair transition from the old world to the new.

Jimmy Reid famously challenged “the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable”.

And that must be our guiding principle now.

Of course, there are threats ahead.

Some jobs will go. Some will be created. Many more will change.

The idea that steel workers will move seamlessly into jobs as software engineers won’t wash.

But we could set ourselves a positive goal.

To replace mind numbing, monotonous, soul destroying work.

With better paid, more skilled, more satisfying jobs.

There is plenty of good work that society needs to be done, involving skills that can’t be replaced by tech.

Creativity and care are just two examples.

That’s why the TUC has argued for a commission on future of work, bringing governments, employers and unions to the table, to plan a fair transition.

Scotland could lead the way.

Looking at how to invest in and deploy the new technologies, so we upgrade firms and skills.

And, when it comes to the predicted multi-billion pound productivity gains: to figure out how workers – and our public services – get fair shares.

 

I contend that the promised gains from technological change should mean more time for ourselves and our families .

Something that feels all the more important in a week when we’ve learned that nearly a quarter of  young girls are harming themselves.

And that, every year, the same proportion of adults suffer from a mental health problem.

No doubt the causes are complex.

But the twenty-first century sickness of anxiety, stress and low self-esteem is spreading.

Families need more time together,

But with the cost of childcare rising three times faster than wages, many parents only manage by working back to back shifts.

When they get home, they’re exhausted.

Job intensity, impossible workloads, and the lack of any sense of a voice, or control over our working lives are all taking their toll.

At our 150th Congress, I said that if the big victory of the last century had been a two day weekend, then surely this century we should lift our sights to a four day week.

As Jimmy Reid argued (and I quote):

“If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession”.

How the tech revolution pans out in the future is all about the choices we make now.

We’ve got nothing to fear if it’s matched with a revolution in skills, workplace rights and social protections.

If we revitalise and spread collective bargaining, so the gains are not just grabbed by the greedy.

If we make sure that tech poor towns and communities are included.

If we agree to prioritise the common good.

Instead of enslavement, tech could be a force for liberation.

For better work and richer lives.

 

And this takes me onto our third priority.

And an alternative vision for the future.

The digital capitalists have got theirs.

The right-wing populists have got theirs.

It’s about time we spoke up for ours.

Now when I was invited to deliver this lecture, I was asked to talk about unions and Scandinavian social democracy.

And at a time when the hard Brexiteers want to drive us towards aping Trump’s America, there’s a compelling case for instead looking across the North Sea.

If the only choice we faced was between Trump-style populism or Nordic social democracy, then there’d be no contest.

 

It’s easy to see the attraction of Scandinavian social democracy.

In its different manifestations, it’s been more resilient than other models.

Sweden’s welfare state shows that with fair taxation you can deliver world-class childcare and social care.

 

Denmark guarantees a high minimum wage and more generous unemployment benefit, providing security for the low-paid and those without work.

And Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, built up from North Sea reserves, has become the world’s richest pension fund.

 

Contrast that with how Margaret Thatcher squandered our North Sea windfall paying for mass unemployment and tax cuts for the rich.

Not surprisingly, the Nordics are still near the top of the world rankings for happiness, openness, education and gender equality.

I remember many years ago when I was pregnant campaigning for the UK to sign up to the EU directive on better paid maternity leave.

I wore a badge carrying the slogan ‘I’d rather have a baby in Norway’.

Because women were granted nearly twelve months of paid maternity leave.

And whole cities were designed and planned around the needs of children.

Moreover, it was taken for granted that a good society needed active citizens.

And, that the great majority of working people should be protected by collective bargaining.

So yes, post-Brexit Britain could do a lot worse than go Scandinavian.

 

But we must recognise that the world has changed: and social democracy – even Scandinavian style – is under pressure.

Since the crash, many social democratic parties have tanked at the ballot box.

In France, the Socialists attracted just 6 per cent of voters in last year’s Presidential elections.

In Germany, the latest polls show the SPD is only one point behind the neo fascist AFD.

And in Denmark, it pains me to say that, on immigration, the social democrats’ rhetoric seems to be trying to outflank that of the right.

Blaming the victims of poverty for so-called ghettoes. Scapegoating migrants for society’s ills.

 

But as the Labour Party has shown, there is an alternative.

For all its difficulties, Labour has reinvented itself by moving decisively to the left.

Yes, didn’t win the 2017 general election. And yes, it has its work cut out to inspire the same confidence and hope in blue collar heartlands, that it has inspired among the young.

But having started the campaign with 27% support, by Election Day four in ten people cast their vote for a party with a red-blooded popular programme.

