Paul Kenny – a hard act to follow

Kenny in Dublin

The scenes at GMB Congress last week in Dublin were electrifyingly emotional when General Secretary, Paul Kenny, announced that there would be an election for General Secretary, but that he could not commit to another five years. The affection that activists hold for PK meant that when the news that many of us were expecting became a reality, there was still shock, and a spontaneous standing ovation, with many delegates in tears.

In my opinion there are two aspects to PK’s popularity. A very important attribute is that he personally treats members and activists with respect, and the easy rapport that Paul has with president, Mary Turner, ensures that GMB Congresses have more of the atmosphere of a big family gathering.

But PK’s popularity is also based upon success. Membership has grown from 571000 in 2004 to 630000 today, including growth of 8500 members in the last twelve months; net asset values have grown from £25 million in 2003 to £69 million today, and each year under PK has seen an operating surplus, compared to regular annual losses in the preceding period. Both membership and the financial health of the union have grown year on year. To put this in perspective, the much vaunted membership growth of RMT under Bob Crow did see a boost from 57000 in 2002 until reaching 80041 in 2008, but then growth stopped and between that year and up to 2013 membership only reached 80105 (This is the last year for which a return has been made to the Certification Officer)

In addition, after one year of trading, the trade union owned law firm, Unionline, a joint enterprise between GMB and CWU now has a Work in Progress (WIP) sheet of £25 million, giving an estimated valuation of £150 million. Rule revision at this year’s Congress has embedded Unionline into the GMB’s rulebook, so that the asset could not be disposed of without reference to, and a vote by, GMB Congress delegates. In contrast, while Unionline’s profits are fed back into building the union, many traditional law firms associated with the union movement pay million pound bonuses to directors.

Participation and inclusivity has improved. Annual Congresses have been restored, and with more delegates, including measures to ensure the participation of underrepresented groups. GMB now has as many women as men in membership, and representation of delegates at Congess reflects the full diversity of the union’s membership. GMB has also undertaken a more critical engagement with the Labour Party, encouraging members to become involved and to promote candidates and policies in the interests of working people, but perhaps with less public gestures towards the gallery then other unions make.

A significant change has been the introduction of the GMB@Work organizing agenda, which recognizes that employers and their workforce have opposing interest, that it is the process of industrial relations which builds the union, and that every workplace needs to be organized so that an industrial action ballot could be run. Implementation of GMB@Work is uneven, but there are significant advances in membership density and results for members where it has been done well.

When Kenny first took over the union in 2005 as Acting General Secretary, (in the wake of a scandal surrounding the circumstances of former GS Kevin Curran’s 2003 election) the union looked in a bad way, and a shotgun wedding with TGWU on unfavourable terms looked inevitable. Kenny turned the situation around and it is therefore no exaggeration to say that the very existence today of GMB as a healthy, solvent, independent and combative union is his achievement. Kenny gave a new confidence to GMB, and swept away the old habits of industrial partnership; in his own words:

“I am sick of people trying to camouflage what we are about. We are a vested interest and proud to be one. Our vested interest is the working people of this country, the people who have no other voice than the trade union movement.……. I do not go to parties and introduce myself as an “industrial relations expert” or a “purveyor of partnerships”. I am proud of what we do, who we are, and where we have come from … The fact that there is decent pay, or a pension scheme, or proper health and safety, or respect from the management is down to union organisation”

There will now be an election for a new General Secretary, and we must choose wisely so that the union which Kenny returned to the combative traditions of its founders, Will Thorne and Eleanor Marx, and which has been returned to the control of its lay members, continues to build upon those acheivements.

picture credit : Rachel Harrison from Twitter

The narrow Blairite base of Liz Kendall

Labour nominees

Very interesting chart from Jonathan Jones (@JJ_159), plotting MPs votes in the 2010 leadership election against their nomination behaviour in 2015.

Note that Liz Kendall has very few nominations from outside the camp of MPs who voted for David Miliband, suggesting that she would be a very divisive leader.

The broad spread of nominations for Corbyn perhaps reflects those like Sadiq Khan who will not vote for him, but wanted him on the ballot paper.

