Tuesday, 21 March 2017

My fight with self harm, medication


Finding "me time" was something my counsellor kept asking me in the 30 plus sessions we had. I'd agree and promise myself to make time, just as I advise other activists to do in order they look after themselves. 

It's still a challenge finding time, it's hard  turning off, but now I know my limitations and the risks if I don't. 

The other week I woke up and experienced a strange feeling. It's hard to explain but I felt free, what was it that made feel this? I suddenly realised it had been a while since I had thoughts of self harm. I hadn't noticed, the nearest similar feeling is when you are grieving and suddenly you realise the pain is less and you feel guilty. I'm probably not explaining myself, but for a while it was liberating. 

Negative feelings and thoughts are not only depressing they drain energy and attack your ability to remain positive. It has been a struggle I've battled for many years but at least now I feel I'm more honest about myself. 

Today I was checking some emails and it was a year ago I when had my mental health breakdown. 

A year of my life, what a lot has happened. 

Since I first went public about my mental health I've spoken to so many people who have disclosed their own personal demons. We talk compare notes, discuss treatments such as counselling and medication. The more I talk to others the more I'm convinced the well know phrase "1 in 4 " people experience mental health problems is probably more like "2 in 4".  

Stigma, is still a big concern, whilst I was aware of it for others it wasn't until I went public that I experienced some pretty nasty and prejudicial comments from people I'd not expect. But that is life, my friends and comrades in DPAC expose on a daily basis the level of hate crime and institutional discrimination in the workplace and our communities. 

Challenging prejudice is  part of my daily life and it looks like it's getting worse. Austerity is still being promoted. It's brutality will continue to unleashed unless we all manage to sort ourselves out. 

I do have hope and belief that with hard work and an end to sectarianism grassroots can mobilise a sustainable opposition to Austerity. 

My next personal challenge is medication. I want to come off it, I hate taking the stuff, but I know I'll have to prepare a plan. This is a big deal for me, so I want to get it right. 

To my friends and comrades don't worry about me. I keeping busy, learning each day how to cope and how to better deal with those powerful negative self harming thoughts when they do come in waves. 

Anyway enough of that,  it's depot Wednesday another early start. 

Wishing you all good mental health 

Solidarity 
John 



Friday, 10 March 2017

Scream 2 - No not the movie "Derby TAs"'


Earlier this week I wrote about my anger & frustration at hearing the personal stories of the Derby TAs at our AGM. 

Last night we had some more Derby TAs speak at Barnet Trades Council AGM. 

We heard another heartbreaking account of the brutal savagery of the 25% pay cut by Labour controlled Derby City Council. Like many others I have read about the Derby TAs on social media, watched some excellent film footage by Reel News, but nothing quite prepares you for when you meet and hear their harrowing stories. The pay cut is literally destroying their lives. The knock impact on their personal lives family and friends is devastating and cruel. 

I felt ashamed on Tuesday at our AGM and again last night at our Barnet Trades Council AGM. 

I'm in the Labour Party and the targeted cruelty is completely unacceptable. I have a little experience of negotiations, which can be difficult and at times intimidating but the all out confrontational bullying being adopted by the Leader of the Labour Party in Derby is bringing the reputation of the Labour Party into disrepute.

He should be removed immediately. 

So there we have it. 

Brutal austerity attacks on low paid female staff imposed not by a right wing Tory Council but a right wing Labour Council. 

Something has to be done and it is beholden to all Labour Party members to condemn Derby City Council by saying publicly "Not in our name".

We all need to discuss Derby TAs in our local Labour Party meetings, trade union meetings and send messages of support to Derby City UNISON and email the Leader of Derby City Council. 

In the meantime Derby need help. 

They need: 

1. Help to build a national profile in the media and to other grassroots workers. 

2. Financial help. 

3. National rally in Derby, if they call it, we need to turn up with "banners held high"

4. Labour Party members to put pressure on Derby City Council.

I've lost my voice so my screaming is not as loud as it could be but I am
ANGRY and so should all of us at this disgraceful attack. 

