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A small selection of news items and reports that have a particular relevance to Scotland or Scottish workers and our communities.

JOHN ELDRIDGE introduces the valuable work of the Poverty Truth Commission

 

“Turning up the volume on poverty” was the theme of a recent public presentation in Glasgow of the Poverty Truth Commission, which I attended, along with some 400 others. 

Founded in 2009 and drawing inspiration from other truth commissions around the world, the group brought together some of its economically poorest citizens with some of Scotland’s best-known leaders. 

It is based on the conviction that we cannot understand poverty, let alone address it, until those who live with its reality every day are at the heart of the process for change. 

As one participant called Patrick — we used first names only — put it: “The commission is unique in building bridges and promoting the idea that people are experts on their own lives. It’s about vulnerability being given a platform.”

I would strongly encourage readers to Google the Poverty Truth Commission, where they will find good accounts of its history and ongoing work and the realistic hope that it can generate. 

As Anne-Marie put it: “The combination of members, and the influence that some have, allows the voices of those living in poverty to be heard in places which were never accessible before.”

Those voices were heard loudly and clearly at the June public meeting. 

There was black humour, anger and tears from the participants. 

Some things I already knew in my head, but to hear the narratives based on personal accounts was very challenging. 

So, for example, the choice that some people have to make between heating or eating as a result of rises in fuel and food costs, is literally true. 

Thus people who use pre-payment meters are put on a higher rate than direct debit customers and have to pay for the upkeep of their meters. 

One participant said: “I have to switch off my electric in winter as I cannot afford to put money in the meter. Three days before my giro payment it comes down to ‘heat or eat’ as I often cannot afford to do both.” 

There is a challenge here to energy companies to review their policies to pre-payment customers.

It was deeply troubling to hear about the effects of sanctions being imposed on benefits claimants, which can break people’s spirits. 

Benefits may be suspended if, for example, you are a few minutes late for an appointment or applied for one less job than you should have done. But they can also be the result of bureaucratic errors at the jobcentre. 

The sanctions policy is being disproportionately and unfairly applied. 

It was wryly remarked that “you used to come out of the jobcentre happy if you had found a job. Now you come out pleased if you haven’t got a sanction.” 

This represents a serious challenge to the way the Department of Work and Pensions carries out the government’s draconian policies. 

It is drummed into benefit claimants that the way to get out of the poverty trap is to get a job. 

This is, at best, a half truth. From the commission we learned that in Scotland there are now more people living in poverty where at least one person in the household is working than in homes where no-one is in paid employment. 

The expense of childcare arrangements, travel-to-work costs and the falling real value of the minimum wage are things to bear in mind here. 

But so too are the effects of zero-hours contracts which give maximum flexibility to the employer but minimum security and maximum uncertainty to the employee. 

The rise of foodbanks set against welfare cuts can be seen as a social indicator.

It is also a challenge to our collective sense of social justice. While the charitable impulses of those who organise foodbanks are impressive and highly commendable, the underlying fact is that they should not need to exist. 

Yet it is not only unemployed but also low-paid workers and pensioners who are reluctantly forced to use them.

We live in a world abounding in stereotypes, whether in relation to race, gender or class. 

But it is also the case with the poor and vulnerable in our society. Myths of “scroungers” and the “undeserving poor” are still perpetuated. 

Such myths have to be challenged and are being so by the Poverty Truth Commission. 

With its feisty motto: “Nothing about us without us is for us,” it will, I believe, form a growing challenge to our politicians and policy-makers. 

Whatever the result of the forthcoming referendum in Scotland, the commission will continue to give voice to the need for policies of redistributive justice and a progressive move towards a more equal society. 

In that way not only Glasgow but Scotland will flourish.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-ca54-Voices-of-Scotland-Spotlight-on-poverty#.VC1xZhZRx8E

While they may be appealing on the surface, worker involvement schemes risk undermining trade union collective bargaining, says JACKSON CULLINANE

 

A MAJOR plank of the Scottish government’s pledge to workers in an independent Scotland is the proposition for increased employee involvement outlined in its Scotland’s Future white paper.  

On the face of it such suggestions look attractive, contrasting sharply with the Con-Dem attack on trade unions and employment rights.

However, it is to be hoped that the recent input of trade unionists in the Scottish government’s “working together review group” — where the case has been made for the promotion of trade union recognition and collective bargaining — becomes the driving force for industrial relations in Scotland. 