However, it is bad news for Andy Burnham that his pitch to be the unifying candidate seems to be shared equally with Yvette Cooper

Labour hopefuls booed and Jeered

01puk138PUK News

The Labour leadership frontrunners have been booed and jeered by union activists as they refused to condemn Tory plans for a £23,000 benefits cap.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow health minister Liz Kendall indicated they did not oppose the limit in principle during a hustings organised by the GMB in Dublin.

The rough ride came as the three confirmed their places on the ballot paper for the contest by recording support from at least 35 MPs. Figures published by Labour show Mr Burnham has been formally backed by 53 Commons colleagues since nominations opened this morning, ahead of Ms Cooper on 40 and Ms Kendall on 36.

Left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has been endorsed by 11 MPs, and shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh just five. Nominations are open until June 15.

The candidates faced questions over the Labour-union link, MPs’ pay, the benefit cap and the party’s election manifesto at the hustings.

Everyone except Ms Creagh said they would not share a platform with Prime Minister David Cameron in the run-up to the promised referendum on the EU. Many believe part of the party’s implosion inScotland was down to Labour politicians joining Tories at meetings and rallies during the independence referendum last year.

Ms Kendall said the party was under “mortal threat”, adding: “The scale of the defeat means we must change or face irrelevance.”

Mr Corbyn, the most left-wing of the candidates, told delegates his purpose in standing was to raise issues about how to face austerity and the way the Government will treat people over the next five years.

Mr Burnham said Labour had lost touch with many supporters and was seen as a “Westminster elite”, talking in “political code”.

“I will take Labour out of the Westminster bubble and will lead a party that people can relate to,” he said.

Ms Creagh said Labour was trusted to run the NHS, councils and schools, but parts of the electorate did not trust it to run the economy.

“Labour needs a fighter – and I am a fighter,” she said.

Ms Cooper said Labour’s election campaign was too “narrow”, adding that the party should reach out to win back voters “left behind”.

Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper were heckled by delegates for failing to give a yes or no answer when they were asked if they backed Conservative plans to reduce the cap on household benefits from £26,000 to £23,000 a year.

Both Ms Kendall and Ms Creagh said they were in favour of the change – to ensure it was impossible to receive more in welfare payments than the average family earned from work, though they warned it could cause localised problems.

To cheers, Mr Corbyn was the only one to declare himself opposed, insisting that in the absence of regulated private rents it would result in “social cleansing” in central London.

But while Mr Burnham said he backed the principle of the cap, he insisted it was “unfair” to expect such a direct answer.

“I am not setting my face against changes to the benefit system but it depends how they do it and I am not going to give you an answer like that to a question that complicated,” he told Mirror journalist Kevin Maguire, who was chairing the session.

Ms Cooper also faced dissent from the floor as she declined repeated requests to answer yes or no, despite saying the current policy was “unfair” and warning of damaging implications.

“I understand that everybody wants a yes or no, but we need to reform the legislation. As it stands, I think it is unfair. “It is our job in the Labour Party to try and argue for change and to try and make changes, whether that is in Parliament or anywhere else and that is what we are going to have to do.”

All five candidates said they did not believe Labour’s election manifesto was too left wing, with Mr Burnham praising former leader Ed Miliband for the policies the party fought on.

Asked by Scottish delegate Duncan Walker how Labour could win back votes in Scotland, all five agreed the party needed to re-connect with voters.

Ms Cooper said Labour had to be a party for the whole country, adding: “We have to rebuild – but it will take us time.”

Mr Burnham said: “I would say that it is the best manifesto that I have stood on in the four general elections I’ve stood for Parliament for Labour.

“I pay tribute and give credit to Ed Miliband. I believe he did something important in re-focusing our party on inequality.”

Ms Creagh stressed the need for major investment in the transport infrastructure.

“We had a huge row about High Speed Two. I want High Speed Three, Four and Five. I want Crossrail Two, Three and Four. Physical mobility is key to social mobility,” she said.

North West and Irish delegate Kevin Flanagan asked the candidates – to loud applause – if they were in the toilet when Labour’s election manifesto was drawn up.

Mr Burnham said he was not as involved as he would have liked.

He repeated that he had decided not to accept any donations from unions for his campaign because he believed it would put him in a stronger position to defend the Labour/union link.

In contrast, Ms Creagh said she would be happy to take donations from unions.

Ms Kendall said she would have liked to see the manifesto contain pledges to help elderly people.