Can Labour get over the 45% line by appealing to blue collar aspirations, as well as middle-class insecurity? It won’t be easy but it can be done.

 

Now Jimmy Reid was a supporter of Scottish independence, and it’s not my intention to use this platform to wade into that debate. Nor is it my place.

Scotland’s future is a matter for the Scottish people.

Likewise the question about whether the SNP is a genuinely social democratic party.

And the broader issue of whether, whatever it’s political hue, a coalition based on nationalism can hold.

 

But I am a trade unionist.

And I still hold with Mick McGahey’s view that workers here in Scotland will always have more in common with workers in London, Durham or Sheffield, than with ‘Scottish barons or traitor landlords’.

Capitalism knows no borders, and neither should organised labour.

We need a new socialist politics, strong enough to reverse the obscene shift of wealth and power into ever fewer hands.

After all, workers create the wealth. And they deserve a fair share of it.

Economic justice is the only way to build a strong society.

More equal, more welcoming, more humane.

Investing in schools and hospitals, building council homes, strengthening pride in our communities.

Taking strategically important industries like our railways and the post back where they belong, into public ownership.

And making the rich and big corporations pay their fair share of tax.

(And, I might add, certainly not giving the likes of Amazon tax breaks, when they rip off workers and refuse to recognise a union.)

 

As Jimmy Reid rightly identified, alienation – “the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making” – remains one of our biggest challenges.

As he saw it, the untapped resources of the North Sea were nothing, compared to the untapped resources of people.

For Jimmy, political democracy had to be matched with industrial democracy. He argued that: “Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision making by the people for the people.”

And he was right.

 

In my view, democracy should not stop at the workplace door.

Every worker should have the right to a collective voice through a union.

Employers should have an obligation to collectively bargain with us.

And our voice should be heard at every level, up to and including the boardroom.

 

For inspiration, we should be guided by what drove Jimmy Reid throughout his life: human dignity.

The dignity of doing a good job, fairly rewarded. Of being respected at work and in society. Of having somewhere decent to live.

And of knowing that from cradle to grave, good public services will be there when you need them.

That’s the dignity that inspired Jimmy Reid, that inspires me, that continues to inspire millions of trade unionists today.

 

Jimmy’s political affiliations may have changed – from Communist Party to Labour to the SNP. But his values stayed true.

As the former Labour MP Brian Wilson wrote: “Few individuals in the political or trade union arena over the past century have raised so many spirits, challenged so many assumptions or offered more vivid glimpses of a different social order”.

The best way we can honour Jimmy’s memory is to fight for the future.

As the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in showed, we can achieve great things together.

 

It’s no coincidence that UCS came to stand for “unity creates strength.”

And whether it’s the rise of the right or the rise of the robots, we need that same sense of solidarity now.

A new class politics. A new shared identity. A new humane socialism.

 

Frances’ lecture was covered in the Morning Star the following day: see here.

 

 

Successful launch of municipal socialism policy paper at the Scottish Parliament

Uncategorized May 30, 2018 Add a comment

There was a successful launch of the new Jimmy Reid Foundation report on municipal socialism in the Scottish Parliament today with 6 MSPs and 12 others in attendance.

We are grateful to Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard MSP, for hosting the meeting and introducing the paper.

From the press release for the paper:

Following on from his earlier (2017) JRF paper on public service reform, Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland, sets out  what he terms ‘a modern approach to municipal socialism’. He defines this as not just being one that is more efficient vis-à-vis  service delivery and raising revenues, but also being as part of creating a fairer and more democratic society in this age of increasing inequality in wealth and power and decreasing democracy.

Despite the denigration and destruction of local government by central governments, Dave Watson begins by setting out his case in its historical context where municipal ownership in the 1940s provided 30% of local authority income. He suggests that returning to such a situation will allow local government to be part of the solution to the challenges society faces in twenty first century Scotland. And here the case for municipal socialism is based upon collective provision that involves sharing risk, wealth redistribution and improving living standards. It also has to involve elements of popular control through participative democracy. Simply delivering more services through a weak local state is not enough.

From this, the paper identifies a number of services that could be delivered locally through municipal socialism. Dave Watson starts by arguing that traditional public services like housing, social care and childcare need to be brought back in to an integrated public ownership services model. He then moves on to arguing that municipal socialism can be applied to energy, transport, water and broadband as well as banking and public finance.

He then turns to advocating that information technology can be a key element of service delivery and enhancing participative democracy so that local people are not treated merely as consumers of services but are participants in deciding the how, where and when their services are delivered.

