Notebook: Unions that won't look in the Mirror

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NOSTALGIA, in these post-modern times, is deeply unfashionable, but sometimes a longing for the old certainties is unavoidable. Take, for example, the trade unions. Once, you knew where you were with a trade union: collective bargaining, beer, sandwiches, closed shop, brothers, all out, picket, scab. Once, too, you knew where you were with the Daily Mirror: right behind all that, with wit and verve.

But things are not quite so clear since David Montgomery, former Murdoch man, was installed as chief executive of the Mirror group by the banks which, post-Maxwell, own most of it. Initially, you might find it odd that the Mirror is engaged in a joint promotion with Esso, a company that has just been condemned by the Transport and General Workers' Union for 'derecognising' the union; but then you will remember that the Montgomery regime has itself shown a marked lack of friendliness towards the National Union of Journalists. At least a dozen union enthusiasts have been sacked at the Mirror, including a Father of the Chapel (chief union representative), his deputy, the succeeding Mother of the Chapel, and the first chairman of the new Mirror group branch of the NUJ.

Nor does the T&G seem overly-concerned; a spokesman for the 'media office' says it is concentrating on Shell, another of the 'derecognisers', that 'we wouldn't have a view on the others,' and that 'no concerns at all' had been expressed about the Mirror-Esso promotion: a free copy of the paper with pounds 10 or more petrol.

This is less surprising when you learn that the NUJ has had to write to the TUC to complain about union leaders puffing the Mirror in its pages at a time of such antagonism; Jimmy Knapp, of the rail workers, for example: 'The Daily Mirror is my favourite paper. It's a must for every trade union leader . . .'; or Rodney Bickerstaffe, leader of Unison, the public service union: 'My union fights for the rights of low-income earners, people in trouble - so does the Mirror, that's why it's my number one choice . . .'

All very difficult. Shell, by the way, is doing the same thing with the Sun, part of the loathed and fatwa-ed Murdoch group, for whom John Smith, leader of the Labour Party, wrote a column last week. Here on the Independent on Sunday, we are looking for a high-class fruiterer with a view to a similar deal.