Archive for the ‘Working Conditions’ Category

38 Degrees Petition against Truss and Coffee’s Running-Down of the NHS

September 23, 2022

I just go this email message from internet petitioning service 38 Degrees. Their disgusted at the government’s latest ‘reforms’ to the NHS, which in fact consist of telling doctors to try harder. They make the point that it doesn’t do anything to cut waiting lists nor counter the increasing rates of burn-out suffered by doctors because of overwork. They have therefore launched this petition against it, along with a wider campaign to spread the word about the government’s dreadful NHS policies using an ambulance.

‘Dear David,

Yesterday, our fourth Health Secretary since last year, Thérèse Coffey, revealed the Government’s “Plan For Patients”. [1] It turns out, the plan is nothing more than telling GPs to try harder and giving them a new target. [2] Health groups have said it will “make no tangible difference” and have “minimal impact on the care patients receive.” [3]

This is not acceptable. New PM Liz Truss says the NHS is one of her top three priorities. [4] Yet more than six million of us are languishing on waiting lists. More than two million of us are waiting to see GPs. And there are more than 60,000 NHS vacancies across the UK, with doctors at breaking point, suffering burnout. [5]

We needed something big. This wasn’t it.

We should all be furious about this. There is no point giving GPs new targets if there aren’t enough GPs to meet them. How is a new “cloud-based” phone system supposed to put an end to thousands scrambling for appointments first thing in the morning when there aren’t enough appointments to go around?

David, 38 Degrees supporters like you have been campaigning for a better NHS as long as we’ve been around. We can’t let the Government get away with this new lacklustre plan. Will you sign the petition demanding better – then share it with your friends and family so we, the British public, can make clear that we won’t accept anything less than a properly funded NHS?

YES, I’LL SIGN

NO, I DISAGREE

Over the summer, we fought hard to show that the NHS is on a knife edge. That’s why we bought an ambulance, turned it into a mobile advert, and drove it to leadership campaign events across the country. [6] We know Liz Truss heard us, because she said on the steps of Downing Street when she became PM that making sure “people can get doctors’ appointments” was one of her early priorities. [7]

Yet this first step is embarrassingly inadequate compared to the scale of the problem. And while it can feel hopeless at times seeing what’s happening to our beloved NHS, we know we can change things if we work together. That’s why last year we fought hard for NHS staff to get the pay rise they deserve, and after initially offering a 1% pay rise, the Government increased their offer after hundreds of thousands of us spoke out. [8]

The NHS is one of the most important issues to the 38 Degrees community. We’re not prepared to stand by and let this government underfund and understaff it. Millions of people depend on the services it provides, and thousands more will suffer if we don’t speak out.

Will you sign the petition, and get your friends and family to do the same? It only takes a few seconds to add your name, and a few seconds more to ask others to do the same.

YES, I’LL SIGN

NO, I DISAGREE

Thank you for your continued support,

Jonathan, Veronica, Megan, Tash and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES
[1] PoliticsHome: Therese Coffey Sets Out “Expectation” That GPs Will See Patients Within Two Weeks
[2] See note [1]
[3] Royal College of GPs: More expectations without addressing GP workforce shortage not best way forward, says RCGP
British Medical Association: Health Secretary’s new plan brings us closer to the demise of general practice, says BMA
[4] Sky News: The economy, the energy crisis and the NHS – Liz Truss sets out three key priorities in her first speech as PM
[5] Daily Mail: NHS waiting list shoots to ANOTHER record high of 6.8million
Evening Chronicle: ‘Bad health has doubled’ in the last decade across North East – and almost half of people report struggling to get GP appointments
BBC News: NHS in England facing worst staffing crisis in history, MPs warn
The New Statesman: “This is just not safe for anyone”: the NHS doctors at breaking point
[6] Express & Star: Ambulance protest greets Tory Party members at hustings
BirminghamLive: Protestors voice anger at NHS delays and costs crisis outside Truss v Sunak hustings at NEC
[7] 10 Downing Street: Prime Minister Liz Truss’s statement: 6 September 2022
[8] 38 Degrees: NHS Staff Pay Rise Campaign

I’ve had absolutely no problems signing it. If you feel the same way about this latest assault on the NHS, please feel free to do so as well.

