The Times – Undercover at the DVLA

My old friend Bob Robinson brought my attention to this particular piece of undercover journalism:-

www.thetimes.co.uk/podcasts/stories-of-our-times *

Now those who know me well will recall that I was a trade union officer within PCS but not, I might add, in this particular government department. However, what struck me was that in the years prior to my retirement (4 years ago now) I was hearing about the strained industrial relations at DVLA. On that basis, my guess is that some of the underlying issues pre-date Covid 19 and in many ways, if industrial relations are poor things will only get worse until good relations are established.

Is PCS at least partly to blame for this unfortunate situation as I think the podcast is questioning? In my experience poor industrial relations nearly always come about because of poor management and a failure to reasonably consult with the elected union representatives of a workforce. I saw some ups and downs in the government department I worked within and ups were created by good senior managers and downs by bad senior managers. The tone is set at the top of the management tree and if it’s an inclusive tone based on wanting to consult a workforce and take them along a journey of change then the chances are things will go reasonably well. Set a dictatorial tone and the opposite will happen.

Many senior managers I worked/negotiated with consulted me about changes and potentially difficult matters at a very early stage and I encouraged them to do so. They did it because they knew I’d give them considered answers and issues that may create difficulties could then be headed off at the pass so to speak. Of course, if the difficulties came from a governmental edict then senior managers were sometimes as challenged as much the union would be.

* Scroll through the list of podcasts to find ‘Undercover at the DVLA’

Covid-Safe Workplaces?

I was a Branch Secretary for PCS trade union for 22 years and held other lay posts within that union and indeed its predecessor unions (IRSF & PTC) throughout my working life in the civil service. So it’s probably no surprise then that my now-retired eye was caught by the article below on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56647149

I’ve been troubled throughout this wretched pandemic about how safe UK workplaces really are and the telling thing for me has been that I’m yet to hear of any employers being prosecuted for unsafe C19 conditions. Trade unions, of course, will always be (or at least should always be) on the front foot should their members have concerns about unsafe workplaces.

Here’s what the Health & Safety Executive say about how they get involved with workplace Covid 19 concerns:-

www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/regulating-health-and-safety/index.htm

I’d heard about the Swansea situation a while back and it seems like my former trade union and indeed its members in that agency of government have decided enough is enough. Clearly, even if all guidelines are being followed by DVLA (and I’ve no reason to think they are not) something is far from right with such large numbers of staff falling victim to C19.

But just think for a moment about all those non-unionised workplaces across the UK and how safe the staff feel who work in them, over C19 or indeed other matters, if there’s no union to take their employer to task.

We generally have safe working conditions in the UK because of the efforts of trade unionists over many generations. It’s best to join a union in my view; indeed when I first started work in the civil service it was and had been government policy for a long time to encourage all civil servants to join their appropriate trade union. That was good advice to me.

Bootle job losses

Bootle Crest. This version is fixed to the wall of the Council Chamber in Bootle Town Hall.

I spent my whole working life in Bootle as a civil servant, or more precisely as a PCS trade union officer looking after the interests of civil servants, so to see significant job losses in the town in both the public and private sectors troubles me.

It’s a subject I’ve blogged about previously on the back of the announcement of the loss of civil service jobs in Bootle. Here’s a link back to my most relevant posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/11/05/bootle-yet-more-civil-service-jobs-to-be-withdrawn/

And now things on the Santander front look more than a little gloomy too as the long-promised redevelopment of the former GIRO building in Netherton has been cancelled. The Liverpool Echo has an article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/huge-new-75m-santander-bootle-20252021

As I’ve said time and time again, public sector and in particular civil service jobs were brought into Bootle in the 1960s and 1970s to boost job opportunities in a town that was struggling with the demise of the docks and associated industries. To now remove those civil service jobs elsewhere (in HMRC’s case into central Liverpool) makes no sense to me at all. Those jobs and those at Santander will have had a positive effect on the local economy, indeed I’ve often thought that without the thousands of civil servants in Bootle’s mini-Whitehall the Strand Shopping Centre would have encountered serious trading problems many years ago.

