A Thursday rant….

Just been knocked back for another job for another trade union…. I was told it was “close” but it seems I am too political for this kind of job and it wasn’t due to the other candidates having more “experience” etc just that I am too gobby. Not sure whether I should laugh or cry. Too political for a trade union! It seems so. I wouldn’t mind if I talked about the barricades, Leninism and Molotov cocktails. Indeed that would be a tad over the top. But…alas… it seems that they want nice compliant political(ish) people, who happily provide the administration but ask NO questions or think about the world. I saw some of the candidates for the job, they were under 25.

In the past couple of years I have worked on both sides of the union member and worker. And administrators are the interface between member and union. Over the years, I have met some damn good committed ones and some damn bad not committed ones, who can type a letter, write minutes but never actually think too much about union functions etc. social justice or fighting oppression. I have encountered administrators who think there are “too many Eastern Europeans” in this country, don’t know what “LGBT” means, be homophobic and think it’s OK to vote BNP. Yes, I have come across admin staff like that who keep their jobs. Yet when I did argue and speak out I was told to “Shut-up and don’t make a fuss”… Admin staff, in many unions, are just expected to know the functions of a secretarial nature but not to have any political understanding nor is there (in my experience) education on offer.
So, please, understand why I am miffed, pissed off and angry that I am too “political” for an administrative role in a trade union. Instead compliance and keeping ya head down is the order of the day. I am sure employers (that includes TUs) are picking people who are compliant esp. in this economic climate. I would therefore ask any TU member, does it bother you that you are getting apolitical staff who don’t care and don’t know about the fundamental and political issues that impact on trade unionism?
Again, sorry about this rant but I am angry and upset (OK, I admit I cried when they told me after I put phone down) and feel like I am unemployable due to my politics. Compliance is not me nor should it be any politico worth their salt.

I know there are millions of people in this situation but I just feel so powerless, unemployable and let down. Hope that makes sense?

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5 thoughts on “A Thursday rant….

  1. Makes complete sense. Sadly I am not in the least surprised by your experience; in my own (admittedly 20/30 years old but I doubt things have changed except for the worse) union bureaucracies exist by and large to serve their own ends. This is not to say that there are not genuine socialists and activists among full-time officials, but the culture in which you work is almost inevitably going to drag you right-wards. Having said this I do understand why so many people seek union jobs – indeed I lose count of the number of comrades from my time as a branch secretary (lay!) who went on to become officials and pop up on TV or something – I sometimes feel guilty about it – was my role just to produce a new layer of bureaucrats? :). But I think that while among those people there were a few who were careerists the vast majority were socialists who found the idea of ‘going back’ to their workplaces hard to bear. They wanted to be doing something they could believe in – non-alienated labour. The sad thing is that as an official you will nearly always(yes I know there are outstanding exceptions) end up as a part of the bureaucracy.

    • Thanks Nick :)

      There are genuine, good and committed activists in the trade union movement but as you rightly say…there’s a bureaucracy.

      “The sad thing is that as an official you will nearly always(yes I know there are outstanding exceptions) end up as a part of the bureaucracy.”

      Absolutely. It shouldn’t be but it is. I think I will go back to being an ordinary union member and give the bureaucracy a hard time ;)

  2. I know and understand exactly how you feel sister!….. I have had similar experiences in applying for Trade Union posts… basically, the bureaucracy is easily spooked and scared by people with an activist background. Much safer to employ inexperienced uncommitted individuals who won’t rock the boat. Meanwhile, people like us with decades of relevant organising skills and a deep understanding of the labour movement are excluded.

    • I am starting to realise that Mark :( Solidarity comrade!

      “Much safer to employ inexperienced uncommitted individuals who won’t rock the boat. Meanwhile, people like us with decades of relevant organising skills and a deep understanding of the labour movement are excluded.”

      Amen to that.

      It is irritating and annoying seeing inexperienced, compliant people and/or careerists who have enough politics, opportunism and nous to climb up the greasy bureaucratic pole… as they’re go-getters whose “face fits”….

  3. I know exactly how you feel …. I’ve applied for a few Union Jobs in recent years mostly not even getting interviews. When I have been interviewed you can sense that the bureaucracy is all too often wary of people with an activist and campaigning background. Rather than recognising that decades of labour movement involvement and experience is a huge resource – the reaction instead seems to be fear. Fear that people like us might rock the boat…. meanwhile all we want is to do a good job…. and end up excluded yet again. In truth when I was victimised by the DWP the support i ended up getting from my union the PCS was akin to that provided by the rope that supports the hanged man [or woman]!
    In March last year I worked really hard to held fill up UNISION funded coaches by promoting the March for the Alternative Demostration….. yet a month later UNISON Regional Officials colluded with Bromsgrove Labour Party people to start a disgusting campaign against me. They sent photos of me taken in the west end on March 26th were I supported the UK Uncut protests to the local press with comments directly implying I participated in violent attacks on the police and property…. describing me as an ‘anarchist thug’….. The local paper actually printed this – it was all clearly aimed at undermining my candidature in the local elections for the Green Party. Arrrrgh…. It’s bad enough being witchunted and blacklisted by the Tories but when the Unions and LP join in too…. you feel sick.

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