January 24, 2005

The family of labour

When the post came on Friday it included, rather to my surprise, the magazine that UNISON send to all their members. To my extreme surprise, actually, given that not only have I resigned from UNISON but I have been told that my resignation was not appropriate since according to them I was never even a member in the first place.

In fact, so important was it to them to show that I was not a member that they gave me an impossible ultimatum of about a couple of weeks to pay them two and a half years' worth of subs in one go, which I doubted they would have done had the member concerned not been in dispute with them. And indeed, this vital issue, which absolutely had to be cleared up almost instantly such was its importance, turns out to be urgent only insofar as it allowed them to avoid having to answer, at a public tribunal, for the failings of internal UNISON democracy. Not so important that they have to strike me off their records or anything. This inescapable matter of principle turns out to be one last piece of humbug to add to the large and dismal pile.

In the post a day or two before, came my copy of Private Eye, which I had the opportunity to read over the weekend. A story in the Rotten Boroughs column, headlined Grovelling Apology, caught my eye.

Aptly-named former Doncaster Unison official Frank Perks made several appearances in this column before stepping down in disgrace last year after being found guilty of harassing a black colleague. After he was mentioned in Eye 1020 as a drinking crony of former council leader Colin Wedd, Unison demanded that we apologise to Perks, "A hard-working...dedicated Unison officer". Alas, no apology was forthcoming.

In Eye 1033 we told how a Brighton landlady had sent a £500 bill after Perks and others had attempted to purloin a bottle of Bailey's from her bar, smashing a vase in the process, during the 2001 Unison conference.

Now, at long last, an apology has been delivered - by Frank Perks! It comes in response to a libel action against him begun by fellow Unison officer Doug Wright over the contents of an election address circulated by Perks when he stood against Wright for a union job in 2002. According to his statement, Perks did not mean to suggest that Wright had "threatened to set fire to his house"; nor that Wright had "stolen from Unison subscriptions by abusing the photocopier and printing the leaflets for his own purposes"; and Perks definitely did not believe that Wright had "lied to, threatened, bullied or intimidated other members of staff." As well as the grovelling apology, Perks has agreed to pay Wright's legal costs.

All is not lost for Perks, however. He continues to be approved as a suitable candidate for Labour in the local elections.

All of which is only of interest because the Regional Secretary in charge of refusing to investigate my complaint, of ensuring that UNISON members' subs were spent on an expensive barrister from Matrix Chambers and of writing the letter giving me an impossibly short period to pay the missing subs was somebody called Linda Perks. I wonder if by any chance they could be related?


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