Dave Watson said: ‘As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the recreating of the Scottish Parliament, the political window of opportunity is now open to debate and discuss ideas within Scotland about how we can make our society better and fairer. My model of municipal socialism challenges the logic that either the market or senior government officials know best because it argues for reimaging and reconstituting local government not only as a very much enlarged operation but one with popular participation at its core so that we do not return to the ‘command and control’ model of before. I think both Keir Hardie and Jimmy Reid would have welcomed the application of their ideas, showing that socialism makes sense for the modern age.’

Gregor Gall, JRF director said: ‘This new paper by Dave Watson will find a ready and attentive audience. From the Scottish Labour Party, we have new leader in Richard Leonard who is keen to develop policies that expand economic economy and popular participation. From the Scottish National Party, we have a leader who has commissioned the party’s Growth Commission on how Scotland could prosper both economically and socially under independence. From the Scottish Green Party, we have a leader who wishes to integrate environmental justice with social justice. All three parties will find stimulating ideas within the paper to help flesh out their policy ideas. The paper will challenge some parties more than others. But at its heart, the paper issues a challenge to all three parties to recognise that local government should be seen as part of the solution and not part of the problem to delivering a fairer and more democratic society. But as Dave Watson argues, for this to happen, local government must be completely re-imagined and re-constituted as a form of municipal socialism’.

The paper can be accessed here:

New policy paper: ‘Municipal socialism for modern Scotland: local public enterprise for the common good’

New policy paper: ‘Municipal socialism for modern Scotland: local public enterprise for the common good’

Uncategorized May 28, 2018 Add a comment

In this new policy paper, Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland, sets out  what he terms ‘a modern approach to municipal socialism’. He defines this as not just being one that is more efficient vis-à-vis  service delivery and raising revenues, but also being part of the process of creating and a fairer and more democratic society in this age of increasing inequality in wealth and power and decreasing democracy.

The full paper can be read here: JRFDaveWatsonmunicipalsocialism

 

Launch: new JRF paper on municipal socialism by Dave Watson (UNISON Scotland), Scottish Parliament, 30 May 2018

Uncategorized May 22, 2018 Add a comment

‘Municipal socialism for modern Scotland: local public enterprise for the common good’

Following on from his earlier (2017) JRF paper on public service reform, Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland, sets out  what he terms ‘a modern approach to municipal socialism’. He defines this as not just being one that is more efficient vis-à-vis  service delivery and raising revenues, but also being part of creating a fairer and more democratic society in this age of increasing inequality in wealth and power and decreasing democracy.

The paper will be launched in the Scottish Parliament at 2pm on Wednesday 30 May 2018. The meeting is hosted by leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard MSP. Richard will also speak at the launch and there will be time for questions and answers afterwards.

If you wish to attend, please email Gregor Gall (gregorgall@outlook.com) and come to the public entrance of the Scottish Parliament building for 1.30pm so that you have time to go through security. There will be a sign for where to gather in the public lobby before we go up en masse to the committee room.

General Data Protection Regulations – our privacy statement

Uncategorized May 16, 2018 Add a comment

General Data Protection Regulations – Privacy Statement

Scottish Left Review and its sister organisation, the Jimmy Reid Foundation, maintain a record of the contact details of its network of members. We use this data to circulate information about political, economic, social and cultural matters and about activities which members may engage in to further our objectives (as well for our own internal administration). Network members can unsubscribe at any time by using the link at bottom of all our emails and their details will be deleted.

We maintain information about the status of members who subscribe to the print issue of the Scottish Left Review in relation to the payment of their subscriptions as well as those of sustaining members of the Reid Foundation who make a regular donation. When subscribers or sustaining members unsubscribe their details are placed in an inactive file for accounting purposes. We do not hold any bank or other financial information except that of subscribers who pay by standing order (paper copies) and these are destroyed after one full accounting year.

We also maintain a record of people and organisations which have consented to be contacted by us. We use this data to inform them of events relevant to their expressed interests. The legal basis for this processing is “legitimate requirements”. These individuals and organisations can unsubscribe at any time. Their information will be placed in an inactive file and deleted after one full accounting year.

We will not supply the identity of anyone on our database without their consent to any other organisation.

We do not engage in activity which is intended to constitute marketing other than that detailed in our objectives and if we change this policy we will inform data subjects and seek consent.

If you have any queries, objections, requests or complaints please address them to:

Scottish Left Review – editorial@scottishleftreview.org or Editor, Scottish Left Review, 741 Shields Road, Glasgow G41 4PL, Tel: 01414240042

Jimmy Reid Foundation: contact@reidfoundation.org or Director, Jimmy Reid Foundation, 741 Shields Road, Glasgow G41 4PL, Tel: 01414240042

You have a right to access the data we hold about you and to correct it. If we do not deal with objections, requests or complaints adequately you may have a right to complain to the Information Commissioner in the United Kingdom. The UK has been identified as our lead regulatory authority for the purposes of the General Data Protection Regulations.

