Monday, March 05, 2012

Building worker expelled for swearing. And no, that isn't a joke.

JUSTICE for Shrewsbury Pickets rally, Terry Renshaw on left, Ricky Tomlinson speaking. INJUSTICE for Mick Dooley? ( below)

Builder thrown out of union for swearing

NO THAT ISN'T A JOKE. On a day when the inquest opened into the Battersea crane collapse in which two men were killed, and just days after the building industry blacklist made the national press, with many construction workers still celebrating the way electricians beat back big contractors like Balfour Beatty, the headline about the brickie whose language apparently upset sensitive ears in UCATT appeared above a serious report by Grant Prior in the Construction Enquirer.

Serious it is.

The man expelled is Mick Dooley, who was a challenger for the union leadership in 2009, and has been a familiar figure and speaker in many campaigns, including the Construction Safety Campaign (which supported local people demanding action over the Battersea crane accident) and the recent electricians' actions. I heard Mick speak very movingly, recalling his father's death on Glasgow docks, at a Workers Memorial Day meeting outside the Deprtment of Work and Pensions last year. Later I was pleased to meet him at an asbestos day conference he organised at St.Barts hospital.

Mick has been in trouble with the UCATT leadership before, but what makes the latest move particularly sad is that it followed a complaint made by Ucatt member Terry Renshaw, who was one of the original Shrewsbury 24 pickets convicted after the 1972 national building strike.

Brother Renshaw went on to become Mayor of Flint, in north Wales, but in recent years he has joined forces with a more famous jailed picket, the actor and comic Ricky Tomlinson, calling for a judicial review of the Shrewsbury convictions, and access to relevant documents some of which are still being witheld on supposed grounds of national "security".

Renshaw has spoken at rallies in Shrewsbury and meetings in the House of Commons in support of the pickets campaign.

His complaint against Mick Dooley apparently arose from a video he saw on YouTube of Bro.Dooley addressing a rally of electricians during their recent protests against the BESNA pay deal. It seems Mick said something critical of the UCATT leadership for not being involved along with Unite on this issue. Renshaw complained that Bro. Dooley swore while talking to the crowd with a megaphone. "In the video he (Dooley) is standing in front of a banner which has the Shrewsbury pickets on it, including my face.”. He claims Dooley’s action could “jeopardise” the pickets chances of getting a Court of Appeal hearing after 40 years.,,

As the Enquirer reporter notes: "The highest profile member of the Shrewsbury 24 is actor Ricky Tomlinson who’s catchphrase is “My Arse”.

Which might be an appropriate comment on the complaint, and the union's action on it, if it was not too sad to see people who should be fighting on the same side being played against each other in this way.

Mick Dooley's expulsion, the first in forty years of UCATT history, is for life. That is a draconian punishment of a dedicated union activist, just for a few careless remarks made in the heat of the moment, during a demonstration that was attacked by police.

The Shrewsbury banner was there, and UCATT members who do not wait for official leadership to show support for the electricians, because they have had their own negative experiences with that leadership over the years, not least on the Shrewsbury pickets issue and the Construction Safety Campaign.

Mick Dooley was employed by UCATT as a full-time official for 12 years, but then dismissed. An employment tribunal found his dismissal had been unfair, but just like the blacklisting employers whom building workers are fighting against, UCATT refused to re-employ him.

Dooley challenged the legality of the results of the General Secretary election held in 2009 in which he was a candidate. The incumbent General Secretary Alan Ritchie was removed from office when the election was found to be illegal in March 2011. A new election was called, in which Mick was intending to stand again, however he was banned from being a candidate because the union dismissed him for dishonesty. His dismissal was found to be unfair. Ritchie was also banned from standing and later resigned from the union following an investigation into his expenses and union credit card claims.

Supporters of Ritchie - who reportedly included Terry Renshaw - switched their support to the new General Secretary Steve Murphy, who was present when the union expelled Dooley. Mick Dooley claims that banning him and Ritchie was illegal and he is seeking to over turn this new election. He has claimed that union members are being cost for fictitious membership which sustains too many full-time officials.

Dooley is claiming that the union membership may be fictitious and is costing the union members large amounts of money and that the union’s true membership would not need so many senior officials to administer. Dooley also wants to investigate the executive member’s expenses and contribution income and is concerned as to why the Executive members did not ensure the members funds were being spend correctly.

Dooley said “ Steve Murphy said he wanted a fresh start and one of his first tasks was to expel his rival, this was of course after his old friend Alan Ritchie walked away unscathed from being accused of trousering £150,000 of members money. I will of course appeal this latest decision and UCATT troubles will continue to drag on causing more embarrassment and wasted costs to union members”.

Whatever the true state of affairs within UCATT, many trade unionists who rallied with enthusiasm to support the Shrewsbury pickets campaign in recent years have been troubled by a feeling that the campaign has lost momentum lately. Some people have reportedly tried to undermine the late Des Warren's account, now he's no longer around to reply. There was no demonstration in Shrewsbury last year and it does not appear one has been called for this year (though I now hear there are plans for a national meeting in the Bull and Stirrup, Chester, where the original pickets met to organise, 40 years ago).

At a time when the activists are keen as ever, and the campaigns and struggles of different generations have tended to converge, it would be tragic if rumours and whispers, and wind-ups from somewhere behind the scenes, were allowed to create conditions for the class enemy to divide and rule.

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At 2:52 PM, Blogger george murray said...

I am one of the jailed Shrewsbury pickets. I was dismayed to read that Terry Renshaw is using the Shrewsbury issue, to smear Mick Dooley. I think its a case of self indulgence.

Arthur Murray3850


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