I've organised workers for over 30 years, we cannot let this brutal attack succeed, the future of trade unionism hangs in the balance. I believe we can win but we all have to get "stuck in"

Solidarity Derby TAs, hope to see some of you in Durham Rally on 25 March. 

John Burgess a very very angry Labour Party member and grassroots unison rep. 


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Derby Teaching Assistants- Why I'm furious & you should be to










I am so bloody angry I could scream in fact I am screaming.

Today we had our Barnet UNISON AGM and we had a delegation of Derby Teaching Assistants to speak about the devastating 25% cut imposed on 2,700 low paid school workers by Labour run Derby City Council.

The first speaker started off well but when she started to describe what the cut is doing to her and her families lives she was in tears.

She is losing £400 a month.

She is working 50 hours a week for less pay.

The Council has £186 million in reserves.

They were all sacked and re-engaged.

We all told her her she was brave and there was nothing wrong crying. Indeed many of us were in tears and some of us were seething with anger.

This is not a right wing Tory Council this is a Labour Council in a Labour heartland.

Does this heartbreaking story sound familiar?

It should because in another Labour heartland Labour run Durham County Council are doing the same thing!

25% pay cut.

Jeremy has tried to speak to both Labour Leaders, but they persist in this inhumane cruel decision that is destroying lives of low paid female workers.

This is not the vision of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn, it is the politics of the right wing of Labour. If you don't believe me ask the Former Care UK 90 Day  Strikers about the lack of support from Labour MPs for their campaign.

The Labour Party is the biggest political party in Western Europe yet still grassroots are not being heard.

I fear that if grassroots members and potential Labour voters continue to suffer under Labour controlled Councils then it will become impossible to win a general election.

But back to the Derby TAs.

They are now on indefinite strike action. They need donations and messages of support. Please seek them out and do what you can.

We can not let such a devastating attack on workers go without a fight.

We had a bucket donation and have sent several donations.

I look forward to seeing them again.

Our branch gave them a standing ovation.

Solidarity to Derby TAs

Sunday, 19 February 2017

#27FEB - SUPPORT GRASSROOTS BROMLEY LIBRARIES CAMPAIGN



The campaign to stop the privatisation of Bromley Libraries is now focussing on Carillion who are bidding to run the Library Service. 

This follows the victory that stopped the Council handing libraries over to volunteers and replacing professional, paid, public service workers jobs.

Carillion is a company found guilty of blacklisting workers, it has been implicated in the appalling treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, was fined over the death of a rail worker and has been criticised for poor hygiene standards where it has NHS contracts.

The Bromley campaign has organised a leafletting outside the companies offices off Regent Street.

We are asking for assistance with handing out leaflets in what will be the first of a series of regular actions aimed at the company.

Carillion Leaflet Session – 27th February, 10 am to 12 noon at 25 Maddox St, London, W1S 2QN

For further information about either campaign please contact me at onay.kasab@unitetheunion.org


Monday, 13 February 2017

Hate Crime - Why I reported it to the Police


Yesterday, I registered a hate crime directed at me.

I registered the hate crime because on Thursday 9 February, 2017 I received an unsolicited email from someone I do not know and who claimed to be supporting me.

It is a sickening email. I have shared it with some close friends.

Because of the serious nature of the allegations I have responded back to the sender asking for their contact details so that I can speak with them. In my opinion if the allegations were true there would be serious ramifications for the trade union movement.

Any reasonable person after receiving such a shocking email and having been unable to elicit a response from the sender could only come to one conclusion; that the sender was attempting to bully and intimidate me into silence.

Firstly, I want to reassure my friends that I am ok. If I had received this email a year ago I am not sure how I would have responded and it could have been very serious.

But I have been back at work for over five months. Life is never straightforward in Barnet, so I am having to operate with all the energy I have to keep my focus which is always to my members and the community we serve.

I sought the opinions of some close friends and the consensus was that the purpose of the email was to try and destabilise me, silence me and undermine my mental health so that I do not trust my comrades.

However, the sender and or the others behind this attack fail to recognise that I belong to a tight community and I also have friends outside of Barnet. I am also an organiser. It is in my blood and when someone picks on someone I can’t look away. I am not a spectator, I have to offer my help and dealing with bullies has for me been a fight that never goes away, no matter what it means to me personally.