This Privacy Statement can be viewed at our websites www.scottishleftreview.org and www.reidfoundation.org as can our objectives, structure and current activities. Both websites are free to access by anyone.

Details of 2018 annual lecture announced – speaker Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary

Uncategorized May 07, 2018 Add a comment

First notification – sixth Jimmy Reid annual lecture, Thurs 27 Sept 2018

The Foundation is pleased to announce that its 2018 annual lecture will be given by Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress with over 5m affiliated members, on Thursday 27 September 2018 in the Banqueting Hall of the Glasgow City Chambers.

The subject of the lecture concerns whether the Scandinavian system of social democracy represents a desirable model for Britain to follow after Brexit in March 2019.

Lynn Henderson, national officer for the Public and Commercial Services’ (PCS) Union, will chair the event. She is depute convenor of the Jimmy Reid Foundation and the current President of the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

The lecture will be preceded by a civic reception given by the Lord Provost of Glasgow and followed by a Q&A format.

Details about how to acquire tickets, the starting time and solidarity stalls on the night will be forthcoming.

JRF evidence to Scottish Affairs Committee helps form its recommendations on employment practices

Uncategorized Mar 25, 2018 Add a comment

In January this year, Professor Mike Danson – on behalf of the Jimmy Reid Foundation – gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee of the Westminster Parliament. His evidence, along with others, has helped form the basis for the Committee’s recommendations to the Westminster Government, especially in the light of the report the Westminster Government commissioned from Matthew Taylor on modern working practices called ‘Good work’.

To strengthen the rights available to workers and employees, and enforcement of those rights, the Scottish Affairs Committee has recommended that the Westminster Government:

· extend the right to a written statement of terms and conditions to all workers;

· clarify employment status in primary legislation;

· create a right for workers who have been on zero hours contracts for 12 months to be able to request a contract which reflects actual hours worked;

· commission the Low Pay Commission to consider a higher minimum wage for hours which are not guaranteed;

· commission a study to assess the extent of unfair or illegal employment practices in Scotland;

· bring forward stronger and more deterrent penalties, including punitive fines, for repeat or serious breaches of employment legislation, and expand “naming and shaming” to all non-accidental breaches of employment rights; and

· work with trade unions to establish the current extent of blacklisting, and take action to eradicate it if is found still to exist.

The documentation leading the conclusion and recommendations can be found here and here. Mike Danson’s evidence can be found here. The JRF wishes to thank Mike Danson for stepping in to give evidence in person.

Minutes Please! – for accountability and transparency

Uncategorized Jan 26, 2018 Add a comment

Carole Ewart writes on the campaign responding to a disturbing new practice in the operation of the Scottish Government

I dread to think how many meetings I have attended in my career and sometimes agreeing the subsequent minute is problematic: some are an accurate record of who was there, what issues discussed and actions agreed; some are an attempt to skew the record; thankfully only some are page after page of who said what with some occasional sentence detailing decisions taken. For some, the practice of minute taking is now considered to be akin to a ‘dark art’, whilst others still believe in good governance so a ‘meeting’ cannot properly be said to have taken place unless there is a record of business transacted.

There is growing evidence that too many meetings attended by Government Ministers are not being minuted which raises the question of motivation.  Why would civil servants, government Ministers and Special Advisers fail to make a record of meetings? Whatever the reason, the impact is always a lack of accountability and transparency. There is also a real danger that participants get fed up going to unproductive meetings. Last year I attended a meeting where one of the participants announced at the start that if proceedings proved to be another waste of time she would leave half way through as she had lots of real work to get on with.  This refreshing approach was one which I shared but when she left, my inquisitiveness forced me to stay although debate was again more theoretical than practical, aspirational rather than realistic and avoided concrete decisions, clear timelines and allocated responsibilities.  Subsequently I had a moment of inspiration – if the meetings were minuted then progress would have to be evidenced.  My next thought was that meetings were unlikely to be convened in the first place if the purpose was just to allow people to vent opinions and avoid measurable outcomes.  Either way calling for Minutes was bound to make a positive impact.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) has now launched a ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’ and is calling on people and organisations to ask and insist that there are agendas, notes and minutes for any meetings with the Scottish Government and, for that matter, with any public authority. Planning a meeting, recording outcomes, agreeing further actions by whom and when are all key steps forward in achieving our shared objective of making Scotland fairer. Civil servants, special advisers, government ministers attend lots of meetings with charities, with the public sector, with the private sector, with lobby groups and coalitions, with business people and professionals.  All these meetings should be minuted although we know that the public will not routinely see them as the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA), permits broad exemptions to disclosure.

The ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’ is supported by a report written by CFoIS, with support from UNSION Scotland, on Minute taking rules.  The picture is complex and must be replaced with an actively enforced, single set of rules containing precise language and which details penalties for failure to comply.  For example, currently “Private Offices should arrange for a record to be taken of meetings with outside interest groups, including lobbyists, that will set out the reasons for the meeting, the names of those attending and the interests represented (see Ministerial Code[1] paragraph 4.22).” CFoIS would have preferred to see “Private Offices must arrange…”. Similarly, the wording and therefore the obligations on civils servants is also weak in respect of “it should be the responsibility of accompanying officials to take an appropriate record of an event with a Minister”. We would prefer to see “it is the responsibility”. The terms “Notes” and “Minutes” are used but clearly these are different types of documents.  The full report can be accessed on our website at https://www.cfoi.org.uk/scotland/

Failing to produce Minutes and Notes breeds public distrust.  According to the latest research from the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner 94% agreed that it is important for the public to be able to access information and 77% would be more likely to trust an authority that publishes a lot of information about its work.[2]

Building public trust at a time of fake news and the manipulation of social media is a declared priority for democratically elected politicians.  Therefore, there are considerable reputational, confidence-building and trust gains for a programme of pro-active publication of agendas, notes and minutes.  Even more reason to review whether FoISA is fit for purpose 16 years after it was passed and 13 years after it was implemented by over 10,000 listed public authorities in Scotland working in devolved areas.  CFoIS looks forward to the Scottish Parliament delivering on the motion passed 7 months ago, on 21st June 2017, to hold two independent inquiries into FoISA – post legislative scrutiny and the Scottish Government’s compliance with its legal obligations.

So far, the Campaign has secured support from a variety of organisations including UNISON Scotland, the Scottish Council on Deafness and the Jimmy Reid Foundation.  Disappointingly, it has also been misrepresented by the First Minister at FMQs on 18th January when she claimed to agree with its purpose but changed it to “… ensuring that appropriate records of business are taken. When meetings involving ministers meet the criteria that are set out in the civil service guidance, appropriate records are routinely taken.”  Ouch, the Campaign wants records taken of all meetings all of the time!

People’s work lives are increasingly frantic across public services due to staff cutbacks and increased workloads.  Making time for meetings is increasingly hard.  As some ministers and public servants are keen to meet with people and organisations to discuss not much and agree very little, it is understandable that staff and volunteers feel they need to prioritise their time and focus on the work for which they are funded. As there is no accountability for unproductive meetings, it is inevitable that more will be convened. The ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’ will hopefully benefit us all by reducing the number of useless meetings which waste all our time and increase our effectiveness by making a record of the business conducted at meetings convened by either the Scottish Government or the public sector.  If you want to join the Campaign, please email your support to cfoiscot@gamil.com

Carole Ewart is the Convener of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland, and serves on the project Board of the Jimmy Reid Foundation

The Jimmy Reid Foundation is one of the initial supporters of the ‘Get it Minuted Campaign’.

[1] The Scottish Ministerial Code is published on the Scottish Government website at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/08/1393.

[2] See OSIC website http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/SICReports/OtherReports/PublicAwarenessResearch2017.aspx

New JRF-UNISON Scotland report on the value of local government

Uncategorized Jan 21, 2018 Add a comment

The new JRF-UNISON Scotland report of the value of local government (its services and workers) to our communities and society in Scotland can be accessed here. The full report and the media release are to be found there.

Radical options for labour law in Scotland

Uncategorized May 01, 2017 Add a comment

On May Day, 1 May 2017, the day to celebrate wage-labourers of the world, the Jimmy Reid Foundation is pleased to publish its Quick Note called ‘A Manifesto for Labour Law: what would it look like in Scotland?’. Written by Professor Gregor Gall,  this ‘Quick Note’ looks at how the Institute of Employment Rights’ A Manifesto for Labour Law might apply to Scotland and what hurdles exist to its implementation. It begins by laying out the context of the Manifesto before detailing its components such as the creation of a Labour Court and the right to sectorial collective bargaining. Then it moves to discuss the political conditions needed to implement the Manifesto per se and how this relates to the specific conditions relating to Scotland. It shows that far more radical change is needed than the SNP Scottish Government has been willing to accept with its Fair Work Framework (launched in April 2016).

The Quick Note can be accessed here.