It is also to be hoped that the Scottish government shifts from its temptation to base its proposals on employee involvement on the adoption of imperfect European “models” involving non-union reps on employee forums, works councils and company boards. 

As STUC general secretary Graeme Smith recently pointed out, there are “dangers if the focus is to be on employee representation rather than on trade union representation” or “employee involvement schemes that are used by some employers to bypass and weaken trade union involvement.”

The relevance of Smith’s warning is borne out by the fact that one of the companies that has established a works council is Ineos, the same organisation that is engaged in unfairly dismissing the trade union convener, the non-recognition of democratically elected shop stewards and the withdrawal of  “check-off” facilities for the collection of trade union dues. 

There are many other, albeit much more subtle, examples of employee involvement schemes being used to undermine trade union organisation. 

As a young shop stewards convener in the chemical industry, I had to grapple daily with the employer’s attempt to weaken established union bargaining processes by taking issues out of the bargaining arena and floating them in a limited consultative process, within which “stock-market sensitive” information was denied to us. 

The employer also initiated several attempts to bypass trade union reps completely through so-called “quality circles,” team briefings, suggestion schemes and “continuous improvement” work methods, while presenting these as positive steps to “encourage” and “value” the involvement of the workforce.

We should reject the suggestions being made in some quarters in Scotland that trade union involvement on boards should be limited to one union representative, sitting alongside potentially two non-union reps elected via a works council. 

As presented by advocates of industrial democracy in the ’70s and ’80s — when the theme was previously dominant on the left — workforce board representatives, as well as those on employee forums/committees, should be elected by and from the trade union members at the workplace. 

To do otherwise is to encourage non-union representation, ensure that real power and influence continues to rest with the employer and potentially undermine trade union organising strategies, based on the goal of 100 per cent organisation, empowerment of shop stewards, accountability to and communication with the membership and a preparedness to act on issues of concern to the workforce.

If we should be wary of any attempt to limit trade union representation in proposed employment involvement schemes, we should also guard against any attempt to limit the agenda and the range of issues which those reps should have a right to engage with. 

If genuine industrial democracy is the objective, the issues to be addressed by greater employee involvement should include a right to participate in examination of business opportunities, improved work routines, workplace layout and design, the purchase and operation of machinery and resources and the general process of production or service delivery — as well as the obvious issues of hours, holidays, grading and training. 

We should also be careful not to underestimate the potentially negative effect of any schemes which emphasise the “benefits” of “collaboration” and “common interests,” seemingly denying that there is an inherent conflict of interest between capital and labour. 

Industrial democracy and collective trade union organisation should not only be about genuine employee participation, it should also be about building workers’ power, valuing their experience and expertise, giving them more control, ensuring fulfilling work, raising self-esteem and developing the confidence that they can forge alternative workplace relationships including, ultimately, an alternative to capitalism itself, through the realisation that we cannot fully control what we do not own. 

On that score, the case for industrial democracy is inseparable from the case for workers’ control and common ownership in industry. 

It should also link to the issue of community ownership triggered by the community right to buy in land reform legislation in Scotland. 

After all, if the benefit of democratic ownership of the land on which a community relies is now, rightly, acknowledged in Scots law, why not also recognise the benefits of collective worker and community ownership of the industries upon which those communities also rely?

It is long overdue that the left revisited the issue of industrial democracy. In this respect, the discussions triggered by the Scotland’s Future white paper references to employee involvement serve a useful purpose. 

However, we should not allow trade unionism and collective organisation to be undermined by charades of involvement used by some employers to break collectivism, making individual workers feel important while providing them with no real influence and failing to address the need to redistribute power as well as wealth.

As Tony Benn put it in his Arguments for Socialism: “We must reject the idea that one worker on the board is industrial democracy. 

“We must reject phoney works councils not rooted in the strength and structure and traditions of the trade union movement. 

“All of these are window dressing designed to divert the demand for democratic control into utterly harmless challenge. We should be talking about the transfer of power within industry.”

Jackson Cullinane is political officer at Unite Scotland.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-df12-Scotland-needs-a-better-vision-for-workers-control#.VC1wHxZRx8E

Women may be more likely than men to vote against Scotland’s independence and a persuasive new book explains why, says JEAN TURNER

 

Women Saying No: Making a Positive Case Against Independence

Edited by Maria Fyfe

(Luath Press, £7.99)

IN THE eternal political debate about the pros and cons of Scottish independence there has been a very important viewpoint missing, that of women. 