Mr Corbyn said there was an issue about democracy in Labour since the role of the party’s annual conference been reduced in favour of policy forums.

Ms Cooper said many policies in the manifesto were good, such as the planned changes to zero hours contracts, and pledges to scrap fees for taking cases to an employment tribunal.

The five candidates were asked a series of specific questions to test their knowledge of the price of goods and services.

Ms Creagh correctly answered how much a TV licence cost, saying she paid by direct debit; Mr Corbyn thought a prescription in England cost £7.60, rather than the correct figure of £8.20; Ms Cooper thought the minimum wage for apprentices was under £3 an hour (it is £2.73).

Mr Burnham incorrectly guessed a litre of petrol was £1.60 rather than £1.16 and Ms Creagh knew how much she paid for a loaf of bread (£1.25).

Mr Corbyn received the loudest applause in the hall, such as when he pledged to attend an anti-austerity rally in London on June 20, but delegates said later there was no stand-out winner during the two-hour-long hustings.

The result of the election will be announced on September 12.

FC Barcelona



”Barcelona is my life…my heart is with Barcelona, always.” 
Lionel Messi

While the crisis that has engulfed world football over the indictment of fourteen FIFA officials by US lawmakers, on allegations of corruption, may cast a shadow over this year’s European Champions League Final in Berlin, the history of one of the clubs involved, FC Barcelona, will forever stand for all that is beautiful about the beautiful game.

In Europe there are a number of football clubs whose names conjure up a certain aura of magic, consistent with histories that are rich in drama, excitement, and meaning. In England there is Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool. In Scotland Glasgow Celtic with their fantastic fans – the best in Europe according to none other than Messi – fit the bill, while in Germany we have Bayern Munich. Meanwhile in Holland Ajax of Amsterdam possess it, and in Italy who could fail to put both Inter and AC Milan on the list, along with Juventus?

Eastern Europe also has its share of such clubs: Dynamo Kiev, Dynamo Moscow, Spartak Moscow, Partisan Belgrade, Red Star Belgrade, Dinamo Zagreb, and so on. Meanwhile in Spain there is Real Madrid, Athletico Madrid, and the most famous of all, FC Barcelona, better known simply as Barca.

In fact when it comes to magic Barca easily eclipses every other football club not just in Europe but the entire world. Their stadium, the Nou Camp (or Camp Nou), exudes a magic of its very own as football’s equivalent of the Roman Coliseum. It is the centre of the universe of this most universal of sports, where the excitement regularly demonstrated and generated on the pitch is replicated in the stands by fans whose passion and knowledge of the sport is unsurpassed.

In their famous blue and maroon striped shirts, the players of Barca, past and present, have given us some of the most wondrous and exquisite displays of footballing artistry. For years now they have embodying the game as the “working class ballet” it is when at its best.

Futbol Club Barcelona were formed in 1899 by Hans (Joan) Gamper, a Swiss national who’d moved to the city and fallen in love with both it anjd the Catalan people and culture. Catalonia’s determined assertion of independence from Spain has been a constant source of upheaval and unrest throughout its history, and FC Barcelona has consistently been a symbol of that independence. This was most evident during and after the Spanish Civil War, when Catalonia was a bastion of anti-fascist and republican resistance to Franco and his nationalist/fascist forces. FC Barcelona became an expression of Catalan pride and identity during the most repressive period in Spain’s history, after Franco prevailed and the country and its people entered a long period of authoritarian and fascist rule. The club’s stadium (up until the move to the Nou Camp in 1957, the club played at Camp de Les Corts) was for many years the only place the Catalan language could be spoken without fear of arrest.

During the civil war the club’s president, Josep Sunyol, was murdered when he made the mistake of venturing into a nationalist zone of the country sporting a Catalan flag on the car he was travelling in. Fans of FC Barcelona have never forgotten nor forgiven his murder, which today still informs the deep hatred and rivalry between the club and Real Madrid. Matches between them are known as ‘El Clasico’ and are the highlight not only of Spanish football but also European and world club football.