Online Left Labour Meeting Tomorrow on How to Challenge the Tories’ Mini-Budget

September 22, 2022

I got this email from Labour MP John Trickett yesterday:

Wealth doesn’t trickle down, it’s hoovered up – a message from Jon Trickett MP

SPREAD THE WORD: Retweet me here // Sign-up here.

Hello David

UK billionaires increased their wealth by over £55 bn last year and workers’ real wages are set to fall by almost 8% this year, yet all the indicators are that this Friday Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng will intensify an extreme Thatcherite economic policy including corporate tax cuts, privatisation and attacks on workers rights. Again and again, these neo-liberal policies have left working people poorer and our country more unequal – and now the Chancellor says he won’t evem publish the economic forecasts. We have to fightback and win the argument for a progressive alternative.

Come and join us online this Friday (details below) at 6pm in response to the “mini-budget,” to discuss how we win the argument that wealth doesn’t trickle down, it’s hoovered up – and, vitally, to help map out our next steps in resisting the Tory offensive.

Yours in solidarity,
Jon Trickett MP on behalf of Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

There was also this description of the meeting:

BRIEFING: Kwarteng & Truss’ economic policy – how do we respond?

Online THIS Friday, September 23, 6pm. Register here // Invite friends here // Retweet here.

Join us on the day of Kwasi Kwarteng’s financial statement to discuss how we respond & have your questions answered with John McDonnell, Jon Trickett, Louise Regan (NEU), Chair: Nadia Jama (Labour NEC) & more.

Online briefing on the Tories’ “mini budget” – hosted by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

The fact that Queasy Kwarteng isn’t going to publish the economic forecasts indicates to me that the Tories know that their wretched policies are wrecking the country, but are determined to push ’em through anyway. Now’s the time to start fighting back.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Denies Workers Have a Moral Right to Paid Holidays

September 15, 2022

That was the title of a video I found on the Net the other day. The thumbnail showed the Minister for Bring Back Boy Chimneysweeps talking to someone. The video wasn’t very long either, just under a minute and a half. I didn’t bother watching it because it seemed to me to be an extract from a conversation Rees-Mogg had had in which he said just this. And it doesn’t surprise me. After all, Priti Patel and, I think, Liz Truss, were both part of the Britannia Unchained group of profiteers and exploiters, who believe workers should work harder and have less rights to match those in the Developing World. The Conservatives have always admired American capitalism, and American workers don’t have the right to a paid holiday. Unlike in Britain, where it’s been a part of the welfare state since forever and a day. This is the state Rees-Mogg and Truss want to take us back to, folks, as part of their admiration for American free market capitalism. And with the monstrous Therese Coffey now head of the NHS, I’m very worried for the welfare state and Britain’s working people.

Brexiteer Michael Heaver Reveals Reclaim Party’s Exciting Warmed-Up Tory Leftovers Policies

July 26, 2022

Michael Heaver’s another right-wing, Brexiteer YouTuber. Most of his content seems to be about how wonderful Brexit it, or would be, if it wasn’t for those evil whining remoaners and the European Union trying to sabotage it all the time. He seems to have gone from the Tories to backing the Reclaim party, as well as wanting the return of Johnson. Today he put up a piece revealing Reclaim’s new, (ahem, cough, cough) policies. Laurence Fox’s party will be fielding 600 candidates, which, if true, is definitely a challenge to the Tories and the other established parties. Their policies are:

Do Brexit properly.

Net Zero immigration.

Cut taxes.

I think there’s also something about getting rid of the Green agenda. And I also think they want to support Johnson’s return to power, because the other Tory leadership candidates are so terrible and will hand the government over to Starmer. Or such is the fear amongst some Tories.

This is hogwash. Let’s go through them.

Do Brexit properly: Can’t be done. Uh-huh, no way. It’s simply impossible, like squaring the circle or redefining PI as equalling four, which is what the Nebraska legislature did way back in the 19th century. If this had gone ahead, it would have meant that clocks would have gained fifteen minutes everyone hour. But like ‘Get Brexit done’ it makes a good slogan. You can’t enact Brexit without reneging on one of the key policies of the Good Friday Agreement, which was an open border with the Republic. It’s either that, or the Irish backstop in the middle of the sea, thus alienating the Loyalists. Johnson got into power claiming that he’d ‘get Brexit done’. Well, he did, and it’s been chaos. Britain’s trade with the EU has taken a massive hit, there are real threats to British industry and agriculture, the financial sector the Tories and Blairites have been so keen to protect and establish London as a international hub has also been threatened. By Brexiteer Tories, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who moved his investment business across the briny to Dublin. All while he was telling the rest of us that Brexit would be A Very Good Thing Indeed. There were delays at Dover months or even years ago because of the additional red tape added to hauliers and other travellers going to the continent now that we were no longer part of the EU. That red tape is also damaging our music industry, as it’s made it extremely difficult for British musicians and performers to travel over there to perform.

