Posts Tagged ‘Public Sector Workers’

Protests by Maybots against Hammond’s Public Sector Pay Cap

November 25, 2017

Another interesting report from RT, which you probably didn’t see on the Beeb or the terrestrial channels. Just before Hammond released his decidedly lacklustre, and frankly abysmal budget on Thursday, a group of workers from the GMB dressed as ‘Maybots’ – robotic versions of Theresa May to mock here robotic personality, in protest at the 1 per cent pay cap the Tories have imposed on public sector workers. They made the point that it had condemned 5 million of them to misery over the last five years. The report ends with the news anchor reporting that he had lifted some aspects of it, but not others.

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Peter Kropotkin on Writer’s Accusations of Workers’ Laziness

April 28, 2016

One of the perennial complaints by the Right is that anyone who goes on strike for more pay, better working conditions or shorter hours is, by definition, either lazy, greedy or both. It was the accusation that the Republicans in America flung at striking teachers a year or so ago, and it was pretty well parroted by the Daily Heil over here, when it decided to have a go at public sector workers and their pensions. Now I noticed from reading Mike’s blog that the Scum has decided to wade in against the junior doctors.

I found this passage in Kropotkin’s essay, Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles, where he attacks the notion that the workers are lazy. In particular, he takes great issue with this claim when it comes from writers, whom he states don’t work nearly as hard as the working people they criticise. Here it is:

As to the so-often repeated objection that nobody would labour if he were not compelled to do so by sheer necessity, we heard enough of it before the emancipation of slaves in America, as well as before the emancipation of serfs in Russia: and we have had the opportunity of appreciating it at its just value. So we shall not try to convince those who can be convinced only by accomplished facts. As to those who reason, they ought to know that, if it really was so with some parts of humanity at its lowest stages – and yet, what do we know about it? – or if it is so with some small communities, or separate individuals, brought to sheer despair by ill success in their struggle against unfavourable conditions, it is not so with the bulk of the civilised nations. With us, work is a habit, and idleness an artificial growth. Of course, when to be a manual worker means to be compelled to work all one’s life long for ten hours a day, and often more, at producing some part of something – a pin’s head, for instance; when it means to be paid wages on which a family can live only on the condition of the strictest limitation of all its needs; when it means to be always under the menace of being thrown tomorrow out of employment – and we know how frequent are the industrial crises, and what misery they imply; when it means, in a very great number of cases, premature death in a paupers’ infirmary, if not in the workhouse; when to be a manual worker signifies to wear a lifelong stamp of inferiority in the eyes of those very people who live on the work of their ‘hands’; when it always means the renunciation of all those higher enjoyments that science and art give to man – oh, then there is no wonder that everybody – the manual worker as well – has but one dream: that of rising to a condition where others would work for him. When I see writers who boast that they are the workers, and write that the manual workers are an inferior race of lazy and improvident fellows, I must ask them: Who, then, has made all you see about you: the houses you live in, the chairs, the carpets, the streets you enjoy, the clothes you wear? Who built the universities where you were taught, and who provided you with food during your school years? And what would become of your readiness to ‘work’, if you were compelled to work in the above conditions all your life at a pin’s head? No doubt you would be reported as a lazy fellow! And I affirm that no intelligent man can be closely acquainted with the life of the European working classes without wondering, on the contrary at their readiness to work, even under such abominable conditions.

(Peter Kropotkin, Anarchist Communism: It Basis and Principles, in Peter Kropotkin, ed. Nicolas Walter, Anarchism and Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles (London: Freedom Press 1987) 53-4).

The editor of the Scum is an old Etonian. The proprietor of the Daily Heil, Lord Rothermere, is a multi-millionaire tax avoider. And I doubt very much that the Heil’s editor, Paul Dacre, comes from a working class background either. They have no right to despise the working classes as lazy. As for the junior doctors, Mike has posted up extensive pieces from them showing that this is most certainly not about extra pay. They are very much concerned about patient safety, and their ability to give potentially life-saving service after working long hours. And if some medical professionals are better than most of us, it’s because they should be rewarded for the immense skill required of them, and the heavy responsibility they bear. No-one will die tomorrow – at least, I hope not – if the sports writer in the Scum is in no fit state to write his column. Someone might very well die, however, or suffer terrible ill-health, if a responsible doctor makes a poor decision due to lack of sleep, or is forced to do one job too many because of the need to find ‘savings’ through staff cutbacks. And no-one would suffer tomorrow either if Jeremy Hunt and the rest of his wretched crew were booted out of office. Rather the opposite!

Private Eye on How the Tories Wrecked Private Pensions

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for 8th to 22nd July 2011 on how Tory legislation allowing companies to take ‘pension holidays’ wrecked their pension schemes.

“There has been widespread pension reform across the economy. People in the private sector have seen old defined benefit schemes disappearing.” So said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in his defence of serious public sector pensions cuts when a graph in pension advisor John Hutton’s r4eport proved that the “unaffordable” argument didn’t hold water.

But why have private sector workers lost decent pension arrangements providing fixed benefits based on their previous salary? It’s not simply because too many oldies are not living longer.

Unlike most state schemes of this sort, private ones have to be backed by funds, which were in pretty good shape until the companies providing them started taking extended pension holidays in the 1980s and 1990s to bolster profits in order to keep the City happy. The excuse was that the stocks and shares they shifted their funds into would magically grow to pay the pensions.