General Franco adopted Real as his preferred team in an effort to extract as much political capital as he could from the sport’s popularity in the country. Real from then on was considered the establishment team, the club representing the monarchy, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and the rich, while FC Barcelona was and remains a club associated with Catalan independence, republicanism, and anti-fascism. This identity informs its unique ownership model, comprising some 180,000 subscription-paying members (socios) rather than a single wealthy owner. The members elect the club’s president every four years, and the maximum a president can serve is two four-year terms. This co-operative model is also responsible for the club being associated with good causes through the club’s charitable foundation, such as Unicef, to whom it donates 1.5 million euros annually.

However in 2010 the club succumbed to market pressures and entered a controversial five-year sponsorship deal with Qatar Sports Investments worth £125 million. In 2011 the club broke with 112 years of history when it agreed to carry the name of a commercial sponsor – initially Qatar Foundation followed by Qatar Airways from 2013 – on the team shirts as part of the deal. Qatar is a particularly controversial sponsor given the mounting scandal over its selection to host the 2022 World Cup and its brutal treatment of migrant workers involved in preparing the infrastructure and stadia for the event. The reputational damage to the club’s ethos has not been lost on its board, which it was reported in January 2015 was reconsidering the sponsorship deal with the Qataris. However at time of writing the partnership remains very much in place.

In terms of value, Barcelona came third in the 2013-14 football rich list, compiled by the US-based accountancy firm Deloitte, behind Real Madrid and Manchester City with £407.5 million (574.21 euros) in revenue.

On the pitch, meanwhile, the total football that Barca have perfected and are famous for began with the arrival of Johann Cruyff, the legendary Dutch player and star of the famous Dutch international side of the 1970s. He joined the club in 1973 to team up with his old Ajax manager, Rinnus Michels, and made an immediate impact, inspiring the Catalans to a 5-0 thrashing of their archenemy, Real Madrid, en route to that season’s league title, the club’s first in 13 years.

Cruyff returned to the club as manager between 1988 and 1996 and continued to exert his influence on the club’s playing style and philosophy, leading them to four La Liga titles, one European cup, one Cup Winners’ Cup, and a Copa del Rey in that period.

The Barcelona style that places an emphasis on possession, movement, and the fast transition from defence to attack in waves with short, quick passing. Former Cruyff player, Pep Guardiola, modernized the style when he took over the reins as manager in 2008 with intense and aggressive pressing of the opposition when they have the ball. The style came to be known as ‘tiki-taka’, though it’s a description and a label is one that Guardiola – who left Barca in 2012 and now manages Bayern Munich – loathed as reductive and simplistic.

Some of the world’s greatest players have worn the famous maroon and blue shirt; however Barcelona is known for its outstanding youth academy, through which it develops and nurtures talent from a young age. Lionel Messi, currently the best players in the world, joined the club at 13 from Argentina before progressing through the ranks. Describing the experience, Messi said: “The Barcelona youth programme is one of the best in the world. As a kid they teach you not to play to win, but to grow in ability as a player. At Barca we trained every day with the ball, and I hardly ever ran without a ball at my feet. It was a form of training aimed very clearly at developing your skills.”

When the players of this famous old club take to the pitch at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on 6 June to face Italian giants, Juventus, in the Champions League Final, they will do so in the knowledge that they represent not just a football club but a history and an idea of how the game should be played that resonates with people all over the world.

Why the Labour Party needs Jeremy Corbyn in the contest

Let us be clear. Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to win the leadership contest, and may not be the potential leader most likely to win a general election. Anyone judging his candidacy on those bases misses the point.

The Labour Party, and the broader labour movement, needs a wide ranging, and evidence based debate about why we lost the last two general elections. Up until now the leadership contest has been dire, with all candidates seeking to occupy similar narrow ground, based upon the political perceptions of those who spend too much time in the Westminster hothouse of Portculis House.

Jon Lansman is exactly right when he says:

Jeremy Corbyn may not win this election but if he gets on the ballot paper, he’ll widen the debate and change [the other candidates’] campaigns. Candidates will talk more about austerity than aspiration. If they mention party “reform”, they’ll be more likely to mean democracy and less likely to mean new ways of excluding trade unions.

When the “left” candidate [Burnham] says he won’t take trade union money and wants to downgrade the role of party members in picking candidates, the contest needs a shake up. I hope that MPs, new or old, won’t rate any commitment they may have made last week to a fellow MP above the right to choose of those that put them there.