We were told that the Tories had an ‘oven ready deal’ with Europe for Brexit.

We were told that the millions saved on our EU contributions would be spent on the NHS.

We were lied to.

And this, as the late, great Max Headroom used to say, is simply ‘more of the same’. Except that he was talking about epic, rocking 80s pop music and videos.

Net zero immigration. More red meat for the Tory faithful, and other sections of the population worried about immigration. Mostly non-White immigration. And there are real moral and practical problems with that. Firstly, there’s the moral question of denying asylum to people, who may very well be in real danger of persecution in their countries of origin. I think many of the prospective migrants properly are coming here for economic reasons. One former channel migrant was interviewed on GB News or Talk TV, and he said that most of the other immigrants he was with were trying to dodge military service in their home countries and hoped to settle so that they could bring their families over. I can’t say I entirely blame them for wanting to do so, especially when these countries are dirt-poor, corrupt dictatorships like Eritrea. But nevertheless, I think there are people trying to get here because they face real threats to their lives for their views or simply because of their ethnicity or religion. Gay people around the world face persecution, particularly in Africa. Go back a few years, and there were the Yezidis, whose women were raped and enslaved for sex by ISIS. Last year there were Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban takeover. And in the past few months Britain and other European nations have taken in refugees from Ukraine, escaping Putin’s genocidal onslaught. I don’t see how you can morally turn at least some of these away.

Then there’s the economic aspect. As Buddyhell over on Guy Debord’s Cat, and just about everyone else on the web has point out, Britain needs immigrant doctors, nurses and other workers for the NHS. Yes, we should be training our own. But we haven’t been doing so ever since one of the Tory ministers – I think it may even have been Enoch Powell – decided in the 1960s to solve the shortage of NHS doctors by encouraging them to come from Pakistan and India. I can’t see the Tories wanting to spend the money to pay for the proper training for doctors and other medical professionals. Not when they seem content to drive them away by not paying them what they deserve and overburdening them with work and paperwork.

People also immigrate to Britain and settle down and raise families as part of their work. I know a number of people, who came to this country to work, and particularly on ground-breaking scientific or engineering projects. This country is short of scientists, engineers and skilled technicians. These are precisely the type of people we should be encouraging to come here, if only so that they can pass these skills on to Brits.

Education is a major part of this. There’s a movement of academics, both teaching staff and students, between countries and across continents. Most university’s, I’d say, have international students, some of whom are going to try to settle down here. Academics also take up posts at universities and colleges right across the world. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, several of the department staff were foreign. One was Portuguese while another was German, for example. At the same time, archaeological work takes people right across the globe. At the time I was there, there was great excitement about Neolithic discoveries in Ukraine. One of the lecturers had also helped carry out excavations of archaic homo sapiens remains in Romania. Another leading member of the department had also been excavating in Iran. Some of these academics will no doubt wish to settle down and make their home here. Either way, I can see Brexit and a zero-net immigration policy causing real problems with universities obtaining needed foreign academic staff.

And it’s going to be hypocritical. The Tories have, in my recollection, shown themselves perfectly willing to grant British citizenship to anyone rich enough. Just as Rishi Sunak got his green card to work in America by paying a million dollars. I strongly suspect that if Reclaim got in, we’d have more of the same. It would be easy immigration for the global super-rich, and keep out for everyone else.

Cutting taxes: More of the twaddle you’ve been hearing from the Tory leadership candidates. What this means is cutting taxes for the rich while passing the burden on to ordinary people at the bottom. This is supposed to encourage more investment, and hence more jobs. Balderdash. The money saved simply rests in the elite’s bank accounts. Meanwhile, because there’s less money going into the exchequer, the Tories and Reclaim after them will tell us all that cuts need to be made, more pushing of the mythical NHS waste, profligate spending on the welfare state, too many civil servants and so on. The result, more punitive cuts to the NHS, more destruction of the welfare state, more people struggling to survive on food banks, more starvation, malnutrition and grinding poverty.

