Letter from a Unite branch secretary

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As a Unite branch secretary for over 35 years and being active on local, regional, national and international committees, I was still surprised by my local fellow so-called trade unionists on their support for lockdown. I say so-called trade unionists because I have never had people who claim to be on the left supporting the Tory Party lies so much.

On trying to raise the issue of the damage lockdown is doing, with all its anti-social measures, and the damage it is doing especially to this country’s younger generation, I have never faced such hostile reaction from comrades I have previously enjoyed many a drink with and debated many issues. It became so bad that eventually I was forced out of my role in my local trade council. They are not prepared at all to allow a rational, adult discussion about the panic, they just totally believe the lies, the media and the politicians.

For all the job losses, myself included (having been furloughed from one job and made redundant from another), with all the mental health implications and poverty, not one union member has contacted me with their concerns.

But because of another job I do (all jobs are part time ranging from 5 to 10 hrs per week, max 30 hours in total), I meet so many members of the public who want to talk. I find that those who believe in the panic compared to those who don’t are about 50/50. Some have told me about how, having never felt depressed before, they now have suicidal feelings because they have lost their livelihood, from working 30 years to suddenly nothing, no job, no future.

I am really concerned about our younger generation and how their hopes and prospects have been curtailed by people who pretend they are educationists but in reality are education destroyers. 

One thought on “Letter from a Unite branch secretary

  1. Living in Ireland as a member of Unite the Union, I was appalled to read the Union’s St Patrick’s Day Leader’s statement, emailed to me back in March 2021. So saddened and outraged was I by the line being supported by the national leadership that I was tempted to publicly call it out on the union forum, although it would likely be deleted. However, in all fairness, I emailed the leadership and gave it a chance to respond.

    Now it is 5 months since and my union has not had the courtesy to even reply. The Irish Government has implemented a two tier system whereby people like myself, and citizens without proof of ‘vaccination,’ cannot enter various opened up facilities and travel freely. The Labour President, Michael Higgins, has signed into law some of the most Draconian measures in Europe and there is undoubtedly worse to follow. Still, I await a response for the Unite leadership (Ireland).

    Below is the statement written by Brendan Ogle, Senior officer, Unite the Union (Ireland). I have added my response, to which I await a reply. As you will note, I mentioned Left Lockdown Sceptics as one of the few left leaning organisations searching for and spreading the opposite narrative to Mr Ogle, and thank this publication for continuing to debate and search for the truth behind the various pro-lockdown and coronavirus narratives. I have added a link to the original statement, which dates form March 12, and is worth reading in the original.


    Dear Member,
    A number of unions affiliated to Congress, including Unite, have started distributing masks bearing the legend ‘pro-mask is pro-worker’. It seems an obvious statement.  After all, it is workers – especially in low-paying sectors – who have borne the economic and health brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Yet there are those cynically trying to convince working people that they should oppose public health measures and breach guidelines en masse.  Check out the blog post I wrote to coincide with St Patrick’s Day on why we need to continue wearing masks and resist those who are trying to exploit public frustrations in order to further their own agendas of hate.
    Those agendas of hate were highlighted this week by the Irish Network Against Racism, to which Unite is affiliated.  Their most recent report on racism in Ireland indicates that last year saw an overall increase, especially with regard to criminal offences, hate speech and graffiti, as well as a new high level of hate speech by extremist groups.  Click here to read INAR’s press statement and download the report, and if you witness or are the victim of a racist incident you can use their iReport system here.
    Many of those attracted to the far right are driven by a search for solutions and quickly leave once they see the real agendas at play.  That was the case with the English actor and activist Ricky Tomlinson, who joined the National Front as a young man and then left behind the politics of hate to become a lifelong trade unionist and Left activist.  Tomlinson was in the news this week when, along with 23 others, he had his conviction for ‘conspiracy to intimidate’ during a 1972 building strike overturned.  All the workers were members of Unite’s predecessor unions, and they have spent nearly 50 years fighting for justice.  It is a fight that resonates today with union activists in Ireland.  Click here to read the statement issued by Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey following the workers’ exoneration.
    On a current industrial note, last week saw Regional Officer Jean O’Dowd accompany members of our Driving Instructors’ Branch to give evidence before the Oireachtas Transport Committee on some of the issues facing Unite members.  Click here to read the Irish Times report on what they had to say.
    As always, I would encourage you to stay up-to-date with what Unite is doing and saying by engaging with our online platforms – links below.
    In solidarity
    Brendan Ogle
    Senior Officer – Republic of Ireland
    Unite the union
    Website: www.unitetheunionireland.org  
    Blog: www.uniteforarealalternative.blog  
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/UnitetheUnionROI/
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/UniteunionROI
    Instagram: www.instagram.com/uniteunionroi