Well, I thought about what I should do.

“Ignore it”, was a common response.

But, what about the others the sender also bullies, how can I just let this go?

I quickly decided I can’t and so I decided the first step was to register it as a hate crime with the police.

I have provided the police with the email and the email address.

I have tried to find the identity by looking up the IP address which led me to an address in California, it is an @icloud.com email address.

However, if you know someone who knows how to trace an email please let me know.

Here is an extract from the email:

“Attended the left mtg last night - debate about gen sec election where your so called comrades tore you apart
Comments like he's a fucking liability,he s a total nut job and he's lost the fucking plot with no one challenging them.they laughed at all your ranting a and postings ..and spoke about men in white coats appalling stuff
They said you were the worst candidate ever fielded and you are a spineless chicken especially writing grovelling apologies all the time.using words like nut case,loony etc
I have never heard such nasty language about a comrade esp their mental state.”

I don’t believe such a meeting took place. As I said earlier this was an attempt to try and bully someone who is known to have had a serious mental health breakdown. 

Now it is true that I made a decision to go public about my own battle with my mental health, which I didn’t take lightly but I felt that it was one thing to tell others to share their experiences and another to keep mine to myself. It was scary decision, but I have had nothing but positive feedback from hundreds of people, some I know, our members and others who have just read some of my blog posts about my mental health issues.

This is not the first time I have been subject to threats and probably won’t be my last. I also had threatening emails and smears whilst I stood as a candidate in the UNISON General Secretary elections.

I have been the target of two hate crimes which resulted in damage to my car, one of the attacks took place less than 5 metres from my front door.

Back then I took a decision to go public, to say I would not be intimidated or bullied into silence.

Both the local press, my employer and other trade unionists rallied round by signing a message of solidarity. John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn along with a number of high profile trade union leaders added their names see link here:

Defend our UNISON rep – Letter to Editor

Local press covered it here:
'We won't let the bullies intimidate us' - union rep in hate attack

 “Union condemns hate crime as rep's car is vandalised”

 “F*cking union faggot” – UNISON activist targeted in hate crime

My message to the sender.

I will not be silenced I will not be bullied, I will not allow you to push me into the shadows.
I will not be backing down from standing up for what I believe in.

Whatever you thought you would achieve by sending that email has back-fired.

This matter is not at an end, it is only just beginning.





Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Solidarity to Somerset County Council social care workers

Outsourced Your Choice Barnet & Care UK strikers with Russel Branch & Brian May 
Grassroots trade union member and campaigners I have just heard the shocking news that Dimensions a Social Enterprise plans wage cuts, redundancies, and service closures as a result of winning a contract from Somerset County Council to deliver social care services.

I strongly recommend reading a report written by Dexter Whitfield (commissioned by Unite the union) see here  


It presents a shocking picture of a service for some our most vulnerable members of our communities being decimated.

The speed in which they want to impose these brutal measures to loyal hard working council workers is astonishing.

Sadly this is yet another example of brutal austerity policies targeting the low paid and those in need of services.

I look forward to the announcement of a robust industrial response to this outrageous attack on union members in order we can send solidarity from across the grassroots movement to both Somerset County Council and Dimensions that they will not get away with this sort of attack without a fight.

Solidarity to all the Trade Unions in Somerset County Council, please let us all know what you need from the grassroots trade union community.

P.S. Your Choice Barnet were outsourced social care staff who took strike action as a result of 33% cut in staff and a 9.5% pay cut. Care UK care workers were outsourced and took part in a 90 days of strike action in response to cuts of up to 25%. Barnet and Care UK took strike action together and met up in Parliament with John McDonnell to highlight the attacks of low paid care workers. 



A brief roundup of three days at the #Unisongate Trials so far








Bio
David Hencke is a freelance lobby journalist working in Parliament for Tribune, a bimonthly magazine. Previously he was Westminster Correspondent for the Guardian newspaper between1986 and 2009 and a senior reporter and head of Exaro, an investigative news agency, from 2011 to 2016.