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

Removing public sector jobs from Bootle can only make regenerating the town a much bigger job and the investment in jobs that would have flowed from the Santander project makes that tough job even tougher.

As an aside, I also wonder how big an influence the Liverpool City Region is on the sucking of jobs into central Liverpool. My fear is that Liverpool’s gains are at the expense of its surrounding towns…….

My thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Sefton Council’s Stress Reliever/Stress Ball – A nerd’s way of coping:-)

The other day I uncovered a stress ball that I had long forgotten about and had it not had ‘Sefton Travel Team’ stamped on it I would have struggled to know where it had come from.

I’m guessing that it came from my time as a Sefton Councillor, or even as Council Leader. It was probably given to me as I’m a train nut and maybe by someone who thought I was exhibiting stress at the time! Yes, it’s in the shape of a metro/transit type carriage of a generic type:-

But being a train nut I was tempted, having found it, to see if I could work out which real metro/transit train it compared to. You have to understand my level of nerdiness here of course! My conclusion? A Chicago ‘L’ train 2600-series unless anyone can be more nerdy than me and suggest an alternative. Now there’s a challenge which only a train nut would be tempted to take up……..

In the tough times we are presently facing a stress ball or two may come in handy and I actually now have 4! Here are the other 3:-`

A CWU trade union post box styled stress ball – part of their ‘keep the post public’ campaign

The trade union I worked for in a lay officer capacity for over 30 years

Well I had to have a cricket stress ball. From the 2008 Ashes Series. These were sold by M&S.

Oh and what do you think gets me stressed out? The usually poor performances of Mansfield Town FC & Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club

Bootle – Yet more Civil Service jobs to be withdrawn!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/closure-bootles-acas-office-see-12122910

acas

On the back of HMRC giving notice to quit to Bootle and Netherton ACAS has seemingly now joined the abandon Bootle movement of Civil Service jobs out of a Town that so obviously needs them. My last posting about the HMRC job losses is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/07/bootle-back-to-those-huge-civil-service-job-losses-in-the-borough-of-sefton/

The HMRC jobs some 2,500+ are going into Liverpool whilst the much smaller number of ACAS jobs are moving to economically overheated Manchester!

What on earth was the point of putting Civil Service jobs into Bootle in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s simply to withdraw them all now? Does no one in Government give a fig for the more deprived and economically struggling communities in the north of England?

Is this all part of the Norther Poorhouse policy to further impoverish the towns and smaller communities of the north by pushing all the jobs and investment into the major northern cities? What good can come from such a policy?

One of my major concerns about about the development of City Regions is that exactly this sort of thing will continue to happen. What’s the point of Liverpool being successful, for example, if its surrounding Boroughs are asset stripped to achieve that. I despair I really do.

Shaw – Playhouse 2 – Snake Davis – Another grand night out

I have posted previously about Playhouse 2, a small but perfectly formed theatre in Shaw between Oldham and Rochdale. It’s just off the M62 and takes about and hour to get there from our Lydiate home.

We have taken to going there quite often to see plays and last night Keith Page and I went to see a performance of the Snake Davis Band during their ‘Classic Sax Solos’ tour. He has a new album out of that very name and I was pleased to pick up an autographed copy of it.

Here’s a You Tube video of Snake:-
www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8mb-KJj_Qo

Snake was the saxophonist of M People and he is probably one of the greatest exponents of the saxophone in the UK. He plays a wide variety of music but mainly it is soul, pop and jazz related. Last night’s performance was tremendous. Here are a few shots of it:-

Snake Davis at playhouse 2

The Snake Davis Band 2

Snake Davis and bass player Sinon Goulding

Click on the photos to enlarge them

And not only did we have a great night out (they serve real ale at the bar!) but I met my old friend Pete Grubb who I used to work with in my trade union officer days for PCS. Pete lives close to Playhouse 2 and he is in effect their official photographer as the walls of the bar area are covered in shots he has taken of live performances at this gem of a theatre.

The first photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

www.playhouse2.org
t – @Playhouse2Shaw
f – P2Shaw