Attacking the Green Agenda: The scientific consensus supports climate change, and the Green New Deal promises more jobs as well as combating threats to the environment. But the right don’t believe in climate change, and, with money coming in from Big Oil, they really don’t want to end our dependence on fossil fuels any time soon. All last week while the rest of us sweltered they told us that the rising heat was nothing to worry about, was not cause by global warming, and we were all wimps and weaklings for thinking otherwise. I wonder if Reclaim and its bosses also have their places booked for the biodomes the rich will no doubt retreat into as the deserts march on London, Birmingham and anywhere else.

Bring back Johnson: Really? There are people who really won’t be told. There’s a petition up for his return. Just like there are Americans who want the return of Trump. That’s incredible. Aside from the party politics, Trump was a disastrous president. A friend lent me a book on his presidency, and what came across most strongly was how incompetent he was. He quarraled with his leading generals, one of whom actually swore at him while telling him precisely what he was in the White House. He made up policies on the spur of the moment and then changed his mind just as suddenly. Appointments were made with important visitors, but not kept. Or he didn’t tell his staff about them, just forgot them. He deliberately undermined leading White House staff, replacing them and then doing the same to the new replacements, all of whom were determined to undermine their predecessors and competitors. And rather than draining the swamp, Trump was massively corrupt giving government contracts to friends and anybody else, including the Russians, who were prepared to stump up cash. Government monies that were intended to protect workers on bread and butter issues like pensions vanished in various politicos pockets, where they gave it to their favourite businessmen.

Johnson has been similarly incompetent. He was grotesquely tactless and incompetent as foreign secretary. Once he got his behind in No. 10 he showed himself unwilling to knuckle down and do some actual work. It seemed that every few weeks he was heading off to Chequers for a holiday. He caught Covid because he personally broke lockdown rules. And he gave valuable PPE contracts to his friends and other Tory donors. The result was problems with supply. But no worries, eh? His mates were all right. The parties were just a symptom of a man, who doesn’t like to work, loves the power and the popularity that comes with it, at least in his own imagination, and really, really, has zero sympathy with ordinary working people and their problems.

And he’s still clinging on to power, just like Gordon Brown tried to do with a deal with the Lib Dems after he lost the election to Cameron. Ian Hislop got very excited about this on Have I Got News For You, calling him ‘Mr Barnacle’. Well, Johnson is behaving exactly like the marine mollusc, and the same should apply: ‘get ye gone!’ It says something about the effectiveness of establishment propaganda that someone really thinks he’s done such a good job they want to keep him in power.

But back to the Reclaim party, there’s nothing new here. It’s just the same old Brexiteer Tory policies, promoted by a few new faces. And I honestly can’t see many of them getting a seat. Some might, but I foresee a lot of lost deposits, compounded with them splitting the Tory vote in certain quarters so that a Lib Dem or possibly Labour candidate get in.

I have a feeling they’ll go the way of UKIP and the Brexit party as another right-wing group trying to ‘break the mould of British politics’.

Toby Young on the Free Speech Union and Legislation Needed to Protect Free Speech

July 26, 2022

I am very definitely not a fan of Toby Young. He’s a very right-wing Tory with nasty eugenicist views. I think he’s part of the Spectator crew and something of a sleazeball, as Hill Street Blues’ officer Mick Belcher would describe him. If memory serves me right, he was one of the people behind a proposed free university, which collapsed a few years ago. Tweezer appointed him to the body that’s supposed to represent Britain’s students, despite the fact that it’s been at least a couple of decades since he was one. He got into Private Eye a few years ago for attending a eugenics conference at one of the London universities. Along with him were members of various American far right groups, who believed that race really did define intelligence and Blacks were biologically less bright than the rest of us. They also weren’t in favour of the welfare state, for the old, old reason that it’s a waste a money supporting people who can’t fend for themselves. In other words, some of the people there could be reasonably described as Nazis.