He is a winner of six national press awards and has broken a number of Parliamentary and Whitehall scandals, including   investigating former ministers, Peter Mandelson over his secret home loan deal and Neil Hamilton over the "cash for questions" scandal. He also exposed tax avoidance among senior civil servants which led to a Whitehall review.

He also sits as a journalist on an independent panel, the Gosport War Memorial Hospital Panel, which is examining historic unexplained deaths among elderly patients.

The following extracts have all been taken from posts written by journalist David Hencke in 2016 and later in 2017.



On December 15, 2016 David Hencke posted “Unison: Union Democracy on Trial”

“One complaint says:”The Scrutineer/ Electoral Reform Society did not independently investigate and respond to the complaints that were made to it in relation to the General Secretary 2015 Election in accordance with the terms of reference of the election timetable and procedure. Specifically with reference to the complaints arising from the disclosure of the audio tape of the meeting held on 21 October in the UNISON Greater London Regional Office.”

It will also test the interpretations by both the union and the complainants about exactly what was said to whom and where and whether this did effect the election.

And it contains allegations that a senior official – “Cliff Williams, Assistant General Secretary,_ encouraged paid officials across the Union to liaise with employers where the branch might be unsympathetic towards Dave Prentis, to work towards distributing literature in support of Dave Prentis.”

And there are allegations against Liz Snape ( who is the wife of Dave Prentis) and a union assistant general secretary, encouraged branches to nominate her husband.”


On December 20,  2016 David Hencke posted: Unison election: Now Electoral Reform Services on trial

“Yesterday that image slipped when  deputy chief executive Simon Hearn was cross questioned about his role in supervising the  2015 election of   general secretary Dave Prentis to Britain’s biggest public sector union, Unison. The union paid ERS almost £1m of members money to safeguard fair play.”

 “Why had he only investigated nine branches to check whether there had been breaches of the rules when the union had 953? He said he had investigated more but no longer had the information.”

 “Why hadn’t he followed up the breaches in the Greater London area – where he admitted the union tape had revealed there was a breach of the rules at a meeting to discuss how to promote Dave Prentis to see of there was ” systematic malpractice” elsewhere ? He said he hadn’t had enough complaints to do this.”

 “Probably the most damning point was following the inquiry by  Unison official Roger McKenzie into  the breach of union rules at the Greater London meeting which led to the suspension – now lifted – of one official, Linda Perks, when he had been told that more officials were involved.”

Read the article in full here http://bit.ly/2ifGlwn

On December 21, 2016 David Hencke posted: Unison: A libel threat, a database and a “cut and paste” email – all to help Dave Prentis win?

“Cliff Williams, Assistant General Secretary of Unison, told the hearing he had flexible working arrangements and ‘Chinese walls’ between his two roles – running the campaign and being an official. Lawyers for the complainants said this was an illusion.

He was asked why Linda Perks (the regional official suspended after a tape was leaked revealing a meeting of officials had been held in London to discuss Dave Prentis’s campaign) wasn’t sacked.

It was put to him:”the regional secretary is asking her staff to lie about where they got the leaflets from. There seems to be an instruction to her staff to tell an outright lie.’

 William replied: ‘It looks like that.’

‘Is that something that would usually be treated as gross misconduct and summarily dismissable’

During cross questioning Williams had to concede that union resources were used for the Dave campaign but said this was ‘in error’.

 Asked about a personal email he sent that had a Unison footer on it that looked like a ‘copy paste job’, he said ‘I don’t know how to copy paste’ – which got a guffaw from the public gallery.

“Cliff Williams held a campaign meeting in Glasgow Hotel paid for by Unison – he tried to argue in court that this did not count as a breach of rules because it was before election campaigning had started and Dave Prentis wasn’t yet officially a candidate.

At an earlier stage it was revealed that Jon Rogers, another complainant wrote a letter of complaint about the mis-use of Unison resources to Dave Prentis. Lawyers for Prentis then threatened to sue Rogers if he went public.

Williams was asked: “Were you aware that Mr Prentis issued proceedings against Mr Rogers for libel?”

 Williams: “I saw the two issues as being separate issues.”

