A Tory 'activist' and part time worker at City Hall
Here is a mean little story that appeared in yesterday's London Standard, courtesy of their City Hall correspondant, Peter Dominiczak:
As the London Assembly learned that TfL employs 31 full-time activists at a cost of £879,000 per year, one member described the cost as "scandalous".
It also emerged that the Met employs 14 full-time activists at a cost of £361,000 a year, and has 20 officers who work on behalf of the Police Federation, Superintendents' Association and Chief Police Officers' staff associations.
The London Fire Brigade has two full-time activists and one part-time worker, costing £88,000 per year.
The Greater London Assembly has one full-time worker who performs union duties for about £42,000 a year.
Tory Assembly member Brian Coleman said: "The vast payment of Londoners' money to activists to work full-time on union business is scandalous."
A TfL spokesman said: "The number of trade union representatives at TfL is in accordance with Acas guidelines, our agreements with the trades unions and legislation."
A police spokesman said: "Good working relationships with unions and workplace representatives help keep staff properly informed."
Mrs Angry is amused to see a City Hall correspondant so keen to accept Brian Coleman's interpretation of these statistics - and allowing himself to be used as the channel for another pathetic union bashing exercise by our favourite assembly member.
What a pity that Mr Dominiczak didn't bother to query the assumptions in Coleman's attack. Interesting, for example, that the reporter has chosen to use the word 'activist', without the use of qualification, loaded as it is with insinuations about political motivation, rather than the term 'official', 'employee', or 'representative'.
Let's do what Mr Dominiczak has apparently failed to do, and examine the facts.
Transport for London is a huge organisation. In 2008 alone, it had 27,000 employees. To have 31 of those employees engaged in work involving staff representation and industrial relations is hardly disproportionate.
The Metropolitan Police is even larger, of course: in fact it its the biggest police force in the world, with, I believe, in 2010, a total of around 52,000 employees. Having 14 representatives and 20 officers engaged in staff related duties is, again, quite a reasonable number, seen in this context.
The London Fire Brigade has 7,ooo employees. Should it be vilified for the crime of having two full time union officials, and one part time 'worker'?
I think that Londoners would actually think that in the circumstances, such a low number of representatives is entirely inadequate, bearing in mind the continual struggle of our fire service to withstand the political interference and confrontational leadership of the very same Brian Coleman.
Apart from the employment issues facing firefighters in London, there is a real threat to the safety and well being of Londoners posed by the largely unreported fact (except here - http://bit.ly/qNnwLN ) that Assetco, the company which now owns our fire engines, and has a contract to provide 'emergency' cover in disputes, as we saw last year, oh and which gives £350 Harvey Nicks hampers and hospitality to Brian Coleman - Assetco is teetering on the brink of collapse, and has been for months, supported by an enormously expensive legal fight. It is the union and those awful 'activists' which have been determinedly questioning the development of this story, for example, as seen here: http://tinyurl.com/5wefwko
Let's remind ourselves once more, shall we, of the comments made by Coleman, as chair of the fire authority, last year, as reported in, oh, hello - the Standard, on November 26th, by Ross Lydall, in an article with this heading:
Boris Johnson to discipline fire chief for labelling union leaders 'bullies'
Tory Brian Coleman, who was appointed by the Mayor to oversee the London fire brigade, also revealed his wish to “break” the London Fire Brigades Union, whose members were a “thoroughly unpleasant and nasty lot”.
It comes after his threat to sack all 5,500 front-line London firefighters and re-employ them on new shift patterns sparked two one-day strikes in recent weeks. A subsequent plan to axe 27 fire engines — leading to the loss of 500 jobs — has heightened tensions between staff and brigade chiefs.
Former mayor Ken Livingstone said: “Boris must get a grip and sack his confrontational fire chief if we're to have long-term solutions to challenges facing the brigade.”
Mr Johnson, who has “confessed ignorance” of the plan to axe engines, stood by his colleague but will discipline him for his remarks.
The Mayor's spokesman said: “Brian Coleman has pursued an important and sensible agenda to modernise the fire service. The Mayor is hopeful the recent dispute will soon be resolved so that London can benefit from those changes.
“Abusive and provocative language from either side of the dispute is inappropriate and unhelpful and the Mayor will make that clear to Mr Coleman.”
Mr Coleman, who is also a Barnet councillor, made his remarks in an interview with the Ham & High newspaper. Referring to the recent fire dispute, which saw clashes on picket lines, he claimed that the Left-wing union had been linked with “bullying and intimidation” back to the Seventies.
Four firefighters have been suspended for allegedly threatening strike-breaking colleagues. Mr Coleman went on: “You just have to stand up to thugs and bullies. The vast majority of firefighters are entirely, on a one-to-one level, decent and pleasant individuals.
“Most of the union officials... are thick, can't string a sentence together and frankly are incoherent. We have to break the FBU... They will fail in the end because neither I nor the fire authority, nor the Mayor of London nor this Government is going to give way to this kind of intimidation.”
FBU general secretary MattWrack said: “I have been afraid recently, as his remarks became wilder, that Mr Coleman was starting to lose the plot. It appears he has now lost it — I hope temporarily.
“If we all crouch in our dugouts screaming 'thick' and 'thug' and 'incoherent' and 'break the union' at each other, no progress will be made.'Quite. And perhaps the FBU is the perfect example of why Brian Coleman so greatly objects to the idea of a strong union presence in any organisation. In all the cases mentioned, employees are facing the real threat of redundancy or, at best, detrimental changes to their working conditions. They need and deserve the support of representatives to protect their rights at this time.
Oh, we forgot to mention the mysterious reference to a full time worker at the Greater London Assembly, who 'performs union duties'. Er, did you mean Greater London Authority? No? Then Mrs Angry is thrilled to hear that our assembly members have union representation, and does not begrudge a single penny paid to this unfortunate worker. Can you imagine having to be Brian Coleman's shop steward? Actually, if Brian were to be a union leader, well: Arthur Scargill would seem like a shrinking violet, wouldn't he? They have quite a lot of qualities in common, actually, come to think of it. Sorry: just had a vision of a blighted north eastern industrial landscape, with a queue of ex miners outside the job centre.
Apologies to poor old Arthur Scargill for the comparison.
Mrs Angry is pleased to see that Brian Coleman is so appalled at the idea of Londoners' hard earned tax being wasted on the 'scandalous' expense of protecting the working rights of, er Londoners. She is sure that he is also appalled by the thought of tax payers' money being wasted on, oh, dear, I don't know,say the taxi fares of lazy assembly members who think they are too precious to get on the tube or -heaven forfend - a bus.
But Mrs Angry wonders if there is more to this outurst by our Brian than meets the eye. Perhaps it is the term 'activist' which so upsets him?
How would you define 'activity'? The state of being active ... energetic action or movement ... hmm. As we can see from the photo above of one particular self defining Tory activist, this form of furtive, secretive political agitation can be hard to sustain: especially after a long lunch, eh, Brian?