I managed to pack quite a lot in today, despite it being my birthday boxing day I didn’t use it as an excuse to slack about doing nothing.
I popped down the workshop for an hour or two continuing the work on my soon to be patented wood sanding machine. It is taking shape nicely, the mounting blocks for the grinder are now fixed in place and all that is required is the top plate and combs to be made. I won’t be in the workshop tomorrow as we are off to the NEC and Friday is now fully booked up but with any luck field trials will be complete and bits of pallet will take on a silky smooth appearance within the next week.
We had a site meeting down at Park Lime Pits to discuss the ongoing antisocial behaviour problems. The signage erected (sorry about the pun) by the Police have been ripped down, presumably by perverts offended by our stance against them and whilst we were there the car park became very busy with single men in cars. We have identified a plan of action, starting with clearing the scrub that provides cover for their seedy acts and more signage will go up and it will become clear that this behaviour will not be tolerated by decent people who want to enjoy this beauty spot for the right reasons.
To complete the agenda, I popped over to Birmingham to attend a meeting with Manuel Cortes, the General Secretary of TSSA my union. I hadn’t met him before, indeed I had little time for TSSA as a union having spent the best part of 30 years in ASLEF and seeing them as the union of the enemy. Even when I became “management” I stayed with ASLEF, quite probably the only manager on their books. It was only when I joined Network Rail that I moved to TSSA. Of late and this is probably of no surprise, I have become extremely unhappy with the way the country is being run on my behalf. At the same time, the mainstream alternatives are equally unconvincing. When I heard the General Secretary was holding a meeting at work, it seemed an ideal opportunity to hear his thoughts on the industry, politics and the future of trade unions. Mr Cortes only took the helm in January and I had noticed a rise in the profile of the union in the last few months.
In a time when workers rights are regressing and the pressures of earning a crust are increasing, I would have expected the membership of trade unions to rise and yet they continue to fall, through the shrinking industry and either apathy or the indoctrination of mistrust brought about by the power battles and winters of discontent. The marginalisation of trade unions has been an agenda item of a succession of governments dating back forty years. As politics moved right, the left became increasingly isolated to the point where many feel the only worth of being in a trade union is when you are in the shit and need representation.
Manuel Cortes wasn’t what I expected. I have known many, well quite a few, union bosses and he is nothing like any of them. His ideas were impressive and very forward thinking. He recognises where the battles need to be fought and where they would be futile. He realises that tough decisions need to be made and as they need to be made they might as well be made now. The sad thing was, he was talking to a room of six people and I was the only one who wasn’t active in the union. This was a real shame and an indication how much work needs doing. We spoke at length on the issue of HS2 and whilst we disagreed on the viability and the need for a new white elephant it was good to discuss it. Usually when challenged on an emotive topic, the “I know and you don’t” attitude is trotted out, this was not the case with Mr Cortes.
I left the meeting with a different and more positive view of my union and I genuinely didn’t expect for that to happen. At this rate they might even get me going back to meetings although I am not sure they will be happy about that.