Back in the 1980s the left in the party lost sight of the need to adapt as society and the electorate changes, and therefore argued both a programme, and a style of politics that was out of touch, and could not lead to electoral victory. The danger in the current leadership election is that the centre-right of the Labour Party are making a similar mistake, assuming that the policies, campaigning methods and attitudes that led to electoral victory in 1997 could be successfully replicated today.

The changes made in the party’s constitution following the Collins review have consolidated the gatekeeper role of MPs. They must use that power wisely to enable a serious debate. Jeremy Corbyn is a substantial political figure, who will bring into the debate opinions and arguments which would otherwise not be heard. Labour is a coalitional party, and in order to reach a new election winning consensus, the voices of all parts of the party need to be heard in the debate.

GMB challenges M&S boss to try living on £45.50 per week

M&S Swindon workers challenge Marc Bolland, who got big bonus yesterday, to try living on the £45.50 he pays them for a week to find out what it’s like to get a text in the morning telling them they have no work that day says GMB

GMB, the union for staff at Marks & Spencer (M&S) Distribution depot in Swindon, commented on the Board awarding a £2.1 million bonus to chief executive Marc Bolland, £1.4m to Steve Rowe head of food, £1.1 m to John Dixon clothes boss and £1.04 to another manager Laura Wade-Gery on the back of sales rising 0.4% in a year.

Last month GMB commenced legal proceedings for 240 members employed by an agency at the Swindon Distribution on £6.50 per hour minimum wage compared with direct staff paid up to £2 per hour higher. Under the Agency Workers Directive this is illegal after 12 weeks. GMB’s claim is that M&S is improperly using a loophole in the law, known as the Swedish Derogation and that this should cease. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release dated 29th May.

Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said “Marc Bolland has been handed this enormous bonus due to an increase of the profits from Marks and Spencer, a Company that trades on its Ethical stance.

These profits have been earned of the backs of workers in their supply chain who work on precarious contracts for minimum wages, and never know from one week to another if they will be able to pay their rent or feed their children. They get a text in the morning telling them they have no work that day, or come in to work only to be sent home after 2 hours. Workers at their distribution centre in Swindon are only guaranteed 7 hours work a week on minimum wage -a total of £45.50. This is how Marks and Spencer have made these profits, by using exploitative, precarious contracts and unethical treatment of workers in their supply chain.

We challenge Marc Bolland to try living, just for one week, on the £45.50 he expects these distribution workers to live on. Take up this challenge, and find out what its like to work in your supply chain.”

Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary, added “There could be no stronger illustration of how M&S behave like sharks while hypocritically pretending to be angels, than the huge bonus paid to their chief executive, Mr Bolland and other managers when M&S’s profits have been boosted by the unethical exploitation of agency workers at their Swindon distribution centre.

Hundreds of agency staff are paid on minimum wage, and guaranteed only 7 hours per week, and have the indignity of anxiously waiting every day to see whether they get a text message indicating whether they are needed for work, or whether they will lose a day’s pay. The agency workers are paid up to £2 per hour less than other staff doing exactly the same work.

GMB has launched 240 Employment Tribunal claims, as we believe that the contracts are not only unethical but also unlawful. M&S cannot wash their hands of moral responsibility here, as M&S’s own “Global Sourcing Guidelines” indicate that they not only supervise their supply and distribution contractors, but also states that M&S must pre-approve all sub-contracting.

At the Swindon M&S distribution centre, hundreds of vulnerable and low paid workers have been exploited for years through unethical subcontracting to employment agencies, and M&S should have known. GMB calls on them to conduct a full investigation, and to address the injustice.”

Charles Kennedy’s speech against the Iraq War, 22nd February 2003

“Ladies and gentleman I am delighted and privileged to join with you here this afternoon on what is without doubt is this historic occasion. And given the events at the United Nations in New York yesterday when they spoke, today across the world the people are speaking and the Prime Minister and the President have got to start listening. That is our message to them.

“For months now I have been asking questions in the House of Commons of the Prime Minister and I have not been getting the answers.

“What’s come back has been confusing, alarming and you are all here because like me you think it lacks persuasion. So it is no wonder that so much of British and European opinion is not convinced but neither is a lot of American opinion convinced either and that is all too often overlooked in the reporting that we see.