And his attitude to women leaves much to be desired. A few years ago he managed to cause mass disgust on Twitter or one of the social media platforms by describing how he watched female MPs on TV, commenting on their busts. Back in the 90s he wrote a piece for GQ about how he had been a ‘lesbian for a day’. He then revealed in the article that he’d dressed up in drag and then decided to go trolling through New York’s lesbian bars looking for a snog. He had successfully passed himself off as gay woman in two of them, before he was discovered in a third and had to beat a hasty retreat. Or been thrown out. Whatever. This is the kind of antics many lesbians are complaining about from trans-identified men, or possibly straight men claiming to be trans. They object to clearly biological men demanding romance or sex from them because they claim to be trans. There have been transwomen giving presentations on ‘Breaking the cotton ceiling’, which means getting into lesbians’ cotton underwear. Graham Linehan, formerly the writer behind Father Ted and now an anti-Trans activist, has remarked that one of the lesbian dating sites is actually full of bearded men, who are about as feminine as he is, all claiming to be trans. Well, Tobes tried this trick decades ago. But I wouldn’t like to see him as any kind of trans pioneer.

But his Free Speech Union does have a point.

Young and the others set this up to protect people from persecution because of their views. These are mostly individuals, whose views or comments are deemed offensive because of racism, sexism, homophobia or anti-trans. He appeared on a video on GB News talking about the work the Free Speech Union had done defending two such individuals. One was a railway worker, who’d been sacked because of a comment he’d posted on social media. He lived in one of the towns up north with a large Muslim community. After the lockdown was lifted, he posted that it was a relief no longer having to live in an alcohol-free Muslim caliphate. Someone complained to the company, and he was sacked. The Free Speech Union, however, took up his case, and an industrial tribunal declared in his favour that he was a victim of unfair dismissal and awarded him damages. The second case was a Christian woman, who offended woke sensibilities by stating that the Christian ideal of marriage should be the heterosexual one of a man and woman. Now I’d say that this was perfectly correct and normal, and that holding such a view doesn’t mean that you automatically hate gays or people in same-sex marriages. I’m absolutely sure you can hold such a traditional view of marriage, while recognising that gays also have the right to marry and for their marriages to be respected. But this traditional view was too much for someone, and she suffered because of it.

Now I realise that many people do disagree with these views, and particularly with the railway worker’s comments. It is islamophobic. But that’s the point. For free speech to mean anything, it has to include offensive or unpleasant speech. Free speech that only permits approved speech whether by the authorities or the populace, is no such thing. I’m not a free speech absolutist. There have to be limits, which in my opinion includes holocaust denial, the promotion of paedophilia or which urges people to commit other crimes, like incitement to riot. I’d also include real incitement to racial hatred, though my fear is that such reasonable legislation has been broadened too far to include comments which someone simply finds offensive, rather than which genuinely threatens the safety of Blacks and other people of colour. The guy’s remark is offensive and tasteless but not, I think, really worth his job.

Young explained that the Union would like to pass legislation protecting people from being sacked for their views, if they expressed them as private individuals and not as work or representatives of a company or organisation. He also talked about getting the trade unions to back such legislation, considering that the trade unions were founded to protect workers talking about their companies’ pay and conditions. Well, it was a bit more than that. They were founded to fight for workers’ pay and conditions, but yes, opposing victimisation for one’s views is part of that.

He also proposed having a two-year limit on what could be used to attack someone from their web history. Here I definitely agree with him. There have been a number of cases where politicos, celebrities and ordinary mortals have been embroiled in scandals because of something they said online a few years ago, sometimes when they were much younger. Quite often it’s people, who’ve said something unpleasant or bigoted about people from ethnic minorities and gays, sometimes when they were very young. Private Eye has done this several times. Quite often they’ve printed pieces showing that whatever such a politician, industrialist or media figure thinks now, back in the day he or she had very different views. Sometimes very far back, like in the ’80s or ’90s. People change, and don’t necessarily hold the same views they had when they were in their teens or twenties.

