Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Union for the 21st Century?

Lorry- ('truck'- to you Yanks) driver, Wagner-lover and T&G (UK Transport and General Workers' Union) activist Rachael Webb has sent out the following email to fellow T&G members:

"After spending 4 or 5 years asking all the Officers and Committee members I can think of why it is that the T&G does not have the 30 or so non-English language translations of the standard "Join" leaflet on the public part of the (union's -JD) website I have at last got an intelligent answer!

"I forgot his name, but it is the person I was put through to at Transport House (T&G headquarters-JD), who deals with the Extranet on the T&G website (who) gave this simple explanation:

"'The public part of the website cannot have have pdf documents, it is all word or gif or jpg, so the 30 or so foreign language "Join" forms cannot go on the public access part of the T&G website.

"'The Extranet, which is only available to members/activists, can accomodate pdf documents.

"' There is already a a Word document to join which you can print off and send to the freepost address; there will shortly be a means of filling in the form and joining online. This cannot be done in Polish etc, as in each of the 30 languages we would need someone who speaks fluent Polish or Bulgarian or whatever as well as being able to use HTML "language". Most of us know bits of HTML but not Urdu or whatever".

Rachael closes by saying: "I think this is a pity, the IFTU (International Federation of Transport Unions) day of action in October being a case in point. Maybe we should press for either resources so we can put pdf documents on the public parts of the website or finance people who speak the 30 languages who can also use HTML".

As a Luddite, I don't understand quite a lot of the above: but it seems to amount to, "If you're foreign and can't read / write English, you can't join the union online, because we haven't worked out a way you can do it, and we also don't have people on our staff who speak Urdu, Polish or whatever".

If that's a fair reading of what's being said, then it should be major a cause for concern at Transport House - and especially for general secretary Tony Woodley, who is serious about this matter (though hamstrung to some extent by the fake-left bums who occupy the Regional positions within the union).

These pathetic shortcomings with regard to the recruitment of foreign workers were revealed on the same day that the T&G Deputy General Secretary Jack Dromey announced an excellent campaign - in conjuction with John Cruddas (Labour MP for Dagenham) and Keith Best (chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service) - for an amnesty for 'illegal' immigrants. All credit to the T&G for taking up that issue: but why the the hell aren't you making a serious effort to recruit foriegn workers in Britain?

8 Comments:

Anonymous boogski said...

In order to be a commercial truck driver here in the States, You have to pass a (more difficult) written test. I'm sure you have a similar situation in the UK.

Am I to understand that the lorry driver's exam in the UK is offered in thirty(!) different languages? If so, I must say I'm impressed.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to expect the driver of a 40,000 Kg lorry to have at least a minimal understanding of English in the UK.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Boogski: you may have a point about truck drivers, spoken English, and health & safety (though that doesn't seem to bother Willi Betz and others): but the T&G organising campaign is mainly about recruiting fruit-pickers and other such menial workers, where the employers not only don't care that the workers don't speak English, but use it in order to further exploit them.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous boogski said...

Jim said:

the T&G organising campaign is mainly about recruiting fruit-pickers and other such menial workers, where the employers not only don't care that the workers don't speak English, but use it in order to further exploit them.

I had some experience with the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) in my early days and let me tell you, They had the HIGHEST standards in the marketplace. Rigourous training. In the classroom and in the workplace. You'd better have some apptitude or you sure as fuck weren't getting into THAT union. High standards, high quality of work.

The point is, they were very selective. They didn't accept any dumbshit with a pair of pliers! If you demand top billing, you should be able to deliver a top product.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Ah, Boogski: you are a craft unionist in the tradition of Sidney Hillman. I'm an industrial unionist in the tradition of John L. Lewis.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Apologies: I was wrong to call Sidney Hillman a "craft unionist": he wasn't. he was a supporter of John L. Lewis and the CIO. My memory let me down. I probably eas thinkingof Bill Hutcherson, a AFL boss who Lewis punched at a national congress, in order to sinify the ceation of the CIO.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Can I re-write that last bit into proper English? "he was a supporter of John L. Lewis and the CIO. My memory let me down. I probably was thinking of Bill Hutcherson, an AFL boss who Lewis punched at a national congress, in order to signify the creation of the CIO.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

It doesn't sound like the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters, led by members of the Socialist Workers Party, not UK SWP.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Renegade: I'm glad to see that some people still read Farrell Dobbs and "Teamster Rebellion"

8:38 AM  

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