“Now my party has consistently argued from the outset for four principles. First, the mandate of the United Nations must be the one that takes the decision and gives the legitimacy. And secondly that those decisions have got to be based on adequate information. That means full compliance with the weapons inspectors.

“So I have joined you here today and I have been asking these questions for months in Parliament because I am not persuaded by the case for war. The arguments have been contradictory and inconsistent and the information has all too often been misleading as well as inconclusive.

“It’s no wonder that people are scared and confused. I say this to you quite seriously as somebody who personally happens not to be a pacifist but has the utter respect for anyone for grounds of conscience who is.

“As somebody who is not actually anti American but is deeply worried by this Bush administration. And as someone who is under no illusions about the brutal dictatorship and the appalling regime which is Saddam Hussein.

“But I conclude by returning to the United Nations. If the great powers of the world ignore it then great damage will be done to the world order and the best hope of international justice for everybody in the world.

“And without a second United Nations resolution based on authoritative fact from the weapons inspectorate I can assure you there is no way in all conscience that the Liberal Democrats either could or should support a war and we will not.

“International justice also requires a serious restarting of the middle east peace process. I wish the United Nations was able to devote its time and energies to that constructive process rather than the destructive process that we are seeing underway at the moment.

“That absence of a middle east process can only fuel extremism and international terrorism. This is the riskiness moment for Britain since Suez.

“Our country has a principled and a responsible role to play on the world stage but to do so we have to pursue international justice through the United Nations and our government has got to take its people with them. It’s patently failing and that is my message for you today. Thank you.”

hat tip: huffington post

Sepp Blatter’s re-election

Sepp-BlatterThe arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich at the best of US lawmakers, two days before the football ruling body’s annual congress, casts a harsh light not so much on the way FIFA is run but on the assertion by the US of its right to police the world.

The manner and timing of the arrests eclipses the gravity of the corruption allegations that have been levelled against the seven officials concerned, indicted by the US Justice Department and arrested at a Zurich hotel by Swiss authorities working in cooperation with their US counterparts. In total fourteen individuals have been indicted on charges of corruption in connection with the investigation, with the seven arrested in Switzerland now facing extradition to the United States. None of the seven is a US citizen.

Putting this event into some sort of context, just imagine for a moment the international backlash if either Russia or China decided to organize the arrest of citizens of another country in a third country, without first taking the trouble to consult the appropriate authorities of the countries in which the individuals concerned are nationals and/or citizens. The resulting backlash would be off the scale, especially in the US, adding more fuel to the Russophobia and Sinophobia that is already prevalent there, as well as throughout the West among its allies.

The question a world interested in the right of national sovereignty, independence, respect, and international legality is entitled to ask is this: exactly where does this assertion of the right by the US to run its writ anywhere it sees fit stem from?

The answer of course is obvious. The astounding arrogance we have just witnessed on the part of the United States is a malign product of the unfettered power it has enjoyed and abused for too many years by now, evident in the chaos and crisis it has sown across a globe that has been plunged into a perennial cycle of conflict and instability.

Unsurprisingly, almost as soon as the US FIFA arrest operation was mounted, the call to have Russia stripped of hosting the 2018 World Cup grew to a crescendo. There were even calls to have it moved to England instead. How convenient.

The resulting re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president at the congress, which continued regardless, came as a rebuke to a clear attempt to undermine both it and him, with the objective of bringing about an end to his leadership. This is not to assert that Blatter is completely without fault in the way the organization is run – indeed there may well be serious and legitimate questions in this regard – but this ‘stunt’, for there is no other way to describe it, was a crude and transparent attempt to seize control of one of the few international institutions that remains truly democratic and independent of control by the West.

Sepp Blatter may have many faults but kow-towing to the writ of the powerful nations within FIFA is not one of them. In fact the only thing the US and its friends in Europe have succeeded in doing is to solidify support around him as a symbol of resistance to their tremendous arrogance. For what we saw with the arrests in Zurich resembled less a demonstration of the long arm of US justice as an example of US imperialism.

Under Sepp Blatter’s stewardship, FIFA has made great strides in developing football throughout the developing world. This has taken place under football ruling body’s Goal Programme, which since its launch in 1998 has put in place modern pitches, training centres, youth academies, infrastructure, and equipment, thus providing the foundation upon which football has flowered across the southern hemisphere over the past two decades.