But another reason I’m prepared to give such legislation my approval is because it might stop some of the persecution by the witch hunters. The stock in trade of persecutory groups like the woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and David Collier and the GnasherJew troll farm is going through their targets’ internet history looking for anything they can misrepresent as anti-Semitism. They’ve done it to a lot of people, many of them Jews and firm opponents of anti-Semitism. They did it to the great Jackie Walker, a self-respecting Jew by faith and blood and a very committed anti-racist activist. Jackie had been discussing the involvement of Jewish financiers – who she explicitly stated were members of her own people – in the slave trade. This is historic fact, and Jackie, as a proper historian and academic, has produced an enormous amount of mainstream scholarship by respected and respectable historians to support it. She has also made the obvious point that these financiers were working for Christian, European kings and states, with whom the ultimate responsibility lies. Again, perfectly correct. But she left out a word, which allowed the CAAS to misrepresent her grotesquely as an anti-Semite. That, and the Jewish Labour Movement secretly recording some of her perfectly reasonable comments about commemorating other groups’ holocausts, like the slave trade, during a workshop on commemorating the Holocaust, has led to her being expelled from the Labour party and receiving the most horrific abuse.

Another victim of the witch hunters was a perfectly innocent Jewish lady in Devon. She was mentioned in an online film Mike and other Corbyn-supporting peeps appeared on promoting a documentary refuting the accusation that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. That film opened with a group of venerable rabbis in long beards, dark coats and broad-brimmed hats stating very clearly that Corbyn was no such thing. Many of the speakers, including Mike himself, were victims of the witch hunt and what looks to yours truly as gross libel. One of these wretched witch hunting groups had posted a map of the locations of anti-Semites, and this lady and her address were on it. As a result, she not only received abuse but her car was firebombed.

This is what is called ‘stochastic terrorism’.

This is the name given to the type of online activism when someone deliberately posts comments that will rile people up against a particular group or individual to the point where they may physically attack them. But the remarks that provoke and encourage the assault are carefully phrased so that the person making them can always disavow responsibility: ‘T’wasn’t anything I said, your honour. It’s nothing to do with me and I didn’t intend anything like it should happen.’ Except, of course, they did. As in my view was the case with this lady.

Toby Young is a Tory with deeply unpleasant views. But I do think the Free Speech Union has a point and deserves support.

Especially if it prevents malign witch hunters doxing innocent people, leading to attacks on them and their property.

Letter from Local MP Karin Smyth Supporting the Railway Workers’ Strike

July 25, 2022

A few weeks ago I had an email from one of the left wing organisations asking me to write to my local MP to get them to support the railway workers strike. It was part of a national campaign, and they had already created a form letter you could use so that all you really needed to do is add your name and address. I was very happy to do this, as the railway workers’ strike isn’t just about the pay and conditions for the train drivers, but for all the railway workers, some of whom are going to be paid much less than them. And there are important questions regarding public safety, as well as the fundamental issue of the right to strike. Which the Tories would dearly love to strip from working people.

On Friday I was delighted to receive this reply from my local Labour MP for Bristol south, Karin Smyth, in which she gave her full support to the RMT strikers.

The letter reads:

‘Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about the industrial action on pay and conditions for rail workers

I appreciate the concerns you raise. Rail workers showed real bravery to keep the country going during the pandemic and were promised a high-wage economy by the Government as we emerged from it. Yet since then we have seen the biggest fall; in living standards since records began. I believe the Transport Secretary owes it to those rail workers, as well as the millions of people who rely on them, to help reach a deal.

However the Government’s legislation this week shows that rather than negotiating they are seeking to make the situation worse.

I agree the issues involved in this dispute are very serious, involving pay and cuts in safety and maintenance staff. The only way it can be resolved is with a deal on pay and job security, as it has been in Wales, where the devolved Government came together with employers and unions to manage change and avoid a strike. Employees have every right to fight for fair pay. I and my Opposition colleagues with always defend the right to strike.

The Transport Secretary has said these negotiations are a matter between the employer and the union. However, independent legal advice commissioned by the TUC found train operators “are not free to agree terms and conditions” with their employees without the involvement of the Secretary of State. It also found that he possesses “very significant contractual power to direct how industrial action such as the current strike is handled”.

I strongly believe helping resolve industrial disputes within and between publicly owned bodies like Network Rail is absolutely the Government’s duty, especially when rail is so key for our economy. My concern is that without a mandate to negotiate, talks between rail operators and unions are condemned to failure.

I am also alarmed by the Government’s plans to replace picketing workers with agency staff, which has been condemned by some of the biggest employment agencies in the country. In my opinion, it is unworkable, unsafe and goes against good employment practices and I will be working with colleagues to oppose the legislation on all counts.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Yours sincerely,

Karin Smyth

Labour MP for Bristol South.’