    This email was sent to you on behalf of Unite the Union to send you information about [Regional ROI Mailing] available to you as a member. If you want to stop receiving these emails, you can update your communication preferences by logging into your Unite account at https://myunite.unitetheunion.org or by clicking this link to  unsubscribe

    My response the the leadership over Mr Ogle’s statement is as follows:

    Comment: Dear Colleague,

    Having just read Mr Brendan Ogle’s St Patrick’s Day statement via email, then online, I was moved to leave the following comment. However, in all fairness to Mr Ogle, I could not bring myself to publish this. Nevertheless, I want my Union and Mr Ogle to note the gross offense the article has caused me, and I am seriously considering withdrawing my membership. The initial comment (now postponed – for now) is as follows:

    As a life long socialist, at 54 yo, I am watching with horror the capitulation of the opposition and general toeing of the line on Covid-19, of which this article is the tip of the iceberg. How wearing masks is going to resolve anything is beyond even the WHO and countless doctors and scientists, let alone myself.

    Although I am no anti-vaxer, as some will immediately conclude, having visited over 25 countries and having dozens of vaccinations throughout my life, I take a great exception to the Union to which I chose to subscribe, in the hope of furthering solidarity, spreading the mainstream Covid-19 narrative, which is helping further an agenda which is not in the long-term interests of its members and the downtrodden classes it purports to support.

    Furthermore, I find it a scurrilous slur by Brendan Ogle to attempt to lump everyone that does not comply with his narrow vision of solidarity, and to make the unqualified and unproven leap into equating anti-mask with those supporting the forces of the Right. If Mr Ogle is a paid representative of my union, which I expect he is, I would appreciate it if he took the time to delve a little more deeply into the divided science on Covid-19. He may then, by merely scratching the surface, note that not every expert is spouting mask wearing as a panacea. He may also come to understand that in no way are all Covid sceptics necessarily right-wing thugs or agents trying to bring about the destruction of the working class. I hope Mr Ogle will take the time to read some of the articles compiled by Left Lockdown Sceptics, which includes members of this union, as well as other UK TUC members:


    This is, by the way, only one of may such forums where real debate is taking place, although it is particularly precious in the light of the way the left has shrunk from its obligations to challenge Lockdown and the whole Covid -19 agenda.

    Thanks to the viewpoint seemingly espoused by Mr Ogle, and people of his ilk, we are in grave danger of seeing the implementation of a new injection passport, as debated in the EU last night. The injection, based on mRNA does not meet the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of vaccine, so I hope Mr Ogle is more careful in his wording in future, lest he further misleads if mentioning the new drug roll out, which seems to be inevitably headed our way.

    I expect Mr Ogle, and people like him, will be happy that those who do not parrot the Government narrative and delve a little further, may be glad to see the back of people like myself. But it is with sadness that I, a long term advocate of the trade union movement, am seriously considering whether or not to remain a member of this union.

    I do apologise to Mr Ogle if this seems like a personal attack. It is not. But as a spokesman for the union which subscribe to to represent me and others, I hope he will be more careful in future in voicing clearly misleading and unproven ideas.

    Yours faithfully,
    John Jennings,
    MA(Hons), BA(Hons), PGCE.

    Needless to say, I am now seriously considering my options as to remaining a member of the union, although as a lifelong socialist, resigning membership feels so alien to me, and I have not yet been able to.

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