Blatter has played a key role in driving forward these efforts, which is why he’s earned the respect and loyalty of FIFA member associations throughout the developing world, and is why they refuse to participate in the campaign of demonization that has been waged against him over the past few years, What ‘they’ dismiss as patronage, others call the redistribution of resources and funds from the developed nations to the undeveloped nations, providing the latter with the ability to compete on the international stage. Even more important is how it has kept alive the dream in the hearts of millions of impoverished kids of a route out of poverty for them and their families via football.

The growing controversy over the decision to grant Qatar the privilege of hosting the 2022 World Cup cannot be denied, giving rise to legitimate questions over the bidding process and procedures. The abuse of migrant labour, employed on the construction of stadia and infrastructure for the 2022 tournament, is a matter of deep concern and unless strong action is taken by FIFA in response will undeniably leave a stain on the organization and international football. But here the West has little credibility also. Qatar, along with the other Gulf States, has long been guilty of such human rights abuses, while remaining close allies of the US, Britain, and France. The word for this state of affairs is hypocrisy.

What took place in Zurich was an attempt to seize the leadership of FIFA. It was an attempt driven less by justice and more by geopolitics.

Sadly for them, however, it failed. Sepp Blatter was re-elected. In the end democracy won.









GMB lodges legal claim for 240 members at M&S Swindon depot

Rogue employers should not be allowed to abuse their staff, and we are determined to support our members’ rights by pursuing these cases through the courts says GMB

GMB, the union for workers in the Marks and Spencer (M&S) distribution supply chain, has commenced legal proceedings on behalf of 240 members employed at the Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre in South Marston, Swindon.

Marks and Spencer own this Distribution Centre. They contract the running of the site to logistics company, DHL. They in turn recruit several hundred workers through the recruitment agency, 24-7 Recruitment Services. These workers have an employment contract through yet another company, Tempay Ltd.

DHL took over the contract to run the site in January 2015, which was previously run by another logistics company, Wincanton.

Workers employed by Tempay Ltd are employed on the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour. Directly employed DHL workers doing exactly the same work, are paid up to £2 per hour higher than Tempay staff. Many of the Tempay staff have worked on the site for several years

The legal claims brought by GMB, on behalf its members, are against all four companies: DHL, Wincanton, 24-7 Recruitment Services, and Tempay Ltd.

The claims relate to the Agency Worker Regulations, which came into effect in 2011, and which guarantee equal pay for agency workers after a qualifying period of 12 weeks. A loophole in the law, known as the Swedish Derogation, allows employers to evade these provisions for equal pay, by guaranteeing a few hours of work each week.

Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said

“GMB has always argued that getting round the law relating to equal pay by the use of the Swedish Derogation is unethical.

On examination of the specific contracts of employment of our members used on this M&S site, we believe that the terms of these contracts seeking to avoid equal pay are unenforceable, and the attempt by the employers to evade their responsibilities to their staff is not only unethical but also unlawful.

Our members argue that over a period of years, the employers on this site have played fast and loose with the law, not only failing to follow the Agency Workers Regulations, but also failing to follow TUPE regulations that protect workers when they are transferred between businesses. GMB will not allow rogue employers to abuse their staff, and we are determined to support our members’ rights by pursuing these cases through the courts.

The South Marston site is operated wholly for the benefit of Marks and Spencer. It is clear that the treatment of these workers is in breach of both M&S’ Code of Ethics and Behaviour and also in breach of M&S’ Global Sourcing Principles. The Global Sourcing Principles require each of M&S’ suppliers, whether of goods or services, to comply with all relevant laws and regulations relating to terms of employment.

The use of so-called Swedish Derogation contracts is also seemingly in breach of the Global Sourcing Principles which states that temporary labour arrangements must not be used to avoid obligations to workers under labour laws and regulations

M&S must question whether they have an ethical supply chain, when within their own UK distribution chain, unethical and unlawful employment practices are used. Particularly as M&S’s own policies demonstrate that they exercise oversight of the practices used in their supply chain. GMB has previously raised with M&S the practices at this site, in order to give them the opportunity to resolve them, but these malpractices continue.

The GMB call on M&S to investigate the working practices at the South Marsden site. As a matter of principle GMB believes that all staff at South Marston site, who are doing the same work, should receive equal pay, whoever they work for.”