I am delighted that Karin is supporting the railway worker’s strike and opposing the government’s attempts to deny them the wages and conditions they deserve, but also to jeopardise public safety on this vital piece of our economy.

Megaphone Petition Against Government Plans to Allow the Hiring of Agency Strike Breakers

June 24, 2022

I’ve also received this email from Megaphone urging people to sign their petition about the government’s proposal to undermine the unions by allowing companies to hire agency staff to break the strike. I’ve signed it, as strikes, or the threat of strike action, is the major weapon for unions to protect the rights of their members and workers as a whole.

‘David —

This week has been huge for the trade union movement. The TUC Join a Union website is seeing record traffic, with visits this week up 800%. 

As RMT members stand up for their jobs, pay and our services, they are giving hope and confidence to millions of workers. The last few weeks has clearly shown that if you want a pay rise, a secure job and a decent life, you need to be in a union.

So what has the governments response to this been? To propose laws that would undermine the most powerful tactic working people have: strike action.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, is proposing to change the law to allow companies to replace striking workers, with inexperienced agency workers. 

The government will try to sneak these changes through so people don’t notice, so we must get the word out far and wide. We will not let them undermine our right to strike.

Will you add your name to the petition to stop plans to undermine unions by allowing companies to hire temporary staff during strike action?

Sign the petition

We cannot let this happen.

Allowing agency staff to replace striking workers would undermine the right to strike and create genuine safety risks for the public and workers.

Please sign and share the petition now.

In Unity,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK

Email from the Megaphone Urging Support for the Railway Strike

June 21, 2022

I also got this email from the left-wing campaigning organisation the Megaphone urging people to write to their MPs making it plain they support the RMT and the railway strike. As the email points out it’s not just about the train drivers’ pay, but about all the other rail workers and opposing the devastating cuts to public services.

‘David,

It’s the biggest show of industrial power in a generation.

Rail unions are running three days of national strike action to put a stop to devastating cuts to services, staff and conditions proposed by company bosses on million-pound salaries.

When jobs are on the chopping block and livelihoods are at stake, union members stand together to defend each other.

And 50,000 rail workers from mechanics to depot workers, ticket officers and many more need our solidarity tomorrow:

In just a few hours, rail workers across the UK will take to the picket lines for the fight of their lives. Can you write to your MP and show you stand with them?

WRITE TO YOUR MP

We have the resources and the funding to build a world-class rail system in the UK.

But for two years, this government and the Transport Minister have chosen confrontation over negotiation.

They choose to bail out private companies, while workers in safety-critical jobs face the sack.

They choose to condemn rail unions, when train bosses make millions in profits and cut corners on pay.

They even want to ban the right to strike, removing our most powerful bargaining tool when we have no other means to act.

Everyone deserves better pay, jobs and services. And rail workers are standing up for our safety.

A win for rail workers this week is a win for all of us in the UK who believe in our collective power to organise, demonstrate and win a better future.

Defend our rail service and defend people’s jobs — email your MP and ask them to write to the Transport Minister today.

In solidarity with tomorrow’s strikers,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve had absolutely no problem writing to my local MP to say that I do, and I support not only the union’s strike, but the fundamental right to strike, which the Tories have always hated and always tried to curb and ban anyway they can.

Privatisation has been a disaster. The rail network needs to be taken back into public ownership and properly funded and maintained, without the profits being siphoned off into shareholder’s dividends and the bloated salaries of the management.

French Radical Social Catholicism and its Demands for the Improvement of Conditions for the Working Class

May 16, 2022

The chapter I found most interesting in Aidan Nichols’ book, Catholic Thought Since the Enlightenment: A Survey (Pretoria: University of South Africa 1998) was on 19th century Social Catholicism. Social Catholicism is that branch of the church that seeks to tackle with social issues, such as working conditions and justice for the poor, women’s rights, the arms race, the problem of poverty in the global south and so on. It’s governed by the doctrine of subsidiarity, in which it is neither politically left or right. Nevertheless, there are some Social Catholic thinkers whose idea were very left-wing, at least for the 19th century. The chapter mentions two 19th century French writers, whose ideas could be considered socialistic.

