A huge multi-billion pound organisation announces millions of pounds worth of cuts and a restructuring package. The cutbacks are denounced by workers amid claims that moral is at an all time low.
A request from the Government for the management team in charge of the organisation to appear in front of a Government committee is met with a refusal. It emerges that the government has no authority over this organisation which has huge influence throughout Scotland.
Claims of bullying and harassment emerge and the union describes the working environment within the organisation as the worst it has ever been with an apparent breakdown in trust between workers and management.
An employee is targeted by management and the Scottish branch of one of the UK’s most high profile unions ballots workers on strike action, insisting it will go ahead with or without the support of union members in the rest of the UK.
As negotiations take place, the threat of a strike is called off at the last minute.
This wasn’t Grangemouth and it wasn’t the 1970s either. This was weeks ago and the organisation was BBC Scotland – the union was the National Union of Journalists.
The parallels with Grangemouth are stark, but whereas Unite is facing one of the most vitriolic media campaigns ever launched against a trade union, the NUJ received pats on the back for saving the job of the individual in question.
The Unite story has now resulted in Stevie Deans losing his job, a job he held for twenty five years. Hounded first by the Labour party after he committed the heinous crime of trying to persuade people to join Labour, it now looks like moves are afoot to remove him from his role as head of the Falkirk West Constituency Labour Party.
One wonders if Deans’ replacement will be barred from trying to recruit new members to Labour.
Unite may have found themselves outgunned by Ineos in the end, but the union did what it had to do when an employee was faced with disciplinary action over what the union argued was a recognised and accepted part of his job. Had Unite left Deans high and dry, what message would it have sent to other employers intent on eroding workers’ rights and union influence?
Stevie Deans though has lost his job and found himself attacked by no less a figure than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Labelling the union official “rogue” David Cameron has accused this man of being responsible for the near collapse of the Grangemouth plant – a ridiculous claim.
In the background of course lies the mess that is Falkirk and the man whose loss of control and violent assault of several people in a House of Commons bar, was the catalyst for this near disastrous chain of events. Former Labour MP Eric Joyce.
Joyce’s crime, for which he was convicted, is several times more serious than anything levelled at Deans. Indeed an internal Labour investigation found Deans innocent of vote rigging in Falkirk and, after having suspended the loyal party member for the duration of the investigation, he was re-instated.
It’s bizarre and ironic that Joyce faced nothing like the pressure Deans has had to deal with following his indiscretions which it should be remembered also included having an affair with a teenage schoolgirl who worked as a volunteer for the then Labour MP.
In another twist it looks like Deans fate may have been sealed by the leaking of emails by his former employer. The emails are being portrayed as the ‘smoking gun’ that proves Deans broke company rules.
This has resulted in calls for Labour to-re-open the investigation into Falkirk. Calls from no less a figure than former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw. On Sunday Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, asked whether Ed Miliband should re-open the Falkirk investigation into Deans, appeared to agree with Straw.
However, despite this clear statement from Lamont, BBC Scotland is now curiously reporting that the Scottish Labour leader has yet to say anything on calls to re-open the Falkirk investigation.
Quite why BBC Scotland is misreporting Lamont’s stance is unclear but a clue may be found in the silence from Ed Miliband who has yet to make a definitive statement on Deans, post emails.
Scottish Labour MSPs don’t speak on this issue without the approval of London. Indeed, Lamont’s team has yet to see the full report on Labour’s internal inquiry into the Scottish constituency – despite her being touted as the leader in Scotland.
Is it possible that Labour were preparing to re-open the investigation, something Lamont was aware of, until Deans caught everyone off guard by resigning? Who knows, but we have a Scottish leader who has signalled her belief that the investigation be re-opened and a UK leader who refuses to commit either way – something isn’t right.
On Sunday I suggested Deans’ days at Grangemouth were numbered and that Labour would quickly resurrect the Falkirk investigation into the union official in order to put the chaos of the Falkirk selection to bed.
However Deans caught everyone off guard with his resignation the very next day – thus denying Ineos the opportunity to sack him at the scheduled Tuesday hearing and denying the newspapers their ‘Deans Sacked’ headline.
Miliband is now prevaricating on the Falkirk issue. Maybe he doesn’t want to appear to be hitting a ‘decent’ union man when that man is down. A sacked man loses some credibility, but someone resigning on a matter of principle in order to “retain his dignity” is a different matter.
If and when the local Labour group remove Deans as the head of the Falkirk West Constituency Labour Party then Miliband may see that as the moment to resurrect the investigation.
But that brings with it some interesting questions. If Deans did try to recruit new members into the Labour party then what rules did he break by doing so? Will Labour party members who are also members of a union be barred from trying to recruit new members? If Unite did indeed target this constituency to coincide with a candidate selection process then how many other constituencies has such an attempt at influencing this process occurred in?
Also, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont is also a member of unite and owes her role as leader to the union’s vote. Lamont won the leadership thanks to union support in the electoral college, despite her rival, Ken Macintosh, winning support from the party’s ordinary members.
What, if any, recruiting was carried out by Unite in the days and weeks prior to the Scottish Labour party leadership contest?
The union has previously claimed it exerts significant influence over Ms Lamont. In July this year, Unite boasted that it was behind a key Scottish Labour devolution policy. Unite political director Steve Hart said the Johann Lamont’s high-profile Devolution Commission on giving Holyrood more powers had been set up “at our behest”.
More importantly, is it just Unite that has sought to use Labour’s open door rule in order to actively recruit party members during critical periods before candidate selection or are there other organisations and groups who have managed to install their own ‘puppet’ MP?
Perhaps, just perhaps, the reason that Labour dropped the initial investigation into Deans, clearing the official in the process, was because he broke no Labour party rules.
Despite this, sooner or later Miliband will have to re-open the investigation and the Falkirk boil will have to be lanced. Deans has become a political football who Miliband requires to be kicked as far away from the party as possible.
Both Unite and Stevie Deans will most likely be sacrificed in the name of political expediency, not to mention sweet revenge on McLuskey for daring to challenge Miliband during the summer when the Falkirk story broke