Celtic is coming under renewed criticism for its employment policies.
The timing is not coincidental.
Unite’s youth committee, for reasons known only to itself, decided to pick this week to urge Celtic to end the practice of zero hour contracts.
That’s a noble endeavour, under most circumstances.
It’s not so noble when they simultaneously write to Celtic and then release the letter to the press. It looks like a naked attempt to embarrass us, to stitch us up in the media, and it’s an abysmal strategy, one that’ll win few friends or converts to the cause, not only for the timing but the clear cynicism of the act itself.
Some will speculate that it’s because we’re on the verge of massive matches and it would be hard to dissuade people of that view.
Having once served on the youth committees of trade unions myself I can tell you that sure as Hell this isn’t the way these things are usually done. You don’t open dialogue through the press. That gets people’s backs up. Serious organisations don’t open negotiations like that. It’s astonishing that the union allowed this communique to go out. Someone in Unite has serious questions to answer about the way this was done. It has backfired spectacularly.
Yet this issue makes a lot of us feel uneasy.
It has a pull for some of us, especially those of us who considers ourselves left wing, because we realise that some of the things our board is doing leave a lot to be desired. Not paying the Living Wage as standard is one of them. Using workers on zero hour contracts is another.
Unite is right to bring this up.
They were wrong about how they chose to do it.
We are Celtic. I believe our club is an instrument of good, and it always has been.
Since our formation we have been a beacon for many people, here in Scotland and beyond. Our founding is the stuff of legend; we’re the football club formed to feed the hungry and the poor, and those guiding principles have made us famous throughout the world.
Supporters groups have done their best to continue that legacy, but there has long been a concern that those who run our club no longer have the same respect for those traditions. It is important that we remember that those who run Celtic at the moment are merely custodians of our club; the club will be here long after they’ve gone, as it was here before they arrived.
Our fans have not been idle on these matters.
Some groups have tried putting this issue forward at AGM’s. It has been raised in the stands, with banners. Our fans could have been brought on board with this campaign.
What possible good did Unite think would come of doing it like this?
Their letter asked for a meeting with the Chief Executive, Peter Lawwell, and I am sure he would have granted them one. But by sending this letter to the press they’ve assured that Celtic will deal with this through staff channels only; Unite has pretty much cut these people off at the knees with their idiotic effort at embarrassing us. The only people who will suffer for it is the staff, who Unite might otherwise have been able to help if they’d done this in the proper manner.
The irony of it all is that having read the letter there’s not a thing in it with which a single Celtic supporter could, or would, disagree. In sending it to the press first they’ve raised the issue through the one group of people the majority of our fans are guaranteed to ignore. It is the most self-defeating move from folk allegedly trying to do something positive that I’ve seen in a long, long time and the timing of the act only increases the suspicion with which it will be viewed.
I don’t take the board’s side on much, and in this debate I certainly do not support their actions or lack thereof, but I agree wholeheartedly with the club spokesman who yesterday condemned the way this was handled, and questioned the motivations behind it.
If the intent was to embarrass Celtic, they failed because even if this ends up on the front pages of papers it’ll be viewed by many fans as nothing more than a cynical attack timed to hurt us on the eve of major games. If it was done to help people, it did not succeed. On top of being viewed as suspect, the timing was such that the story will largely be lost in the swirl of publicity about Saturday and the Champions League opener in Barcelona – which anyone with the remotest understanding of the media machine could have told them would happen.
Unite had a chance to do some real good here, and they could have had it been handled properly.
Instead of looking like a principled act, this has all the hallmarks of a cheap stunt and what makes it tragic is that many Celtic fans would have wholeheartedly supported a campaign that was run by serious people with a serious intent.
Unite has let down the very people it was supposed to be fighting for, which is the greatest sin a trade union can commit.
Those on the sharp end, those workers on zero hour contracts, deserved better than this.