One of these was Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont, who retired from public life following for the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, taking the opportunity to write a book on Christian political economy. He advocated state intervention, not only to relieve poverty and distress, but wanted it to ensure that workers could conduct their own economic activity aided by credit unions, mutual aid societies and other institutions. This was when the economy was still dominated by cottage industry and many workers were self-employed craftsmen.

Rather more radical was Philippe Benjamin Joseph Buchez, who wrote a forty volume history of the French Revolution, which was later used by the British right-wing anti-capitalist writer, Thomas Carlyle. In his treatise Essai d’un traite complet de philosophie au point de vue du Catholicisme et du progress and his journal l’Europeen, as well as his presidency of the French constitutional assembly during the revolution of 1848, called for the establishment of cooperatives for skilled artisans, the state regulation of working conditions and a minimum wage. (p. 92). The chapter also goes to note that other social Catholics favoured private initiatives and charity to tackle the problems of poverty. Others also went on to recommend a corporative solution to social problems, in which workers and masters would work together in decentralised self-regulating organisations based on the medieval guilds, very much like the corporate state as promoted, but not practised, by Mussolini’s Fascist Italy.

Villeneuve-Bargement’s and Buchez’s ideas ran directly counter to the laissez-faire economic doctrine of the 19th century and clearly anticipated some of the developments in the last and present centuries, such as the establishment of the minimum wage in Britain and America. While people can disagree with their theology, depending on their religious views, it seems to me that their ideas are still relevant today.

And I rather people looked to their Roman Catholic solutions to working class poverty and labour, than Iain Duncan Smith. Smith seems to use his Catholicism and his supposed concern with eliminating poverty as just another pretext to cut benefits and make the poor poorer.

So dump Smith, and return to 19th century French Social Catholic radicalism!

The 19th Century Social Catholic Warning Against Bozo

May 10, 2022

This morning I had the misfortune to hear the Queen’s Speech, actually given in her absence by Prince Charles. This obviously lays out the intentions of Johnson’s wretched government, and how nauseating they were. I’m still very weak with a dodgy stomach from the Covid booster, and this announcement of Bozo’s policies didn’t improve my condition. Johnson has pledged to remove the legislation he claims is restricting industry and so hindering economic growth, will repeal EU-inspired human rights legislation, and pass further law allowing the state to clamp down on ‘disruptive’ protests such as Extinction Rebellion’s.,

We all know where this is going. The removal of more workers’ right so that they can be hired and fired at will, as well as restrictions on planning permission and other laws preventing companies from trashing the environment. Meanwhile, the Tories will take away the right to protest for everybody on the grounds that it’s causing a nuisance.

One of the books I’ve been reading is Aidan Nichol’s Catholic Thought Since The Enlightenment (Pretoria: University of South Africa 1998). This is a short guide to the rich intellectual history of the Roman Catholic Church since the 17th century as it attempted to tackle issues such as the rise of atheism and scepticism, the competing claims of the national churches against the papacy, historical scepticism, the conflict between French Revolutionary attempts to destroy Christianity and particularly the Roman Church, as well as purely metaphysical issues. These latter, which involve complex arguments about ontology, epistemology – the theory of knowledge – and psychology rather go over my head. But I’ve been very interested indeed in the chapter on Social Catholicism. Social Catholicism is that branch of Roman Catholic theology and pastoral care directed at social issues, such as alleviating poverty, questions of political pluralism, protecting the rights of Roman Catholics in non-Catholic societies, and combating the poverty created amongst working people through modern industrial capitalism.

One of the founders of the Social Catholic tradition was Adam Heinrich Muller (1779-1829), a north German convert to the faith. Muller defended the family, respect for the traditional institutions that had developed under Christianity, such as the estates and corporations that focussed loyalties, duties and organised decision-making. Here he was influenced by Burke, the founder of modern Conservatism. From one perspective he’s a conservative. But he gave a speech to the Saxonian diplomatic corps warning against the dangers of liberal economics and absolutist government.

Liberal economics and absolutist government sounds precisely like Johnson’s dream.

I realise that what he was talking about then isn’t going to be the same as the current political situation. He was speaking at a time when democracy largely didn’t exist anywhere in Europe except Switzerland, and was feared by many, Roman Catholic and Protestant, because of the carnage caused by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. But nevertheless, there’s still a point here for contemporary politics.

Johnson is the type of politician Muller warned us about.