Yet they are the silent majority who are apparently more likely than men to vote No in the referendum.

In this book, 14 Scottish women give their personal reasons for voting No. They include women deeply embedded in the Scottish working-class and Labour movement such as Maria Fyfe — the book’s editor and former Labour MP for Glasgow Maryhill — Johann Lamont MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party and Sarah Boyack MSP, Labour shadow cabinet member for local government and planning. 

Others are leaders of pensioners and disabled people’s organisations, community activists, trades unionists, feminists, social workers, representatives of the Asian and African Scottish population and a solitary student. 

What is obvious is the pride and commitment these women have in their Scottish ancestry or adopted Scots nationality. Despite this they express serious misgivings about a Yes vote which would set back all the advances made by devolution. They argue that devolution retains its traditional links with progressive and working-class forces in the rest of Britain while establishing a clear Scottish governmental identity. Some hint at a federal Britain.

Many envisage the disruption to family ties if a border were formed between Scotland and the rest of Britain, separating them from their relations and roots there. 

Anna Dyer looks at the effects on women in the newly independent states of eastern Europe, where free market economics and foreign investment have resulted in a drastic decline in the percentage of women in the labour force and their involvement in politics. Privatisation has removed their leading positions in industry and state enterprises. 

Even in the Scandinavian countries, the social-democratic social fabric has been eroded by global neoliberal forces. Could an independent Scotland prevent this, she asks? 

Few of the contributors are in favour of a withdrawal from the European Union — which overrides Westminster powers anyway — although Elinor Mackenzie points out that better social welfare provisions in some EU states are the result of a stronger class struggle than has taken place in Britain. 

This book represents a very important area of criticism from the women’s angle on the issue of Scottish independence. As retired book seller Esme Clark — concerned for her pension and taxes and the future of national cultural collections — says: “I admit it, I’m feart.” As an Anglo-Scot she feels safer with her British passport when travelling abroad. “Why would we want to take apart something that works?” she asks.

Not high politics, but a viewpoint that many must feel in their hearts.

 

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e669-Why-some-women-are-just-saying-No#.VC1udhZRx8E

STUC blasted both sides of the independence referendum campaign yesterday, accusing them of messing up their economic figures and ignoring economic inequality.
“Despite inequality of income and wealth becoming a major theme of the referendum campaign, no detailed remedies are proposed by the Scottish or UK governments,” STUC economist Stephen Boyd wrote in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
The STUC attack follows a row between Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander and Scottish Finance minister John Swinney over the costs and benefits of independence and the union.
Mr Alexander said the SNP’s proposed £1,000 “independence bonus” for every Scot was “wishful thinking,” before suggesting a “union dividend” of £1,400 per head.
Mr Swinney responded that coalition cuts to the Barnett formula would cost Scotland £4 billion.
But Mr Boyd said recent “extensive papers” from the Scottish and UK governments justifying and promoting their “independence bonus” or “union dividend” had failed to identify who would benefit from either.
He asked: “Will the dividend/bonus be evenly spread across the income distribution? Or will those at the top benefit disproportionately?”
Mr Boyd called for honesty on the level of taxation needed to address inequality.
“Few if any in the Yes campaign can summon the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that the Nordic society they desire and promote so relentlessly simply cannot and will not be funded on current levels of taxation.
“Action on minimum and living wages is a welcome but insufficient response.”
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Unite leader Len McCluskey said yesterday that the union movement would be “the one constant” in Scotland before and after September’s independence referendum.

He told delegates that he didn’t address the thorny issue in his conference address on Monday “because I was saving the best until last.”

He set out the benefits of the union’s position of “positive neutrality” in the debate during his closing speech.

“Our members up there are not recommending either a Yes or a No but insisting that the debate is about working people, their concerns and their aspirations,” he said.

“We’re determined that the fabric of society will not be broken whatever the result. The one constant before and after the referendum will be the trade union movement.”

 

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-0208-Scotland-referendum-Trade-unions-will-always-be-the-one-constant,-says-Unites-Len-McCluskey#.VC1zmBZRx8E

Gesture highlights Commonwealth persecution of LGBT people

 

THE rainbow flag is be flown on buildings across Scotland in solidarity with persecuted LGBT people in Commonwealth countries.

Trade union offices in Glasgow will fly the flag for the duration of the Commonwealth games, which start today.