 Yunus Bakhsh: “‘I’m going to do you for libel if you repeat the allegations contained in your complaint’ – a threat of libel and a demand for an apology”

-there’s an imbalance of power, Rogers is “a local government worker, (with) a threat of libel from someone in a pedestal position significantly wealthier than him.”

“Did you support the threat of libel?”

 Williams: “I didn’t express a view.”


On January 3 , 2017 David Hencke posted:

Unison: Former senior official says “anti democratic practices” used to elect Dave Prentis in three previous contests.

“This is a statement that has been submitted to the tribunal examining whether Unison broke the rules to ensure that Dave Prentis was re-elected  as general secretary over a year ago.

The statement was not challenged by Unison at the hearing where their lawyers could have cross examined the official, Mike Jackson, who supported Heather Wakefield in the last election. The inference of his claim is that the practice exposed in a leaked tape where officials – who should be neutral – at the Greater London Region meeting discussed how to back ” Team Dave”, the campaigning organisation for Prentis, had happened before.

STATEMENT BY MIKE JACKSON

FORMERLY UNISON REGIONAL ORGANISER GREATER LONDON REGION 1978 – 2004 AND UNISON DEPUTY HEAD OF HEALTH 2004 – 2011

“Although it was officially stated that full-time officers should play no role in supporting any candidate in this election, a meeting was called by members of the then Regional Management Team (RMT) of UNISON’s Greater London Region where I worked, for all Regional Organisers of which I was one.

The meeting was held at 5pm in the same building (Congress House) although not in a UNISON rented area. It was stated that attendance was voluntary but there was an expectation that all organising staff attend – and almost all did. It was made known that the meeting was to discuss organising to support Dave Prentis’s campaign.

At the meeting the then Deputy Regional Secretary advised us that we should maximise branch nominations for Dave Prentis. An amount of money was suggested that we should each donate to the campaign. We were advised to use non-unison email addresses although no restriction was placed on the use of union phones.

Regular meetings were then held convened by members of the RMT in which we were asked to report back firstly on progress on achieving nominations and later on getting out the vote for Dave Prentis. I personally was responsible for 13 branches at the time and I persuaded all to nominate Dave Prentis. I was told that Dave Prentis was very pleased with my efforts by an RMT member.

During the election itself, we were asked to distribute Dave Prentis’s election material to branches for which we had responsibility. If the branch officers were not ‘reliable’ we were asked to arrange distribution ourselves. This was done during normal working hours and personally distributed thousands of leaflets and placed posters on hospital notice boards.

In 2005, Dave Prentis stood again for election. By this time I had recently been promoted to a national position. I was made aware that a national steering group of full time officials had been set up to support Dave Prentis. My then manager attended this group. Although I did not attend she reported back to me on the organisation to get Dave Prentis re-elected. Again an amount of money was suggested as a donation to his campaign which I paid.

In 2010 Dave Prentis again stood for election. This time I was invited to attend a national steering group of full time officials to support Dave Prentis. The meetings were held at 5pm in the building of the National Union of Teachers directly opposite the then UNISON Head Office. The meetings were chaired by the Regional Secretary from UNISON’s Yorkshire and Humberside Region and attended by national officials, representatives of each UNISON Region (usually an RMT member) and Dave Prentis himself.

I had no doubt that the type of activity that I was involved in during 2000 in the Greater London Region was being replicated around the country as full time officials were being mobilised to deliver nominations and votes for Dave Prentis.

In 2015 I learned that Dave Prentis was standing again as General Secretary. I was also aware of the reasons for this, primarily that he could not gather enough support for his chosen successor – his wife Liz Snape, Assistant General Secretary.

I was not at all surprised to listen to the tape of the Greater London Regional Secretary speaking in support of Dave Prentis although surprised that it was in an ‘official’ meeting. I have no doubt that the anti-democratic practices I experienced in 2000, 2005 and 2010 continued in 2015.”

Read the full article here http://bit.ly/2ia9OJL

Day Four of the #Unisongate Trial takes place on Wednesday 22 February
Holiday Inn (Regent’s Park)
Carburton St
Fitzrovia
London
W1W 5EE

The link for google maps is below: