I HAVE been an active trade unionist since I went to work at Blairhall colliery in Fife in 1953 when I was 15 years old. I have been an elected branch official, and I retired as a full-time official representing NHS members of the National Union of Public Employees at national negotiations.

In my time I have represented miners, bin-men, cleaners, nurses, ambulance staff, technical staff, admin staff, indeed a wide range of employees, at local, regional and national (UK) level. I have been involved in organising more strikes than I can remember. Even today at 84 I am still a retired member of Unison.

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In all these decades I have never been critical of any union which has felt the need to ask their members to come out on strike, because I am well aware of the hardship suffered by members during strike action and the careful consideration which trade union representatives have to make in asking members to strike.

I was astonished to read of the decision of Unison to start a strike during a period when the members are balloting on a new offer, and before the ballot has been completed. This is a new one on me. I have seen many things but I have never seen this before, to start a strike in the middle of a ballot on a wage offer.

I further noted that the senior trade union officer involved in the negotiations is also actively involved in politics, as a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee and a director of Scotland in Union. Well I have to say that it was always my view that when working for the trade union members, and giving advice on important issues such as the decision to take strike action, I should not be involved at a senior level in political activity, because even if you, as an individual, are diligent in ensuring that your political objectives do not interfere with your members’ interests in an industrial dispute, it is impossible for the members involved in a dispute not to question your motives.

I would think that the only honourable thing that Johanna Baxter can do, to respect to her Unison members, is to resign from her political positions while she is organising the strike.

Andy Anderson

“TOO little too late!” These were the words of Johanna Baxter as she attempted to justify not suspending the planned council workers strike and not putting Cosla’s latest pay offer to Unison’s members, unlike the Unite and GMB unions.

Surely the fact that a further increased offer was not made until the eleventh hour does not justify causing the chaos for families across Scotland next week that will result from Unison strike action, especially as the proposed increase of more than £2,000 in the annual wage of the lowest paid has been considered to be part of a “much improved” offer by the other unions.

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Ms Baxter is not only the chief negotiator of Unison but is the chair of the Labour NEC and a director of Scotland in Union, a privately funded group that campaigns to oppose Scotland’s independence. Hopefully the voters of Rutherglen and Hamilton West will see through the misguided actions of this Keir Starmer acolyte in Scotland, especially if they are compelled to take valuable time off work or seek last-minute childcare arrangements.

Stan Grodynski
Longniddry, East Lothian

WITH reference to your article “'Chippy' Scottish carpenter never got the recognition he deserved" by Hamish McPherson on Sunday, I toured my production of Shackleton’s Carpenter in 2018-19 to 53 venues throughout Scotland, England and Ireland as well as a three-week limited run at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London’s West End, which was sold out. I also produced it on board the Queen Mary 2 for Cunard last year.

During all that time I met hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in connection with the show, and without exception all were in favour of Harry McNish being awarded the Polar Medal posthumously. Further, I never encountered a single person who felt that Shackleton had behaved fairly towards the carpenter in recommending his exclusion from receiving the award.

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As Shackleton was essentially a fair-minded man, I like to think that had he lived longer, he might have been persuaded by the views of Dr Macklin and others that he had acted hastily and unfairly to McNish. However, Shackleton’s early death meant that for many members of the polar establishment McNish remained something of a pariah, and this perception has continued to the present.

In 2020 the production was slated for off Broadway presentation in New York and for a tour of New Zealand, both of which were scuppered by Covid; and the combined force of both epidemic and the severe financial difficulties faced by theatres and venues throughout Scotland and England have made the revival of the production extremely difficult.

However, I hope it will have a future life which will help to restore Harry McNish’s reputation and maybe even help to get him his Polar Medal.

Malcolm Rennie