The Scottish government will also fly the rainbow flag outside St Andrew’s House for the first time in its history, alongside those of the Commonwealth and Scotland. 

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “By flying the rainbow flag, the international symbol of LGBT equality, we aim to recognise the human rights of LGBT people and celebrate the distance that Scotland has come in promoting equality.”

He said the campaign offers a message of hope to LGBT people and a rejection of the anti-homosexuality laws that still exist in 80 per cent of Commonwealth nations.

Forty-two out of 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality and LGBT people are at risk of death, imprisonment, harassment and degrading treatment.

“This is simply unacceptable and it is right that we should use our Commonwealth Games to raise awareness and promote a more positive vision of the future for a persecuted minority,” added Mr Smith.

Several councils have also pledged to fly the rainbow flag throughout the campaign.

The public is also being encouraged to support the campaign by sharing images using the hashtag #gamespride on social media site Twitter.

Commonwealth Games cabinet secretary Shona Robison said: “It’s important we reinforce our strong support for and commitment to progressing equality and human rights issues.”

 

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-caab-Scotland-shows-true-colours-with-solidarity-rainbow-flag#.VC1yfBZRx8E

STUC congress set to start campaign against exploitative contracts

SCOTTISH trade union reps will declare war on “exploitative” zero-hours contracts today at the start of the annual STUC congress in Dundee.

Workers suffering on such terms have given damning testimony to the STUC and delegates will vote on a motion demanding action to stop the abuse.

Scottish affairs committee MPs have also called for them to be scrapped, with chairman Ian Davidson MP saying that “the overwhelming majority of zero-hours contracts are abusive and exploitative and should be abolished.

“Zero-hours contracts put workers in such a vulnerable position that they are unable even to assert their lawful right to the meagre benefits these contracts offer.”

And he warned that “zero-hours make blacklisting easy.”

About 85,000 people in Scotland are on the contracts.

The STUC motion condemns zero-hours and hours to be notified contracts as a “one-sided employment relationship in favour of the employer.”

It commits the STUC to campaign against them — including a ban “across the public sector and by any companies seeking publicly procured contracts.”

Care support worker Zahira told the STUC that zero-hours was the “worst contract I have ever had in my whole working life.”

She took the post because she couldn’t find another part-time job, but now believes that “I have less rights — it feels like I have no rights.”

She said: “I have been expected to work when I have been notified approximately 30 minutes prior to a shift.

“If I refuse the likelihood of being called again is very low — and this has happened, with no work over a period of two months.”

The Scottish affairs committee found that one in five workers on zero-hours contracts are paid less than their permanent equivalents doing the same job and that one in 20 are paid less than the national minimum wage, even although this is illegal.

“Thousands of social care workers are illegally denied payment for time spent travelling between appointments,” the MPs said.

The committee also heard evidence that some jobcentre staff are pressing people into taking work with no guaranteed hours and threatening sanctions if they turn the position down — or for trying to sign back on if the hours turned out to be insufficient.

Mr Davidson said both Westminster and Holyrood must use “every lever at their disposal to affect a cultural change” against exploitative contracts.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-bc4b-Scottish-workers-take-a-stand-against-zero-hours-terms#.VC11ehZRx8E

The STUC wants the pro-devolution parties to bring forward separate proposals for enhanced devolution

The Scottish TUC (STUC) called yesterday for two-thirds of the revenue spent in Scotland to be raised in Scotland in a new plan for enhanced devolution if there is a No vote in September's referendum.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: "While we have not come to a definitive view on recommending a Yes or No vote, it is increasingly clear that there is a strong case and strong public support for building on the current status quo."

The STUC wants the pro-devolution parties to bring forward separate proposals for enhanced devolution in the event of a No vote - and identify a set of proposals on which they all agree.

Grahame Smith called on the parties to give "very clear commitments both in respect of future tax powers and in defending the level of a residual block grant."

The 20-page discussion paper A Just Scotland - Enhanced Devolution argues that the Scottish Parliament should be able to intervene on a wider range of policy issues - including the labour market and various aspects of pay, employment rights and welfare.

Further devolution of tax and spending powers should be accompanied by an increase in the revenue-raising autonomy of local authorities.

Other STUC proposals include the establishment of a Scottish Equalities Commission, devolution of health and safety enforcement, the employment tribunal system and some powers over immigration.

And the STUC claims that "enhanced devolution need not entail a reduction in the number or function of Scottish MPs."

 

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-41e2-STUC-calls-for-No-vote-devo-plans#.VC13XRZRx8E

Union man Stevie Deans was hounded from Grangemouth job

THE DAUGHTER of former Unite convener Stevie Deans led calls to renationalise the giant Grangemouth oil refinery yesterday after watching billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe hound out her dad and hold Britain to ransom.

Ailis Deans held back tears as she told Unite conference how her dad was “portrayed as a criminal” for standing up for 800 workers facing the sack. 

She recounted how Mr Ratcliffe “victimised him in public and even humiliated him” in his bid to break the union at Grangemouth. 

“Jim Ratcliffe — the man who didn’t care that it broke mine and my 12-year-old sister’s hearts to see my dad portrayed as a criminal in newspapers and on TV,” stormed Ms Deans.

“He’s a man who didn’t care that our mum was terrified to leave our house because journalists were camped outside on our doorstep. 

“He’s a man that didn’t care and, as a result of his attack, my dad was left broken.”

The youth delegate described the ordeal that began last October as the “toughest time my family has ever faced.”

Mr Deans quit his role as Unite convener and left the refinery amid a barrage of allegations that he signed workers up to the Labour Party to fix the selection of the party’s candidate for the Falkirk by-election.

Police and Labour Party investigations showed the allegations to be baseless. 

Hitting back on behalf of her family yesterday, Ms Deans added: “Jim Ratcliffe set out to damage the trade union movement. 

“But I think everyone here will agree with me that he didn’t damage it at all — he made it stronger.”

Unite leader Len McCluskey and more than a thousand members leapt to their feet in a spontaneous ovation for Ms Deans as left the stage.

Convener Mark Lyon was also sacked by Mr Ratcliffe in the wake of last year’s industrial dispute sparked by his ultimatum to workers to choose between pay and pension cuts or a future on the dole. 

Orchestrating his smear campaign from a £130 million yacht, Mr Ratcliffe also demanded millions in public subsidies to keep Grangemouth open. 

Mr Lyon said it would be easy to blame the billionaire for the dispute but said it proved “ownership is the nub of this issue.

“This was a site that was publicly owned in the 1970s,” he said. 

“It was privatised because they didn’t want public intervention in the market.

“Except when the intervention is to hand over millions and millions of pounds of public money. They’ve got no problem with that intervention.”

Delegates unanimously agreed that key industries should be nationalised to stop a repeat of the scandals.

 

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2a01-Bullied-Unite-conveners-daughter-speaks-out#.VC1sLxZRx8E

Grahame Smith examines the disinformation around the Unite-Ineos dispute

The central importance of the Morning Star for trade unionists and the left in Scotland has never been in doubt, and the STUC has long supported its promotion and distribution in Scotland. 

But if fresh impetus were needed, the events of mid-October at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant should inspire us all to redouble our efforts to grow the readership and encourage all progressive forces to do the same.

As I have written elsewhere, the events at Ineos revealed all we needed to know about where power lies in Britain today, and it is frightening. 

The story of Grangemouth is that the government was powerless to prevent one individual deciding the fate of a strategically vital national industrial asset, its 1,300 strong workforce, and thousands more workers besides, and the fate of a local community.

And while Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe’s decision not to proceed with the closure of the petrochemical plant following the workforce’s acceptance of his “recovery plan” was variously described as another illustration of the “lack of union power and influence,” it was in fact a crisis for political and industrial democracy.

Despite all the cajoling of Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond, Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael, it took the Ineos workforce and their union Unite to take the decisive step that made it impossible for Ratcliffe to walk away as he was determined to do just two days previously. 

It is beyond belief that one of the supposedly most powerful nations on the globe was incapable of stopping the closure of the Grangemouth plant. 

The closure of a community centre in Grangemouth would have required a more extensive due process and greater transparency and accountability than was involved in the decisions to close a vital industrial facility. 

Some part of this analysis was recognised by the Scottish media. 

In the week prior to the Ineos ultimatum, some journalists did recognise the nature of the company — venture capital-funded, lightly regulated, “too big to fail” in the context of the British fuel market and the wider supply chain and with an aggressive management style. 

But there was a near universal failure by journalists when judging the role of Unite within the dispute to apply any of this context in a way which might have reached a more nuanced understanding of why things happened as they did or what the implications might be. 

Within days we were treated to an anti-union narrative, promulgated not just by the right-wing media but by centre-left commentators whose cut was deeper because they purported to be the labour movement’s friend. 