When this mirage was exposed after the stock market slump at the start of this century, not helped by Gordon Brown’s 1997 removal of pension tax credits, the response wasn’t to make good the shortfalls (which the markets would never have worn) but to shut the pension schemes. Today just one in five private schemes is open to new employees, compared to nine out of ten a decade ago, allowing Maude to make his comparison and “gold-plated” to become the default prefix for public sector pensions which are now in the firing line in the dash for public spending cuts.

So the reason why so many people now have an inadequate private pension, is because their bosses decided to use them money to boost their profits instead of providing for their staffs’ old age. Another rubbish policy that ultimately goes back to Margaret Thatcher. But hey, it does have its bright side for the Tories: it allowed Francis Maude a pretext for attacking the pensions of workers in the public sector. Trebles all round, as they say in Private Eye.

Letter from Australia about the Conservatives Down Under: Exactly Like Their Brit Counterparts

March 24, 2014

I received this kind comment from Gathering Swallows on my post ‘Explaining the Coalition’s War on the Poor and Disabled’, remarking on the similarities of the policies pursued by the National Party in Oz and the Conservatives over here:

I had been following UK politics for quite sometime prior to the Aust elections last year. I couldn’t believe what I was reading out of the UK. Then it started being applied here to my absolute horror. The worst thing about the way Abbott has been introducing these similar sorts of policies is that he didn’t announce any of his policy intentions prior or during the election campaign. He counted on people being sick of Labor, many shenanigans he himself incited with the help of his mainstream media buddies. His hit list, as we have come to realise, was buried in a document by the IPA (Institute of Public Affairs, Australia) outlining a 75 point plan to dismantle just about anything progressive in this country. On the matter of the disabled (although this next comment was in relation to racial things but I extrapolate for obvious reasons…), today, our Attorney General stated that it was OK to be a bigot. That’s right – it sends a wonderful message (not) that vilifying the least fortunate will be fair game. Thanks for your blog.

The similarity between Abbott’s approach to politics, and that of David Cameron is obvious. Cameron’s government also disguised its true intentions in order to win power. In the case of the Tories in Britain, they appeared to be more Left-wing than Labour. Philip Blond’s book, Red Tory, even cites Kropotkin, the 19th century anarchist, approvingly.

I’ve remarked on the way Conservatives across the English speaking world, from America, Canada, Britain, and now, it seems, Australia, adopted the same strategies, rhetoric and targets in their campaigns. You can see it in the way the Daily Mail in Britain started attacking public sector workers for supposedly being overpaid a few years ago. This followed a similar campaign of vilification by the Republicans in America. And Amnesiaclinic, one of the other commenters on this blog, has also told me that the same policies are being pursued in Canada after Harper’s regime.

As for Oz’s Attorney-General now telling everyone that it’s okay to be a bigot, there are sections of the British Tory party that would heartily agree with that. The Daily Mail for years has carried a campaign against the ‘race relations’ industry and what it sees as the erosion of free speech by the laws against incitement to racial hatred. They raised a particularly bitter campaign against them when Labour was in power, despite the fact the laws themselves were passed way back in the mid-1960s in order to undermine the rapid growth of the National Front. And the NF back then was truly frightening. It engaged in paramilitary training, and other sections of the racist fringe were openly Nazi, like the National Socialist Movement. One of these groups was involved in attacks on five synagogues, as well as street clashes with Blacks and Jews. I’ve also noticed that the Tories in Canada are also leading a campaign against the same laws there.

Part of the argument against the laws against racist speech is that these laws didn’t work when they were first introduced in Weimar Germany. The argument is that the German government had passed legislation outlawing the vilification of ethnic groups, like Jews, and pursued a vigorous policy of prosecution. This did not, however, prevent the Nazis from entering government and finally seizing power in 1933.

The issues in Weimar Germany, however, isn’t as clear cut as the argument suggests. Firstly, it shows just how difficult combatting an aggressively racist Right was in the political climate of the time. The parliamentary system in Weimar Germany was vulnerable because to many Germans it was the product of their defeat in the First World War. However, despite increasing anti-Semitism, the Nazis’ seizure of power was by no means assured. For much of the 1920s the party received only a trivial number of votes. They made their major electoral breakthrough by exploiting an agricultural crisis in Schleswig-Holstein, and their entry into government was greatly assisted by the Wall Street Crash and consequent global recession. They were also invited into government at the end of the decade in order to provide support for a coalition of Right-wing parties after the party system had more or less broken down with some of the major Weimar parties refusing to work with each other, but having no overall support to govern alone. Hitler also tailored his rhetoric to appeal to certain groups, stressing different elements and playing down others in the particular areas where he was campaigning at the time. And finally, you cannot tell what would have happened if the Weimar government had been more lax about racism and anti-Semitic vilification. Would the Nazis have come to power earlier if such vilification had been far more legally acceptable?

Aside from this particular issue, there is the wider point that the Conservatives across the globe are copying from each other in order to seize power and drive everything back into the worst aspects of the 19th century. The Left also needs to do this – to learn what they’re doing, and challenge them across the globe as well. And together we can defeat them in Britain, Australia, Canada, America or wherever. It’s just a case of ‘thinking globally, and acting locally’.