What was lost among the many other issues involved at Ineos that the strike ballot of Unite members had a turnout of 86 per cent — exceptional by any standards — with 82 per cent in support of strike action and 92 per cent in support of action short of strike. 

Implicit in this legal requirement on the union to ballot is the expectation that the employer will recognise its outcome and the strength of feeling it demonstrates and respond accordingly — a fact which was generally ignored by the mainstream media.

The mainstream media’s tendency when talking of unions to focus on perceived negative and hostile emotional responses — “anger, fury, threat, threaten, battle and attack” — has been extensively documented. Unions are led by “bosses, barons and chiefs.” 

In this context it may seem natural to employ similar pejoratives such as “capitulation” and “surrender” when unions suffer a reversal, but it’s not good journalism. 

During the dispute it was as painful to witness the mindless adherence to stereotype as it was to watch the vitriolic assault on decent and committed trade unionists such as Stevie Deans. 

Given the Scottish media’s overwhelming obsession with the independence debate, it was also surprising that it failed to provide any real analysis of the implications of the Ineos dispute for the the Scottish constitutional debate, a debate which is meant to be about where power should lie. 

The debate about powers will be of little real relevance if government, wherever it sits, does not have the power to prevent private equity capital threatening the stability of a country’s economy.

That is why it matters that there is at least one national daily newspaper available in Scotland which is committed to supporting trade unionists and providing the real news, a paper which understands where power lies and why and how it should be challenged.

Grahame Smith is general secretary of the STUC.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-9b4f-Getting-the-facts-straight-on-Grangemouth#.VC1rDBZRx8E

The Grangemouth owners waged a vindictive smear campaign

Yet another vindication of former Ineos convener Stevie Deans acts as a reminder of the high personal price he paid for standing up against that company's union-busting bosses.

The Grangemouth owners waged a vindictive smear campaign against a man they saw as a fundamental barrier to their plan to attack the terms and conditions of the union members who elected him to represent them.

A craven anti-union media - this paper being an honourable exception - and spineless politicians afraid to stand up to the firm's bully-boy threats to pull the plug on a crucial petrochemicals plant placed Deans and his family under an unbearable strain.

In the end it cost him his livelihood.

News that police have found "no evidence of any criminality" in emails seized on Deans's work computer will come as little surprise to those who know this decent hard-working Scot.

However, the anti-union poison whipped up by the company's bosses, who chose in a crude smear tactic to leak parts of the documents to the Sunday Times, continues to linger over the Labour Party and the whole movement.

The complaints of "victimisation" from Ineos managers, who at the time were threatening to extinguish hundreds of livelihoods, by a few peaceful activists holding Unite union placards was seized upon by the Tories to threaten more shackles on the right to protest.

But the relatively tame treatment received by bosses acting on behalf of a billionaire industrialist pale in comparison to Deans's trial by media and the hounding that he and his family have faced at the hands of a rag-bag of rightwingers reaching all the way up to Westminster.

The response by Labour has been misplaced too.

Instead of standing up robustly for the right to protest, against the blackmail tactics of Ineos, and recognising trade unions' vital and historic role in its own party structures, Ed Miliband was like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

The party's bruised Blairite right wing seized their opportunity to mount a counter-offensive against increasingly vibrant trade unions which they saw as a threat to their own power.

The final outcome of discussions on future links between the unions and party will be decided in the next few weeks, hopefully in more sober circumstances than the hysteria that surrounded the Grangemouth dispute.

Whatever the result, in all this there has only been one real winner - the Tories and their backers. They have revelled in driving a wedge into the heart of the Labour Party at a time when the labour movement should be uniting to focus its energies on creating a future that rids us of the social crisis created by this rabid government.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey did not mince words yesterday.

"The anti-union hysteria whipped up by certain sections of the media and their friends to pursue a spiteful agenda has been shocking.

"Their witch-hunt has been exposed to be without foundation and a lie.

"Stevie Deans is a decent and honourable man who has been smeared and hounded with a callous disregard for him and his family."

There are those who will be hoping that the treatment meted out to this solid trade unionist will act as a warning to other potential "trouble-makers."

Those hopes are destined to be dashed.

While an exploitative society remains, in which millions are forced to toil for a pittance to make others billions, there will always be people like Deans who choose to stand up and be counted.

 

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-b4bf-A-spiteful-agenda#.VC1qNRZRx8E